After nearly two weeks on the road, our once-in-a-lifetime adventure was coming to an end as we approached the trip’s final destination, Cape Town. At breakfast, our tour guides polled the group and laid out the options for that day’s activities. The original interary called for several miles of bike riding through through the wine country of Stellenbosch, an activity that most of the group simple wasn’t prepared to accomplished. After a quick vote, we decided on seeing the sights around Cape Town. We drove along the famous False Bay coast, a beautiful area bounded on the east by Cape Hangklip and the Cape of Good Hope on the west.
False Bay was featured during recent TV episodes of Discovery Channel’s Shark Week, because of the large populations of Great White Sharks which over-winter here and feed on the local seal population.
The views as we traveled around False Bay were breaktaking. We stopped here and there, snapping photos and marveling at the scenery while our guides explained that the Bay contained several wrecks of early sailing ships which had mistaken it for the deeper and safer Table Bay. After several stops, we arrived at our first destination, Boulders Beach, and its colony of African Penguins.
As an avid birder, I had been looking forward to this sight the entire trip. Also known as “Jackass” Penguins, due to their donkey-like bray, these remain the only species of penguin that I have seen in the wild. The penguin colony enjoys protection as a national park, though the area is becoming more developed as home builders take advantage of the incredible views around Boulders Beach.
Here is a photograph of the small group of penguins shown above that shows just how close human habitation has approached their home. The penguins seem undisturbed by all the activity, though, as hundreds of visitors also walk along a boardwalk built through their colony every day.
Our next stop was the Cape of Good Hope and Cape Point. We started with lunch in Two Oceans Restaurant, followed by a ride on the Funicular up to Cape Point Lighthouse. The day was clear, breezing, and beautiful as we drank in the stunning panoramic views offered by the Point. The sights and sounds of two great oceans lay before us as we talked with other members of our group about the experience. Here I was, a kid who grew up in the last house on a dirt road in a small West Virginia coal camp, standing in a place that I had read about in grade school but had never dreamed that I would actually visit.
After a couple hours of exploring, we left Cape Point for our hotel. On the way, we passed near replicas of the Cross of Vasco de Gama and the Cross of Diaz, two navigational beacons erected by the Portuguese government to commemorate Vasco da Gama and Bartholomeu Dias as explorers. When lined up, the crosses point to Whittle Rock, a large, permanently submerged shipping hazard in False Bay.
After a long, adventure-filled day we arrive at our final hotel destination – the Tudor Hotel in Cape Town. We spent the following day shopping, exploring Cape Town, and making final preparations for our long flight home.
Several months have passed since our trip, but the sights and sounds of South Africa and Lesotho are as real for me today as when I was there. Any mention of my trip brings numerous questions from friends and colleagues, all intrigued by the thought of visiting places Americans rarely venture to. Certain, my wife and I were extraordinarily lucky to have this opportunity and to experience a culture so different, and at times so familiar, to our own. I can only hope that good fortune allows us to return some day.