The trip to Cape Town, covering approximately 1,000
miles, took a day and a half with a stop-over in Kimberley,
a mining town that came into being with the diamond rush
of the 1860s. Although mining no longer takes place, the
Kimberley Mine Museum has recently been undergoing a
multi-million pound transformation to include an historical
representation of what the town looked like at the time of the
diamond rush. Original buildings have been transplanted onto
the site as well as ones made to appear as if they were.
The atmosphere on the Blue Train is very laid-back, and
not in the least bit as romantic as I had expected. The scenery
on the first day is mainly of farming country and flat and
uninteresting except for when we passed Camphors Dam,
a nature reserve and home to thousands of pink flamingos.
The next day, however, once we had passed through the Hex
River Valley, the outlook became more lush and interesting.
When we saw a range of mountains in the distance, we knew
that we were finally arriving in Cape Town.
Our hotel, rather than being in the centre of town, was at
the Victoria & Alfred Waterfront, which turned out to be
one of the busiest and liveliest places in the city. Because of
security, the best restaurants are often located in the shopping
malls. Here there are several malls, with a good choice of
places to eat. Being by the sea, the fish is very fresh and of top
quality, although we also found the meat excellent. Eating,
even in a top restaurant, is considerably less pricey than a
comparable one in England.
Table Mountain is one of ‘the’ sites. Apparently watching
the sunset from the top is a must. To get there, however,
you have to take a cable car, and it can be rather windy. In
preference, we took a boat trip to Robben Island, which
gave us a panoramic view of the mountain with Cape Town
nestling at its base.
The island, preserved as a national monument and museum,
is where Nelson Mandela among many others was imprisoned
during the apartheid years. Guides on the island are former
prisoners who provide first-hand accounts of life as it really
was. The number of visitors is restricted, so it is important to
book in advance.
Outside the city there is much to see, and hiring a car is a
good investment. The beaches in town are not recommended,
but in the surrounding area there are several options. However,
in most cases swimming is restricted because of the water
currents, and the possibility of sharks.
Boulders Beach in Table Mountain National Park is known
for its thriving colony of over 3,000 penguins. The beach is
apparently OK for swimming, although for seeing more than
the odd penguin you actually have to go to neighbouring
Foxy Beach, where a viewing walk has been built.
If you happen to be in the area in September, which we
were, it is worth making the trip to Hermanus. The coastal road
on the drive there provides stunning scenery as well as being
the opportune time for whale-watching. We had thought that
we might see the odd one or two from a distance, but in fact
we saw quite a few with the whales near enough to the shore
to not need binoculars. A gentleman whale crier announced
every sighting, although as this was virtually all the time, he
just let out a loud cry every so often.
Forty minutes drive inland, we stayed the night at the Blue
Gum Estate on the slopes of the Klein River Mountains, which
is a heaven of tranquillity. Our room had its own veranda with
sweeping views of the surrounding countryside. There was a
log fire which was lit at night. Although the weather is beautiful
by day, at this time of the year it gets chilly at night. As well as
having its own swimming pool, there are also bicycles for
Penguins at Boulders Beach in
Table Mountain National Park
Web site created by Mark Griffin