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The Western Cape of South Africa

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Cape Town - Most of the life of the town happens in the Waterfront area – the Victoria and Alfred or V&A. There are old warehouses converted to shopping malls, and a good few new buildings made to match. In between, the wharves are full of boats, both cargo and pleasure cruises. 

Restaurants line the wharves where you can sit and watch the harbour at work. There is plenty of street theatre, which is well represented in the video of the waterfront. 

The Aquarium on the town side of the waterfront is also worth a visit, for the kelp forest and giant fish tank alone.

We took a cruise round Table Bay in the yacht Spirit of Victoria, on a lovely windy day, and I managed to stay on my feet enough to take a plenty of film. Click on the picture to experience it on video.

Another trip across the bay is to Robben Island, the home of the infamous prison, where once Nelson Mandela was incarcerated. The prison is now a museum to ensure the iniquities of apartheid do not get forgotten, and is a thought provoking but worthwhile trip.

Capetown is dominated by Table Mountain rising steeply behind it. You drive part way up, then can take the cable car to the top. The inside of the car rotates, so everyone gets an all round view during the ride. There are numerous walks and climbs up and/or down however, if that’s your thing. There are guides available to show you the sights at the top, ours, Andy, hopes to become a climbing guide, and had walked up the mountain to work that morning. South Africa has it’s own variety of flora, Fynbos, and Table Mountain has plenty of examples. Camps Bay, under the mountain, has a backdrop known as the Twelve Apostles, actually the side of Table Mountain.

Hout Bay - We stayed in Hout Bay, a very appealing town at the other end of Table Mountain. You can get their easily from Cape Town either around the coast passing through the very expensive resort of Camps Bay, or inland via Constantia. It has a sandy beach backed by sand dunes, and it’s own harbour at one end. There are numerous Guest Houses and plenty of restaurants. We stayed in The Beach House and Harbour Lodge guest houses and would recommend either to anyone.

There are several places of interest nearby, Groot Constantia winery, South Africa's first, the World of Birds and Kirstenbosch Garden which are just beautiful, rising up the lower slopes of Table Mountain. While driving to Groot Constantia one time, there was a forest fire - amazingly the road was left open - and one of Constantia's restaurant buildings caught fire. Naturally I filmed it all!

The Cape of Good Hope - We drove to the Cape National Park via the Eastern side of False Bay, stopping off first in Boulders to visit the Penguin colony there. 

The National Park is home to yet more Fynbos vegetation, and provides some beautiful floral displays. The most southerly extremity of Cape Peninsular is Cape Point, also the highest and where the lighthouse is situated. The Cape of Good Hope is flatter, and is the more westerly promontary.

The Winelands - For our trip to the winelands, we hired a large taxi and driver, Dave Black, who knew just where to go to enjoy the day to the full. Starting out via False Bay, he approached the winelands from the south. We visited 3 wineries before lunching at a fourth. The food was marvellous, washed down with their own wine.

We were taken taken on to Stellenbosch, stopping for a look around Oom Samie's historical store, kept as authentic as possible.

Aquila Game Reserve - Aquila is a private reserve, on the edge of the Karoo, where the hospitality is very good. The accommodation looks rustic, but isn’t. We went on 2 game drives, first in the late afternoon. We returned to the lodge for dinner before having a fairly early night, as we had to be up for another drive at 5.00 the next morning.

2004 Gillian Gatland

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