Capetown and the Garden Route. Finale of the Bluelist (1/3).

metm 2002 was a very difficult time in my life. I had lost everything and was forced to sleep on the floor while I saved up to buy a bed.

The advantage to this, was I had plenty of free time, which I used to plan my goals once life improved.

Significant in this, was a bluelist. Taken from the Lonely Planet book of the same name. It means roughly a list of things to do and see before you die.

In 2009 with only one significant goal left out of nearly 3000. To stand on Table mountain. Having already visited 56 countries, I pick up my rucksack and head for Capetown.

I arrive at midnight, after flying with the excellent KLM.

Going through customs, I have a funny thought. Next time I have a passport photo taken, I will take it at 4am in the morning, so my picture reflects how I actually look when I get of a long haul flight.

Its an organised tour, so I’m picked up and arrive at the Sweet Orange guesthouse 40 minutes later.

I’m shown to my beautiful room, which will be my home for the next 3 nights.

Wasn’t sure whether to lock my widows, so discussed security with the owner. Its very safe here he replies.

Pressed further on the matter he replies. I was mugged once and I saw 2 vicious pub brawls.

Oh, he interposes sarcastically, that was when I was at the Leeds University in your country !.

A quick shower, a bottle of beer from the honesty box, I update my diary and then drift off to sleep.

 tmcc The trip formally started at 2pm, so I used the free time to read, update some things on my Acer netbook, check my gear etc.

The usual meet up. The group and leader arrive (a big bear of a man). The usual meet up. Hand over insurance documents, nok details and in country payment.

We are all introduced to each other. Ten minutes to get ready, and were off to Table mountain.

I learn that the mountain is closed frequently due to weather.

It was decided we would get the cable car up, and walk down (if your at the bottom and they close it, you cant go up, but if your already on the top, they can’t stop you walking down).

The cable car (sponsored rather ostentatiously by Barclaycard) normally rotates to give 360% views of the mountain. When the driver pulled the lever, nothing happened.

After a few minutes, he said simply its not working today.

And there I was, standing on the top of Table Mountain, the culmination of 6 years pursuit of adventure.

Following an uncompromising life of adventure, has its costs, but at that moment, I felt that they had all been worth it.

I looked around the souvenir shop, but just couldn’t find anything to really capture the moment.

I text Amelia, Danny and Brenda with this photo.

What can I say. I didn’t really feel euphoric, I just felt a sort of relief and subdued satisfaction.

 lr In a reflective mood, I wandered around the mountain top.

Here you can see the famous Lions head and Lions rump. Many Capetonians walk up the Lions head, each morning before work.

I found somewhere quiet, sat quietly and read excerpts from Power of the Sword, the Wilbur Smith novel that takes place on Table mountain and had inspired this visit, 20 years previously.

Since the bluelist was now technically complete, I could get on with enjoying my holiday.

I got to know some of my fellow travelers, as we walked back down the platteklip gorge.

Our guide Charl taught me some Afrikaans, with emphasis on pronunciation. Windhoek for example is pronounced Vindhook.

I had read that crime was common while on the mountain. Another example of the paranoia myth attached to Capetown (the only people we met on the path were other walkers, and some local actors dressed as tribesmen !).

Standard precautions re theft and personal safety, were all that were needed throughout the trip.

Signs everywhere, say that you shouldn’t pick flowers (there are more species of plant and flower on Table Mountain than there are in the whole of the UK).

A particular type of the Blue Dasai, grows only on table mountain. I took one, and have it sealed in a key ring at home. Symbolic of completing the bluelist, its priceless to me.

 vawaterfront In a reflective mood, we walk back to the hotel and get cleaned up.

In the evening, we head out to the VA waterfront with its vibrant atmosphere and friendly bars.

I’m delighted when the group choose to visit a steak house (strangely named Red Cod). I have to be careful with my budget, but decide that after the events of the day, a meal fit for a king, is appropriate.

Mushroom soup to start, an enormous steak for main, a bottle of South African Red and coffee for after’s (I don’t usually eat cake).

Including a tip and some money for the opera singers who serenaded us during our meal, there was change from £20.

A long but massively rewarding day over, I head back to the hotel. Just before bed, I update my blog with news of the days achievement.

Next day, up early, for a breakfast.

Served on one big table in the middle of the room. I try Yoghurt pancakes and my usual travel staple of buttered crusty bread and coffee.

Today we are driving around False bay and our first stop is Seal Island.

A different boat sets off every half hour. Bellow decks, they have a glass bottom, to watch the fish.

Although mostly financed by tourism, its still a working fishing port, and there were stalls around selling all kinds of exotic fish (which were obviously dead).

 hump Although I succumb to sea sickness, there really is no pleasure like sitting on a boat being rocked by the ocean.

We sail around this hill, called the Sentinel (a prominent site from Chapman’s peak drive).

As we round the bend, we get our first glimpse of Seal Island.

Not so much an Island as a rock, it was packed to the rafters with seals.

I expected some of them to swim over for food thrown from the boat, but they barely looked up.

 light We tell it how it really is here at

The startled girl in the picture, has reason for concern.

The street lamp behind, had just been knocked over by her husband/boyfriend, who was screaming and shouting (obviously blaming her, for not spotting it first).

She seemed to find it hilarious and as I walked past, and it was all I could do not to start laughing.

We continue along Chapman’s peak drive and see some of the spectacular views around false bay.

You can see why the Garden Route, is so popular as a fly/drive destination.

 stown2 We visit Simons Town, which takes its name from Simon Van der Stel, the Dutch Governor of the Cape colony from 1677 to 1699.

My first sights are the famous mile of Victorian houses, including this excellent backpacker hostel.

Despite its heritage, the area has a very modern port.

Everyone else goes for lunch. Realising I have an hour free, I head of in search of adventure.

In Jubilee square, is the statue of one of the towns most famous residents. Just Nuisance, was the only dog to be officially enlisted in the Royal Navy.

Beloved by his fellow sailors, he frequently traveled into Capetown on the train, to go drinking with his shipmates. In 1944, at the end of his life, he was buried with full military honours.

My first stop is the Simon’s Town museum. Run by volunteers, they even had the original collar belonging to, just nuisance.

In one room, a reconstruction of the Africa Station club.

A very popular Pub with Naval staff, it sadly closed down, but has been completely re-created (except that they don’t have a license, and you couldn’t actually get a drink here 🙂

 navmus1 My next stop, is the South African Naval Museum.

They had all the stuff you’d expect in here, like uniforms and old photographs.

They also had full size helicopters and a life size ships bridge.

South African divers are some of the best in the world, and there were lots of diving exhibits.

After an informative, whistle stop tour of both museums, I grab some fish and chips (freshly caught that morning, you don’t get that in Manchester :).

Just a few minutes around the corner is Boulders Beach, home to a colony of African penguins.

One of the must-see sights of the Garden Route, the surreal experience, is penguins (which you normally associate with Arctic weather conditions) on a baking hot beach.

The other interesting thing is there is no record of penguins living here before 1985, and nobody seems to know why they settled here.

 bwalk  There are 2 boarded walks, that lead along through the trees to the viewing point (in times gone by, you could walk around on the beach with the penguins, but hundreds of thousands of people come to see them each year so its no longer practical).
The Penguins sometimes rest in the shade, and for the winter months have these simple shelters made of half a plastic bottle.

While walking around, I popped in the tourist shops, and bought a souvenir key ring (I remember reading a quote by the head of tourism, while in Nepal. “don’t donate money to charities, just come here, go out to eat, drink and buy souvenirs”.)

 p1 This photo shows one of the viewing platforms, taken from the other. You can see just how popular it is.

I really enjoyed being here, but after about 40 minutes, I had seen all the penguins, I ever wanted to.

Next stop, Cape Point, on the Cape of Good Hope Nature Reserve.

After table mountain, it was the place I really wanted to see.

Many people mistakenly think that this is the most Southerly point in Africa. It isn’t, that’s Cape Agulhas, about 90 miles away.

 cpview A common phrase used to encourage plane speaking in SA, is “you can’t swim the 2 oceans”. This comes from the meeting of the Indian Ocean and the Atlantic, which happens around this area.

There is no specific place where this happens, it varies between Cape point and Cape Agulhas.

This causes unpredictable tides and currents, which is why Thousands of ships have sunk around this area in the last 100 years.

It was a beautiful day and the views across the beaches were fantastic.

I headed straight up the hill, to the old lighthouse.

Its no longer used, and as you can see from this picture, has a “Blackpool tower” feel to it.

 coghtrail We take the cliff route to the actual Cape of Good Hope.

I caught up with some of the girls in the group, and off we went. The walk was boarded, so secure under foot, but howling coastal winds blew up sand, and I had to protect my eyes.

I stopped at one point to enjoy the view. The cliffs I was standing on, were 800 feet above the ocean, it really was breathtaking.

As I looked down onto the bays, I saw a group playing cricket.

At the end of the cliffs, the path drops down.

The area is known for its Fynbos vegetation, and there were loads of harmless, friendly animals, running around.

 cogh At the bottom and I get to stand at the Cape of Good Hope.

It had special significance for me. I remember being 13 and a PE teacher, was teaching us geography in a most uninspiring way.

Typically, he used me to make an example, made me stand up and shouted at me in front of the whole class. I remember the humiliation when he told me I was scruffy and I would never “go anywhere”.

The lesson was about famous Portuguese explorer Vasco de Gama setting up a spice trading route around the Cape of Good hope in 1497.

If by any coincidence, your reading this Mr Blease, formerly of Moston Brook High School, I’ve actually been there. Have you ?

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