Sho’t Lefts Around the Western Cape

South-easterly we go 

This was another epic journey of more than 2100kms, this time, around the Western Cape of South Africa. How l love road trips because the greatest part of a road trip isn’t arriving at your destination but the discoveries you make along the way.  Back in the Mother City after 4 years. It was a last minute decision to surprise my sister and join her on her maiden trip to Africa. 

This road trip can best be described as a journey of  many interesting ’sho’t lefts’ –  South African taxi lingo meaning “just around the corner” and has evolved to mean ‘scenic route’ or ‘alternative route’.  In our case it was all of the above. Our guide and driver was the inimitable George Meyer. I knew this would be a trip of many interesting detours as George was my guide the last time I was here too. He was full of information and daily surprises! 

So buckle up and come along as I re-trace our thoroughly enjoyable adventure around the Western Cape! 

The areas we covered

Our first stop was the seaside town of Hermanus. We were meant to take the coastal highway but the road was closed because of a fire. So we took an alternate route, stopping at a lookout at Lowry’s Pass and then carrying on to the HouwHoek Farm Stall for some coffee and pies. The Hazz coffee that they served was excellent and so were the pies and it sated two jet-lagged souls. Half way to Hermanus we stopped at the Ataraxia Winery in the Valley of Heaven and Earth in the Overburg region just to have a look around – it is an area of spectacular natural beauty.

Ataraxia Winery

Before driving into Hermanus itself, we took another sho’t left to a scenic lookout up in Rotary Way. We spent some time there taking in the view overlooking the beautiful Walker Bay and getting to know the local flora known as fynbos. The Cape floral kingdom is 1 of 6 in the world. It is the smallest but most diverse of the floral regions. 

Rotary Way Lookout

Two days after we left here, we heard that there was a dreadful fire that engulfed and destroyed much of where we were. It was quite unbelievable. Many homes were destroyed and folks had to evacuate. Sadly, this was to repeat itself in many of the places we visited, the fires happening just after we left each place, and in some areas we actually witnessed the fires. 

Our stay at the well located Hermanus Guest House was very comfortable. It was ocean-facing and just a short walk into town. We walked along the coast to this very artsy town. Modern outdoor statues greeted us at Gearing’s Point and there were many interesting art and craft shops to explore. Hermanus is well known as a whale watching destination but the season was over, so there were no whales to be seen. Dinner was at the lovely ‘Lemon Butta’,  a repeat for me and the seafood was as fresh and delicious as I remembered it. 

 

Open air sculptures in Hermanus 

 

To the Southernmost Tip of Africa 

After a rather scrumptious breakfast, we set off to Cape Agulhas. Along the way we stopped at the unspoilt Grotto Beach flanked by mountains on one side and the ocean on the other. It was granted a ‘blue flag’ status in recognition of its ecological value, beauty, safety and accessibility. 

The ‘Blue Flag’ Grotto Beach

One of the many beautiful sights on our drive – orographic clouds slowly blanketing a mountain

Of course there is never a direct route to anywhere with George and we unanimously agreed we had to stop and check out the Klein River Cheese Farm. What a lovely stop! We had coffee, did some cheese-tasting, sat under a beautiful shady tree and chatted as we drank our coffee, while birds chirped and children played on the grounds. 

Resting at Klein River Cheese Farm

As we drove on through the town of Gansbaai there was thick smoke heavy in the air. We were to learn later that it became a huge raging fire causing much damage to property. 

The fire in Gansbaai

The road we took meandered through the very picturesque village of Elim. Elim was established in 1824 by German Moravian missionaries. It is a tiny village with pretty houses in a row on either side of the road – one side were houses in multi-colours and the other side were whitewashed thatched cottages. At the end of the road was the Moravian Church. It is amazing how well preserved this village is. 

 

The Cottages of Elim 

The Moravian Church in Elim

We stopped for a late lunch at the Black Oystercatcher restaurant. Its high ceiling, relaxed ambience and friendly staff made it a perfect place to stop. If you find yourself in these parts, it is a great pit stop. 

The Blackoyster Catcher

We finally arrived at Cape Agulhas in the evening. The southernmost tip of the African continent – where the Indian and Atlantic oceans collide, and where the waters can be quite treacherous. It is notorious for its storms and huge rogue waves which reach spectacular heights of 30 metres (100 feet). It is believed that around 150 ships have sunk around the cape. It was named by Portuguese navigators, who called it Cabo das Agulhas – ‘Cape of Needles’ after noticing that the direction of the magnetic north (and therefore the compass needle) coincided with true north. (Wiki)

The oceans were relatively calm that evening and we explored the area on a recently built boardwalk. The lighthouse which was built in 1849 is the second-oldest in South Africa and is still operating. 

Cape Agulhas

Lighthouse at Cape Agulhas – Sited on the most dangerous part of of the South African coast.

A short drive further up this rugged coastline lies the wreckage of the Japanese fishing vessel Meisho Maru No.38. All the sailors of this vessel survived and were able to swim ashore. There was something hypnotic about it and one could just stand and stare at it as powerful waves crashed against it, buffeting it. It is the kind of place that fires the imagination and transports you to the early days of the brave maritime explorers who fought hunger and disease as they voyaged across oceans finding new lands and peoples. 

The wreckage of the Meisho Maru No.38

Farmlands along the way

We journeyed on through rich farmlands (only the scenic route will do) to get to our next destination – Arniston. Arniston gets its name from a ship that was part of an English convoy in 1815 transporting wounded soldiers from then Ceylon back to England. It got separated from the convoy in high seas, its sails completely destroyed, the captain had to rely on dead reckoning to navigate. The Arniston broke up on the rocks as the captain erroneously turned towards shore. Of the 378 on board only 6 survived. 

We checked into our hotel, had a light dinner and an early night. There was no need for the air-con – we left our sliding doors open and the cool ocean breeze and the sound of crashing waves had a lovely soporific effect. 

 

An Ancient Fishing Village 

We were up at dawn and stood on our balcony and watched as the sun rose turning the sky a glorious florid red. We were eager to start our day and after an early breakfast we walked about taking photos. Not even 100 metres from our large modern hotel is the historical fishing village of Kassiesbaai. It was just so improbable – on one side a heaving modern hotel and just up the road, a short walk away, a 200 year-old fishing village. We strolled around the ocean front with our cameras joining joggers and people walking their dogs. Everyone was friendly and cheerful. A beautiful day. 

Sunrise

Arniston oceanfront

Later George joined us and we walked to the Kassiesbaai fishing village. The name Kassiesbaai is derived from the wooden crates or kassies (boxes) that washed up on shore from shipwrecks. These were often used by the early fishermen as building material for their homes. People were friendly and ready to chat and tell their story. They are hardworking simple folk who eschew modern living (except for the one or two satellite dishes I spotted).

Fishing remains their main occupation. Many were descendants of slaves brought from Batavia, Malaya and Ceylon – collectively called the ‘Cape Malays’. We stopped to chat with these warm, friendly folk. Interacting with local people is one of the best things about travel – you meet people whose lives are so different from your own and whose stories are not only interesting but rich in history. We stopped at Willeen’s coffee shop cum arts and crafts centre for a freshly brewed french-press coffee and delicious freshly made cakes. Needless to say we throughly enjoyed our morning walkabout. 

The 200 year-old Kassiesbaai Fishing Village

 

Willeen’s

Before we left Arniston, we took a sho’t left to Waenhuiskrans,  an enormous sea cave which is only accessible at low tide. A literal translation of the name means ‘wagon house cliff’.  Unfortunately, the tide was not low enough for us to see it. 

 

Off-road 

We drove through the town of Bredasdorp and then George decide to go completely off-road. (Not all who wander are lost.) As we shuddered over the gravel roads, the landscape changed from pastoral to wild fynbos and back again. One feature of the landscape that stood out and which I have not seen in a long while were the electricity transmission poles. They were once ubiquitous in our country, underground cables having replaced them. Seeing them accompany us along our drives took me back to the drives we took as a family when we were children. I would count the number of poles on our long drives till my 5 year old self would get bored of counting. 

Hit the Road Jack!

Taking the High Road

Electricity poles

One of our many stops

After our many stops to photograph oryx, cranes, sheep, cape-angulated tortoises and even the roads itself, we turned into Breederivier.  Another sho’t left. I couldn’t believe my eyes – a pontoon river crossing! Another throwback to my childhood when we would have to take a wooden pontoon to cross the Muar River (back in the 60’s in Malaysia) but this was a first because this one was hand drawn! Incredible that such a thing still exists.

My sister and I were quite excited and George was as pleased as punch to see our glee. 3 vehicles drove on to the pontoon and we got off our vehicle and my sister gamely and excitedly tried her hand at the pulley and harness system that is used to draw the pontoon forward.  

Hand-drawn pontoon

My sister trying her hand at it

Once across, we drove on to Swellendam. The buildings here are almost entirely in the Cape Dutch style. We stopped to visit the Drostdy Museum. Built by the Dutch East India Company in 1747, the building originally served as the residence and official headquarters for the Landdrost (Chief Magistrate). 

Drostdy Museum

By the time we rolled into Buffeljagsrivier, it was 3pm and we were starving. We stopped at the old Oust Post Bistro and had what the locals call roosterkoek – traditional bread which  accompanys a braai or barbecued meat. 

Roosterkoek

Let me say a little bit about braai. It is South Africa’s tradition of a grill cookout. Heritage Day,  24 September is also known as ‘Braai Day’. “Somewhere between 15 and 20 million South Africans braai on Braai Day. That’s nearly half the population. It’s a great equalizer in South African society. The wealthiest people braai with proper wooden fires and the poorest people braai with proper wooden fires. It’s a way of preparing food, but it’s also a social gathering. In backyards and on patios; in the suburbs and deep in the bush; atop shining new grills and on beds of thornbrush: To braai is to gather with friends on long, lazy afternoons and grill.” (Saveur).

As they say it here – “Bly kalm, ons gaan nou braai“ (“Keep Calm, we are going to braai now”).

We carried on after that filling lunch through the beautiful Langeberg mountain range and Kogmanskloof Pass. The mountains had stunning green, brown hues of sandstone and  surrounded the town of Montagu. There were no safe places we could stop to take photographs so we did our best through the window of our moving Kombi. 

Kogmanskloof

Our first stop in Montagu was an incredible ibis sanctuary right in the middle of a residential area! The place was alive with the cacophony of hundreds of ibis and other birds. What a sight!

Leidam Ibis Sanctuary

We finally tore ourselves away from the sanctuary and checked into Arlies Guest House, an old Victorian house. The rooms had a claw-legged bath tub with just a screen for our modesty. The WC was camouflaged into the wall. (We opted for a room with a shower cubicle). 

Arlies Guest House

Dinner was just a short walk down the road to Kokkeman’s Kitchen. I remember eating bobotie the last time I was in South Africa and just had to have it again and my sister was very keen to try it too. Bobotie is a local dish of minced meat with an egg-based topping. The story goes that the slaves would steal bits of meats from their masters and place it in the bottom of the dish with the egg as topping to hide it. It is quite delicious.

 

BAR Valley and Acquila

Our sho’t left this morning as we headed to Acquila Game Reserve was through the Bonnyvale-Ashton-Robertson Valley just so we could see the beautiful canna that line the roads. 

Canna waving us along

While we were there we decided to make a stop at the Van Loveren Estate and George regaled us with stories of the Van Loverens. It is a beautiful estate with lush gardens.

Van Loveren Estate

From there we went on to the nearby Springfield Estate where I just had to remind myself of the taste of their “Life from Stone” Sauvignon Blanc that I had had 4 years ago in a restaurant in Cape Town. And here I was in their tasting room in their winery! 

Springfield Winery

There were no more ‘sho’t lefts’ that afternoon, it was a straight run on the national highway to Acquila Game Reserve. It was my sister’s first time on a safari. While Acquila isn’t quite the Kruger or Masaai Mara, it is a great introduction to safari. Many of the animals here were rescued.  Acquila provides sanctuary for animals that can never be released into the wild again and a temporary home for those that need attention before being released into the wild. Their programmes include various initiatives and projects – Orphan Rhino Calf, Saving Private Rhino Foundation and other Rescue and Rehabilitation initiatives. It is quite touristy with many tourists making the day trip from Cape Town. It is a great way to ‘sample’ a safari. After years of trying to persuade my apprehensive sister to join me on one, this experience finally persuaded her. (We are now making plans to go on a ‘real’ safari:-))

On our game drive that evening, there were children in our vehicle and their enthusiasm and excitement at seeing elephants, rhinos and lions were so infectious.  We spent a night there and went on another game drive again in the morning. I saw a baby rhino for the first time and that was quite the highlight for me. 

Good thing she didn’t fall off!

Mama, baby and friend

 

Mr Singh comes visiting 

We hit the highway after breakfast, making one stop at an interesting little shop where the coffee was free and you made it yourself. We browsed in the shop, bought a couple of souvenirs and hit the road again.

Coffee while you shop

On the road again

Our detour this time was into Paarl and the unique Afrikaans Language Monument. I have never heard of a monument to a language before! Afrikaans which originated from 17th century Dutch is one of the youngest languages in the world. 

Afrikaans Language Monument – “This is Our Pride”

Our stop for lunch was an interesting artisan place called Spice Route. The sinful deep fried camerbet was something to be had! We had a restful stop, chatted and savoured our lunch. 

We made another quick detour to the Drakenstein Correctional Centre formerly known as Victor Verster Prison. It was from here that Nelson Mandela walked to freedom. After Robben Island, he was moved to the Pollsmoor Prison and his last two years of imprisonment were here in Victor Vester. 

‘Amandla!’ (Power!)

We then set off to the pretty little town of Franschhoek (“French Corner”) tucked away in the heart of the Cape winelands. It is called the ‘French corner’ because in the 17th century, the French Huguenots, were forced to leave France, or face persecution. The Dutch East India Company invited the Huguenots to settle in South Africa as they were skilled craftsmen and experienced farmers. The Huguenots settled here and made this region the wine-making centre that it is today. 

Dutch Reform Church (1874)

George told us the story of Mr. Analjit Singh, an Indian billionaire. Mr. Singh came to Cape Town for the FIFA World Cup in 2010 and was taking a drive around the winelands when he felt hungry and asked his driver if there was any place where they could have something to eat. The driver drove him into Franschhoek and on that fateful afternoon, Mr. Singh fell in love – with Franschhoek. The retired Mr. Singh came out of retirement and did what only billionaires can do – he proceeded to invest in property here and made this town his ‘home away from home’. His investments have grown over the years and he now runs a 17-key country house and winery on Leeu Estates, a 68-hectare farm in the Franschhoek valley. In the charming one-road village of Franschhoek, he also renovated Leeu House into a 12-room hotel that is very Cape Dutch featuring thatched roofs, gables with plaster art, shutters and stable doors. He has also installed on both sides of the large garden, statues of Nelson Mandela and Mahatma Gandhi. And he is not done yet. 

Leeu House – one of Mr. Singh’s properties

Wine Tram

We stayed at the lovely Maison Chablis just off the main road and had dinner at the exquisite Foliage. It really is a beautiful place – we walked along the main road of this pretty town, stopping at shops along the way. 

 

Winelands, Fire and Penguins

We meandered through the winelands and George decided we simply had to see the grand and magnificent Delaire Graff Estate. Oh my were we blown away. The gardens were extensive and simply beautiful beyond words. The art collection was amazing. Even the replica of the yellow diamond was mesmerising. The estate is the very definition of luxury. We felt like riff-raff in our travel clothes and hiking shoes – and then I remembered my friend who went to the Russian Bolshoi in Moscow in hiking boots and didn’t feel so bad after that:-) 

Delaire Graff Estate Gardens

Die Dompas Moet Brand! (The ‘Dumb’ Pass Must Burn) – a sculpture by Hank Willis Thomas

Next – Stellenbosch. The second oldest city in South Africa (Cape Town is the oldest). It has the vibrant air of the university town that it is. Here we visited the Village Museum – four houses and their gardens, each of these beautiful homes representing a different period in the architectural development of the city.  The houses, their interiors and their gardens have been wonderfully restored, furnished and decorated to illustrate the particular style and taste of the time. In each there was a docent dressed in the costume of the period and told stories about the homes. 

Jeanetta Koopman – one of the docents

Our drive took us through a spectacular stretch of coastline known as Clarence Drive. It took my breath away 4 years ago and it did again this time. The road meanders through the Hottentots Hollands mountain-range on one side and the ocean of the other. Not surprisingly it is regarded as one of the most scenic drives in the world. 

Clarence Drive

As we drove into Betty’s Bay and the Stony Point Penguin Colony – the scenery shocked us. Whole mountainsides and many homes were destroyed in fires that had occured just days prior. It was so sad to see the scale of the destruction. Thankfully no lives were lost and the penguin colony itself was untouched, thank goodness. 

We spent a couple of hours in the colony, observing and photographing the jackass penguins (called such because of the sound they make). 

Penguins remain mates for life

That evening we drove back to Cape Town to begin where we started. We stayed at the lovely Villa Rosa run by Steve and Greg and it was to be home for the next few days. 

 

A Truly Memorable Day

We were up early for breakfast and my oh my! – breakfast was quite an experience. Steve served the best breakfast ever. Everyday there was freshly baked croissant and bread and the menu for the hot breakfast was always different. It was a pity we couldn’t linger over breakfast as much as we would’ve liked. We were off to Robben Island – an experience I really wanted my sister to have. We got to the terminal in good time, only to be told that the ferry was cancelled for the day due to choppy waters. It was too dangerous to make the crossing to the island. So we exchanged the tickets for the next day hoping the weather cooperates. 

V&A Waterfront

George photo-bombing this poor lady! She was is stitches when she realised

We spent some time walking around the waterfront, taking photos and then to the Jetty 1 Museum. This building served as a passageway for everyone – prisoners, staff, wardens traveling to and from Robben Island during apartheid. There were many letters on display – applications by family members to visit their loved ones imprisoned in Robben Island. 

“Only entitled to receive a visit by one person at a time”

While we were here, George was busy on his phone looking quite intense. I had previously told George that I would like to buy the book “Mandela, My Prisoner, My Friend” and pass it to him to get it signed by the author Christo Brand, whom he knew personally. I had read the book and it moved me greatly. Since we were on a bit of a loose end with the Robben Island tour cancelled, I thought it would be a perfect time to go to a bookshop to buy a couple of copies of the book. Peculiarly enough, George veered me away from it and said there would be time later for that. I was a bit curious at that since we were right in the vicinity. He took us to Seapoint instead where we walked along the ocean front and took photos.

The Rayban at Seapoint

Girl climbing the Rayban

George suddenly ushered us back into the Kombi and without telling us where he was taking us, drove us to District Six to the home of Faiza and as we drove up, there was Christo Brand coming out to greet us! I couldn’t believe it. 

He was here to give a lecture to some visitors and George asked if he would agree to see us before his lecture and he very kindly agreed. I was floored and not just a little dumbstruck. So that’s why George was busy on his phone – he was trying to arrange this meeting and the reason he kept me away from the bookshop!

I had mentioned Christo Brand in my previous blog and quoted from his book too. Brand was Nelson Mandela’s prison warden. The two were to become lifelong friends. He and a few other wardens grew to like and respect Mandela and his cohort. Rules were broken and small but great acts of kindness shown. Brand wrote the book on Mandela’s urging, insistent that he must tell his story. We must’ve spent about 15 or 20 minutes chatting with him. He told us that he had seen Mandela emotional only twice in his life – first when Winnie Mandela was allowed to visit and be in the same room as Nelson Mandela and second when they secretly allowed his grandchild to be brought in. The latter was a secret between them for years as it could have cost Brand his job and Mandela only spoke of it after he had become President. 

Christo Brand

As we were leaving we met another author – Soraya Esau. Her book “My People” traces the history of the Cape Malays. She lives in New Zealand but was in Cape Town trying to get her book recognised by the Education Ministry so that the local children could better appreciate and understand their history. Unfortunately she didn’t have any copies of her book on her. 

We left Faiza’s home with some delicious homemade koeksisters (a traditional Afrikaans sweet pastry similar to a doughnut). I was walking on air, koeksister in hand, feeling quite elated at having met Christo Brand and couldn’t stop thanking George enough. Talk about pulling rabbits out of the hat!

Lunch was a “Truth Experience”. The UK’s Telegraph named the steampunk coffee (a method of roasting coffee) at the Truth coffee shop in Cape Town the best in the world. Truth is like a warehouse, a little bit quirky and decorated with metal piping and all sorts of bits and bobs. The waiters and waitresses also wear quirky flamboyant attire. Their food was simply delicious, the coffee however, was very strong but their spicy rooibos tea was amazing. 

We then walked across the street to the District Six museum. District Six  was a mixed community that lived in harmony side by side. In the 1970’s it was declared a white area under the apartheid regime. More than 60,000 people were forcibly removed to barren outlying areas  and their houses in District Six were flattened by bulldozers. The museum stands as a reminder of that stark time in South Africa’s history. There was one person I hoped I would get to meet this time. His name is Noor Ebrahim, a founding member of the museum and whose book “My Life in District Six” I’d read. 

District Six Museum

As we were leaving the museum, none other than Noor Ebrahim walked in! I was beyond thrilled. Such a kindly man with such kindly eyes. I told him of my missed opportunity to meet him the last time. We chatted for a few minutes and he agreed to our taking photos of him. 

Noor Ebrahim

What a day! It seemed like everything I couldn’t do on my last trip I was doing on this trip. Our next destination was Table Mountain which was closed for maintenance when I was last here. Table Mountain is the iconic landmark of Cape Town. Its arresting beauty can be seen from nearly all parts of the city. This time we made it up and hiked on the ‘table top’ – the flat summit of the mountain. We had grand views from all sides and the only annoying thing were the tourists from a particular large country of the East.  They spoke loudly and hacked and spat as they wished. Eww. Then there were also the fathers holding their babies above their heads and posing for photos while standing at the edge of a cliff. They truly deserved a good thumping on their heads. Other than these irritations, it was quite beautiful up there. 

View from Table Mountain

View from the other side

We ended this magnificent day with dinner at the waterfront with my friend, the lovely Penny Robartes – with whom I have travelled to far flung places and will be doing so again soon:-) It was the perfect way to end a wonderful day. 

 

Robben Island and Colourful Bo Kaap 

Breakfast in Villa Rosa is quite the highlight, but once again we had to hurry as we had to get to our ferry to Robben Island early. Steve was rather concerned that we weren’t eating enough and felt obliged to feed us. We assured him that we were in no danger of starvation. The weather was good and this time we made it to Robben Island. On reaching, we boarded the waiting buses into the prison. 

The last time we had the good fortune of having Eddie Daniels, who was imprisoned with Mandela, in our bus. I was very saddened to hear that he passed away in 2017. The bus tour took us past Robert Subokwe’s house and stopped at the lime quarry where Nelson Mandela had done hard labour and where his vision was impaired permanently.

Pile of stones in the lime quarry in memory of those who died on the island

After the bus tour of the island we alighted at the prison entrance and were met by our prison guide, coincidentally another Sipoh. All the prison guides are ex-political prisoners. He told us his experiences and of the horrific torture he had to endure. He too had impaired vision from working in the lime quarry and when someone took a flash photograph of him, he winced and turned away, explaining the reason and requesting us not to take flash photographs. The tour stopped at Nelson Mandela’s cell which we all took turns viewing and photographing. 

Sipoh

 

Nelson Mandela’s cell

Nelson Mandela’s cell

Christo Brand describes in his book, “The cells were as cold as fridges, all year round. They were made of cement and unpainted. Overnight the prisoners would freeze. They slept on the floor with two mats, one hard sisal mat and another softer one. They had 3 blankets with no extra one allowed, even in winter.” The mats were too small for the tall Mr Mandela. He would always be cold. It didn’t faze him. He would be up at 5am, doing exercises for at least an hour – running on the spot, sit-ups, push-ups whatever exercise was possible in those confines. 

We took the ferry back to Cape Town and visited the Castle of Good Hope. George once again demonstrated  how he would stand for sentry duty at the Castle when he did his military service as a young man.

Castle of Good Hope

From there we walked through the city to Bo Kaap, the colourful Malay Quarter. We meandered through various streets stopping to chat with folks and by the time we got to Bo Kaap we were dying for a cold drink. We found a nice place on the first floor of a building and had our long cool thirst-quenching drinks. We also had a lovely view of Bo Kaap. 

 

Colourful Bo Kaap

Friendly lady who was quite happy for us to take her photo

 

Cape of Good Hope 

Our destination the next morning was the Cape of Good Hope. Getting there was not a straight forward drive. We took the Blue Route past the Pollsmoor Prison (to complete the Mandela journey), went up Silvermine Lookout, stopped at Simon’s Town, visited the museum, learned about ‘Just Nuisance’ – the only dog to ever be enlisted in the Navy, (it’s an interesting story, you should look it up) and went to Boulder’s Beach (another penguin colony. Here you can swim with the penguins too!).

We finally made it to the Cape of Good Hope – and it is still every bit as I remember it – strong winds that completely rearranged our hair to comical effect and walking took supreme effort as there was a real chance of being blown away. It was hilarious. The Cape of Good Hope is often mistaken as the southernmost point of Africa but as we know, that honour goes to Cape Agulhas. The Cape of Good Hope however is of historical importance. It was at this point that seafarers made the turn to go around the continent on the way to India and the Far East. If you remember your history, it was Bartholomew Diaz who first made the turn and called the cape “ Cabo das Tormentas” (Cape of Storms) an apt name if you ask me. It was later renamed “Cabo da Boa Esperanza” (Cape of Good Hope) to lift the flagging spirits of sea-weary sailors. 

We then drove to Cape Point and up to the Lighthouse. Postcards were mailed from here to get the ‘Cape of Good Hope’ postmark. 

Going up to the lighthouse

Kite surfing

We stopped along the way to watch some wind and kite surfing – an array of colours hanging over the sea. This delayed us somewhat in getting to Noordhoek for a “special lunch”. We didn’t quite know what was going on but when we got to the ‘Food Barn’, George’s wife Tracey was sitting there patiently waiting for us! A nice surprise. We had corresponded with her in arranging this trip and had told George we’d love to meet her. It was she who made it possible for me to join in at the last minute and surprise my sister. 

The food at the Food Barn was excellent! (To my South African friends, if you haven’t been to the Food Barn, you must go!) 

After our goodbyes to Tracey, we took yet another scenic route back through Chapman’s Peak. The view along this road was simply stunning. Truly awesome. We drove through Hout Bay, Camp’s Bay and the 12 Apostles, stopping for photographs along the way. 

Chapman’s Peak Drive

12 Apostles

 

A Special Day 

My sister’s birthday. I can’t remember the last time I’d spent her birthday with her – what with her living in the U.S and I in Singapore. So being together was special for us. If only our other sister and the rest of the family were here with us too…

We agreed to a late start today, so we could finally savour Steve’s breakfast slowly and Steve was a happy man. 

On our first day, I had asked George if he had heard of Sixto Rodriguez and the Oscar and BAFTA-winning documentary ‘Searching for Sugarman’ – of course he had. He asked if I would like to go to the record store where it all started and I jumped at the idea. 

So this morning, my last day, George came bearing gifts for us – a DVD of “Searching for Sugarman” – one for the birthday girl and the other for the sister who was not to be left out:-)

I had watched the documentary when it came out and became a Rodriguez fan myself. So today we walked through Company’s Garden in the heart of the city and made our way to the record shop – Mabu Vinyl. The documentary was based on the efforts by Stephen “Sugar” Segerman (one of the owners of Mabu Vinyl) and Craig Bartholomew Strydom, to find out whether the rumours of Rodriguez’s death was true and how they tracked him down. Oddly enough while Rodriguez never found success in America, in South Africa he was legend. His music was the anthem for anti-establishment protests and had a profound influence in South Africa. Little did Rodriguez know that he was a phenomenon here. He has emerged from obscurity now, thanks to the efforts of these men. If you have not watched the documentary, I recommend it highly. It is excellent and quite an extraordinary story. 

Back on the road again, we took a sho’t left and visited Groot Constantia. Their wines were famous the world over – apparently Emperors and Kings such as Frederick the Great of Prussia and King Louis Phillipe of France drank Constantia wines. It is so renowned it even appears in Jane Austen’s novel ‘Sense and Sensibility’ as a cure for a broken heart and is drunk to lift a character’s spirit in ‘The Mystery of Edwin Drood’ by Charles Dickens.  Apparently Napoleon Bonaparte too was served it during his exile on the island of Saint Helena. 

Groot Constantia

We stopped for lunch at Muizenberg and of course had to photograph their famous colourful beach huts. Before the beach huts came along it was Cecil Rhodes who made this place famous for it was here that he came to convalesce. Kalk Bay just further along was another interesting little town with loads of interesting shops. 

The beach huts of Muizenberg

‘Cape to Cuba’ – a restaurant in Kalk Bay

Seals lounging about in Kalk Bay harbour

We stopped at Milnerton Beach and Blaauberg for some stunning sunset shots. 

Sunset with table Mountain in the background

For dinner, my sister wanted an authentic local experience and we settled on Bo Kaap Kombuis (Bo Kaap Kitchen). Yusuf and Nazli own the restaurant which serves Cape Malay cuisine. The restaurant is on the first level and their home is just below. It had such a homey feel and they were so warm and welcoming. It really felt like we were visiting friends. George had informed them that it was my sister’s birthday and at the end of our meal they came along and sang for her and Yusuf gave such a heartfelt speech of love and blessings and all things good that we were both so moved. There was a young American man who was sitting at the next table whom we were chatting with and he too got swept into the warmth and hospitality of these kind folks. It was the loveliest ending to an amazing holiday. 

Yusuf making his speech

Nazli and friend applauding

The next day, I said my goodbyes to my sister (who was staying one more day before flying home to the U.S). We had such a good and happy time and this road trip will be an enduring memory.

If you would like to see more photos from this trip, please click of this link: 

https://www.shobhagopinath.com/Travel/2019-Western-Cape-South-Africa/

George was fabulous and fun to travel with and I renewed my friendship with him, while my sister made a new friend. Baie Dankie George! 

If any of you are planning a trip to South Africa and are looking for a guide who is knowledgeable, fun and a little zany – George is the guy for you and he can be contacted at:

Geotrac Tourism & Guiding Service

Tel: Office     +27 21 785 7309    

Mobile    +27 60 957 4313

E-Mail               george@geotrac.co.za

 

2 thoughts on “Sho’t Lefts Around the Western Cape

  1. No words to explain this wonderful post. Great article and some truly stunning photographs !Kudos.
    While reading it I could imagine everything, tnxs for this memorable trip in my mind.Wish u well on your blog and future travels.

    Like

  2. Can’t wait for your next blog. Your photos are so evocative of the subject, they complement your words to perfection. Captures the very essence of the place. That’s what sets your pieces apart from the rest. Perhaps also that somewhere deep down I sense you are a kindred soul and ironically you choose to do precisely what I would have. So you do all the legwork and reporting and I remain a super sated armchair tourist.
    Win win! Love to you. 💞😍💞

    Like

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