South Africa > Chapman’s Peak
18 May 2013
Today we decide to get out of Cape Town and go south, to Cape Point where the Cape of Good Hope is. Confused by the two capes? Fret not, it’d become clearer as the story goes. So just 20km south from our Cape Town hotel, we find ourselves in the very scenic Hout Bay.
Hout Bay is still regarded as a coastal suburb of Cape Town — 55% of the population are whites, it has the feel of a modern tourist town — a place where people are jogging, bike-riding, surfing and fishing.
This is our set of wheels for the day — a manual Nissan Micra 1.2. Quite pleasant to drive with just the two of us, and very economical too. When traveling I’d always rent a manual car, to refresh my manual skills, hahaha! Not to mention cheaper than auto cars too.
This is our route to Cape Point, a distance of 75km, skirting the Atlantic Ocean to our right as we drive southwards. We are using the Chapman’s Peak Drive route, which is reputed to be one of the best coastal drives in the world. Having driven such routes in places like Canada, NZ, Australia, Ireland and Spain, it’s only natural I should try this one out as well.
We are now at Chapman’s Peak Drive proper, and a what a splendid view of Hout Bay.
Quite a long stop we have here, admiring the beautiful landscape in the cool morning, especially The Sentinel, the sharp hill at the cape.
Joggers enjoy their morning run along the Chapman Peak’s Drive. Too many of them, bike-riders too. Maybe because this is a Saturday morning.
Looking further south, we can see the road hugging the huge cliffs.
To the right, a straight drop into the Atlantic. The road was built 1915-1922, a major engineering feat at that time. That’s about the same period the much longer, equally spectacular Great Ocean Road in Victoria, Australia, was constructed. Interesting coincidence.
As we leisurely drive away along the road, we keep glancing back at the very beautiful Hout Bay! Further up, there’s a small toll plaza collecting a fee of 33 rands — worth every single rand of it, for this scenic route.
The cliff face is virtually vertical at some spots, with another long vertical drop into the ocean, that they had to build this structure to shelter from rock falls.
Sheer hacking of the rocky cliff, to make way for the road — haven’t seen this type of ‘awning’ before in all my drives.
The coastal road actually works its way around Chapman’s Peak, and once we are clear of it, we come to Noordhoek, meaning ‘North Corner’ in Dutch. It is well-known for its beautiful stretch of sandy beach.
At the far end of this long beach, almost 4km long, we see the town of Kommetjie with its famous lighthouse.
At Noordhoek beach, people are riding horses, walking dogs and surfing, a testament to the prosperity of this town. Incidentally the population comprises more than 90% whites, virtually all of them English-speaking. So we can assume this place was founded by the settlers from England.
Spend some time in the Cape Town area, and one can discern the leisure lifestyle of the whites — bike riding, horse riding, jogging, and of course surfing. Very similar to their counterparts in Australia, just across the Indian Ocean.
A vista of Noordhoek, as we drive down the hill into town.
It’s a very leafy place, and looks like a really pleasant spot to live.
We drive past Noordhoek and at Kommetjie, we just have to stop to admire the lighthouse.
The Slangkop Lighthouse, operational since 1914, it’s 33m high — also the tallest cast iron lighthouse in South Africa. I have climbed a cast iron lighthouse once — a Dutch-built one at Anyer in West Java, 75.5m tall, constructed to replace an older one destroyed by the tsunami due to the Krakatau eruption of 1883.
We push on southwards as the sun gets higher in the sky. The plan is to arrive at Cape Point at noon just in time for lunch.
Occasionally we spot groups of people, normally blacks, walking along this desolate road. They carry bags and stuff, so I’m not sure that they are up to. Maybe on the lookout for taxi-vans to take them somewhere? Some try to hitch a ride, but we have to ignore.
It’s a very nice, scenic drive with the Atlantic following us all the way. Ahead we spot a misty area.
And yes, this place is called Misty Cliffs — I suppose the huge rocks down at the beach are breaking the rough Atlantic surfs, causing water sprays to form mist. I just can’t imagine how this place would be like in really bad weather. Totally exposed to the Atlantic Ocean.
Passing through Scarborough, not as hectic as its Yorkshire counterpart.
Soon the road goes inland, as it cuts across Cape Peninsula to get to the other coastal side (see map above).
We approach the Cape Point Nature Reserve, which is the huge area to the right.
Soon a T-junction, and here we take right to enter the Cape Point Nature Reserve.
The first impression upon entering the reserve is how spacious the whole place seems to be.
Devoid of crowds and cars and stuff, it’s surreal — like we are the only living things in this natural world.
The road ends here, and there it is — the famous Cape of Good Hope, finally!
The place where the Atlantic and the Indian Oceans meet, a very tempestous point, dreaded by seafarers since time immemorial. Straight ahead, Antarctica, some 4000km away — I’ll get there too, one day!
> THE END