Gardens and Golfs

We’ve been doing a lot of driving around in Cape Town and a couple of things are very noticeable. First, pedestrians are in no hurry. Ever. People stroll across the road at their own, often leisurely, pace and drivers simply need to avoid them. It encouraged me to do a little research into whether this had any noticeable impact on statistics. It turns out that 57% of all fatalities in Cape Town road traffic accidents are pedestrians. This is something to be wary of if you decide to drive around the city.

The second thing we noticed was the VW Golf. Specifically, the Mark 1 Golf which was superseded in Europe by the Mark 2 in 1984. Not so here in South Africa where Volkswagen decided to continue to produce the Mark 1, branded the Golf Citi, up until 2009.


It must have been hugely popular judging by the number still on the road here. The reason we have a soft spot for this model is that our first car was a Golf Mk1 convertible, which we only had for a couple of years before trading it in for a more sensible Jetta on the day our older son was born.

We decided to start our Saturday with a bit of grocery shopping. Our jet-set lifestyle knows no boundaries. We bought food for two breakfasts and two dinners for the princely sum of £8. With that task completed, we drove up to the cable car station on Table Mountain but were deterred by the queues. As an alternative, we decided to drive up Signal Hill from which we had splendid views of Table Mountain and of Cape Town laid out below us.


There was also an enterprising group of young men offering tandem paragliding jumps and no shortage of people willing to rely on their skills and throw themselves off the hill. Neither Ishbel nor I took them up on their offer.

Later in the day, we headed out to Kirstenbosch Botanical Gardens  which is a lovely place for a relaxed wander around and is clearly well utilised by locals as well as tourists.

Returning to our apartment, we encountered an interesting conundrum. The flat is in a one way street and the entrance was closed off because filming was taking place in the cross street. We decided to go around to the top end of the street to see if we could reverse down to our parking garage. Luckily, the top end of the street was manned and we were allowed to drive down the wrong way since we were residents. It appears that they are filming a marathon scene, but we have no idea of what the context is.

Penguins and The Point

Friday was our first full day in South Africa and we decided to head out of town for the day. Our particular target was to see the colony of African Penguins that nest at Boulders Beach near Simon’s Town about 45km down the coast. After a false start in trying to find the right road to get there, we improvised slightly and took the much slower, but very interesting, coast road. This took us through towns like Fish Hoek and Kalk Bay, which was South Africa’s first resort town back in the 1860s.

After getting to Simon’s Town, we found the Penguin Centre very easily. African Penguins are on the red endangered list so access to the colony is controlled, with the area accessed through a turnstile pay point and along a couple of boardwalks to either side of the little bay they are in. You can get very close to the colony and they seem fairly untroubled by the humans milling around on the boardwalks above them. Ishbel took the photo at the top of the page, which gives an idea of how close you can get.

Having made it this far, why not drive the extra 25km to Cape Point, just south of the Cape of Good Hope, where you can see two oceans collide. We did that, and were very glad we did. As you drive down the road, there are several signs warning that baboons may be on the road, and advising that they are wild and dangerous animals that should not be approached, and definitely not fed. We didn’t see a single baboon all the way down.

The Point itself is part of a National Park, so we paid our entrance fee – ZAR 303, or about £17 each – and drove down to what seemed like the end of the earth.  There is a funicular railway that runs up and down to the lighthouse, but we decided to walk up since it was such a beautiful day, and maybe we would see baboons. It was a long climb, and no baboons appeared.


Ishbel gets another photo credit here as she took this panoramic shot looking north back along the peninsula with ocean either side.

We decided to take the funicular back down to avoid the toll on the knees from the steps. I was pretty thirsty by this time but when we got down we found that the shop and restaurant had closed early for stocktaking and there were no drinks to be had. What we did find, however, was that the baboons were out in force wandering around the restaurant and car park searching for scraps left by previous diners. We had ticked that box so headed back to Cape Town by the more direct route.

We dined at Charango Barbecoa, just around the corner from our apartment where I had a 200g fillet steak for ZAR 200, about £11. Ishbel had lamb ribs for the same price. Eating out in Cape Town is not expensive.

After a long day, we settled back in the apartment to relax and have an early night. At around 10:30pm, we heard a brass band playing somewhere close by and decided we would investigate. Having been warned repeatedly about the dangers of Cape Town at night, we left any valuables at home and went out to see what was going on. There was a huge march just one block over from us and people were carrying lanterns with 1834 written on them. From our visit to the Slave Lodge on our first day, I remembered that December 1st was emancipation day for slaves. We asked one of the marchers if emancipation was what was being celebrated and that was indeed the occasion. We followed along for a few blocks enjoying the festive atmosphere before heading back to the apartment for the night. It’s always nice to stumble upon things like that.

First leg hiccups

Nothing serious! Just a couple of annoying little episodes that I’d have preferred to do without.

First things first though. It appears I have managed to bury the details of where we will be and when we will be there somewhere deep in the recesses of this blog, so I’ve added a link at the top of the page for easier access.

In my excitement, I set an alarm for Tuesday night at 9:29pm so I could check in for the Cape Town flight exactly 24 hours before take off. With BA, you have the opportunity to reserve your seat in advance if you have tier status with the Executive Club. Sadly, I lost those privileges a while ago when I stopped travelling internationally for work. You can still pay for seat selection in advance but an extra seventy quid just doesn’t seem worth it. Consequently, I wanted to get online as soon as check in opened to get decent seats for the 11 hour flight.

Bear in mind that I bought these tickets through BA in the first place, although the first and last flights are the only BA coded ones we have. I was unable to check in online and received the error message: “This booking has too many flights to check in online. Please check in at airport.” Hmmm. Never mind.

We got to the airport in good time for the flight, and were rewarded with Seats 18A and 18E. Disappointing not to be seated together, but they helpfully informed us that we should have checked in online, 24 hours in advance. Ishbel kept me calm and I explained in a controlled fashion that was exactly what we tried to do. Apparently, there was nothing to be done. The flight was completely full. Never mind.

The flight itself was very smooth and entirely uneventful, which is the most you can hope for in a flight. Big queues at South African immigration, but we were processed fairly efficiently and out into baggage reclaim. We picked up our bags from the carousel and Ishbel’s spangly dobro case from the outsize luggage desk. Onward to the Avis desk. If you find yourself at Cape Town airport headed for the car rental desks, take a trolley. It’s a fair old trek.

Easy drive into Cape Town itself and, since we were early for the AirBnB, we parked near the place and had a wander in town. We’re staying in Church St, and grabbed a drink at Greenmarket Square then went to the Slave Lodge Museum to be educated on the history of slavery on the Cape. By then, it was time to pick up the keys and get in to our AirBnB place.

One of the reasons for choosing this place was that parking was included. We went back and grabbed the car so we could drive into the secured parking under the building. By the time we got back, someone had managed to park a pick up truck in front of the entrance to the garage, and been clamped. We went round the block once more in the hope that it would be cleared up by the time we got back. What was happening when we got back was a vociferous argument between the pickup driver and the building’s security guard, which didn’t look like it was headed for a prompt resolution. As luck would have it, the car that arrived at the building immediately after us was driven by a lady who was part of the management committee. There was an alternative garage available and the security guard was able to point us to an unoccupied space there. At some point in the afternoon the situation must have reached some kind of conclusion as I was later able to move the hire car to the appropriate allocated space.

A little bit of excitement for Day 1, but nothing too traumatising. We relaxed in the flat a little, played our instruments then went for a relaxing dinner in Tiger’s Milk on Long Street.

We’re having an early night tonight and doing some planning for the rest of our stay here. We tried to get tickets for the early boat to Robben Island but for the next two days only later boats are available. Consequently, we’re leaving that until Sunday.

We’re spending a lot of time in the Southern Hemisphere on this journey so we’re going to see as many different types of penguin as we can, starting tomorrow.