10 February 2013
On Sunday, after visiting the African Penguins at Boulders Beach, we drove even further south: to the Cape of Good Hope Nature Reserve. Reggie told me that there are many lovely hiking trails here (e.g. Sirkelsvlei, Kanonkop, Gifkommetjie, and the Shipwreck Trail) but we did not have time to explore any of them, as it was already midday by the time we entered the Reserve and followed the long road down to Cape Point.
“Is Cape Point the southernmost tip of the African continent?” I asked.
“Although it may seem and even feel like it, Cape Point actually isn’t the southern tip of Africa,” remarked Reggie. “You’d have to travel about 170km further east to Cape Agulhas, where there is also a lighthouse.”
“So this isn’t the place where the two oceans meet? The Indian Ocean to the east and the Atlantic Ocean to the west?” I asked, a bit disappointed.
“No, Flat Kathy, it isn’t,” Reggie shook her head. “Technically, they meet at Cape Agulhas.”
Despite this, Cape Point sure is spectacular! It is a jagged crag jutting into the ocean, battered by some of the roughest seas in the world.
Luckily, the weather on Sunday was in our favour. The previous day’s rain-puddles had dried up, and the warmth of the sun coupled with a brisk breeze were dissolving all the clouds. The African sun is very hot and powerful, though, so my hosts put on their hats and sunscreen, and even tried to shield me from the sun.
Because of the nice weather, though – and because it was a weekend – there were hundreds and hundreds of tourists and visitors milling about, and walking up and down to the top of the crag at Cape Point. Those who did not feel like walking up in the heat, could take the funicular railway. We walked, of course.
An old lighthouse, no longer in use, stands at the top of the crag; the view from up there took my breath away! A faint bank of clouds – Reggie called it “a cold front” – marked the line where the bright blue expanse of the African sky met the slightly darker blue of the deep Atlantic Ocean.
“From here, you can also see the Cape of Good Hope – which is the southwesternmost tip of the African continent,” indicated Reggie. “There is a big signboard down there, which marks the spot; but I don’t think we’ll have time to go there today.”
Looking northwestwards, I tried to imagine that the waves, which crash against these rocky shores, have travelled all across the unimaginable vastness of the Atlantic from my homeland of Nova Scotia in the far north. In my imagination, I was waving to my dear friends, Sybil of Eastern Passage Passage, Lynne from Five Good Things and Amy-Lynn of Flandrum Hill. I wondered what it would be like to see them on the other side. It made me feel a bit homesick.
“Flat Kathy, do you want to see the new lighthouse?” inquired Reggie, perhaps sensing my melancholy mood, and trying to distract me. “It’s a little bit of a walk, not too far, though, perhaps an hour there and back.”
“Oh, yes!” I cried, “I love lighthouses!”
We followed the sandy track known as the Lighthouse Keeper’s Trail down the steep side of the crag. It was a loooong drop down to the ocean, and I admit that did feel a bit wobbly when I looked down, but Reggie held onto me quite tightly whenever a gust of wind blew, and very soon, we reached the final viewing site at the end of the trail.
“If look up behind us, you can just about see the old lighthouse right at the top of that sheer cliff. And if you turn around, you can see the new lighthouse on those rocks faaaar below us,” said Reggie, gesticulating. “Unfortunately, we can’t go down there for a closer look. But can you imagine being here during a stormy night, or when the waves are pounding into the rocks? They also call this the ‘Cape of Storms’ – and over the centuries, it has become a graveyard for wrecked ships and lost lives.”
It was an extraordinary feeling, to be standing on the almost-southernmost tip of the African continent, feeling the brisk sea breeze ruffling my hair, listening to the shrieks of the seagulls, rock kestrels and gannets, circling, swooping and diving above and around us, and hearing the pounding of the surf against the rocks.
It was an unforgettable experience!
We drove back to Noordhoek via Kommetjie (where Reggie pointed out the Slangkop Lighthouse), and ended our long day’s journey with some delicious toasted sandwiches and tea at Ellies Deli in the Noordhoek Garden Emporium, which is quickly becoming one of my favourite places.
I do look forward to seeing more of this marvelous country!
P.S. To access the picture caroussel, click on any of the images in the gallery below.