Exploring the Cape Peninsula
by Barbara Ulmi
better way to celebrate the arrival of winter in the southern hemisphere
than by touring the beautifully diverse Cape Peninsula, during the mild
month of June. To start your journey head for the colourful display of
ruby, golden and bright orange canopies in the leafy suburbs of Newlands
and Bishopscourt. From Cape Town, follow the M3 south, take the Kirstenbosch
Botanical Garden exit and follow the winding road past lush residences,
to the main entrance of this oldest indigenous botanical garden in the
world (founded 1913). Here you can admire winter beauties such as the Transvaal
Hard Pear and Mandela's Gold; visit Colonel Bird's Bath for a contemplative
moment, and replenish yourself with a cup of Earl Grey and a muffin at
one of the restaurants in the garden.
Leave this botanical paradise
through the verdant forest stretching toward Constantia Nek, exit the circle
on your left and head straight to the Constantia Wine Route, home to the
stately Groot Constantia - the oldest wine estate in the Cape, granted
to the first governor of the Cape Colony, Simon van der Stel, in 1652.
Van der Stel being a man of great political stature and a dashing womanizer
with an immense amount of charm (possibly acquired on his travels to the
Bourgogne and Bordeaux regions in France?), it seems fitting that he named
this grand estate after the apple of his eye - the daughter of one of the
Dutch East India Company's Heeren XVII whom he had acquainted on his passage
to the Cape in 1679. Legend has it that Groot Constantia's red wine was
even savoured by Napoleon Bonaparte while in exile on the island of St.
Turning your back on the
world-acclaimed wine of Groot Constantia, head in the direction of Tokai
(echoeing a Hungarian wine region by the same name) with its haunted houses
deep in the forest (urban legend has it that at midnight, one of the former
Cape freeburger's son rides through the forest on a white stallion). At
the end of Tokai Road, follow the signboards to Muizenberg and Fish Hoek.
Take panoramic Boyes' Drive and witness the renaissance of the preferred
holiday destination of the Victorian times, Muizenberg - today a year-round
beach popular with surfers and Great White shark's alike! The drive will
merge with the main road running through Kalk Bay, a traditional fishing
village founded by shipwrecked Philippine sailors. This quaint town is
alive with art and culture - stroll down the main road and visit the many
bric-a-brac and trading stores, art galleries and retro cafés.
Cruise through Fish Hoek,
the former halfway stopover en route from Simon's Town to Cape Town and
a Calvinistic teetotal town until the mid 1980's, when the mayor of the
time - of Scottish origin - decided to introduce a nightcap to pubs and
restaurants (liquor stores however, are still non-existent.) The neighbouring
harbour town and South African naval station, Simon's Town, prides itself
on having had the only Great Dane with a naval rank in recorded history
- Just Nuisance, as his mates used to call him, is remembered in form of
a statue on Jubilee Square, which provides beautiful views across South
Africa's major naval station. Not only well-known for its uniformed seals,
but also penguins, Simon's Town attracts many visitors with its penguin
colony at Boulders beach. Watch the newly hatched African Penguins - commonly
referred to as Jackass penguins - as they wobble their way through the
Camphor bushes and over slippery boulders lining the coast here. Male and
female are easily distinguishable - male penguins are black and white,
female ones white and black.
short journey later, passing through Chacma Baboon country (keep those
yummy sandwiches to yourself) enter the Cape of Good Hope area of Table
Mountain National Park. Here you'll find the only baboons in Africa to
have taken to shellfish, and clever enough to scrape Kaolin from the soil
whenever their tummies get sore from fuzzy drinks and sweets grabbed from
tourists (next time you visit, they might just be sporting hook, line and
On your way to the Cape of
Good Hope (the most south-westerly point of Africa, where the two Oceans
almost meet) stop over at the Information Centre and commemorate the Portuguese's
navigational accomplishments by visiting one of the two monuments in the
Park - the Da Gama and the Bartholomeu Diaz crosses. Once at the bottom
of the Cape of Good Hope, take that compulsory snapshot of the signboard
indicating the geographical hotspot, and double-check its accuracy with
your GPRS. If you're less technically inclined head for the lookout point
at Cape Point - a 40 minutes' walk from Cape of Good Hope, or a quick funicular
ride or short walk from the parking lot just below the old lighthouse.
To avoid the bus loads of international tourists on pilgrimage here during
summer, opt for a visit during the colder winter months.
Take a leisurely drive out
of the park, passing the Cape Point Ostrich Farm and Zimbabwean curios
at Red Hill, until you get to the quaint village of Scarborough, home to
rig-workers, artists, painting doctors, and organic food growers. The adjacent
surfer mekka, Misty Cliffs, is adorned by the whitest beach in the Cape
- Witsand - and is en route to Kommetjie, a seaside playground for grommets
and veterans alike.
Drive past Imhoff Farm on
your left, with its cheese factory and Waldorf school, and continue through
Sunvalley to Noordhoek - the starting point of world-renowned Chapman's
Peak Drive. Built during the First World War (and contradictory to popular
belief, not by Italian war prisoners), this panoramic route provides sweeping
views of the Atlantic ocean and Hout Bay.
Visit Hout Bay harbour where
the mainly crayfish and tuna harvesting South African Sea Products are
based and take a boat trip to Duiker Island to view a thriving Cape Fur
The lively town of Hout Bay
- declared a 'Republic' as part of a charity fundraiser - is worth a trip
all by itself, but after a long and adventurous tour of the peninsula,
it is highly recommended to complete the last stretch of your trip in time
for sundowners in one of the many swishy cocktail bars or restaurants in
trendy Camps Bay and watch the sun set over the Atlantic Ocean.
About the Author - To
plan a hassle free trip to Cape Town, use CityGuideSA - a comprehensive
online travel resource with up-to-date information on where to Eat, Stay
and Play in Cape Town, Johannesburg, Durban and the Garden Route.