Cape of Good Hope

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Ever since the fifth grade when we learned about the Explorers, I have been fascinated by both the Cape of Good Hope and Cape Horn. They seemed such an intoxicating blend of danger and wild beauty. I never expected to see one of them in person, but when the South Africa trip emerged as a reality, I knew a visit here had to happen. But I didn’t want to drive, or go on a bus. I wanted to ride my bike. But a normal bicycle rental situation did not seem like a great idea. The ride down from Cape Town would be long, dry, dangerous and windy. And we really didn’t have the time. And yeah, we’re probably a little too old. Sigh. Then I stumbled across Daytrippers, who offer a hiking, biking combo day trip out of Cape Town. What a find! I booked it ahead of time from home and pre-paid. Worth every penny.

Albert, our leader, was a former professional soccer player from Burundi, who was eliminated from the team after a few years but who wanted to stay in South Africa. He went to college and completed a course of study in tourism. He speaks fluent French, English, Afrikaan and a bunch of native African languages. He was a charming, laughing, wealth of information. He arrived at our hotel to pick us up at 8:00 am in his van, and then we picked up the 5 others. Ray and I were the oldest (by far) and the only Americans. There was a young French woman and a young guy from Istanbul, who, although Turkish, had been raised in Germany, a gay couple from Australia and an Italian from Milan. Everyone spoke English, but half of us also spoke French – the only other language we had in common.

As we left Cape Town we saw a lot of Blacks waiting on the side of the road. They looked like they were waiting for a bus, but Albert explained that they were refugees from warring African countries and they were waiting in hopes that someone who needed day labor of any sort would stop and pick them up. Then we drove down the Atlantic coast on the Chapman’s Peak Drive, a toll road through a national park, stopping for a quick photo op and then a boat ride to see the seals in Hout Bay. We then crossed over to False Bay to see the penguins at Boulder’s Beach in Simon’s Town. The seals were not as fascinating as the penguins, and they were really smelly. But it’s always cool to have one more experience, and a working fishing harbor added nicely to the list.

We then arrived at the Cape of Good Hope National Reserve where we got on our bikes. Albert scooted ahead and set up lunch for us at a beautiful picnic site with a little museum about the local fauna. Then back on the bikes to the Cape of Good Hope. It was windy, and well, not all downhill, but the scenery was gorgeous and it felt so good to be experiencing it by bike. When we arrived at the parking lot below the cliffs, we turned in our bikes to Albert, got out our hiking sticks and climbed over to the other side. It was a steep climb, but there were wooden stairs with railings in places, and it was not too difficult for me. The views from those vertiginous heights were stunning. We didn’t climb down to the isolated lagoon with its white sand beach and rolling emerald waves–not only were we running out of time, but our knees would have protested loudly! Next time!

As we headed back we stopped to watch a family of baboons along the side of the road. Apparently they are real pests for the residents, since they break into houses and destroy them, and we were admonished many times never, ever, to feed them, but they were such a riot to watch!

Such a great day after so many great days! Everyone kept telling us we were on “the trip of a lifetime”. I hope I don’t sound too obnoxious, but the first time we were told that was in 1972. We’ve had quite a few “trips of a lifetime”, and hope we are not done yet.