Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Cape Town V: Simons Town

Tuesday evening, we learned that the next day was election day, and so, a public holiday and there would be no school.  (According to Brigid,  this is the first election in South Africa in which people who were born after Apartheid ended were old enough to vote.) We tried to book a guided hike up Table Mountain, but because of the short notice, we were unable to.  (It is not recommended to hike Table Mountain on your own.)  We decided to take the train to Simons Town instead.

Simons Town is the headquarters of the South African navy.  It sits on False Bay (the Indian Ocean side of the Cape Peninsula) about a one-hour train journey from Cape Town.  All the guide books say that this is one of the great train journeys of the world, because of how close the train goes to the sea.

Before I left for Cape Town, I did some research into public transportation.  Invariably, you come across forums in which someone has asked, "Is it safe to ride the train in Cape Town?"  The first response will be something like, "No! It is not safe to take the trains in Cape Town."  The second responder will call the first responder an idiot and say that it is perfectly safe to take the trains in Cape Town.  Then will come more measured responses, "Yes, the trains are safe, but...."  Some sites advised buying a first class ticket, and all of them cautioned that you should never sit in an empty car.

We couldn't buy any sort of ticket at all, since the ticket booth was closed, but we chose a car with other people in it and all was well.  There were some very rowdy young men who held the train doors open and leaned out as it went, but they were more a danger to themselves than to anyone else on the train.  A lot of passengers were carrying their surf boards.

After a few stops, a woman got on the train and sat across from us and began to talk---was this the train to Kalk Bay, she was afraid of trains, she came from a place where there were no trains.  She proceeded to tell us about all her past misadventures with public transportation, which were many and usually ended in having to be rescued by her father.  I admit, I was a little irritated.  I wanted to look out the window and not talk.

Then a crowd of police officers entered our car and stood menacingly over mine and Brigid's seats.  What if they asked us for our tickets?  The booth was closed in Rondebosch?  A likely story!  Suddenly, the talkative lady became like a best friend and we hung on her every word, hoping that this would somehow divert the policemen's attention from us.  I was also absurdly worried that our new friend would be disappointed in us for riding the train without a ticket.

The police left our car without speaking to us, and the talkative lady got off the train (she was a really, really nice lady and I felt ashamed of myself for being irritated).  I took about 5,000 pictures from the train, which goes very close to the water.

When we got to Simons Town, they asked us to show our tickets, but when we explained about the ticket booth being closed, the lady just shrugged as if she'd known it all along and they asked us to by tickets there.  Two round-trip, first class tickets were 42 rand (about $4.20).

 Unfortunately the Simons Town museum was closed for election day.   I wanted to see the exhibit about  Just Nuisance, a great dane who was an official member of the navy and who achieved the rank of able seaman.  Simons Town is very pretty and we explored the shops and at lunch at a restaurant on the water, and took a scenic walk up a steep hill overlooking the harbor. 

Simons Town

Residential street in Simons Town

Once we got home, we had dinner at Brigid's friend's flat--she cooked a delicious dinner and we had a lovely evening together.  Out on Brigid's friend's balcony, I looked at the sky and was startled to realize that all the stars where different.  Of course I knew that the constellations are different in the southern hemisphere, but even knowing that, it was still a shock to see the unfamiliar stars.


  1. You had a nice adventure, and Simons Town looks very pretty. I like the balconies, and also hearing about Just Nuisance.

  2. I am simply fascinated with your trip!

  3. Que bonito post, me he paseado por tu bloc y ha estado un regalo visitarlo, te invito a ver el mio, “ Pintar es muy divertido. Constituye una delicia observar y exprimir los colores. Espero tu visita y si no eres seguidora me encantarías que te hicieras y así compartir nuestros blocs.

  4. I've never been to the southern hemisphere--I bet that would be jarring to see the constellations all different.
    This is such an adventure you took!