Thursday, October 11, 2007

7. October Cape of Good Hope

Today, we head South to the bottom of the Cape! The scenic route, via Chapman’s Peak Drive is still closed for the season, so we take the backup scenic route through the lovely Constantia winelands - resisting the urge to stop at several vineyards along the way - we’ll save that for next weekend.

We stop for lunch in Kalk Bay - a surfing hotspot. We wish we had knit hats and maybe an extra sweater. The wind is whipping the sand from the beach well into the parking lot. The black signal flag stands straight out from its pole -a friendly reminder that, although there IS a “shark spotter” on duty, conditions are such that it can’t be guaranteed that you won’t be on the Great White Menu. Despite all there are at least a dozen wet-suited tasty tartare a la surfboard riding temptingly high & long rollers....

And on to the tip. As we enter the park area, we pass numerous signs warning not to feed the baboons - so we keep our eyes peeled hopefully. On the coast and in the park, the lush of the vineyard valley gives way to dramatic cliffs and open shrubbed flatland. Many of the fynbos are in spring bloom - there are bushes filled with mini bursts of brilliant yellow firecracker flowers. The undergrowth is largely still an unblossomed silvery gray - the perfect cover for the baboons! We finally spot a family hanging out roadside, eyeing onlookers in annoyance. There is one little baby, maybe about 6 pounds worth, clinging to its momma. A couple of other, presumably male, baboons come along and casually pull at the baby until the mother decides to find a more peaceful location.

We continue on ourselves to the “emotional” southernmost point of Africa - the Cape of Good Hope. (The technical and geographical south is Pt Aghuilas to the east- but this one has the drama of rounding the first “bend” on the continent for battered sailor-explorers) The Atlantic and Indian Oceans and the cold West coast Beguela current and the warm East coast Agulhus current merge in earshattering and intimidating surf. There are 26 recorded shipwrecks in the area - the most legendary, the cursed “Flying Dutchman” of 1641. The doomed captain was said to have been so determined to round the Cape, that he swore, while sinking, that he would make it if it took until doomsday.... Be careful what you wish for -- many sailors, including the future King George V, claim to have spotted the ghost ship on stormy nights ever since.

We are closer, by half, to Antarctica - about 6000km away, than to New York - the furthest away of points marked on the Cape “direction sign” at 12 thousand plus kilometers! Precisely, we’ve gone from the ol’ 41 degrees north to: 34º, 21’, 24” south and 18º, 29’, 51” east.

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