Friday, 7 March 2008

The Fairest Cape in All The World

Next stop for us after Stompneusbaai was Cape Columbine. An area of the park right on the shoreline has been set up for camping, and we found a great spot in amongst the rocks. The caretaker came to see us in the morning to collect the fees, and kept us entertained with his stories of his years working there. He was very enthusiastic about the park, and was quite reluctant to be retiring in just over two weeks. When we enquired about campsites between there and Cape Town he told us we should stay where we were, because there was nowhere as good as Cape Columbine. It was a pretty great spot.

By this time, though, we’d already bought tickets for the Super 14 game between the Stormers and the Crusaders, so we had to push on. It was Thursday, and the game was on Friday night.

The next day, even the final run into Cape Town was not without mechanical incident. What initially sounded like all the air escaping out of one tyre turned out to be a burst intercooler elbow hose. Metres of duct tape later and we were back to full power. We stopped at Bloubergstrand for lunch, and some photos of our first views of the magnificent Table Mountain.

By mid-afternoon we had officially arrived in Cape Town, eight months and four days after departing from London. No time to pause and reflect on our achievement though, it was only five hours to kick-off and we needed to find somewhere to camp and sort out how we were going to get to the game. Fortunately, all of those issues were resolved in one fell swoop. After finding Newlands Stadium, we were directed around the corner to where a few schools provide their playing fields for parking, for a small fee. Thanks largely to the generous hospitality of the South Africans, in no time at all it was all arranged that we could park in a quiet corner and could spend the night there after the game. All our prayers had been answered. Best of all, it gave us time to go and enjoy a few quite celebratory beers. I have to admit though, it felt really strange to be sitting in a bar on a Friday evening having a beer. Almost like a normal person. There was even entertainment when a bit of a donnybrook broke out between the drivers of two cars after one changed lanes into the other right across the road from where we were sitting. Fabulous stuff.

Back at the carpark we got talking to a bunch of locals who had been setting up their braai when we first arrived. They insisted that we join them for beers and food, and it would have been very rude to say no. They had already been tucking into the whiskey, so it was very entertaining. Newlands Stadium was packed, but there was just enough room for the three of us in a broom cupboard at the far end of the back row of the main grandstand. We had a great view of the first half. As usual, there was a loud mouth sitting right in front of us. He thought he was pretty funny; those of us around him weren’t so sure. Crusaders won 22-0.

The party in the carpark carried on for a couple of hours after the final whistle, but eventually everyone trickled away and we got some sleep.

On Saturday we wound our way around False Bay toward Cape Point, stopping briefly for a chat with the penguins at Boulders.

The Cape has been described by Sir Francis Drake as “the fairest cape in all the world” and it is an apt description. We jostled past busloads of Russian tourists up the hill to the old Cape Point lighthouse, then down the hill to the new lighthouse. The old lighthouse was built to high up the hill, and for 900 hours a year was unable to be seen through fog, when it was needed most. So the new one was built much lower down. We even spied Bellows Rock, which sunk the Lusitania.

From there we made our way to the “Holy Grail” for most overlanders aiming for Cape Town – The Cape of Good Hope. The most south-westerly point in Africa. We bided our time until we could get in between the groups of tourists for a photo. One group, part of the 14th World Congress of Anaesthesiologists, had their photo taken with their conference banner completely covering the sign – they might as well have been anywhere! It was hilarious watching people push in to get their photograph – some people have no manners. We had people posing in front of the Camel, as if they had just driven across Africa to get here. One guy even sat up on the bonnet.

We camped that night at another park campsite just up the coast at Sweet Water, under the watchful eye of the Slangkoppunt lighthouse with its four flashes every 30 seconds. The lighthouse is one of very few working lighthouses that the public is allowed to visit, so the next morning we did. The keeper gave us a very informative talk on the history of South African lighthouses, their role in the rescue of people off stricken ships and the operation of the Slangkoppunt (Snake Head Point) lighthouse. After that he unlocked the door and we were allowed up the tower, right up to the lens. The lighthouse is now electrified and motorised, but the old paraffin tanks, small hatches in each level for the wick, and the weight system for revolving the lens are still on show. The 400 watt bulb shines about 70 kilometres out to sea. It was a spectacular view.

After spending the last ten days travelling with us, Ianthe had now become an honorary “Camelrider” and had given up trying to explain to enquiring people that she had only recently joined us. She was even giving people permission when they asked to have their photo taken in front of “her” vehicle. Now, sadly, it was time for her to leave. We camped on the Sunday night in a campground not far from the airport, and dropped her off there the next morning for her flight out. It was really good to see her, and we probably saw a lot more of the Northern and Western Cape areas than we would have otherwise. It was quite strange to be back to just the two of us again.

Since then we have been living the luxurious life, staying with Charles and Val, who are friends of Catkin’s, and then out to see Catkin’s 2nd cousin Patsy in Paarl. We have focussed our efforts on planning the next leg of the journey, looking into shipping options and costs and the bureaucracy of importing a vehicle into both Australia and New Zealand. We are still considering having our gearboxes looked at, so have spoken to an expert about that as well. The decision on exactly where we will head to from South Africa is yet to be made.

Ianthe has agreed to be a guest author on the blog, so hopefully sometime soon we will all get her take her time with us.