Saturday, June 25, 2011

Cape Point

Cape Town, South Africa
18 June 2011

I took the 8am flight from Johannesburg and two hours later arrived in Cape Town on the coast. The shuttle to take me to the hotel didn't show up so I hired a cab driver to take me to the V&A waterfront where I would be staying. Turns out the driver was also a tour guide and he offered to take me around for the day. My priority for this trip was to see Robben Island, but the ferry to the Island was completely sold out and there was a line of people standing by to see if they could steal any of the "no show" slots. Turns out that none of the standby passengers made it to the island that day.

It was a beautiful day, the sun was shining, the sky was blue with a light cool breeze. I had to wear a jacket as we headed up to the top of table mountain by cable car. The car ride both ways cost R180 but some choose the two hour hike to the top instead or the rappel (abseiling) and hike down. The cable car was cool because it completed one full rotation on the descent or ascent to the top, giving all passengers a great view of the mountain and cape. On top the winds were stronger and it was a little cooler but the views were amazing. There is also an extensive trail system on natural granite paths lines by small bushes and reeds that extend to both ends of the plateau and down to the ocean below. On the way down we saw a group of climbers scaling a multi-pitch route up granite cliffs.

Our next stop was Cape Point, the southern tip of the African continent and along the route we stopped at several scenic overlooks and small white towns. We did stop in one black township and drove around. Most of the shacks were nicer than the villages in the rest of the parts of Africa I have visited as they had solid walls, roof, doors, and floor, electricity, and water. People weren't cooking in the street over charcoal stoves and I didn't see any public bathrooms. Most of the areas were pretty clean. In the Cape Town region is seemed that the shantytowns were nicer than even in Johannesburg where the "Mandela Towns" were crammed together in fields outside of the city.

We also stopped at an Ostrich Farm on the way to Cape Point and a national park but didn't see many animals besides ostriches despite the many signs to watch for Orangutans or Urdu. The parking lot at Cape Point was jammed with buses and tourists climbed over rocks and fought for pictures behind a sign in English and Afrikaans that declared this to be the end of the world (or southern point of the continent). The water was a cool blue color but shifted violently and the oceans collided with currents pushing against each other. There were some good size waves but nothing was surfable. I was surprised to find that the water was warm and happy to see that it was clean and free of the garbage that litters so many of the African beaches.

On the way back we stopped in a small town and visited a Penguin colony where several young chicks were molting. The flightless birds just waddled around or sat and were patient with the 30 or so tourists that swarmed around them and zoomed their telephoto lenses into their dens. There was no separation between the people and the penguins and it was cool to have them all around me. Our next stop was a small fishing town where we got fish and chips on the wharf at a local bar frequented by whites, coloreds, and blacks. The food was outstanding and the people were cool with the waitress telling me she saw me on "Ricki Lake" and coloreds and whites sharing their apartheid experiences growing up in the area. They laughed together as they told some funny stories and repeated several times that as kids they played together and they thought Apartheid was a weird exterior thing forced on them by the state and enforced by police but didn't really affect the spirit or way of life of the locals.

Just before going over the hill back to the hotel we stopped at the shark lookout above an awesome break that had long lines of chest-high waves. They looked for for dark shadows under the water with polarized binoculars. The lady on duty said the last shark spotting was in March but in the past many surfers had been eaten there. In the end the full day private guided tour cost me R1200, way less than what the hotels and tour agencies prices.

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