Saturday, July 11, 2009

Cape of Good Hope

Greetings from Cape Town,

Planning activities can be an iffy thing due to the winter weather here in the Cape. Several days ago it was brilliantly clear and 80 degrees. When it is that clear, the nighttime temperatures tend to drop into the 40’s. But winter is the rainy season so many days there are periods of cloudiness and rain. Then the temperatures vary from the low 50’s at night into the mid 60’s during the day. Not too bad compared to Chicago winters.

Friday we awoke to a partly cloudy morning and decided to gamble on the weather remaining nice enough for us to visit the Cape of Good Hope National Park. We packed up our cameras, jackets, sweaters and rain gear and took off. The road between Cape Town and Cape Point passes through several seaside towns and runs along the shore of False Bay, so named by the explorers who drew the maps. Sailors rounding the horn of Africa would turn north thinking they were on the way to Europe, soon discovering they turned a mite too early.

It’s a very scenic drive with many spots to stop and look for whales or sharks. Stopping is the appropriate action as it can be quite dangerous for the driver to sightsee while navigating the winding mountain road. That was made clear to us as we rounded a curve and encountered a troop of baboons. Passing them, within seconds, we came upon an accident scene where the driver of a small pickup (bakkie) had gone off the road and was hanging at an angle over the side of the mountain. He was safe and on the cell phone, calling for help, with a sheepish look on his face. We guessed that he was traveling too fast when he came upon the baboons and got into trouble avoiding them.

We always stop at the visitors’ center in the park for two reasons: it has restrooms, and I need to take these two pictures again. The cedar tree is such a wild and wind-blown thing and I take a picture of it on every visit. The vista photo shows the mountain range across the bay. In the foreground are the white sand dunes and we’ve seen baboons, ostrich, and bontebok moving through them. The monument on the shoreline was erected to honor one of the early Portuguese explorers, Vasco da Gama (1460-1524). Another monument, to Bartholomew Diaz (1451-1500), is on the other side of the peninsula.

We continued driving slowly, watching for flowers and game. This is the season of rain so the fynbos is green and healthy. Not too many flowers here on the rocky Cape of Good Hope peninsula; just some white Erica and a few Protea. We stopped to watch the waves and sea birds for awhile. It is quite soothing to watch and listen.

Then we went on up to the main facilities at Cape Point for lunch. Taking a chance on the weather, we chose an outdoor table on the patio overlooking the bay. It turned out to be a good choice, despite the cool weather and a good breeze, because of the busloads of Chinese tourists who settled into the inside restaurant and were very excited and talkative. We enjoyed the outdoors, the quiet, the birds, and the play of the light through the clouds on the ocean and the mountains.

It was a very nice day, peaceful and leisurely, with moments of excitement and meditation. We wish all of you the same.

Floyd & Betsy

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