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Published: June 26th 2017
This morning we hired a car. After a busy yesterday, today was a tad more relaxing…for me anyway as Roisin did the driving!! We had booked the car back in the UK with Thrifty and as we had passed their premises on the way to the hotel from the airport, we now knew where the car hire place was. It was a little too far to walk although it didn't look that far on the map as we took distance in to consideration when making the booking. In my estimation, the car hire was at least two miles from our hotel. It was probably only a half hour to forty minutes' walk but in order to save time the hotel rang for a taxi and advised us it should cost no more than 40 rand (there is 20 rand to the £ so you do the maths!!) The taxi arrived; an unmarked saloon with a driver who was very polite and who had an altogether pleasant demeanour about him. Seat beats secured and off we went. I couldn't see the meter but I didn't say anything although 'unmarked' and ‘no meter' alarm bells, whilst not activated, were currently on standby.
Arriving at Thrifty, Roisin and I both got out of the cab and the driver wound his window down, leaned out and said: ‘Just 30 rand please!.'
Wow! I've never been in a taxi in all my life that has cost as little as £1.50. At the same time the taxi driver was probably thinking he had never had a customer who has given him a 66%!t(MISSING)ip as I handed over 50 rand and said, feeling quite pleased with myself, ‘Keep the change'
as the imaginary safety catch was replaced over the metaphoric alarm bells!! It turns out that Roisin said there was a meter in the cab but he had it on his cell phone out of my line of sight. It seems you can get an app for everything these days!!!
Paper work done we were given the keys to a VW golf sedan. £18? Is that on top of everything we've already paid?' ‘No',
replied Roisin, ‘that's for the one day car hire and additional driver
'. Roisin had already sorted out accident waiver back in the UK. We were almost good to go. One thing we asked for but didn't get was a GPS.
Although an option, they had none left. So it was back to basics and I had to conjure up my map reading skills and rely on road signs and directions to get us to our destination. After 10 minutes of trying to locate our starting position on the map I asked one of the Thrifty employees to point us in the right direction. ‘Left out of here then right. That is the N2, Nelson Mandela Boulevard. This then becomes the M3'.
That's all I needed, and off we went.
South Africa drive on the same side as the UK so this was one less thing to worry about. Today we were heading twenty-five miles down the length of the Cape peninsula to visit the Cape of Good Hope, the spot where two oceans, the Indian and Atlantic, collide. En route we intend to stop at Boulders beach, home to a colony of African penguins.
The first few miles of the N2 divided in several places so Roisin was careful not to filter off anytime soon otherwise we could easily find ourselves on the wrong side of town. On the drive in from the airport we passed an area
known as Khayelitshathat that was made up from hundreds of small corrugated iron shacks where sanitation is no more than science fiction and paddle or no paddle, ‘shit creek'
Within a few minutes, I saw a sign for Muizenberg. This place I know to be a coastal town that will see us well on the way to our first stop. Despite being classed as a motorway, the road was little better than a duel carriageway albeit well maintained with nothing more than a steady flow of traffic.
There are two routes in which you can travel down the Cape Peninsula. The M6 (in this case the ‘M' must stand for ‘mountain'!!) will take you down the west side of the peninsula where the coast road winds its way several hundred feet above the jagged rocks below with only a small wall the difference between safety and oblivion!! The alternative route, the one we chose, takes a more flat route down the eastern side of the peninsula through several fishing villages. We left Table Mountain behind although we felt like the high ground of the Table Mountain National Park constantly on our right hand side was secretly
goading us as if it was about to play a scurvy trick!. On the coast road just past Fish Hoek we passed a small standalone property with an even smaller detached outhouse. Nothing unusual about that you might say. Both property and outhouse had a thatched roof. Again nothing unusual about that until Roisin pointed out that it's the poshest shed she has every seen!!!
The Boulders lies ½ mile passed Simon's Town home to a colony of African Penguins. Despite the African penguin listed as an endangered species, this colony was created from only two mating pairs in 1982 and the colony has now grown to 2,200 in recent years. The penguin used to be called the Jackass penguin due to the donkey-like ‘hee-haw' sound they make. However, since several species of South American penguins produce the same braying sound, the local birds have now been renamed African penguins as these are the only penguin indigenous to the ‘Dark' continent.
On entering the conservation area, I noticed a few warning notices for the benefit of the public. One sign that stood out was a flat hand with the thumb pointing upwards next to an outline of a
penguin although the depiction of the bird looked like it had been lifted from an Egyptian hieroglyph!! The sign had a diagonal line running across it obviously warning the visitor not to shake hands with the penguins!!
Boardwalks had been erected to take the visitor in amongst the colony. In some cases we were only a few feet away from these cute creatures. However, the no hand shaking sign was still playing on my mind. What if one of these penguins offered me his flipper. I wouldn't want to incur the wrath of the wardens but at the same time didn't want to offend these sweet little animals!! What the hell. I bend down and extended my hand. The little bastard lunged and nearly took my finger off at the knuckle!! Mrs Goody Two Shoes, standing next to me then took out the leaflet we were given on entry and pointed out a bullet point in bold. It read: ‘Penguins have very sharp beaks and can cause serious injury if they bite or lunge.'
On the back of this leaflet there was a list of dos and don'ts and one of the don'ts read: ‘Please don't use selfie sticks
through fences and near penguins.' This has obviously been added since the selfie stick has become a necessary accessory with some people and I'm sure is based on an actual experience more than likely not working out for one or more of the colony. As this is a protected sanctuary, any flaunting of these regulations could land you up in court: ‘It was the penguin's idea, m'lud!!'
We had been viewing the penguins from Foxy Beach. Before we headed back to the car we took a short stroll along Willis Walk, a narrow path that follows the shoreline along to Boulder beach, so named because of the 540 million year old granite boulders that enclose the strand. There is a buffer zone of shrubs and thicket between the beach and the pathway where were spotted more penguins, nesting or watching us with nervous curiosity. We also spotted a large brown rodent type creature which I now know to be a rock hyrax or rock badger, commonly known as a Dassie. It looked like a guinea pig that had eaten too many pies! Apparently the closest living relatives to hyraxes are the modern-day elephants.
We continued on our way
hugging the coast until we reached a small headland known as Miller's point. The road then turned in from the coast and started to climb. Due to the angle of the road, it was possible to trace the route of the road as it climbed around the outside of Swartkopberge. This was not good for both of us; for Roisin because she does not like heights, especially those which involve sheer drops, and for Chris because Roisin was driving!! After the first initial cussing by Roisin, the drive wasn't as bad as it looked for on the side of the mountain road, grew bushes, shrubs and other fauna which masked a truly magnificent vista across False Bay although Roisin had no intention of stopping at one of the purpose build vantage points. The road then turned sharply and we were heading through the mountain so on either side were nothing more than rolling moors and scrubland. Roisin's heart rate had only just returned to normal when we approached the entrance to the national park. In front of us and slightly to our right was another peak. ‘Table Mountain National Park. ‘Surely the clue is in the name!!' snapped Roisin. ‘That
looks like a monster of a mountain we have to cross'. ‘No we're probably just going to drive around the foot of it',
I said reassuringly ‘That's what you said in Lanzarote. The islands flat he said. There's only one mountain in Lanzarote, he said. You ended up making me drive through narrow switchbacks for which there was no way back with coaches and lorries coming the other way. Look, I can see that bus half way up.' ‘Ok, I'll drive then'.
That was the magic phrase. With a choice of facing her fear or my driving, she shifted in to first gear and still muttering expletives to herself, passed through the toll booth.
The road proved to be wide, and the turns gentle. The drop wasn't as dramatic as it looked when gazing up at the route. Within twenty minutes we were parking the car alongside the road that lead to the light house at Cape Point.
As I went to open the car door, Roisin grabbed me and pulled me back. ‘Look at what's coming towards us? Keep the door closed'
I looked up and saw a rather large baboon heading
towards us carrying a baby baboon on her back. She was obviously a baboon on a mission. Neither mother nor child gave the car a second glance as it used all fours to stride her way down the road. There were people walking along side of the road. The primates continued to ignore the unrelenting stream of human traffic. Even when ‘dad' made an appearance. They didn't feel we were a threat or oppressors although if anyone had approached the baboons (perhaps for a selfie!) I may have been telling a different story!
There is a misconception that the Cape of Good Hope is the southern tip of Africa, because it was once believed to be the dividing point between the Atlantic and Indian Oceans. In fact, the southernmost point is Cape Agulhas, about 90 miles to the east-southeast. The currents of the two oceans meet at the point where the warm-water current meets the cold water current and turns back on itself, a point that fluctuates between Cape Agulhas and Cape Point (about 1.2 kilometers east of the Cape of Good Hope).
The waters around the Cape have been treacherous to shipping in the past and the
depths of Davy Jones's locker is said to be the resting place of over 1000 wrecks. The Cape of Good Hope is the legendary home of The Flying Dutchman.
Crewed by tormented and damned ghostly sailors, it is doomed forever to beat its way through the adjacent waters without ever succeeding in rounding the headland. I think some of this crew have found their way on to the MSC Sinfonia as passengers!!
As we approached the base of the mount on which the lighthouse is situated, we saw a most welcome sight. A sign for a funicular, a tram-like vehicle that is pulled up the side of a cliff or hillside using a series of cables and pullies. It is possible to walk to the Cape of Good Hope which we could see quite clearly a kilometre or so out to the west. There is a coastal walk that takes about 45 minutes. That must be pretty tough going as its less that 1 mile per hour. As we're on holiday and not at Navy SEAL boot camp we took the funicular to the light house situated at the peak of Cape Point.
It was now just after
1:30pm so we lunched in the café that formed part of the Cape Point complex before heading back to Cape Town. The journey back was uneventful. Roisin had grown in confidence with driving the mountain road (or so she led me to believe!) We had decided to drop the car back off at the depot this evening although it didn't need to be back at Thrifty until 9am tomorrow morning. By returning the car today means we would not be rushing around tomorrow, the day we start our long and gradual journey home!
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