I was a little disappointed when we woke on our second day in Cape Town to find it still drizzling and cloudy. Nevertheless we decided to press on with our Peninsula tour anyway. Boy am I glad we did! Our intention was to drive around the Cape Peninsula taking in the views, possibly going all the way to the end to the Cape of Good Hope, and maybe even stopping at the Kirstenbosch Botanical Gardens too. It seemed an ambitious itinerary to fit in one day, but Michael was confident that the distances weren’t really that far. We had been given an overview of the best stops and sights by Louis at An African Villa. Because of the weather we decided to go around the Peninsula first instead of starting with the Botanical Gardens in hopes that the weather would improve. We gathered some things for a day of sightseeing in the car and set off in the drizzle over the hill and down into Camps Bay. From there we drove along the coast south toward Hout Bay. Almost immediately the weather started to improve. The drizzle stopped and the clouds began to break up. It seemed the clouds and rain were mostly hanging around City Bowl! In Hout Bay we started on Chapman’s Peak Drive which is a wildly scenic, windy road that hugs the cliffside and follows the coast to Noordhoek. You pay a small fee to use it and sometimes they have to close it when the conditions are unsafe. I had read about it being a bit “white knuckle”, but really compared to some of the roads in Colorado where we live, it was a piece of cake. The road was well maintained and had low walls in many places between you and the drop off. Plus, there were quite a few places to safely pull off and take pictures or admire the view. We did just that.
After reaching Noordhoek at the end of Chapman’s Peak Drive, we drove around Chapman’s Bay and continued down the coast. The scenery continued to be entertaining.
Eventually we got to the turn off for the Cape of Good Hope Nature Reserve. The whole southern tip of the peninsula is set aside as a nature reserve and provides a rather stark contrast of open heath to the spectacular rocky coastline of the tip of the peninsula. We drove out to the end and found a busy parking lot complete with large tour buses. Not our usual gig, but we parked and got out so that we could go to the top of the hill where the lighthouse is located and get the view. They had a funicular railway that carried passengers up the rather steep hike for a small fee. We chose to do this and then walk down. By this time it was bright and sunny with not too much wind and we were enjoying the weather. At the top, we took in the view from the historic lighthouse. The lighthouse sits on the tip of Cape Point, whereas the actual Cape of Good Hope is just to the side. It is believed that as you look out from Cape Point you are looking at the point at which the Atlantic and Indian Oceans meet. Pretty cool! It is not, as is commonly mistaken, the southernmost point in Africa. That distinction belongs to Cape Agulhas, further East along the coastline, closer to where we were in De Kelders.
We did our best to ignore the throngs of visitors and enjoyed the views for a bit and then walked down the hill. The walk down convinced me that we had made the right choice in taking the easy way up! After a little peek in the souvenir shop and the purchase of a drink and a snack, we climbed back in the car and began the journey back up the other side of the peninsula.
Our next stop was near Simon’s Town at Boulders Beach where there is a land based colony of African penguins. African penguins are endangered and there are only a few of these colonies in the world. We paid a fee and walked down a boardwalk to the beach where we were able to see the birds nesting in the dunes and vegetation as well as hanging out on the beach and rocks and swimming in the ocean. It was pretty neat really see the penguins up close and nice that we could do it without bothering them by staying on the boardwalk.
After our visit with the penguins we drove on up the coast of the peninsula, through Simon’s Town, Fish Hoek, and Kalk Bay. We decided not to stop anywhere else except for a quick stop at the ATM in Simon’s Town. Simon’s Town is home to a Naval base and we saw some young men in uniform walking the streets.
The afternoon was progressing and the weather had turned a bit cloudier as we drove up the peninsula, but we wanted to try to stop at the Kirstenbosch Botanical Gardens if we could get there in time. We found our way pretty easily and decided to go for it. Our visit to Kirstenbosch will be the subject of my next post. Thank you for your patience, dear reader, as I continue to chronicle our fantastic voyage!