Walking to the Cape of Good Hope

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When I take clients to the Cape Point Nature Reserve I sometimes suggest they might want to walk from Cape Point down to the Cape of Good Hope where I will meet them in the car. They never regret doing it as it’s a fabulous walk with spectacular views. I’m always jealous because I can’t do it with them, needing to drive around to the end. Doing it both ways would take too long. So I was thrilled to be able to do it the other day with our bus driver doing the driving around and waiting. Just my luck there was no wind but it was excessively hot.

It’s a really really nice walk. Only about 40 minutes if you don’t dawdle, not difficult at all except for the last section down to the Cape of Good Hope where there’s a bit of rock scrambling but nothing major. The views are marvelous and there’s no other way to see them; there are lots of dassies on the rocks and you often see antelope.

teacher

This is the one teacher who was supposed to bring up the rear and make sure no-one strayed off the path. Note how many students are behind him and where he is standing.

steps 2

The steep steps down to Dias Beach. Students were not permitted to go down there because the swimming is dangerous. They obeyed but it was tough after they saw a woman sunbathing, all alone on the beach.

cliffs

The reserve is full of stunning cliff views like this but you have to leave the road to see any of them. Even the ones at the very end, where the lighthouse is, are often missed because people don’t know where to look. Of course, I know where to look.

close to edge

The boarded walk is very close to the edge in certain parts. It’s not a good idea to do this walk in strong winds.

now to walk down

Starting the descent and there are all the cars and buses, including ours.

walking

I want to do this walk in Spring!

stones

Lovely stones

rockface

Do you also see a face?

board becomes stones at times

The boarded walk sometimes gives way to flat-ish stones.

good shoes needed

Although much of the walk is this board, you need to wear good walking shoes because of the descent and because these planks are a bit loose in sections.

finally there

The whole point of going to the Cape of Good Hope part of the reserve is to take this iconic photo behind the sign.

Lost suitcase

Louis Trichard

My group of French winemaking students has left and I’m sorting out the photos. I love this one.

This bloke’s suitcase didn’t arrive for several days so he had to make do with what he was wearing on the flight and a borrowed pair of shorts. Never mind the temperature of 35+ degrees, the jacket stayed on. He was the group photographer and I can’t wait to see his results. His name is Louis Trichard and I feel really bad that I didn’t go into much detail about the South African town of the same name, Louis Trichardt.

No-one stared at him dressed that way at Cape Point, not even when we went for a little hike, because compared to the many other sights to behold down there, he didn’t look all that strange. He wore the hat each and every day but once his bag arrived, the jacket was not seen again.

Funky Knysna guesthouse

This guesthouse in Knysna epitomes the funkiness for which the town is famous. It’s called Bamboo, the guesthouse. On a trip with clients I was thrilled that they wanted to get to their fancy 5 star hotel as early as possible every afternoon. This meant I had more time to enjoy this great little place where I was staying. Not as expensive as my clients’ hotel but much more fun.

The owners are very creative and have filled the gardens with all sorts of clever things. We’re talking recycling and inventiveness here, everything seems to have been picked up at markets and junk stores and nothing is wasted – lots of inspiration for hoarders!

It rained most of the time I was there which only added to the fun of feeling as if I was in the middle of the forest and gave me an excuse to hang out in the bar where everyone was friendly and fun. I loved it and want to go back!  Tip: have the pancake for breakfast, best I’ve ever tasted.

Palm

Every room has a name and this was mine. It was small but had a lovely deck with a view over part of the garden – I loved it.

 

decking

It was raining, the decks were slippery, I was carrying several bags, and the twisting paths were a labyrinth around the property so I got lost several times but so did everyone else. It was part of the fun. This path leads to my room.

stuff

Luckily, I had lots of time to explore everything. The owner told me she loves shopping for junk and always comes home with masses of items. I believed her.

boxes

Loads of little treasures like this all over the place.

hanging baskets

Not your regular hanging baskets

pool

An unusual swimming pool

inside

In winter the bar and dining area with their various fireplaces must be very cosy.

mural

A beautiful mural on one of the stoeps.

table

Lots of mosaic items.

windmill

More pretty stuff in the garden

mandela knysna

Only in Knysna

more detail

Nothing is thrown away

spades

There’s a use for everything

Tokai Manor House revisited

Over a year ago I wrote about the ghost of Tokai Manor House. It’s one of the most read posts in this blog. Clearly, ghosts are popular. Two months ago I drove past the house again and was appalled to see the state it is in. I’ve asked SanParks what’s going on but they haven’t replied. It’s supposed to be their Cape Town headquarters.

TokaiManorHouse2

The gate posts are damaged.
SanParks don’t seem to be using it as they have other offices just a short distance away.
That central grassed area is overgrown and full of weeds.

TokaiManorHouse3

The roof is a mess.
See that little round plaque next to the front door? That’s a national monument sign which means it’s supposed to be kept in an excellent state.

Groote Schuur

1 front

A recent client  had some unusual requests. She was given a  copy of a book called Hidden Cape Town (available at all bookstores and my birthday is coming up next month, just saying) and wanted to visit some of the places mentioned in the book; some are accessible by appointment, so we arranged visits. The first one was to Groote Schuur – the official Cape Town residence of the President. (No, not that other one which is his private place, this one belongs to the state and does not have a firepool or a tuckshop).

It was built in the mid 17th century in Cape Dutch style but then underwent several style alterations and extensions. In the late 19th century, on the instructions of Cecil John Rhodes after he bought it, Herbert Baker changed it back to Cape Dutch. All these changes are possibly the reason why it is impossible to live in it now as it has become very damp. These old houses are generally cool and dry but this one has undergone too many changes for that.

Be that as it may, it is without doubt the most stately home in the country. Filled with treasures from all over the world, its history is fascinating and I felt a bit awed to be standing where some of our Presidents and notorious Prime Ministers have lived. The last person to actually live there was Katlema Motlanthe for a brief period. Nowadays, the President stays in another house on the grounds. Unfortunately I was not able to take many photos nor was I allowed to wander through the grounds. My photos were all sneaked. Read more here.

Steps

This is the back of the property. Rhodes had a habit of throwing the gates open to the public, allowing anyone to come and picnic and play on the lawns.

wardrobe

This magnificent armoire is just the thing I need except that it would never fit in any room of my house.

treasures

You could spend a whole day examining every piece of furniture. The curtains are opened only when there are visitors, to keep light away from the furnishings.

tapestry

This is the most treasured item in the entire house. A massive tapestry worth a kings ransom and possibly slightly damaged by the flash of my sneaked photo.

book

There are better photos in this book than the ones I took.

doorknob

The front door knocker seems very modern and similar to Carol Boyes products.

bath 1

The piece de resistance – Cecil’s bath. I couldn’t wait to see this item. It is carved from one piece of Paarl granite, required a special reinforced floor, and the water becomes stone cold within 5 minutes of being filled.

Bath

The other side of the bathroom. Check out the marble wall and seat. Marble is lovely but who wants to place their naked bum on such a cold surface?

Garden GSchuur

The little bit of the gardens that I saw is gorgeous, wish I’d been allowed to see more.

2 front

Another frontal view. The smaller section to the left is the kitchen, the staff areas, etc. As with all grand homes it has a servant’s staircase, a la Downton Abbey. The staff kitchen has a table I would kill for but, as for the armoire, it wouldn’t fit into any room unless I got rid of every other item of furniture and knocked down a wall or 2.

Poppies

poppies

I saw these two on a grungy boat going to visit the so-called Seal Island just outside Hout Bay – I say so-called because it’s advertised as Seal Island but is really called Duiker Island since the real Seal Island is on the other side of the peninsula in False Bay, and it’s not really an island, just large rocks sticking out of the ocean. But the rocks are full of seals and tourists love seeing hundreds of seals together, playing and swimming close to the boat.

I thought it was odd for them to be coiffed in such a formal and old-fashioned manner for a morning boat cruise but I thought perhaps they were going to a wedding or something, later. They were also beautifully and very professionally made-up. 

Then I saw them later at Boulders Beach and then again at Cape Point. Identical twins. No wedding, just a day out with sweetly old-fashioned hair dos. Maybe they’re tourists from up-country. I regret not asking them questions. I’m nosy that way.

This house was once a prison

It’s been a hectic season (and not over yet) so had no time for blogging, sorry! Now I don’t know where to start so I’ll start with the one I promised on Facebook. My visit to the house that was Nelson Mandela’s last prison. To recap for those who don’t know: he was moved to this house, on the grounds of what was then Victor Verster Prison in Paarl, because privacy and utmost secrecy was needed for his meetings with a variety of people for the start of the negotiations to release him and unban the various struggle organisations. In other words, to start the process of ending apartheid, preferably peacefully.

Not even other inmates of the general prison, and very few of the staff, knew he was there. The house has a separate road entrance and is quite far from the main prison buildings. The prison is now called Groot Drakenstein, after one of the mountain ranges in the area.

It was quite a mission to organise this visit for a group of French students and some strings had to be pulled but it was finally achieved at the last moment and it was a great success. Surprisingly, we were permitted to take photos but this is the best I could do because there were 21 of us walking all over the house, and I had to do a lot of translating.

house and sep entrance

The front of the house, with the separate access gate in the distance. The front door was seldom used, it was easier to walk in through the kitchen which is typical of many South African homes. The entire prison grounds were once 4 farms and this was one of the farmers’ homes. It is, by the standards of when it was built, approximately in the 1950s, a luxurious house.

bathroom

The bathroom attached to the main bedroom is massive – probably larger than the cell that Mandela lived in for 18 years on Robben Island.

bug

Every room of the house (excluding the pantry), as well as the garden, was bugged by the authorities. Mandela found most of these bugs quite easily as no secret was made of this being done. Except for one in a bathroom which was only discovered quite recently when builders were repairing some loose tiles in the ceiling. Not this one, this is just a regular insect on the exterior wall that I snapped as a reminder of the bug anecdote – clever hey?

20140301_163249

The main bedroom. My photo of the entire room is blurred so this is all I have. The bed is massive and to the left of the bed there are about 15 people standing around – that’s how huge this room is. Mandela slept here for 3 nights and then asked to be moved to a smaller room because he couldn’t sleep in such a large room after cells for so many years.

door knob

This beautiful design is on all the doorknobs of the extensive bedroom cupboards.

living room1

All small items and some larger pieces of furniture have been removed but a few remain. This furniture is so very typical of its era!
The fireplace has a story to tell. Despite the warm summers in this region, Mandela liked having a fire and he needed the extra warmth for the sake of his health. When a stock of firewood was finished, the prison authorities spitefully refused to give him any more because it was not winter. The doctor who visited him regularly simply wrote out a prescription for ‘wood’ and the firewood was delivered without any further protest. That prescription was kept and is now exhibited in the apartheid museum in Johannesburg.

table

The dining room table around which the negotiations took place. The smiling student was at first a bit apprehensive when told that he is sitting at the exact spot where Nelson Mandela sat during those important meetings.

pool

Apparently the prison guards tried to teach Nelson Mandela to swim here but he didn’t make much progress. He liked to sit on the steps and watch the ducks that came to paddle.

reflection

All the windows have one-way reflective glass.
Yeah, that’s me so this is probably a prison-selfie.

garden

The garden was lovingly tended by Mandela but has been left to grow wild since his departure. Unfortunately, none of the rose bushes have survived, but the lemon tree that he planted is big, healthy, and bears fruit.

sleeping giant

The Sleeping Giant.
Word has it that when Mandela was depressed he would gaze out at this mountain range, the Simonsberg, and it would lift his spirits. We were made to stand in a specific place so that we could see it as he did and so that we could understand why he named it the Sleeping Giant. Look at it and you can see the figure of a man lying on his back with his arms folded on his stomach.

freedom gate

This is the main gate into the property grounds and the gate through which Mandela left as a free man. Our guide had been very explicit that we would enter as Mandela did, through the kitchen door, and we would leave the same way he did, on 11 February, 1990.

freedom gate 1

Walking through the freedom gate, as did Nelson Mandela. By the time this tour was over the students were a lot more pensive than when we first arrived.

Disclaimer

A note to all accidental visitors:

I am not a photographer and do not claim to have any particular skills whatsoever in that department. I have enormous respect for those who can see the potential in a scene and can create a great photo. Good photography is an art, in my opinion.

I am just a happy snapper, I have no special lenses or accessories, my camera is very simple and it's usually best to leave the setting on auto.

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