Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Cape Town II: Cape of Good Hope

I was wide awake at 4:00 am on my first full day in Cape Town.  I walked around the house in the dark and found what I hoped would turn out to be a circuit breaker box. (It was.)  There was nothing to do but go back to bed and wait for morning, and at 6:00 am, there was a loud, melodious call which I realized was the call to prayer, as the neighborhood I stayed in is mostly Muslim.  This was my wake up call every morning, and it was lovely.

Brigid and I had planned to meet at my house, and I was very concerned she wouldn't be able to find me and it seemed like a miracle when promptly at 9:00, there was a knock at the door and there she was, standing on the stoop.  It was a very joyful reunion.  We went to Haas, the coffee shop at the end of my street, and had a fantastic breakfast, and my first cup of coffee in two days.

UCT's main campus is in Rondebosch, where Brigid lives, and only about five miles from where I was staying.  Before I knew much about Cape Town, I thought maybe I would rent a bicycle to get to Brigid's neighborhood (LOL, no) but since the art school's campus is in the city, and not far from where I was staying, Brigid could get close to my neighborhood on the "Jammie shuttle" which is the university transport. (I could have also taken the train, but at first, I had no idea where the Rondebosch station was in relation to Brigid's house.)

We walked to the Michaelis art school campus and Brigid showed me around and then we walked through the Company's Garden, (We were so busy talking, I didn't take any pictures, but it's beautiful) toward the bus station.  I had booked us on a tour to a penguin colony and the Cape of Good Hope and we had to meet the tour bus at the waterfront, which technically, I think we could have walked to, but it seemed like there were a lot of very busy streets and highways to cross, so we took the city bus and had time to explore a bit of the waterfront before joining the tour.

Victoria and Albert Waterfront

On a clear day, you'd see Table Mountain through the frame

A group of four Europeans who now work in Johannesburg were on the tour with us, and we all rode down in a minivan.  Our guide was very funny and also gave us the history of the Cape Town neighborhoods we drove through on our way to the Cape.  

First, some geography.  Until Brigid moved there, I never looked carefully at a map of South Africa, and assumed that Cape Town and the Cape of Good Hope were both located on that little bump at the far south.  Actually, that bump is Cape Agulhas.  Cape Town and the Cape of Good Hope are on that little peninsula that sticks out of the southwest corner of the country.

This is the Cape Peninsula.  Cape Town is at the north end and the Cape of Good Hope is at the southern end.

We drove down the Atlantic side of the peninsula and then switched to the False Bay side, over a steep and scary mountain road, our guide cheerfully telling us stories of cars that were crushed in rock slides during rain storms.  (It was raining.)  Our guide explained that Cape Agulhas is technically where the Indian and Atlantic Oceans meet, but the Cape of Good Hope is where the Indian Ocean current meets the Atlantic Ocean current.

We stopped at this lookout for photos.  According to our guide, Oprah Winfrey unsuccessfully tried to buy that mountain that juts into the bay.  "She did good things for our people, but we will not sell her our country," our guide said.

Overlooking Sentinel Mountain

Our first real stop was the penguin colony at Simons Town.  It was so exciting to see real penguins in the wild! They have a hilariously purposeful walk. 

Do you see my penguin friend in the bush?

Our next stop was the Cape of Good Hope, which has always been near the top of my list of places I'd like to see.

From the Cape of Good Hope, we drove to the Cape Point lighthouse, where a baboon was hanging around in the parking lot.  The baboon made our guide nervous and he warned us to be sure we had no food on us before we exited the van.  "He will take your food, and he will not say please."  He told us later about how the baboons will break into houses and raid the fridge, and mug people who are walking from car to house with their groceries.  Can you imagine being mugged by a baboon?

No big deal, just a baboon in the parking lot.

We rode a funicular up to the lighthouse, where it was incredibly windy--so windy I thought we might actually blow off the platform at the base of the lighthouse. Pictured below it what I think is the Cape of Good Hope, as seen from the Cape Point lighthouse.

Sign Post at the Cape Point lighthouse

We piled back in the van for the drive back to Cape Town, our guide pulling over twice to point out a group of ostriches, and some Bontebok, an antelope native to the Cape.

Back at the waterfront in Cape Town, it was nearly dark and we waited for ages in the freezing wind for a bus back downtown.  (I checked the weather forecast before arriving and it predicted high temps in the 70's and lows in the 50's so I packed only a light cardigan and a cotton hoodie.  I didn't factor in the wind chill, which is considerable in Cape Town.  At that bus stop, my wool winter coat would have been entirely appropriate.)  

Back in town, we got off the bus on Long St, which has many restaurants.  It was quite dark, and since it was a Sunday, there weren't many people around.  It felt a bit unsafe, to be honest, but there was nothing to be done but walk with confidence and plunge into the first open restaurant we found, a Kurdish place, where we shared some pumpkin hummus and I had an excellent lamb curry.  We got a cab home and made plans to meet again in the morning.


  1. Penguins! Sounds like a fabulous, action packed day.

  2. How did I not know that baboons mug people? And why did I think that Cape Town was going to be hot and sunny?

    1. Well, it's SOUTH and it's AFRICA, so yeah - I thought hot and sunny, too.

  3. WOW. What an amazing day.

    I have wanderlust even more so than I did before.

  4. Fascinating! Thank you so much for sharing. I might have to do some Googling--you've piqued my interest in South Africa. (For a time I worked with a South African woman. Such an unfamiliar accent--no one could ever guess it.)

    1. The accent of people whose first language is English reminds me a lot of New Zealand's. English is only one of eleven official languages, so the accents are very diverse, and for the majority of people in Cape Town, English is not their first language.

  5. Does your daughter like it there?

  6. Wow. I've never wanted to go there in any particular way, but it sounds exciting--and exotic and wonderful.
    Penguins AND baboons--mountains and your daughter, to boot!