The Tsitsikamma Forest

After Addo we retraced our steps along the Garden Route towards Cape Town deciding to stop over at another place I have always wanted to visit, primarily because I love the name Tsitsikamma National Park.

Tsitsikamma is a khoi word meaning “place of abundant or sparkling water” and the beautiful indigenous forest protected by the State, is home to centuries old trees such as Yellowwood, Stinkwood, Hard Pear, Ironwood, Kamassi and many others.

Of course those ofyou who are extreme sports fanatics (you know who you are) will no doubt of heard of this region as it is famous for the world’s highest bridge bungee jump from the dizzying Bloukrans Bridge on the old road, zip-lining through the canopy of the trees or going down the Storm’s River itself on a rubber tube! It is well-known for the Otter trail a spectacular trail between Nature’s Valley and the Storm River and many other hiking trails in the Tsitsikamma Mountains amongst mountain fynbos and indigenous forests with wonderful river gorge and mountain scenery. There are plenty of rivers, streams and rock pools for swimming and swinging rope suspension bridges slung near the waters for walkers.

“J-BAY”
After leaving Addo by the Colchester exit we joined the N2 and drove east past the Sundays River. The San people originally named this river Nukakamma (Grassy Water) because the river’s banks are always green and grassy despite the arid terrain that it runs through. It looked a very pleasant spot to visit, but I wanted to pop into Jeffrey’s Bay – a long time favourite surf spot in the 1970s.

On entering Jeffrey’s Bay from Port Elizabeth you drive along the Kabeljous Estuary and Nature Reserve which is a walk-about reserve and has a safe swimming beach. It is an excellent fishing and bird-watching area so it’s probably worth staying near ‘J Bay’ for this alone. The Noorsekloof Nature Reserve (near the golf course) has a 3km trail running alongside a stream from which you can see many species of bird and some small buck and if it is bird-watching you are after then the Seekoei River Estuary, as you enter the main town, is the place to go. There is an abundance of water fowl and a hide overlooking the river.

Kabeljous
Kabeljous

“J-Bay” as it is known to the locals, brings to mind surfing, sunshine and beautiful beaches – and you’d be right. Home to the Billabong Surfing Festival every July and rated among the ten best surfing spots in the world, surfers from across the globe come to enjoy the rolling breakers. As often happens I was disappointed with what I found there. It does have a lovely long and sandy beach, though at the time of our visit a distinct lack of surf, and therefore a deficit of surfers. There is apparently a Surf Museum and a Shell Museum which unfortunately we didn’t know about at the time as they would have been intriguing to visit.

Surfing in 'J Bay'
Surfing in ‘J Bay’

All I saw was a depressingly long Main Street lined with identical shopping malls and boring holiday resorts. On reflection after the open wilderness of Addo all these signs of humanity were a little bit too overwhelming at the time.

Tsitsikamma P1120992We continued onto the R102 to Humansdorp before re-joining the N2 and making our way to the Tsitsikamma Lodge where we had booked a delightful log garden cabin complete with spa bath!  Slightly more luxurious than the rondavel  in Addo.

P1120922

It felt good to be sitting outside on the private deck having a couple of Castle lagers and updating my travel journal before heading off for a stroll in the beautiful surrounding forest. P1120954 Dinner at 7 p.m. that night was in the lodge restaurant – a set menu – broccoli soup followed by fish and salad, roast leg of lamb and seasonal vegetables, desserts and cheese and biscuits. We didn’t quite make it to the end and were in fact in bed by 9 p.m.

Tsitsikamma Forest
Tsitsikamma Forest

Nature’s Valley
The following day we headed out to Nature’s Valley, the plan being to make our way back to the lodge from there stopping at various sites. Unfortunately we had to go along the N2 and therefore through the toll plaza between The Crags and Storm River as there was no alternative route due to the R102 being blocked by the flooding in December (remember the tjoe-tjoe?). Chris from the lodge said that the problem was that local government was waiting for the national government to declare it a disaster area so that they will pay for it. Meanwhile until someone decides who has to pay for the repairs nothing is done!

Natures Valley
Natures Valley

Nature’s Valley is incredible – far nicer than Jeffrey’s Bay – in my opinion. Wide, white sands, a safe lagoon for swimming and all in peaceful, natural surroundings. No shopping malls and no garish developments, just a small community with one pub/shop/restaurant at the far end and some local pink-bottomed baboons! urban baboonThis is one end of the otter trail which is considered to be one of the best trails in the world. It is not an easy trail; it is 42.5 km long and takes five days to complete. It follows the rugged coastline and cliffs returning to the shore line to cross rivers. Many years ago my sister-in-law did the trail and considered it one of the best things she ever did in her life. Sadly I have not done it and probably never will now given the steep descents, difficult river crossings and dangerous rock scrambles. We ventured a little way along the Salt River Walk which starts from the shop at Nature’s Valley and is around 9 km long. It takes a circular route along the beach and into the scrub forest. beach to the eastWe followed the route in the opposite direction, along the beach until it wound up into the bush and became too steep to continue. I often get quite annoyed with myself at not being able to do the things I took for granted thirty years ago. Joints too stiff, overweight and under-fit, nervous of slippery slopes and sudden drops are the curses of becoming older and spending too much time working on computers.

Storm’s River Mouth escaping the waves on MooibaaiOn the way back to the lodge we drove down to Storm River’s Mouth. What a spot! Wild and windy, with huge waves crashing on the rocks, such raw beauty! There is a lovely restaurant “Tigers Eye” overlooking the river mouth and small sandy beaches – Mooibaai and Sandbaai and jewel-like sunbirds flittering in the trees.

view towards the river mouth

We could have taken a boat into the gorge itself, which looks pretty amazing, but getting on and off the boats looked a little tricky in the considerable swell of the ocean so we decided against it.  By the way, the ‘black water‘ colour of the Storm River is caused by tannin leaching out of plant matter; much like tea. sunbirdWe wandered a little way along the Mouth Trail up to Strandloper Cave and along to the rope suspension bridge and lookout point. Unfortunately we couldn’t go onto the bridge itself because the final part of the boardwalk leading to it had been burned in a fire – it was being repaired though so hopefully open again by now. Though working on African time, you never know!

storms river dryfhoutbaai

Whilst we were exploring a sudden sea fret descended turning everything into one of those eerie sets out of a horror movie – all ghostly shadows and shapes amid the constant boom of the ocean.

wild weather approaching

waves breaking

storms river mouth

I was mesmerised by the surging waves coming in and breaking on rocks only metres away from the car with such force and incredible energy. And right next to the shore a group of rock hyrax (dassies) were having their supper. Next time I am in this region I shall book a forest cabin right on this shore. (Book through SanParks).

rock dassies

Our final stop was at Storm River Village where you can do a Fern Tree Walk, but we were all walked out by then so instead we opted to retreat to our log cabin for a very large vodka and tonic and a welcome soak in the spa bath! Luxury!

storms river village hut
Storms River Village

The Garden Route

Probably the most famous drive in South Africa, and certainly the Cape, the Garden Route offers beautiful stretches of coastline, lakes, mountains and giant trees. The route is sandwiched between the Outeniqua and Tsitsikamma mountains and the Indian Ocean and although extremely busy in the peak summer season, is a lovely region to visit in the autumn when the weather is still warm enough for outdoors activities, especially hiking.

George to Knysna
We joined the route at George (see Road Trip: Route 62) and made our way through the traffic to connect with the N2 from Cape Town to Port Elizabeth. After the tranquillity of the Klein Karoo, it was a bit of a shock to hit commuter traffic once again. Driving through the Kaaiman’s River Pass along the N2 to Wilderness and seeing the string of lakes I was already regretting my decision not to stay in this lovely area as it looked fantastic and an obvious spot for bird watching. Anyway, another excuse to return to South Africa. Sedgefield is the next village en route and another lovely place among the lakes and sand dunes. This whole area is quite sensational.

Leisure Isle

Knysna
We arrived in Knysna at around 5:30 p.m. staying on the Leisure Isle on the edge of the lagoon with views to the Knysna Heads. OK, so maybe this wasn’t a bad decision after all!

If you have read my previous postings about this trip, (Cape Town Revisited and Route 62), you will have realised that I am no stranger to these parts of South Africa. Though saying that, I have also only ever stopped overnight once along the Garden Route and that was in Plettenberg Bay.

I travelled along this route many times during the 1970s and 1980s on account of us living on the Western Cape Peninsula and my in-laws in the Eastern Cape. Except for a coffee and a brief stretch of the legs Knysna has always been a town that we passed through, but I have always wanted to see more of this region hence the reason to stop here on this visit.

Salvia leucantha

A town that has always attracted artists and hippies as well as bird watchers (Knysna Loerie, Woodpeckers etc) Knysna has been a popular tourist spot and has grown quite a lot since the 1980s with the addition of a new waterfront complex. I was determined on this visit to actually have a chance to look around the town, and I wasn’t disappointed. After settling into our lovely B&B on the edge of the lagoon we walked to the centre of the Leisure Isle to a restaurant called “The Tides” which had an extraordinary chef. Dinner was calamari, prawns and our first Dom Pedro! We were hooked. Forget Irish coffees from now on we wanted Dom Pedros (preferably the Amarula variety), which are basically grown-up milk shakes. Seriously you have to try one. Knysna lagoon tide outWalking back from the restaurant we were struck by the fact that it was the first time on our holiday that we felt safe out walking at night, (this may have had something to do with the security guard at the entrance onto the island). It is not generally a good idea to walk anywhere in South Africa and especially not at night. The fantastically clear sky with millions of stars above us was stunning. A perfect end to a perfect day.

One other thing to add about South Africa is the load shedding, which means that on certain days and at specific times, there is no electricity. I can’t say that it affected us in any major way, but you have to get used to the idea that there may not be electricity when you want a shower, but hey, showering by candlelight is fun! Sometimes you may not get a cooked breakfast, and sometimes you will find traffic cops directing traffic through towns as the robots (traffic lights) aren’t operating, but on the whole it just adds to the fact that you are somewhere different. I am not sure how I’d feel if I was trying to run a business though!

A Lazy Day Around Knysna
After the effort of driving all day yesterday from Cape Town to Knysna, around 500 km, we decided to take it easy today. It started out fairly cloudy with a little bit of blue sky which disappeared over a perfect breakfast. We first took a stroll around Leisure Isle to walk off the impressive breakfast and also to see if we could spot any birds. scarlet-chested-sunbirdWe did manage to snap a couple including this lovely tiny Scarlet-chested sunbird right in the garden where we were staying. We then drove into the town and to the Waterfront. We first went to the station to see if we could get tickets for the Outeniqua Choo Tjooe, the steam train that runs between George and Knysna, but unfortunately all we could tell was that it didn’t appear to have been running for a while as there were no signs of a timetable or any notice saying when the next train would be and no-one in the ticket office.

We spotted a meter lady (lots of car parks in South Africa employ parking officers who take a fee for parking as there are no self-service machines) and asked her if she knew what was happening with the train; she told us that it had stopped running because of the flood. [1] Another reason to come back – I have always wanted to do this train journey as the rails cross over the lagoon, pretty spectacular!

The Oystercatcher

We went for a stroll around the Waterfront instead, which has the usual souvenir shops and restaurants (but much, much smaller than the one at Cape Town) and by this time the sun had broken through the cloud and it was pretty hot.

[1] (We later discovered that it was not running due to heavy flooding which had happened seven months ago!) knysna marinaAfter taking some photos of the lagoon, a very noisy duck, a heron and the Waterfront, we drove to Brenton-on-Sea, a place I had never heard about, but never visited and I’m not sure I want to share it with you either! It is such a lovely place. To get there you go back along the N2 towards George, but immediately after the White Bridge turn off and go under the N2. brenton beachBrenton has such a fantastic sandy beach with rock pools and unusual sandstone rock formations  at one end (similar to Kenton-on-Sea, which is a lovely resort between the cities of Port Elizabeth and East London). You can walk along this beach to Buffalo Bay – which is a popular spot for surfers; it is around 7km return.

Since we were still feeling tired from yesterday’s driving we decided not to do the walk, but still ended up wandering leisurely along the beach for an hour or so and saw several oyster-catchers on the shoreline. Glimpsed lovely views over the lagoon on the way back to Knysna. african black oystercatcher (Food note: On the Brenton road look out for Pembrey, a lovely country restaurant) lagoon to the headsWe returned to the lodge and whilst my husband had a rest, I went wandering in the lagoon which was now a sandy beach as the tide was out. This spot is fantastic for families and young children as it is so safe and the water is shallow and warm. I did get a bit wet when I waded through to the shoreline and hit a shelf: the water went from ankle to thigh deep!

We returned to the Waterfront for dinner at “The Dry Dock“. Food was OK, slightly “Nouvelle cuisine” so small portions, which was fine by us. I had a Wanton Vegetable Melangee to start with followed by Linefish, Aubergine, Avocado and Grapefruit, and my husband had mussels and calamari followed by Linefish with Prawns. We should really have had oysters as Knysna is famous for them, but unless they are cooked we actually don’t like them. Finished with Dom Pedro Amarula again – I told you, they can become addictive and I don’t even like ice cream! sunset-over-KnysnaOh, and did I mention the incredible sunset? The whole lagoon turned orange – beautiful! I just had to leave my meal to dash to the balcony edge and capture this scene.

We finished the day sitting outside our room in the warmth of the evening listening to the sound of cicadas and the gentle lapping of the waves in the lagoon – so peaceful, I could get used to this.

Road Trip: Route 62 – Wine and Roses

The “longest wine route in the world”, otherwise known as the Route 62 is known for its delicious wines and brandies. Route 62 meanders through incredible rock formations and narrow mountain passes

The second part of my trip to South Africa in 2008 was to drive along the Garden Route and visit Addo Elephant Park – well at least it used to be an elephant park, but there is so much more there now including lions. As I never like to do the same journey there and back I decided that on the outward journey we would drive through the Klein (Little) Karoo along Route 62 and then at Oudtshoorn make for George via the Outeniqua Pass. I always think that the Garden Route really only starts at George and ends at Storm River, although this is hotly disputed and some say it starts at Heidelberg. We would do that stretch twice, but stop in different areas on the way.

Leaving Cape Town

After another great breakfast and leaving the Cape Peninsula behind us we headed for the N1 towards Paarl, getting stuck in two traffic jams on the way. As we limped past Century City (don’t go there) I vaguely wondered about bypassing the Huguenot tunnel, a toll road through the Klein Drakenstein (Little Dragon Stone) mountains, and drive instead on the R301 up to Wellington and then across the R303 through Bain’s Kloof Pass to Breerivier and then the R43 back towards the N1 at Worcester.

This is a route that I have done several times before, including on my previous visit to the Cape in 2000 and it is one of the most picturesque passes in the Cape. I may be biased as I find most routes in the Cape to be pretty impressive, but this is undeniably scenic following the Witte River with rapids and rock pools where you can bathe and picnic by the side of waterfalls.

However, I had never driven through the tunnel before as this wasn’t built when I lived in the Cape and the usual way out was up and over Du Toitskloof Pass which was often very unstable with regular rockfalls and incredibly scary at night. Given the amount of driving that we had to do and the time already lost in the traffic jams, we decided to use the tunnel. It is a fine tunnel, as tunnels go, and we quickly  emerged at the other side to some incredible views over the Breede River valley and the Hex River Mountains in the background.

(Apologies for the poor quality of some of these images, but they were taken through an increasingly dirty windscreen)Breede-Valley

Valley of Wine and Roses

We stopped off at the Worcester Ultra City to fill up and then left the N1 (so unfortunately missed the Hex River Valley, another stunning area especially in the autumn for the colours of the vineyards) and followed the N15 to Robertson.

kogmans-kloof (One important fact about driving in South Africa is that you have to pay cash at filling stations – they do not take cards. A very nice aspect though is that you get excellent service, someone fills up the car, your windows get cleaned and they  will even check oil and tyres for you! All for a few Rands as a tip. I must admit though that I was nervous about carrying large amounts of cash with us, so I tended to fill up quite often to avoid this.)

Driving to Robertson was a surprise as there are now a plethora of wineries, and it is known as the valley of wine and roses. I hadn’t realised that there were so many vineyards, including Graham Beck, as I remembered it as mainly for fruit-growing. Yes I know, grapes are fruit, but I was thinking of orchards. wineries-nr-robertson

Klein Karoo

Leaving Robertson towards Ashton and Montague we hit Route 62 and followed this to Ladismith at the foot of the Klein Swartberg range where we stopped for coffee. In fact as you drive into the town, you feel as though you are driving straight into the Towerkop (Bewitch Peak) which is famous for its cleft peak!

Ashton
Ashton

(Another driving fact – watch out for speed cameras! I never saw any on this trip, but there were many times when I wasn’t sure of the speed limit as signage is not always very prominent. On my return to the UK I had collected 3 speeding tickets! I have never had one in the UK so I was not expecting them in rural areas. According to ‘Seth Efrikan’ legend you generally pay more for the speeding tickets and toll roads than you do for your holiday!)

Toverkop-from-Ladismith
Ladismith and Towerkop in the background

From Ladismith it is onwards to Zoar and Calitzdorp. There is lovely Victorian and Edwardian architecture in Calitzdorp and several wine cellars. Near Zoar is an interesting place called Ronnie’s Sex Shop –

Ronnie painted the name Ronnie’s Shop on a cottage next to the R62, planning to open a farm stall to sell fresh produce and fruit. His friends played a prank on him by changing the name to Ronnie’s Sex Shop. Initially angry about the involuntary name change, Ronnie left the name and continued fixing the dilapidated building. His friends would stop by for a chat, having a few beers and throwing a couple of chops on the fire. During one of these evenings, someone suggested: “Why don’t you just open a pub?”

Now it is a pitstop for visitors from all over the world as well as local farmers – to be honest there is very little else on this road to stop at! We were doing this drive in the South African autumn but it was still rather warm so thank goodness for air con! I have driven through here in the mid summer when temperatures rise to 40 C and no air con – and it does get extremely hot! Once, long ago, I went through here in a VW kombi (campervan) and being air-cooled – well, yes, you see the problem – hot air does not make a very efficient cooling system and we broke down several times en route having to wait (in baking heat) at the side of the road until the van had recovered sufficiently to carry on a bit further. Very annoying in the days when petrol stations closed at 6 pm because of the oil shortage.

Ostriches

After Calitzdorp comes Oudtshoorn, the largest town in the Klein Karoo and famous for Ostrich farms and the Cango Caves. Well, it is supposedly famous for ostrich, but we didn’t see a single one! Even when we passed the Safari show farm on the way out of town – not one ostrich to be seen. Oudtshoorn is completely surrounded by mountains so whichever way you approach it is quite stunning. Another place to stay overnight but not on this occasion. We continued along the R62 to Zebra (and annoyingly once again I didn’t manage to get a photo of the building on the side of the road which is painted with zebra stripes), in fact that is the only building I have ever seen in Zebra!

cottage-near-montagu
Cottage nr Montague

Outeniqua Pass

Finally we left the R62  (N12) and went into the Outeniqua mountains, still the N12 / N9, and through the Outeniqua Pass. Unfortunately for us, clouds and thick fog had formed over the mountains and the views were not as striking as they can be in clear weather, but dramatic all the same. We wound our way down the serpentine curves to the town of George and the coast, silenced by the breathtaking mountains surrounding us. cloud-in-the-outeniqua b&w Route 62 may not be the quickest way to reach the Garden Route, but it beats the N2 any day if you have the time. I just want to do it again only with time to linger longer in the towns of the Klein Karoo, so I guess I shall be back.

Victorian-architecture-Geor
George

Road Trip: Cape Town to Hermanus

 

Distance: 280 km via Muizenberg, False Bay, Pringle Bay, Betty’s Bay, Hermanus, Botrivier and Sir Lowry’s Pass. Time: 4 hours without stopping

On our final day in Cape Town we decided to drive around the False Bay coast eastwards to Betty’s Bay and on to Hermanus (a good spot in the winter months for whale watching from land) and it turned out to be one of the best drives of the trip. Our first stop was in Muizenberg where I had lived for several years in the 1970s and 1980s well before it went through a period of crime and deprivation which almost ruined it. P1110194 Now it appears to be on the up with lots of investment in the region including new housing developments around the village and the beach which is very popular with surfers and the longest and most spectacular in the peninsula.

Muizenberg
Muizenberg

Even the iconic Victorian beach huts have been spruced up and rearranged into uniform lines so hopefully tourists will be encouraged back here. And although it lacks the turquoise waters and dramatic boulders of Clifton or Llandudno it is one of the best beaches in the peninsula with its sugar soft white sand dunes to the eastern edge and child-friendly rock pools to the west and warm waters to swim or body-surf in. Wandering around this little village you will see examples of Victorian, Edwardian and Art Deco architecture. The lovely Edwardian-era red-brick railway station which opened in 1913  with its arched sandstone entrances and beautiful teak clock tower is reminiscent of the golden days of Muizenberg. 310 Begin the trip by driving eastwards along Baden-Powell Drive (the R310) towards the Strand following closely the shoreline of False Bay, another amazing drive as sea-spray and sand blow over the road you are that close to the ocean. One that is often overlooked by visitors, believing that Chapman’s Peak Drive is the only one to do.

Baden Powell Drive is one of those areas ‘highly vulnerable’ to a rise in sea level with the advent of climate change. Even now it is regularly blocked by blowing sand and the city may well decide in the near future that it can no longer afford to maintain the road, and to reinstate a dune system here. So drive it whilst you can.

Stop at Gordon’s Bay, which huddles beneath the sheer mountains of the Helderberg (formerly known as the Hottentots-Holland range) that provide shelter for the bay, to check the views back towards the other side. It is a busy summer destination with Bikini Beach popular with the younger population who want to play volleyball, sunbathe and surf. The sea temperature is warmer here and the main beach is safe for swimming and has sheltered rock pools for exploring.You’ll know when you’ve entered Beach Road – the sea will be on one side and the retro character of the town on the other. It’s lined with little shops and cafés – not the trendy sort you’ll find in Camps Bay, but old seaside-village types oozing home-grown character.

Kogelbaai
Kogelbaai on R44

Continue along the R44 (Clarence Drive) where around the corner you will find Kogel Bay (Cool Bay) which is essentially a surfers beach but has a long stretch of white sand and a couple of exciting caves. This scenic coastal road meanders between Gordon’s Bay and Betty’s Bay offering some of the best designated whale watching spots on the coast and magnificent views over the bay to Cape Point. Pass through tiny Rooiels and Pringle Bay, a little seaside village nestled at the foot of the Hangklip Mountain, which is very secluded and unspoilt. The Hangklip marks the south-eastern point of False Bay and is about an hours drive from Cape Town. There are also many hiking trails through the Kogelberg Nature Reserve.

Stony Point
Stony Point, Betty’s Bay

At Betty’s Bay, another picturesque village positioned in a narrow strip of land between the Kogelberg Mountains and the Atlantic Ocean, you will find the Harold Porter Botanical Gardens. From October to February you will find a glorious array of gladioli, watsonias and rare red disas on display. There is another smaller colony of African penguins at Stony Point, Betty’s Bay and the remnants of an old whaling station.

Stony Point
The Old Whaling Station at Stony Point, Betty’s Bay

Further on you come to Kleinmond which lies on a lagoon at the small mouth of the Bot River between the Palmiet Mountains and the Atlantic. It is another quiet place offering good walking, hiking and bird-watching activities. Now take the R43 through Vermont, to Hermanus our destination. We parked in the Square in Hermanus and had a wander around this lovely little town which is quite charming though no longer the quiet fisherman’s village it once was. Hermanus is often described as the ‘Riviera of the South’ with its mild climate and is a popular weekend destination for the residents of Cape Town.

Old Harbour Hermanus
Old Harbour Hermanus

Make sure you get a parking ticket from the meter inspector, who you will find walking about somewhere in the area, to avoid a parking fine. There are no self-ticket machines.

The Old Harbour complex offers an insight into its past and where you will find Bientang’s Cave, a restaurant on the shores of Walker Bay serving seafood only. It really is in a cave. July is the best time to see the Southern Right Whale as they frolic in Walker Bay in easy view of the cliff path and during the summer months the white sandy beaches, such as Grotto beach, are filled with holiday makers enjoying the sunny weather. And if you want to partake in white shark cage diving then carry on to Gansbaai around the bay.

Further on is Cape Agulhas the most southerly point of Africa and officially the point where the Atlantic and Indian Oceans meet. This point is about a 2 hours direct drive from Cape Town.

We headed back along the R43 from Hermanus up to Botrivier, a small picturesque village with a lagoon and wetlands; then we joined the N2 over the Helderberg (Clear Mountain) back to Cape Town. Stop off at the viewpoint at the summit of  ‘Sir Lowry’s Pass’ (420m) for a bird’s eye view of False Bay and across the Cape Flats to Table Mountain, but keep an eye out for the sign as you have to turn left off the road almost immediately, it is very easy to miss the turn-off.

You may see baboons here, but whatever you do, do not feed them, and it’s also used as a paragliding jump point. Watch them drift languorously to the coast below you.

Kite Surfing
Kite Surfing at Sunset Beach, Muizenberg, False Bay

You can continue along the N2 past the international airport all the way to the city, but we returned along the Baden-Powell Drive to make one last stop at Sunrise Beach near Muizenberg to watch people kite-surfing in the late evening sunlight. From here you can easily return to Cape Town along the M3.

Cape Town: A Circular Drive to Cape Point

Distance:  124 km from Constantia via False Bay, Cape Point, Kommetjie, Hout Bay.
Time: 2 hours 50 minutes without stopping

Leaving Constantia, where we were staying, we drove down the M3 then on to the M4 (Main Road) towards Muizenberg, where I lived in the 1970s and took a right shortly before the village onto Boyes Drive to Kalk Bay.

False bay
False Bay from Boyes Drive

This road climbs up above Lakeside and the bay with outstanding views from the top of Boyes Drive across Lakeside, Marina da Gama, the Cape Flats and the entire False Bay coastline. It clings to the lower edge of the Muizenberg Mountains until reaching Kalk Bay where you rejoin the Main Road.

Kalk Bay is an attractive character village with a great harbour where you can still buy fresh fish direct from the boats as they return with the days catch; I can recommend cooking a whole fish on a braai, freshly stuffed with limes and coriander and wrapped in foil  (they will scale and gut it for you if you ask).  It has several antique shops plus a very decent restaurant “The Brass Bell” situated right next to the railway station and directly on the waterside which used to do a very good crayfish thermidor in the past.

The Residency
The Residency

We stopped briefly in Simonstown to visit the museum there which is housed in a lovely building “The Residency” dating from 1772.

The Residency Museum
The Residency Museum

The views from the veranda across Simon’s Bay are well worth the visit and if you are interested in the Dutch East Indies Company, Simon van der Stel or the Royal Navy then it is a must see.

The “Historic Mile” (twenty one of the buildings in St Georges street are over 150 years old), is a popular walk along pavements once trodden by Admiral Horatio Nelson and Captain James Cook.

Warning
Warning

Next stop has to be at the Boulders Beach where you can walk along the boardwalk to see the African or Black-footed (formerly known as the Jackass) penguins that have colonised this area since 1983. March to May is the time when they are breeding in South Africa and we saw many birds on nests in amongst the bush and boulders.

African Penguins
African Penguins

They are noisy and it can be smelly, but on this occasion the wind was in the right direction!

Continue along what is known as the Cape Peninsula Scenic Route to Cape Point the most south westerly point in Africa which is at the end of the Table Mountain National Park chain stretching from Signal Hill. Not to be missed is the short hike from the Point to the Cape of Good Hope on the Atlantic side. Good walking shoes are a necessity plus a head for heights or if you are a serious hiker there are trails from here all the way back to Table Mountain. We came across ostrich at the Cape of Good Hope but you may well see kudu or sable.

Ostrich
Ostrich

A funicular railway replaced the little bus “the Flying Scotsman” in 1996 taking passengers up to the ‘new’ lighthouse at the top or if you want to spend all day in the park then head down to one of the secluded beaches at Buffels Bay or Bordjiesrif where there are tidal pools and you can picnic or have a braai (South African BBQ).

Diaz Beach
Diaz Beach at Cape Point

We decided to loop back to Constantia along the Atlantic coast road so headed for Scarborough (with its strange Camel rock formation, which we missed completely) and the twisty road towards Kommetjie, a peaceful rural delight with the Slangkop lighthouse.

Slangkop Lighthouse - Kommetjie
Slangkop Lighthouse – Kommetjie
View to Hout Bay
View to Hout Bay from Kommetjie

Just before Kommetjie is a stretch of road called ‘Misty Cliffs’ so called because of the sea spray which hangs over the road. Every twist in the road is a scenic delight and it is hard to keep concentrating on the road ahead, (but essential as the drop below is a long way).

Long Beach
Long Beach, Noordhoek

At Noordhoek we stopped to access the long beach which is still a place to go for horse rides on the beach or fly a kite and then we drove along the infamous ‘Chapmans Peak Drive’ with its 114 curves (though I confess I did not count them all). This is a now a toll road and cost us 24 ZAR (2008). The last time I went along this stretch of road was in the early 1980s.

Chapman's Peak Drive
Chapman’s Peak Drive

Every visit since then it has been partially closed due to rock falls and eventually was closed completely in 2000. Fortunately it re-opened in 2003 with a new tunnel so I was at long last able to fulfil my wish of driving along this road myself. The road ends in Hout Bay a seaside resort town about 20 minutes from Cape Town.

Chapman's Peak Drive
Chapman’s Peak Drive Tunnel

Dinner at ‘The Mariner’s Wharf’ in Hout Bay is recommended for the best lobster in town, though booking is advisable. Return to Cape Town via Constantia or around the coast road via Camps Bay, Clifton and Sea Point.