Day tripping around the hidden Cape

Posted on 13 March 2011

The secret Cape Peninsula

Contrary to what you may think, travel envy levels vary in intensity on any given day, like a tide ebbing and flowing inside you. Or like the force. Sometimes it’s at a high, and occasionally at an all time low, but whatever the intensity, it’s always there in the background, like white noise. Or like the force. While there is no failsafe way for you to shut it out completely (and why would you want to), there is a trick you can use to take the edge off just a bit. To ensure that the periods of high travel envy are not so high that they completely overpower you and leave you whimpering in a corner when someone cruelly sends you a postcard from Istanbul. The method is relatively simple, but also widely unknown: get off the couch and go be a tourist in your own city. Believe me, there are things you haven’t done yet, places you have yet to discover. So go somewhere you haven’t been before. No, not Belville, there’s a reason we don’t go there. But go and explore. We did.

Once upon a Sunday morning, we set off on a quest for croissants, and ended up in Kalk Bay. There, we headed for Olympia Café, the place to go if you ever think people are being too nice to you. Or if you want your self-confidence shattered, just a little. To the tourists who went back home after the World Cup and told their friends that South Africans were so friendly, they obviously hadn’t met the ever-charismatic waitresses at this Kalk Bay institution. “Do you think I could have my eggs fried instead of scrambled?” “No.” “Could we have another fork?” “Go jump off the harbour wall.” But don’t get me wrong, the food is good, and the atmosphere is lovely, go there, but just not if you have really low self-esteem.

Once our sunny dispositions had been almost completely clouded over, and we were filled to the brim on croissants that we ate quickly and quietly without making eye contact with the staff, we headed off for a stroll along the harbour wall. Seals, sea air and the, er”¦ripe (read: pungent)”¦smell of snoek drying in the sun, make for an interesting experience, to say the least.

From there it was off round the Peninsula. The thing about a day trip round the Cape Peninsula is that, first, you can do it in any weather (in fact, I recommend Cape Point when it’s rainy and cold, as the sea goes the most unbelievable stormy blue-grey you can imagine, and it’s easy to see why they call it the Cape of Storms. Walking to the lighthouse when the wind is howling around you, the rain seems to be coming straight off the sea and the waves are crashing below is simply spectacular, but I’m getting off topic); the second, is that it can take as long as you like. If you’re lucky enough to own a 1961 Ferrari GT California (call me), you can whizz along the coast, wind and bugs in your hair, and smile in that smug way at every Yaris you overtake. If, like us, you more interested in the journey than the destination (*cough* cliché *cough* car envy *cough* sorry, must be swine flu), then you can meander along, stopping at every beach along the way and dipping your toes in the water.

First Beach: Boulders

Not the penguin nesting site, the actual beach. Huge boulders (surprise, surprise), blue waters and the best view of the entire False Bay there is. Sometimes, if you’re lucky, a penguin will swim past and eye you suspiciously. The restaurant, Seaforth, is lovely on hot summer nights when you sit out on the deck with the cool breeze coming off the sea and watch the lights twinkling all the way to Hangklip. The waiters are also really friendly. They won’t make you cry.

Second Beach: Smitswinkel Bay

Where? Yes, that’s what we said. Hidden away, with no access by car, this might possibly be (ok, is) the most beautiful beach in Cape Town. Secluded. Secret. Protected from the wind. What more could you want from a beach. But I’m not going to tell you where it is. Sorry. Smitswinkel is a reward for those who find it. Personally, I hope you don’t.

Third Beach: Scarborough

Now that you’ve rounded the peninsula, the coastline is no longer protected by the calming influence of the bay (don’t worry, I won’t bore you with the oceanographic details) and the beaches are harsher, darker, than on the False Bay side. Tim Burton beaches if you will. Rugged, but no less beautiful. Scarborough is a good beach to stop and stand on the rocks and contemplate things like life. (Well maybe not if you’ve just been to Olympia Cafe. “No, don’t jump. It’s not so bad. I promise! You can have any sort of eggs you’d like.”)

Forth Beach: Noordhoek

There are two ways to enjoy Noordhoek. One: get there when it’s still early and walk the five kilometres to the wreck of the Kakapo. Or, if you arrive late in the day, like we did, stop at Imhoff’s Gift Farmstall to buy some fresh bread, hummus, feta and other lovely fresh things (if it were legal, which it isn’t, I would tell you to buy some sparkling wine to go with it. But it’s not). You definitely shouldn’t buy some sparkling wine to take to the beach to compliment your assortment of cheeses. That would be wrong. Even if they will give you free cups. (oh, the wine section is in a room just behind the farmstall)). Now go sit on the beach and enjoy the sunset. Cheers.

Once the sun has set, it’s time to pack up your worries in your old kit bag, and head over Chapman’s Peak. Stop at the top and enjoy watching the moon rise over the Sentinel. The view is incredible. The stars are out. What a way to end the day in the Mother City. Last but not least on the agenda: dinner at the V&A Waterfront or sushi at Beluga in Greenpoint. Travel envy quelled, just for a little while.

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