The mafia, the ghost and the garden

I enjoy looking at the stats on this blog now and then. I don’t have a huge following but it’s nice to see someone is reading some of the posts.

Since starting this blog about 9 years ago the three most popular posts have been about a lovely urban garden, a wonderful old ghost story, and a depressing account of how a quaint fishing village not far from Cape Town has become a haven for poachers who operate like a mafia. Although those posts go back to 2012 and 2014, they are still consistently visited. This means Google algorithms work and I tagged them properly. It also means people want to know about ghosts, the local mafia, and the garden. It’s the garden I’m most intrigued about because as lovely as it is, I had no idea it could be so popular.

As for the mafia post, I’m hoping it’s searches for the town itself that draw readers. Despite what goes on with the poaching (and the fishermen who are exploited), Paternoster is wildly popular with Capetonians. There isn’t masses to do there but for a quiet weekend, great food, and walks on the beach, you can’t beat it. During the wildflower season it’s the ideal place to visit. As I type this, I wish I could transport myself there. I did say in the original post that I wouldn’t be in a hurry to return but I have been back many times and I’ve grown to love it. The mafia-style issues, they are not mine to worry about and I can do nothing except support those people who do care for the village.

There’s a restaurant there that’s received enormous international attention but my favourite food is still what is served at the guesthouse known as Ah! Guesthouse. See photos below.

The garden from 2012

The ghost from 2012

The mafia from 2014

A series of photos of the food and hosts at the wonderful guesthouse where I’ve had the privilege of staying a few times in Paternoster. It’s called Ah! Guesthouse and is one of the best places to stay on the west coast, with some of the best food I’ve ever eaten. Oh and they serve dessert with breakfast – what more could you ask for? See the website here.

Because no visit to the West Coast is complete without a view of Table Mountain.

Between the mountains and the deep blue sea

Noordhoek pano

Noordhoek Beach. This is the view that always surprises visitors as they round the last curve of Chapman’s Peak Drive.

I don’t know if I could live anywhere that doesn’t have mountains or ocean.  I have both so I’ve been spoilt. I don’t climb the mountains often (does it count that I use the cable car to the top of Table Mountain quite often?) and I seldom swim in the icy waters of the ocean these days,  but I want to be able to see them, every day if possible. Luckily, showing it off to clients allows me to do this very regularly. My favourite tour in Cape Town is the round trip of the peninsula – I never get bored with it.

Lions Head

Lion’s Head from the top of Table Mountain. A national park surrounded by a city.

This narrow strip of land surrounded by water on 3 sides that we call the Cape Peninsula consists of the Table Mountain National Park extending from the city all the way down to Cape Point and the mythical Cape of Good Hope and covers 25,000 hectares. Because of the urban development, the park is broken into several different areas some of which are pay points but most of it is free and open, which makes it the most visited park of all South Africa’s 21 national parks. Click here to learn more about all the parks – that website should keep you very distracted for several hours.

Wherever you are on the peninsula, you are no more than a few minutes away from a walking trail, a rock-climbing cliff, a mountain bike trail, a beach, a tidal pool, a rocky coastal stroll, or just a stunning view.  The mountain range is also a wonderful landmark. I never stress if I realise I’ve taken a wrong turning, even in the dodgiest areas, because all I have to do is use the mountains to get back on track. Put me down in Johannesburg or any other South African city and I’m hopelessly lost without GPS. I still don’t understand why I have to drive for miles and miles through built-up suburbs from the national road to reach the beach in Port Elizabeth when the map shows it’s right there!

I’m not too sure what this blog entry is about except to say that I’m glad I live near the mountain and the sea. And I like the corny title, very much.

Scarborough pano

Witsand near Scarborough. Deep south of the peninsula, on what I call the Turquoise Route because of the colour of the water.

 

A phone on a stick

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Some clever person saw an opportunity in selfies. You have to hand it to them, pardon the feeble pun.

No more worrying about those awkward angles, no more fingers in the corner, no need to ask a stranger to take your photo – just get a selfie-stick. I won’t say anything else lest I succumb to mockery.

The photo is very crap, I know, sorry – midday on top of Table Mountain isn’t the best place or time for photos, but, hey, I saw a stick.

UPDATE 26 December: This sort of jumped out at me today and it’s just too perfect for words.

selfie stick

 

Chopper dude

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I had some time to kill today between 2 jobs so I drove to the end of Breakwater at the Waterfront and poked around between the dolosse to see if there was anything worth photographing. By the way, did you know these are a South African invention and now used throughout the world?

This chopper was preparing to take off with a lucky bloke who can afford this very expensive flip over the city or the whole bang shoot of one hour all the way to Cape Point so I got ready to try catch it as it took off. The passenger saw me and took a photo of me taking a photo of him. Cute. I hope the one of me is going viral via his Facebook page as we speak. But it was only when I uploaded today’s photos that I saw the next photo. You grumpy thing!! You’d think he’d be happy to be going on such a nice ride on this gorgeous day.

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And off they go.

dolosse

And here are the dolosse, with Table Mountain in the background (where I went with clients a bit later and where it was hot hot hot, for a change.)
Oh and there’s a young woman who was having her photo taken in among the dolosse in a variety of lovely shoes.

Noon Gun Tearoom is no more

Not only are the views from Bo-Kaap more interesting than from anywhere else in the city bowl, but the sun shines for a little longer than it does in fancy-schmancy Higgovale!

Not only are the views from Bo-Kaap more interesting than from anywhere else in the city bowl, but the sun shines for a little longer than it does in fancy-schmancy Higgovale!

I haven’t blogged in over a month so when I received an email this morning telling me I had a new follower I felt so bad I decided to pull finger – thanks, Mary! In the time since my last post WordPress has changed the dashboard so I have new buttons and functions to play with and might even use some of them.

A few weeks ago I forced myself out of my usual Saturday morning sloth and went to visit the Oranjezicht City Farm – you can read about it here. I also strongly suggest you follow their Facebook page because they update it all the time and it’s great to see the progress. Seeing as I was up and about I decided to make the most of the day and persuaded Phil, my driver, to take in a few other places in the area. A cup of tea at the Noon Gun tea room was in order because I hadn’t been there for years and wanted to check it out. Sadly, it shut down a few months ago. The owners still live in the house above where the restaurant was and they told me they’re now too old to run a restaurant. It’s a pity because it could be an integral part of a visit to Bo-Kaap and a walk to the gun itself but I suspect they also don’t have the urge to market the tea-shop properly, as could be seen by the fact that nothing has been modernised in many years.

Bo-Kaap has become very popular with tourists – there are always camera laden visitors taking photos of the houses, and a couple of restaurants offer authentic Cape food but the prohibition of alcohol might deter some. The museum, cemeteries and kramats are worth visiting but there is a somewhat unkempt air about many of the streets, and the city views, although fabulous, require walking or just standing in areas above the quarry that are dangerous as they are not fenced in. Of course, attending to all of this would destroy much of the authenticity of the area. It irritates me to know that people are simply driving in to take a few bog-standard photos and dashing off again without spending any money!

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This may not be a ‘pretty’ view but you’d never get bored with it.

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Aloes just above the old quarry. Easy to fall into the quarry if you don’t watch your step, lots of homeless and dodge types sleeping there, but I find it fascinating.

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It doesn’t matter where you are in Bo-Kaap, the mountain views are stunning.
I was intrigued by this unusual memorial to one of the founders of Umkhonto Wesizwe.

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The Noon Gun restaurant sign is still there despite the closure.

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This is where the restaurant was. There’s construction going on so it’s probably being turned back into a residence.

So, what is the noon gun after which a restaurant was named? Read all about it here and while you’re at it you can browse through the website to see the houses everyone takes photos of and what the Bo-Kaap is all about. Know this, though, the noon gun is also a measure of determining who’s a local and who isn’t. When the boom is heard at exactly noon every day locals check and set their watches and carry on what they were doing, visitors look around, startled, wondering why everyone is not panicking!

New function used in this post: the location button, except I can’t see the effect.

I think I’ll duplicate most of this blog entry on my Tours du Cap website, because it’s tourism related, and because I’ve been told I should write that blog in this style… sighh.

Battening the hatches

Winter has finally arrived, after a full month’s delay.

It’s been pouring with rain all week and from tomorrow we’re in for several days of gale force winds and torrential rain. Weather warnings are being issued left right and centre, everyone is battening the hatches and stocking up on gas, wine and dvds, hikers have been warned to stay away from the mountains and no-one in their right mind is going out to sea.

All of which was hard to believe today with the sun shining, not a cloud in the sky, and Table Mountain full of happy half-naked tourists.

A quick snap of the top of the mountain.. ok, there was some cloud but little wispy cotton wool types like that don't count.

A quick snap of the top of the mountain.. ok, there was some cloud but little wispy cotton wool types like that don’t count.

But when I turned around and faced the other direction …

There was the cold front, coming in very fast and filling the bay.

There was the cold front, coming in very fast and filling the bay.

 

Not looking forward to the weekend, at all!!

Hot chocolate at 1086 metres

Anyone who’s ever been to the top of Table Mountain knows that dassies, or rock rabbits/hyrax (Procavia capensis) are the most common animal to be seen up there and they are so used to human visitors that they’re rather tame. But this little guy was the tamest I’ve ever seen. I’m sure we could have picked him up or at least stroked him, neither of which I’d want to do, by the way, but you get my meaning. He was nibbling away at a plant between steps and rocks and completely ignored us as we took photos and my guests exclaimed over the sight.

It was freezing up there on Friday but at least the sun was shining. My clients and I were so cold, especially our hands (note to self, remember the gloves!) that we simply had to go to the restaurant for hot chocolate instead of waiting in the long queue to go down.  The relatively new restaurant is an improvement on the old tea-room that could not cater for the increasing number of visitors. There is a good selection of hot and cold food , snacks, cakes and drinks, and even some wine, but the prices are outrageously exorbitant.  It’s actually a disgrace because foreign tourists are not idiots who don’t look at prices so one has to wonder why the restaurant was so full.  Maybe the cold, maybe the long queue.

Aside from that, I’m glad they didn’t demolish the old tea-room (it’s the curio shop now) and have built the new one adjacent and with the same type of stone so it flows nicely (look to the right in the next pic, the new stones are lighter). I really like the well-marked paths and new lookout points – some of them are positioned to give you a feeling of overhanging the city and there’s one near the restaurant overlooking Camps Bay that is not for you if you suffer from vertigo.

I still want to walk up from Kirstenbosch one of these days, and also do the Back Table/Maclears Beacon walk, … but that can only be done with friends, not clients, because I need to be free to stop as often as I want to. And whinge and swear.  I suggest early next year when the wind has dropped and it’s warm, and I will happily make a very early start of it.

In the meantime, I will gladly take visitors up in the cable car. One of my favourite things to do when riding up is to show everyone (and I mean everyone) when I see rock climbers clinging to the rocks – I wish the car was slow enough to get a photo of them, from that angle it would be impressive.

The old tea room, now the souvenir shop

Robben Island zoomed in.  New phone camera has nice zoom function. My hands were freezing up by this time.

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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