Monday, January 5

The Cape of Storms

Today was a day for memories. Mum and I spent the day making our way down the Cape Peninsular to the Cape of Good Hope. The cape lies more than 60 kms south of Cape Town.  To get there we took a leisurely drive down the peninsular's rugged Atlantic coastline.  Our route added another 20 kms to our journey; as well as several sightseeing stops along the way.

As we made our way south we stopped to experience the Chapman's Peak scenic road and dazzling white Slangkoppunt at Kommetjie. Chapman's Peak Drive is an incredible feat lf engineering.  For more than six kilometres the road winds its way along sheer cliffs.  In places the road has literally been carved out of the near vertical cliff face. The road was built over a seven year period between 1915 and 1922.

Slangkoppunt (which literally means Slangkop lighthouse) is the region's tallest lighthouse.  It's built entirely of cast iron and stands more than 34 metres. It's location is rather fascinating. When you typically think of a lighthouse you imagine a structure situated on a headland or bluff.  However, Slangkop sits at sea level only a few metres above the high tide mark. It was commissioned in 1917 and continues to operate today although its original fittings have long since be upgraded.

The Cape of Good Hope was once called the Cape of Storms. It's original name remained as apt as ever.  Today, even though we enjoyed vivid blue skies and warm sunshine, the coastline was still awash with endless crashing waves.  If this is what the sea is like on a "good day" we can only imagine what a stormy night must be like.

Mum could hardy believe she was standing in front of this infamous landmark. We took the usual tourist photos in front of its popular sign before venturing out on to the rocks for another iconic picture. This was also a great place to watch the seals and seabirds soak in the sunshine while avoiding the worst of the crashing waves.

Most people are surprised to learn that the Cape peninsular's headland consists of three rocky points. The least impressive of these is the Cape of Good Hope. Cape Point is by far the more spectacular landmark.  It's also the site of the Cape's powerful lighthouse.  It actually has two lighthouses.  The first was build at the summit of the coast cliffs, more than 238 metres above the sea.  It was often shrouded by fog and thus ineffective for a third of the year.  A newer light was eventually built at a lower elevation.

You can reach the old lighthouse by climbing a path that winds along the cliff face, or you can take a handy funicular tram.  No prize for guessing which mode of transport Mum chose.  However, she did get some exercise as the lighthouse itself can only be reached by climbing a series of stairs.  The climb is well worth the effort.  The views of False Bay, the Atlantic Ocean and the cape itself are simply stunning.

We then drove out to a more remote section of the coast where we spotted a lone Ostrich on the beach and three rather contended antelope.  Later in the afternoon we topped off our nature watching experience with a visit to Boulders Bay.  This picturesque beach is home to a sprawling colony of endangered African Penguins.  The colony is a relatively new phenomenon.  The first pair of Penguins were spotted in the area in 1983.  By 1997, scientists recorded more than 2,350 adult birds in the colony.

Today visitors can walk right up the nesting penguins via a series of boardwalks that wind through the dunes. It's the most amazing experience.  Mum later told me it was the highlight of her day.  I couldn't agree more.

1 comment:

Hamish McGregor said...

Cool, in every photo mum looks like the mouse that got the cheese, very happy relaxed and throughly enjoying it all!