South Africa Part 4: Around the Cape Peninsula in a Day

We spent our fifth day in the outskirts of Cape Town, journeying to what we thought was the tip of the African continent and back again — the Cape Peninsula.

As usual we had a late start (the days when we woke up at 6am to cram in Every Single Thing in a City are long gone), so we underestimated the amount of time we would need. But if we had our way this would have been our overly ambitious plan:

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We set off around 11am, and hit Chapman’s Peak around 7pm, where we hung around to watch an amazing sunset. We had to skip Hout Bay and Camps Bay, and made it in time for the last seating of a seven-course set meal at Myoga at the Vineyard Hotel just before 9pm.

But don’t let me get ahead of myself.

The Cape Peninsula promised quaint towns, spectacular sea views and adventure. In reality, I was more excited to put my new Seafolly swimsuit — equipped with TUMMY CONTROL ACTION  — to use.

As it turns out, everybody had the brilliant idea of heading for the beach on the same day and we were caught in a massive jam. To get around the peninsula, one travels on a tiny sliver of a road called Main Street, seemingly the one and only artery that carries cars filled with tourists and locals alike to popular spots. Even though many of the small towns were just two kilometers apart, traffic was crawling.

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Alan’s in the first car here; I was waiting for him to catch up while I snapped pictures.

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En route to Kalk Bay, we decided to give our legs a stretch somewhere along Muizenberg. Alan was frustrated with how slow things were going, but once he got out his mood was considerably lighter. He amused himself with barnacles, mostly.

I, on the other hand, love the sound of waves crashing on rock. Seaspray is the world’s best way to refresh yourself, especially when just enough has gotten on you and it leaves tiny salt crystals that sit on your shoulder the rest of the journey.

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Kalk Bay

Eventually we made it to Kalk Bay — a still-active fishing village that’s part 18th century time capsule (the old cottages , antique shops and cobbled roads, for example) and part creative boho zone with its numerous indie stores and art galleries. It’s like one of those stretches in Disney World’s Epcot which tries to imitate a certain world, except that this was real life and thusly 100 times more awesome.

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We spent way too much time here as I flit from store to store, trying scarves and dresses in obiang tribal prints. Alan bought me a pretty pair of tanzanite earrings, which barely made up for my mega FOMO moment when I realized belatedly that we had not even made it to the dock. Apparently, fishermen still lay out their catch of the day out in the sun — I think it would have been a sight, especially for a sheltered city girl like me.

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Finally we sat down to eat at Excuse My French which served decent crepes at an excruciatingly slow pace. We were in a hurry because penguins were beckoning.

Boulders Beach

By the time we reached Boulders Beach the jam had cleared somewhat but parking was still an issue. Alan found a spot located on the top of the hill and we both almost died when the car started rolling cos he didn’t pull the handbrake up all the way.

I would have loved to see some Rockhopper penguins because they look so gangsta / beng but unfortch the colonies don’t live anywhere near South African waters.

from Wallpaperbus.net

from Wallpaperbus.net

We did, however, see African Penguins hanging out at Boulders Beach. Some were diving, others fighting. Several pairs were huddled close to each other — penguins are famously monogamous, so those desperate for an emergency V-Day gift for their significant others can look for plush toys in Toys ‘R’ Us or pendants featuring penguins. You’re welcome.

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Cape of Good Hope

The best thing about road-tripping in South Africa is probably the unexpected, breathtaking views you get at random bends. En route to the Cape of Good Hope, Alan pulled over and we were just blown away by the vastness of the ocean, its magnitude, our comparative insignificance and our privilege to be able to see Mother Nature in action.

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Another thing we were immensely blessed to see was the famed mountain zebra — and not just one, but all four that reside there! Guide books said they were rare, and my friend who has had a spell in Cape Town said it was near impossible. So when we saw a bunch of cars slowing down and its inhabitants frantically pointing towards the window, we could not believe our eyes. We decided to risk our lives by crossing the park’s highway to get a bit closer to these elusive creatures. 

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(I know they look just like normal zebra lah. But I like to feel special.)

Although there’s a comparatively steep entrance fee for the park (about S$21 per car), I think regulation helps preserve these amazing sights for longer periods of time. Speaking of costs, we also had to fork out a bit for the one-way “Flying Dutchman” funicular rides to the top of Cape Town (we had arrived too late to take the funicular down).

The old lighthouse is at its peak — moved because it was, by all accounts, a useless warning signal, since several ships had already crashed onto the treacherous rocks by the time they realized a light was present.

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As such, the powers that be relocated the lighthouse much further down so that ships would be safely out of harm’s way. You can just see its white dome on the cliff on the left:

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In truth, Cape Point isn’t the southernmost tip of South Africa. Nor is it the place where the Atlantic and Indian Oceans meet. That honour belongs to Cape Algulhas, 150km kinda east-ish. From Wiki: The currents of the two oceans meet at the point where the warm-water Algulhas current meets the cold water Benguela current and turns back on itself — a point that fluctuates between Cape Agulhas and Cape Point.

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And then it was time for our descent, which was much easier than it looked!

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On the way down, Alan spotted some “moving trees.”

20140103-IMG_7905Well, they turned out to be ostriches!

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Chapman’s Peak

We didn’t have much sunlight left, so we headed for Chapman’s Peak, dropping a few other things on our itinerary. I didn’t get to capture the swaths of smooth sand as we zoomed past them, but I think this route can rival the Great Ocean Drive in Melbourne in terms of sights. The authorities have taken care to preserve as much of the natural mountain…

20140103-IMG_7935… while allocating parking spaces so you can just take it all in.

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20140103-IMG_7937When we finally reached Chapman’s Peak, we climbed a tiny hill to sit with fellow wanderers and photographers.

20140103-IMG_7972I’ve watched a few sunsets by now. But this was different. The sun was as giant an orb as I had ever seen.

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20140103-IMG_7967Going, going, gone.

Basking in the literal afterglow of the most majestic sunset we’ve seen so far, A drove us to Myoga, an Asian fusion restaurant where we proceeded to eat the best meal of our trip.

20140102-DSC01791Seriously. Best meal ever. What we ate for 295 rand (US$27/S$34) and I am writing this for posterity’s sake:

  • 1st course: tripartite of appetisers — duck liver parfait in a ferrero rocher-esque shell, seafood samosa, beetroot ravioli (this was a little strange)
  • 2nd course: I got the truffle porcini chawanmushi smilingheart while Alan had caramel pork belly
  • 3rd course: lightly smoked gazpacho (atas name for tomato soup) for me and the panko rib terrine for Alan (this is beginning to sound like a lot of random words strung together)
  • 4th course: tomato risotto for me and gorgonzola polenta for A
  • 5th course: PALETTE CLEANSER!!! lime and elderflower sorbet, and buttermilk and champagne sorbet — most refreshing tingle on the tongue ever
  • 6th course: (by this time we were about to burst) sirloin and lamb loin
  • 7th course: dessert! summer berries combo for me and A got some choco thing
  • 8th course: this was cute, they gave us petit fours presented in exactly the same way as the 1st course

Is anyone surprised we put on weight on this trip?

Writing this post made me realize how much we saw in 9 hours. I have not done these sights justice — partially because we rushed through them. In hindsight, while I loved Kalk Bay’s quirky charm and marveled at the pulsating, radiating waves moving away from Cape Point , it is the stretch leading up to Chapman’s Peak that will stick in my mind.

In particular, one beach I don’t know how to describe. My memory of the place grows fuzzier each day, and I embellish whatever’s left. One day the beach I thought I was captivated by will become a figment of my imagination. But until then: there was a beach, kilometers and kilometers of white sand. The ocean inched in, slowly, calmly. A few specks of people here and there.

I know this sounds like such a mundane description and trust me, it’s killing me how I just don’t have the words to even capture it. All I know is that in those three brief seconds where I gasped and squealed at the sight is this: everything felt infinite; it was infinite.

Catch up on the rest of our South African adventures!

Part 1: Cape Town
Part 2: Stellenbosch
Part 3: Robben Island & Kirstenbosch Gardens
Part 4: Cape Peninsula
Part 5: Table Mountain
Part 6: Garden Route (Part 1)
Part 7: Garden Route (Part 2)
Part 8: Safari in the Kruger
Part 9: Johannesburg

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