September 18, 2005

South Africa FlagA busy day today. Right after our 8 am breakfast there was a brief meeting. First on the agenda was the hike up Table Mountain (again!) since the day had dawned with blue skies and sunshine. Our guide Leon had confirmed with the operators that the mountain was indeed open, so we all got into the truck and off we went.

The whole group climbed up Platteklip Gorge, the same route as we had climbed two days earlier. Today Rosemary’s back was behaving better, so it only took up 1 hour and 20 minutes to get to the top. There were only three others ahead of us, and we knew it would be a while before the whole group made it, so we decided to take a quick trip over to Maclear’s Beacon, which is the highest point on Table Mountain. (A whole 27 metres higher than the cable-car station.)

One of the other guides had told us he thought the walking time was 45 minutes round-trip, so we thought we could get there and then back to the cable-car by noon. But apparently the “round-trip” part of the estimate was wrong, so we arrived at the cairn at 11:45 am. So we hurried back to meet the rest of the group, and weren’t too much later than noon.

At the bottom, Leon went off to fetch the truck from where it was parked, and we checked out the gift shop. Rosemary bought a nice T-shirt for R65.

Our next destination was Cape Point. The route took us through beautiful scenery like Hout Bay and Chapman’s Peak, a narrow cliff-hanging road with metal nets in place to catch falling rocks. At the Cape of Good Hope National Park we had some free time so we walked up to the lighthouse, where we had great views over False Bay to the east and the Atlantic Ocean to the west. After we walked back down, we saw our first baboon. Apparently they are parking-lot pests and try to steal people’s food, but the one we found was in an area that looked quite natural. As we were waiting for the rest of the group to gather, Paul wandered over to have a look down into False Bay, and within moments found two whales swimming just offshore!

Back in the truck, Leon drove us down to the lower road where you are close to the Cape of Good Hope, which is really just a bump on the side of Cape Point. Here the wind was even stronger than it had been up at the lighthouse. We saw a bontebok and also our first ostriches.

Next stop was Boulders Beach in Simonstown, where the African Penguins live. Normally they breed on islands, like Robben Island where we already saw them, but this is the rare exception. We arrived there five minutes before closing time, but since Leon had dashed over and paid our entry fees, they let us in. The first thing we could hear was the braying of the penguins. They were so cute! (Originally they were called Jackass Penguins because of that call.) The National Park people have built boardwalks right through their territory on the sandy beach, but the penguins don’t seem to mind at all.

That was the end of the day’s activities. Leon drove us back to Cape Town and dropped us off at the waterfront. We bought a couple of little padlocks for our lockers on the truck, then went looking for the Brazilian restaurant that Paul remembered seeing on an earlier trip. After walking through the restaurant area several times, we came to the conclusion that what he remembered was actually the Portuguese restaurant. The menu looked good so we decided to eat there. The food was excellent and we finished off by sharing a bowl of rice pudding for dessert.

After dinner we did some last-minute shopping, then took the bus back to the hotel. Once back we repacked our bags in preparation for leaving on the road tomorrow.

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