It was an earlyish start this morning for the 35 minute drive to Simon’s Town for breakfast before heading down to Cape Point and the Cape of Good Hope. Simon’s Town has been a naval base for more than 200 years and nestles on the shores of False Bay and is now a very popular holiday town. One of the many inhabitations of this town was a dog named Just Nuisance and his great claim to fame is that he is the only dog to be officially enlisted in the Royal Navy. Just Nuisance was a great dane born in 1937 and he lived with his owners in Simon’s Town and become very fond of the sailors based there and they became very fond of him. He used to follow the sailors into Cape Town, go to the pub with them and round up drunk sailors and get them back on the train to their base. The railway authorities did not like the dog travelling free on the train and taking up three seats so they threatened to have the dog destroyed if he continued to do so. The sailors approached their Officer Commander who came up with a solution and in 1939 Able Seaman Just Nuisance was enlisted into the Navy where he served throughout the war unto his death in 1944. He was buried with full naval honours and a naval signal announcing his death and burial was sent to every naval ship and establishment worldwide. Considering the Navy was still heavily engaged in war this was a remarkable gesture. There is now a statue of him on the foreshore and an exhibition dedicated to him at the town museum.
At the far end of SImon’s Town is Boulder’s Beach which was our next stop and it is home to a protected colony of African penguins. The African penguin was known as the Jackass penguin due to it’s donkey like braying and when a few of them get vocal they really make a racket. The sheltered cove is an ideal home for these small penguins and the colony now numbers between 2000 and 3000 but it is still on the endangered list. Boardwalks have been built above the beach and provide great viewing spots while protecting nesting penguins and their chicks. There were lots of penguins in the sand dunes and on the beach, all of the sheltering from the wind that was blowing. Lots of chicks were snuggled up in burrows, some were clearly moulting and would soon have their waterproof feathers enabling them to go to the water. Watching the penguins waddle down the dunes and across the beach to the water is such fun, and when they get to the waters edge they take a few steps forward, the water laps at their feet and they run 10 steps backwards. They really are fun to watch.
The Cape of Good Hope is a 40 minute drive from the penguins and is not to be confused with Cape Point. The Cape of Good Hope is the most south-western point of the African continent and it is not where the Indian Ocean meets the Atlantic Ocean, that is some 90 kilometres further on at Cape Agulhas. The Cape of Good Hope was originally named the Cape of Storms by Bartolomeu Dias in 1488 but later changed to its current name. The Cape is the legendary home of the Flying Dutchman, doomed forever to beat its way through the adjacent waters without ever succeeding in rounding the headland.
There are two lighthouses at Cape Point which is a couple of kilometres east of Good Hope. The original lighthouse was build in 1850 but was situated too high on the point and in bad weather the light was often covered by cloud and could not be easily seen. A number of ships were wrecked on the rocks while rounding the peninsula and when the Lusitania sunk in 1911 on Bellows Rock below the lighthouse it prompted the building of a new lighthouse at a lower level. The second lighthouse is still operational today. You can catch the funicular to the top of Cape Point upto the original lighthouse where you can wander around taking in the spectacular views or you can walk up. It is steep haul but not a difficult walk.
Both Capes lie within the Table Mountain national park and are home to baboons, eland, cape mountain zebra and over 270 different species of birds including ostriches. The variety of fynbos in the Cape is by far the most diverse per square metre in the world with almost 8000 species of plants in fynbos alone. For hikers there are a number of trails, many short hikes offer stunning views and there are two overnight long hikes which are amazing.
The weather started to close in on us and you could see the dark clouds approaching from the sea, so we decided to leave Cape Point and make are way back to Cape Town via Chapmans Peak drive. This road winds its way between Noordhoek and Hout Bay on the Atlantic coast and is one of the most spectacular marine drives in the world. I have driven this road on many occasions over the years and I am always in awe at the engineering feat that made it possible and the unbelievable views as you turn each bend. If you are in Cape Town and you can only do one thing I would recommend the drive. We were fortunate to be in front of the cold change that was coming in so we had good views all the way, be it without a great deal of sunshine and by the time we stopped for a late lunch at the market in Hout Bay the weather had closed in.
We dined locally in DeWaterkant and had a nightcap at a small restaurant/bar that has live music every night and we had a very pleasant last night in Cape Town listening to a great young man on piano. Perfect end to a perfect day