Enjoying Cape Town

22nd February 2017
Sometimes things live up to all the hype, Table Mountain is one. We should know, we have the most wonderful view of it from our cockpit here in the Waterfront Marina in Cape Town, where we can sit watching its many moods. Over two months later we still don’t tire of it and the ‘tablecloth’ - the name given to the effect of the clouds as they seem to flow over the top. The view from the top is pretty special too, you can see why it’s been designated one of the New Seven Wonders of Nature.

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But this is getting a bit ahead of ourselves given that last Seamail was November last year (Happy New Year if it isn’t too late to say that). The trip from La Reunion was a mix of everything, still don’t like the Indian Ocean with its confused seas, exacerbated as we rounded the bottom of Madagascar – a stretch of water where the advice is keep at least a 100 miles off land as it can really churn up closer in. That past it was the challenge of the Agulhas current. This flows strongly from north to south along the east African coast, just the direction we were going except (isn’t there always an ‘except’?) should there be south to south west wind blowing you get wind against current and this can, in extreme cases, give waves of up to 20m. So the journey down and round the Cape from Durban was a series of hops from one marina or bay to another dodging any adverse winds in this notorious passage. But we waited and as ever it paid off and we had a completely trouble free trip.

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Like many I had always thought that the Cape of Good Hope (above) was the most southerly point of Africa. It isn’t, Cape Agulhas is, but it isn’t nearly as striking – a flat plain stretching out into the sea rather than the rugged cliffs of Cape Point. Many of the early sailors thought that the large bay after Cape Agulhas must be Cape Bay, duly turned in only to find it wasn’t, hence its name - False Bay. We stopped here in Simons Town close by Boulders Beach one of the few homes of the African Penguin also known as the Jackass Penguin owing to braying like sound they make, can vouch for the fact it’s not the prettiest noise.Several visits were called for as we watched these sweet daft, creatures pottering about on the beach, over the boulders and in the woods backing onto the beach.

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I mean you don’t really expect to see penguins waddling through the woods now do you? Having been here so long our last visit coincided with the arrival of this year’s chicks; although the windy weather which was keeping us in port was also sand blasting the colony.

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Even managed to be able to ignore the less than pleasant odour that hovers around the colony, personal hygiene obviously doesn’t feature on their list of priorities. Glad we don’t live in one of the houses backing onto the beach.
But our destination was Cape Town where we were duly tied up and ready to welcome Rosie aboard for Christmas, more decorations in hand much to Mike’s chagrin.

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Then after Christmas several of Mike’s family arrived for a holiday. Together we explored vineyards, restaurants and Mike did Table Mountain the hard way – walking up it with his nephew Dave and wife Cristyn. We all thoroughly enjoyed the Waterfront area with its wonderful mix of restaurants, shops, arts and crafts and everywhere you go live music. What has really noticeable is how relatively affordable it is for tourists to eat out,with top notch meals costing less than half what they would in London and really enjoyable meals less than £10 a head. That’s before we even go into the cost of wines; even with the devalued pound (yes, we have felt the ripples of Brexit) you can buy very drinkable everyday wine for less than £6 and really excellent wine that would easily cost over £20+ also less than half the price you’d pay in the UK. Only down side of all this good living is my ever increasing girth.

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Of course you cannot be in South Africa without some reflection on its past. This was particularly brought home when we did the trip to Robben Island. Even though we knew about the conditions it still brings you up short to see just how small Mandela’s cell was, to see and hear the degradation they were submitted to.

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Unlike other prisoners the black prisoners had to wear shorts, only reinforcing that pejorative call of ‘boy’ addressed to old men, their rations were less than other prisoners and so the list goes on. We have talked to people about how they find things today and the feeling often expressed is that ‘Mandela was so long ago’, a sense of hopes and dreams unfulfilled. There is a lot of unhappiness at the failure of the ANC to deliver to the people who voted them in, typified by the Townships, often referred to now as ‘locations’ that stretch for miles still made of corrugated iron with the only sanitation being portaloos. People are now turning to the ballot box to make their displeasure felt. Key cities of Cape Town, Johannesburg,East London and Port Elizabeth are now controlled by the Democratic Alliance and President Jacob Zuma has been called before the ANC’s Integrity Committee to answer corruption charges. But it would be wrong to suggest that Zuma is lacking in support, he and the ANC still have many passionate followers.

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As tourists we’ve seen glimpse of the strides that have been made over the past twenty years, perhaps most memorably, five young, black professional men sitting at the table alongside us drinking rosé in a smart Cape Town restaurant, where once apartheid would have stopped them. But the emerging black middle class is small and racism is still prevalent. One delightfully funny and smart black women running a wine tasting for us described how one group of white South African men said to her face what could she, a black woman know about wine? The answer was an awful lot had they been prepared to listen to her.

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The wine tastings we have been to in Constantia, Stellenbosch and Franschhoek have all been marvellous from the beautiful locations to staff who have been only to keen to share their knowledge to wonderful wines poured in very generous portions, so much so that we have had to discard wine that we weren’t keen on – an odd concept I know.
Getting off the boat allowed us to travel the Garden Route that we missed when we brought the Landrover here in 1992 and we were able to see why people rave about it. The Tsitsikamma National Park in particular is a beautiful area of forest, rivers and coastline where the waves rage and crash. We saw places from the safety of land that we would never dream of taking Sea Rover in a month of Sundays.
South Africa’s coast is where seas meet. The warm Indian Ocean meets the cooler Atlantic with a very chilly blast from the Southern Ocean cause an upwelling of nutrients which gives rise to some wonderful marine life. We saw whales, dolphins, turtles, seals, sharks, penguins (of course) and so many different sea birds we couldn’t begin to name them all. The only down side is that this also means the krill that so many of the animals and birds feed on is more than plentiful. We had an abundance of it, a seasonal bloom in the marina. This led to hundreds of gulls bobbing around to feed on the krill with the inevitable muck on the decks. On a more positive note it also means the seal population is thriving and we had our own resident group virtually beside us in the marina. Never quite appreciated how noisy they can be with the crescendo of their territorial barking; their personal hygiene could also do with a bit of attention, much like the penguins.

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Rounding Cape Point last year was a very emotional point for us. We had left the Indian Ocean and were now heading north, back in the home waters of the Atlantic, albeit the South Atlantic. We were truly on our way home. A new chapter was about to begin. We are both looking forward to coming home, our family, friends and London life; although it is tinged with just a touch of sadness as this chapter of our lives finishes and we will be looking to sell our beautiful boat that has looked after us so well and been our home for what will have been the past nine years. Already the Pacific seems very far away. The homeward journey will be something of a long haul – some 10,000 miles to be sailed between now and late August/September, which will mean over ten weeks of the next 21 will be spent at sea. First stop after we leave here will be Napoleon’s island prison of St Helena, possibly a stop at Ascension Island to see green turtles laying eggs and new hatchings then onward to the Caribbean (most probably Granada), then Europe, just possibly via New York. Then the dear old Solent and finally we will really be back in home waters as we sail up the Thames to St Katherine’s. See you there?



A Casspir, a notorious symbol of apartheid suppression in the townships, now covered in beads and presented - not without controversy - as a work of art.

Enjoy more photos from our time in South Africa

Comments

Photo comment By jeanne hartley: We do so enjoy your adventures and the wonderful photos. Not sure you should stop! See you in September
Photo comment By Suchi: Beautiful photos as ever thank you for sharing your adventures and the lovely photos.
Photo comment By Al (of the Rees): Hi M&D, wonderful to hear from you both again! Don't stop travelling: I live vicariously through you... Xxxx

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