Despite having lived in Cape Town for three years, I still struggle to consider myself a local, due to how little of the area I have seen. My recent Cape Peninsular day tour highlighted this, and has brought about a new mid-year’s resolution – become a weekend tourist in my new home town!
After a painless early morning collection run – Bruce, my ever affable guide, soon had me introduced to a contingent of Germans and one wayward Russian, who provided group bonding and endless entertainment by constantly wandering off. (Well, for us at least, not so much for the guide.)
The drive through De Waterkant stood out for me, with the colourful buildings on tree lined streets making me wish I possessed any skill in photography, as Bruce’s running commentary filled me with all I needed to know about the city.
While I gaped at architecture along Bantry Bay and Clifton, Bruce kept up insightful titbits of the areas we passed towards our first stop of the day at Maiden’s Cove, for a brief bathroom and photo stop. While learning about the Kelp beds, various shipwrecks, the feeding habits of the great white shark, peering up at the Twelve Apostles and the old farmhouse- now a hotel by the same name – we made our way towards the next stop of our day at Hout Bay.
After Bruce had provided us with bartering tips for dealing with the local vendors and a short safety warning regarding the resident “seal handler” we were let loose on the quay to browse stalls or do the optional boat cruise to Duiker Island to visit the seal colony. The local Cape minstrels that greet the returning cruise charters lend a vibrant atmosphere to the quay and I was easily lost in the tourist holiday feel, forgetting this was in fact a work day.
Despite having done it a few times before, the drive along Chapman’s Peak Drive still kept me enthralled, as I learnt of the flora and fauna of the area and the innovative rock netting systems. Bruce answered all my questions with ease regarding the fragile ecosystem and the hazards caused by the alien plant invasion which has worsened the chance of rock falls on the mountain side. After a short photo stop with Bruce acting as safety officer for us all, and a brief game of locate the Russian, I was torn away from gazing at The Sentinel and we continued on via the vineyards and horse paddocks of Noodhoek towards Simons Town.
As we drove through the Naval harbour town, Bruce explained how the penguins at Boulders Beach decided to make the beach their home some 20 years ago, and what measures had been taken to try to ensure their safety and encourage a pleasant human/penguin relationship in the area. Stopping along the road side, we took photos of the rather comical “penguins in the road way” sign that is one such safety measure, before walking along the wooden walk way that runs parallel to the beach and encountering these delightful little creatures up close. Passing an enterprising ice-cream parlour operating out of a residence drive way, I spoke with the owner who reaffirmed for me exactly how much the locals love their town and home city, and how the penguins have been a substantial draw card for the town.
Bruce explained to us, as we made our way towards the gates of the Cape of Good Hope Reserve, how the government had bought up all the farmland which had been what the area was used for in the 1930’s and allowed the area to return to its natural state, creating the reserve. As we made our way along the tarred roads of the reserve our guide pointed out the Da Gama and Dias beacons which have been erected in memoriam and are now used as nautical guides for ships at sea, and gave a brief historical and political run down on the debate of who actually deserves the title of first around Cape Point.
Climbing to the lighthouse at Cape Point was definitely the highlight of my day, even though it did throw my non-existent exercise regime into question. The view from the light house made that walk, (well climb) well worth the effort. Although the funicular transport was starting to look enticing half way up. Having arrived moments before a fully packed tour bus, I was pulled into the tourist throngs for only the second time that day and I was once again thankful for Bruce’s use of routing which had allowed us to avoid it for the most part of the day. After taking what felt like close to a hundred photos which will never be able to do the site justice, we slowly and sometimes not carefully enough, made tracks back down the mountain for a light lunch, shared unwillingly at times, with the local bird life. En route back to the entrance gate we saw some of the local wildlife, and stopped for a photo opportunity with an ostrich or three.
After driving through Misty Cliffs I was drawn to the sight of the lobster factory just outside Kommetjie and was hit with a nostalgia for a life spent living around and from the sea, which only such a picturesque scene can create.
As we headed back towards Cape Town via the Crofters Valley, the constant hum of the tyres as well as the day’s activities soon lulled us all into peaceful contemplation and in some cases slumber, as Bruce continued to give commentary of all the areas and landscape that we past.
As we drove along Kommetjie Road , he pointed out the innovative solution the staff or management of the Compass Bakery (who supply all Woolworths biscuits, just by the way) have for dealing with the baboon irritation, which is a steel cage in which they can eat their lunch in peace. The irony of humans being driven into cages due to animals was not lost on me.
As we drew close to our final stop for the day, being Kirstenbosch National Botanical Gardens the areas became more affluent, until we were passing through Bishops Court, which according to Bruce is the most affluent area in Cape Town, so named due the Archbishop of the Catholic Church having his residence there.
Kirstenbosch Gardens, a delight of 40 hectares of cultivated landscape is definitely on my return visits list of places to see in Cape Town. We made our way through the gardens to see the national flower, the King Protea, and even though our time here was a bit brief, mainly due to our Russian’s routine wanderings, it was enough to perk up even the most worn out of our group. I will definitely be attending one of the many Concerts in the Park, as soon as summer officially arrives in Cape Town.
As a local, I can honestly say I now actually feel like one, and almost feel confident enough to be able to take out of town guests around without feeling utterly lost. Whether a local or a first time visitor to the city, this day tour is an absolute must, and I am thankful to be able to put that experience down as part of my work day!