We are in the final stretch with the work that needs to be done on the boat. Everything is coming together, and so we took our first weekend off to relax, decompress, and explore some areas of this beautiful country.
We started our tour of the peninsula from False Bay, so named because early sailors confused it with Table Bay (where Cape Town is). The sea here, because of the warm Agulhas current, supports different underwater flora and fauna then on the other side of the peninsula, where water is colder. Whales come into these gentle waters to calve.
This charming Victorian town was built around the British Naval base, back when the British Navy used to rule the world’s oceans, and the route to India needed constant protection.
Not far from the town there is a beach where you can see the African Penguins. Very similar to South American and Galapagos penguins, they are called Boulders or Jackass Penguin and have evolved various ways to cope with the sun.
First time in my life that I see a penguin outside of an Aquarium. I could have stay watching them for hours…
Initially, I didn’t understand why Cape Point among the local landlubbers was more popular than Cape of Good Hope. Everybody kept telling us we should visit Cape Point. For a mariner, Cape of Good Hope is of more special significance, because it’s a waypoint along the Roaring Forties on the Cape Route and the clipper route, still followed by several offshore yacht races, like the Vendee Globe.
But then we thought that perhaps from Cape Point we could have a better view of Cape of Good Hope, so we headed there first. I’m glad we did, because Cape Point itself is beautiful. Sir Francis Drake who circumnavigated the globe when seeing Cap Point in 1580 called it “the fairest cape in all the world”. Evidently, he arrived here in fair weather…
Cape of Good Hope
Then we finally headed west, to the most southern-western point of the African continent: Cape of Good Hope. Stories persist that this is where the Indian and Atlantic Oceans meet, but that is a bit of folklore. Contrary to popular belief, the actual meeting place is a less dramatic spot, called Cape Aghulas, several miles further south. The sea here is turbulent and famously stormy. But luckily for our visit we chose a great sunny day, with no wind at all.
To me, it was like visiting a Cathedral. I’ve read so much about Good Hope, and always dreamt about what it would be like rounding it. Maybe one day we’ll sail our boat alongside. Of course in fair weather. But still… Hey, this is one of the three Great Capes of the Souther Hemisphere, together with the Horn, and Cape Leeuwin.
The Portuguese explorer Vasco de Gama, who first dropped anchor in Table Bay, named this deceptively placid cape, Cabo de Boa Esperanza, Cape of Good Hope. But when the northwesterly winds or south east gales unleash wreaking waves, then the other name comes to play, Cabo Tormentoso or Cape of Storms. Dias was the first to call it the Cape of Storms. He disappeared without trace, with half his fleet, when trying to round the Cape on the expedition of 1500.
It is such an iconic place, there is so much sailing literature about this cape. There is also the story of the Flying Dutchman, a sea captain on a ghost ship, cursed to forever battle the Cape’s storms. Wagner made this story into an opera.
The drive to Chapman’s Peak is one of the most dramatic marine routes in the world. Reminds me a lot of Highway 1 in the Big Sur, California. In the late 80s a guy named Christopher White while driving a Mercedes on this road plummeted 30 stories down onto the jagged rocks below. And he survived.
Mercedes made a television ad out of it in the early 90s, and the tagline was that he survived only because he was wearing a seatbelt and he was driving a Mercedes. The ad was very popular in South Africa and to this days, people still mention the accident.
In a splendid day like this is hard to believe that in this place you have a big wave known as “Dungeons”, one of the sixteen recognized big wave spots around the globe. The annual Red Bull Big Wave Africa competition used to be held here. Swells of up to 47 feet have been recorded here!
Not far from Cape Town, only a 20 minutes drive, there is a region called Constantia that is one of the oldest wine producing areas in the southern hemisphere. We met with friends and had lunch in a farm called Constantia Glen. The surrounding are spectacular! I felt as if I was somewhere in Tuscany.
This was our very first “day off work” since we arrived in Cape Town. We are very excited to be in South Africa, it is a beautiful country that everyone should visit. People are kind and the nature is beautiful. We are just scratching the surface, there is so much more that needs to be explored.
Until next time…