November 30, 2002
Subject: Cape Peninsula
Date: Sat, 30 Nov 2002 03:35:34 -0600
I hope that everyone had a great Thanksgiving holiday. They, of course, don’t celebrate it in South Africa, so it was a regular work day here. No turkey for me. But I have seen some of the most beautiful coast line in the world.
You see, I was always confused on my geography. I though that Cape Town was on the Cape. The small piece of land that juts out in the far southwest corner of the continent. Cape Town is actually north of there. The waterfront of the city (the main tourist area and working harbor) faces north, not south.
Anyway, I did a tour around the Cape Peninsula this last week. If you look on a map, you will see that little piece of land that ends into the oceans. They call it the end of the earth. It is approximately the point where the wild, frigid waters of the Atlantic meet the calm warm waters of the Indian Ocean. The weather and the tides in the Atlantic side come from the south (Antarctica) and the Indian Ocean weather and currents come from the warm, northern tropical waters and wrap around the whole south coast of Africa.
What that creates, are some wild, windy weather patterns at the cape. The Atlantic side is somewhat like the northern coast of California. Rugged, mountainous, lots of rocks along the beach. However, there are also little hidden coves with pristine beaches that look like something in St. Lucia or perhaps Hawaii. The water is almost Caribbean-like there. Aqua blue and inviting. The Indian Ocean side is similar, although not quite so rugged. And the water is very calm in that area called “False Bay”. They also have lots of sand dunes, like you might find along the coast of Lake Michigan.
All along the way en route are small fishing villages. Some with harbors, stunning little lighthouses. One town on the False Bay side has a beautiful, long, white sandy beach with brightly coloured little changing houses. Opposite the beach is the town of Fish Hoek and then beyond that are the mountains. Just picture perfect!
Dinner there had some of the best seafood I have EVER tasted. The cream of the crop from both oceans, at their disposal!
The Cape Point itself is a bit of a hike. There is a car park and then a 25 minute walk uphill to a lighthouse and lookout point. It was a soft, emotional feeling to stand at the end of the continent and feel the warm embraces of the two oceans on either side and the cool wind on your face. It had a certain peaceful magic about it. I didn’t want to leave.
The Cape is a national park and everything there is protected. There was a GIANT sea turtle in the road and baboons everywhere. At first I didn’t see any baboons and thought I was getting gypped. Then suddenly down the road to the Cape of Good Hope (just to the west of Cape Point), there were dozens of baboons everywhere. They are mean and move quickly.
They will steal food, your purse, even your camera! Had to keep the windows up, but got a few good pix.
There is also a breeding ground on the peninsula for South African penguins. You wouldn’t expect them to be there, where the the weather is so warm (it never snows), but there they are. They are a smaller variety than the ones from Antarctica. They call them the “jackass” penguins for the donkey-like calls they make. However, when I saw them they were pretty quiet. You kind of walk through this little town to get to them on the beach. Hundreds and hundreds of them were just hanging out on the beach and around the boulders by the water.
The landscape is amazing. So is the flora. There is a contrast of palm trees and pine trees. Tall pines with only bunches of needles on top in clusters. Cacti, eucalyptus like plants, and oh, did I mention the palm trees? They also have these massive trees that flower lavender and vibrant magenta in the spring. So I am here at a perfect time to see all this beauty.
But the beauty of the land and the warmth of the people is often overshadowed by the social issues of crime and AIDS. They are real problems here and most unfortunate. However, please don’t worry about me. I am using safe judgment and am being careful.
I also did a tour of the wine route. For those of you that don’t know, the wines here are fantastic. Just not very many imported to the States. I will save that for another newsletter. Monday I leave for a safari in Kruger National Park (about 3 hours flight northeast of here) and there I will see the TOTAL solar eclipse on 4 December. The first (and possibly) only time in my life to see it! Another newsletter…
I also wanted to send out a special thanks to several of my friends that have helped connect me with people here. The natives are so warm and welcoming. I am going to a braai (traditional S. African BBQ)tonight at my new friend Ilse’s house (thanks Chris & Caroline). I can’t wait to see what it is all about. Then I am going to another one next week at Verwey and Estee’s house (thanks Jim!).
Lots of love to all of you.
Follow up photo: