We spent the first ten days of our South Africa tour in the Cape Town area. During that time, we stayed in three different places. We started in the city centre, moved to Simon’s Town further south on the False Bay side of the peninsula, and ended up at Sea Point, on the Atlantic Seaboard, not far from our starting point. This may sound crazy, but there were a number of good reasons for our itinerary. We wanted to start by exploring the city centre on foot; we also wanted to be close to the city centre on 16th March, when the Cape Town carnival was to take place, so it made sense to visit the southern tip of the peninsula in the interim, and staying in Simon’s Town helped to reduce the driving required.
Moving from Simon’s Town to Sea Point did not require much driving, so we had time to do a short detour to the Silvermine Nature Reserve, where we did a six-mile walk. The scenery was great, with amazing views, especially the one of Hout Bay from the ‘Eagle’s Nest’ lookout. Most of the walk was relatively easy – going uphill gradually – except for the detour up to the Elephant’s Eye cave, which involved a more strenuous climb than we had anticipated.
A tale of two beaches
When we had checked into our Sea Point accommodation, we went for a stroll along the promenade. There were palm trees, modern cars, smart hotels and tall blocks of holiday apartments – all very like a European resort. We stopped for drinks and commented that, had we been parachuted into the place, we would have had difficulty guessing which country we were in. Spain, perhaps? There was certainly nothing to suggest that we were in Africa. We were struck by the extreme contrast between Sea Point and Kokrobite, the beach resort we visited frequently during our stay in Ghana.
The contrast came to our minds again another time, when we were strolling along the beach at Hout Bay. There were dead birds and jellyfish on the sand; on the other hand, there were no black plastic bags in the sea. We particularly noticed a group of young people learning to surf, wearing smart identical wetsuits, and thought of the local boys at Kokrobite, on ‘surfboards’ home-made from planks of wood – but having just as much fun.
Outings from Sea Point
We had some enjoyable outings during our four-day stay at Sea Point. One was to the National Botanical Gardens at Kirstenbosch. It was the first botanical garden in the world to become a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and is certainly very beautiful, with the Constantiaberg Mountain as a backdrop.
Another trip was to the Groot Constantia, a very large wine-producing estate. Sandie happily sampled eight of their wines (Ian was more circumspect, since he was driving). But Groot Constantia is not just for wine tasting; there are two restaurants, and a beautiful manor house in the Cape Dutch style which is now a museum. Strolling through the grounds of the estate is also very enjoyable.
Our accommodation in Sea Point was quite close to the Lion’s Head, which is next to Table Mountain. A good spiral path leads most of the way up, and gives stunning 360° views of the surrounding area, including Table Mountain itself. (We chickened out of the last section, which is more difficult.) There were people tandem paragliding, and Sandie asked Ian for an early birthday present. Her first paraglide was in Canada in 2006, and she welcomed the opportunity to do a second one in such a beautiful setting.
As planned, we attended the Cape Town carnival on the evening of Saturday 16th March. This is only the fourth annual carnival, which is intended to ‘unite the community with a spectacular celebration showcasing art, music and dance’. The parade, which lasted almost two hours (partly due to long gaps between some of the elements) was clearly not up to Rio in terms of professionalism, but was great in terms of enjoyment, enthusiasm and fun. And it was good to see among the performers and the spectators evidence of South Africa as the ‘rainbow nation’.