The life artistic – The edge of Africa


When I first told my South African friends in the UK that I was going to be living in Cape Town, they all started raving about the little coastal towns of the Cape Peninsula and telling me that I MUST visit if I could.  Seeing as several of them were from Fish Hoek, I think they may have been biased, but I took the advice on board and was really excited when I got the opportunity to go and see what all the fuss was about for myself.

We started our Cape Peninsula tour amongst the white sand beaches of the Indian Ocean.  The drive along the coast to Muizenberg is stunning and feels as if you are practically driving along the beach itself, as the dunes encroach onto the highway at several places.  My inner child came to the surface as soon as we hit the beach, and it wasn’t until I’d spent a happy few moments paddling in the warm shallows that I realised that I was the only one who had run straight for the sea.  I am horrified to admit that I actually had to explain the joys of paddling to a few of the other students.  Apparently, the balmy waters of the Indian Ocean are cold to some people.  They should try swimming off the coast of England in the middle of summer sometime.

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After sufficient beach time for half the group to get sunburnt, we headed around the coast towards Simon’s Town, our lunch stop.  Driving along I was cheerfully informed that I should feel right at home in Fish Hoek and Kalk Bay as the architecture was very British.  I had to carefully explain that the British colonial architecture here was nothing like the dreary buildings that we have back home.  These buildings were light and airy with terraces and verandas and whitewashed walls.  In England the buildings are built to withstand rain and wind and cold (well, supposedly), and there are very few days in a year that you could actually use a veranda.  It’s the architectural equivalent of owning a convertible – pretty, but pointless given the climate.

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Next stop was Boulders Bay, home of the lesser-spotted African forest penguin.

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As we walked along, I kept seeing what looked like unexploded bombs lined up along the side of the boardwalk.  It took me a while to realise that these were actually penguin houses.  I knew that such things existed, but for some reason I’d imagined little beach hut style houses, complete with brightly coloured paintwork and steps up to the entrance.  These made more sense I suppose, but had less style.  Somehow, I’d always thought of penguins as being quite stylish birds.  Clearly, I was fooled by the tuxedo paint job.

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We rounded off the sightseeing extravaganza by doing Chapman’s Peak Drive.

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The view of Hout Bay was stunning, definitely worth the slightly hair-raising drive along the edge of the mountains.

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It’s a shame that we didn’t have time to stop along the Atlantic coast on the drive back around Cape Town, but I’m sure there’ll be a chance to explore more another time.  I can feel this piece of the edge of Africa becoming a frequent calling point for me.  It certainly wasn’t over-sold by those that lived and loved there.


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