It’s appropriate that we tour the Cape of Good Hope on Martin Luther King weekend. Sue had arranged for an energetic British ex-pat Tim to tour us around the Cape this Saturday. Our first stop was District 6, where the 1970’s apartheid government forcibly removed non-whites and bulldozed their homes to make space… space that is being fitfully returned to former residents and relatives. From there we continued south along Table
Mountain’s eastern alluvial flank, with golf clubs and wineries on the mountain side and prisons on the valley side… reconciliation remains a work in progress.
Being a good Brit, Tim has gardener roots, so toured us to Kirstenbosch Botanical Gardens, where we learned a bit about the Cape Floristic Region – the smallest but most diverse in the world. The Cape’s version of chaparral is called fynbos (literally “fine bush”)… low proteas and other plants adapted to the harsh soils, winds, pollens, fauna and fires of the area. From there we wound along the Constantia Wine Route through leafy, gated hillside homes of the Southern
Suburb to Klein Constantia winery for a quick, uncrowded tasting of their timeless blancs. The wineries are old here… Klein Constantia has been bottling its sweet muscat since the 18th century and displays unopened bottles to prove it. A fynbos fire some years ago allowed wineries here to expand. It’s a fine climate but they have one challenge we lack in California: baboons like grapes too.
Further south we stopped for a view over broad Muizenberg Beach and shark infested False Bay, so named
because many a west-bound mariner turned north too early here.
Across the bay is Africa’s southern-most point and the dividing line
between the Atlantic and Indian oceans. Passing through Simon’s Town we stopped at the Kalk Bay Harbor fish market, where Sue snapped up some yellowtails and seals. Then at nearby Boulders we spent some time watching the African Penguin colony and rookery; aptly named because rookie parent penguins make the mistake of hatching young in the open where gulls can attack, or in dens that are too exposed to the harsh, hot African summer sun.
Beyond Boulder’s boardwalk lay the day’s highlight, a drive through and steep walk across the Cape of Good Hope. Approaching through the coastal fynbos we passed wild ostriches and eland. After the obligatory sign pic we climbed rocks and stairs past some resting dassies– marmot-like critters that are close relatives to the Elephant– and took in fine views of the secluded beaches below. Another Northern California comparison: the Cape peninsula feels like Point Reyes… and Sir Francis Drake was an early visitor to both… coincidence?
How fitting that the Cape of Good Hope is Africa’s uplift between the Atlantic and the Indian, populated by Africans Afrikaans, and Indians.
At the end of the hike across the Cape we lunched at a restaurant with panoramic Cape views. The area is patrolled by an aggressive troop of baboons. In spite of electrical fencing, sentries and plenty of “don’t feed the baboons” signs, they still run off with their share of human food.
We returned towards the Mother City via the Atlantic coast, driving north through the sandy retirement community of Hout Bay then again through Camps Bay, Clifton and Sea Point before returning to our Breakwater hotel. After a breather we ventured again out to Victoria Wharf to enjoy the night and one last South African Burger.
Sunday morning we packed up, negotiated a late checkout then zipped across the street to wander the Two Seas Aquarium. Standard stuff – blacklit jellyfish, a sea tunnel, good eel exhibits, touch pools… but still fun and reasonably priced.
Then wine time: we hired a van to venture inland and upwards into the Boland (‘upland’), Africa’s venerable wine-producing area. We worried about Boland boring the boys and missing our night flight, so compromising wine with time and ferment with family we settled on nearby Spier winery. Spier’s diversions include a fine deli, picnic-friendly gardens, swings, ponds and easy tastings. Sue and I turned the boys loose on the grounds with some breads and seasoned corn nuts, and turned ourselves towards the tasting room. It’s a big, airy place with wine bottle chandeliers above broad wooden bars and bench tables. We shared a 10-glass tasting ranging from chenin blanc through a red/white pinot blend through their pinotages and special blends… all quite nice and affordable, and another reminder of how climatically similar Cape Town is to my Northern California birthplace.
We found time to roll into the quaint tourist town of Stellenbosch; this late on a Sunday afternoon most of the town was sleeping save some downtown cafes and wine bars. Still it was a nice taste of the colonial dutch architecture to remember Cape Town by before we taxi’s back to the airport for our 9hr Dubai red-eye.