Today I got a taste of first-world South Africa as my South African friend Derrick showed me around the southern part of the Cape Peninsula, which has to be one of the world's most scenic locales. The way I like to describe the Cape Peninsula is that it is a larger, steeper and dramatic version of San Diego's Point Loma.
The morning was spent slowly meandering through the towns on the False Bay side of the peninsula--St. James, Kalk Bay and Simon's Town. The former two towns are sleepy fishing and retirement communities with bland architecture. Simon's Town, on the other hand, is a naval base. Its draw though are the jackass (African) penguins on Boulder's Beach. While they were impressive, their numbers were nothing compared to the humongous (hundreds of thousands) Magellanic penguin colony in Punta Tombo, Argentina.
The drive down to the southwesternmost tip of Africa, Cape Point (apparently, the Cape of Good Hope is another, though less visited point on the Cape Peninsula) was breathtaking. We drove up the windy road, which gave us an elevated view of False Bay with the towns and mountains behind us. Even though there were signs instructing people not to feed the baboons, we did not come across any.
After parking at Cape Point, we took some time to hike down to the tip (or almost the tip) of the peninsula. During the walk, we observed the ubiquitous fynbos, the indigenous flora (shrubs) present on the Cape Peninsula. We also saw two lighthouses, one slightly behind and elevated compared to the other one, which sits at the absolute end of Africa. The phenomenal views at Cape Point included waves crashing, the steep cliffs and the beach between Cape Point and the Cape of Good Hope.
We then drove up the peninsula on the Atlantic Ocean side, passing through the quaint villages of Scarborough, Kommetjie and Noordhoek. There was surprisingly a township by the ocean next to Kommetjie. Lunch consisted of sandwiches at the Noordhoek Farm Village. After refueling our bodies, we went for a photographic stroll along Long Beach at Noordhoek, an 8km-long and extremely wide beach. The views here were spectacular-- to the south was Kommetjie with its lighthouse and to the north were several mountains of the peninsula. The sand here was white and fine; I felt like I was in the desert. We observed several horses cantering along the beach. On a side note, the Atlantic waters here are just as frigid as the Pacific waters near San Diego!
The late afternoon of the day's tour was spent driving through the interior of the peninsula, past the vineyards of Constantia, South Africa's oldest. The area was lush with trees alongside many of the roads. What is amazing to me about the Cape Peninsula is that mountains, beaches and forests are all within a few kilometers from the city center. It's like one enters a completely different world within minutes of driving from the city!
We spent the last part of the day stopping briefly at Hout Bay (or the Republic of Hout Bay; don't remember why it's still called a republic), a fishing community on the Atlantic. Nearby is Duiker Island, which contains a seal colony. We were also able to observe a part of the Chapman's Peak Drive from Hout Bay Harbor. This drive is one of the world's most spectacular coastal drives, with jaw-dropping views of the ocean while meandering through. Unfortunately, the drive was closed for maintenance.
Overall, absolutely fantastic day in which I got to experience the natural beauty of Cape Town! I thanked and bade Derrick farewell just before dark and promised to reciprocate him for his hospitality by showing him around San Diego in the near future.