Every so often one finds the place where everyone wants to be. Such a place
was the waterfront at Cape Town where we searched over 200 tables in a waterside
restaurant to find a vacant seat. Crowds thronged the walkways and an African
rhythm band played outside; a short distance away German folk songs had an
enthusiastic audience and, in between, a young African strummed a guitar. When
we, at last, found an empty table we were speedily served with Vogelstraus
Geschnetzeltes - Ostrich strips braised with mushrooms, herbs and cream served
with spatzle for 55 Rand, equivalent to about £3.50. The whole was downed
by a generous glass of Blaauwklippen sociable red - an agreeable wine and
remarkable value at the equivalent of £2 per bottle. I was less pleased
with the Calamari fish steak the next evening. Its texture resembled a tough egg
custard with an indefinable taste but it improved with a good dose of pepper.
We were diverted from our food by an altercation between a seal, barking
ferociously, and a yachtsman as each claimed a space on the pontoon. At one
point the man scrambled for safety on board the yacht but then re-emerged with a
stick, which he rattled against the pontoon. The seal knew it was time to slip
into the water.
We found a visit to the town centre a hazardous experience since, although
a little green man lights up for pedestrians, traffic turns the corner before
there is time to cross the road. We chose our crossings with care and survived
to see the houses of parliament and gardens, and visit some of the shops.
Whereas we saw no signs of violence we took notice of the advice to conceal
personal belongings and for our other explorations had signed up for the guided
tours that were reasonably priced. The waterfront is well guarded with security
personnel and video surveillance, and perfectly safe for the tourist.
The holiday organised by Kuoni/Voyages Jules Verne was good value. Our
only complaint is that the name of the Cullinan Waterfront hotel, for which we
paid extra, implied that it was on the Waterfront but in fact was fifteen
minutes walk away. There was, however a frequent shuttle service from the hotel
costing the equivalent of 40 pence.
A novelty of the trip to Table Mountain is the gondola with a rotating
floor. During the course of the ascent we moved around the circumference so that
everyone had a chance to see the best view of the harbour. We would have liked
more than a half- hour to explore the top of the mountain. Paths wind through
the rocks amongst a variety of vegetation and flowers. An Orange Winged Sunbird
flitted by and black lizards ran over the rocks. We were lucky to have a fine
day and the clouds that briefly enveloped us were quickly blown away.
The Classic Peninsula tour was the most comprehensive of our choices. We
had an excellent guide who recounted the history as well as the geography of the
region. Seals barked from the water as we visited their colony at Hout Bay on a
boat trip to Duiker Island. A honkey tonk band greeted our arrival. Thence to
the Kirstenbosch botanical gardens to see some of the 5,000 plant species.
Temperatures in the hot sun were up to 30 degrees centigrade but much of the
downhill walk was in the shade. There was no shade when visiting the Jackass
penguins in the colony by Simon's Town, so hats and sun cream were essential.
The penguins seemed unfazed by the heat and strutted alongside as we leaned over
the rail to watch them. They had the benefit of a dip in the cold sea when
necessary. It was on the way to Cape Point that we saw a variety of other
animals including zebra, ostrich, and antelope. We were warned not to feed the
baboons by the Cape since they can become too familiar and demanding of further
favours. A funicular railway runs up the hill to Cape Point but the walk up the
path is not strenuous and affords better views over the coastline.
One of the high lights of the Cape Heritage Tour was the visit to the Klein
Plasie open-air museum, which displayed the life style of the early farmers.
Elegant thatched buildings constructed from materials in the woodland were in
sharp contrast to the corrugated iron dwellings prevalent in the shantytowns
visible en route from the airport. Why, we asked, could they not emulate the
early farmers and build more elegant structures. The shantytowns arise due to
the migration by people in search of work. The meagre space available on the
outskirts of the town does not have the materials of the woodland; the materials
that are available are the unattractive cast-offs of a more industrial society.
Also visible are the townships initiated by Nelson Mandela. Here the structures
of brick and concrete are more permanent with water and electricity provided.
The tour continued with a visit to a brandy distillery including, of
course, a tasting and an opportunity to purchase a 10-year vintage for £5.
The return via the Bain's Kloof pass, with its magnificent views, is only
possible in a minibus since a large rock, known as the pulpit, jutting out over
the roadway is too low to allow coaches to pass through.
A winelands tour to the Stellenbosch region visited two vineyards. At the
first of these, to Blaauwklippen vineyards, six wines were offered with
commentary. Their port style dessert wine (10-year vintage) was most acceptable
for £2 a bottle. The "sociable red", consisting of a blend of
three grapes, which we had enjoyed at dinner a few days earlier, now cost only £1
a bottle. Our second visit provided more insight into the preparation and
harvesting of grapes. Climate is important not only for the grapes but also the
wood for the wine barrels and the cork for the bottle. Trees grow too quickly in
Africa for the wood and cork to be the right porosity. Oak is imported from
France for the barrels and cork from Spain and Portugal. He noted that cork cost
3 Rand for a bottle that they would sell for 18 Rand. It is interesting to
reflect that if these prices are scaled up, in the same ratio, then we are
paying £1 for the cork in a £6 bottle of wine.
Capetown; Table mountain; flora; Waterfront; Docks;
Penguins, Seals, The Cape, etc.