Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Last leg of Road Trip

Tuesday 8 July Cape Town

Still raining! We drove right down to the Cape via all the small coastal towns. At Muizenberg, Les told me a story I’d never heard before. When his Dad was in the Royal Navy, he was in Cape Town; or rather he docked at Simon’s Town Naval Base. Les remembers a picture of him taken outside a café which was built in the shape of a huge dog! We went to the museum in Simon’s Town and the elderly lady there remembered it! It was called “The Spotted Dog” and is sadly no more. However, such was its fame that an almost same-size replica statue has been built on the site in commemoration. We retraced our steps for about 20k and sure enough, there it was! How amazing! The drive round the coast was wonderful but as we had already covered the road from Muizenberg to Simon’s Town, we opted for the Boyes Drive road the second time. Now we were high up above the coastal villages, mountain on one side, road clinging to the edge over a sheer drop with the ocean on the other side.
Next stop, Boulders, to see the penguins and there were loads of them, comical wee things!
We finally reached the Cape of Good Hope in torrential rain, so it was pointless going up the funicular to the lookout as there was absolutely nothing to see, not even the sea! Instead, we drove down the low road which took us under the lookout point to the actual Cape of Good Hope. The weather improved slightly and the wind dropped as it was a little more sheltered there. A drive back via Hout Bay had to be “renavigated” as the famous “Chapman’s Peak” drive was closed due to the dreadful weather. Anyway, I had already had quite enough of clinging to a mountainside for one day!

Wednesday 9 July. Paternoster
Woke to ….more rain, so we headed north towards the picturesque seaside hamlet of Paternoster. When we got there, the sun came out and we were able to walk for ages on the deserted shelly beach. The fishermen’ cottages and colourful boats were lovely. As soon as we could see Cape Town in the distance on our retun journey, the rain started again! Now it has cleared slightly so Les has gone for a walk while I write this and get the old blog posted!

Thursday 10 July Cape Town
Awoke to brilliant sunshine and we could clearly see the mountain from the bedroom window. A quick phonecall confirmed that the cable car was running and off we went. It was spectacular and not as scary as I imagined. At the top, the clouds were wispy and cleared enough for us to have some great views of the bays around Cape Town, most of which we have visited in rain! Then we found the Lion Battery on Signal Hill and were just in time to get there for the ritual firing of the noon day gun. The Naval officer in charge told us that there are now only three time guns in the world; that one, the noon gun in Hong Kong and of course our own Mons Meg one o’clock gun in Edinburgh. So now we have heard all three! A young boy, I think he was the officer’s son, was carrying the gunpowder bag. It was a really old leather thing and I was chatting to him when he reached out and handed me the primer from today’s firing! It’s a small brass shell case and Les is well chuffed about it. So am I for that matter! We spent the afternoon walking round the city cemtre and also visited the slave museum which was very well done. Sadly, we didn’t get out to Robben Island as the ferry was off until today due to the weather.Tonight we are going out to dinner with some friends of Janie and Peter who live over here and both work for the British High Commission. Tonight is one of their few free nights as they seem to attend a lot of Embassy “dos” Tomorrow we leave for Beaufort West which is the home town of Christian Barnard, the heart transplant pioneer, then on to Kimberley to see the Big Hole.

Friday 11 July Cape Town to Beaufort West
We had a great night with Bob and Sandra; drinks at their house then dinner at a nearby winery. Because their house is officially British soil and they are both Vice Consuls, they are required to have a portrait of the Queen on display in their house. Very Colonial!!
We had quite a long haul to Beaufort West through snow covered mountain passes then across part of the Karoo desert region. We arrived in time to have a walk in the one-street town and visit the Christian Barnard museum which was very interesting. The museum is housed in an old church which was the church where Barnard’s father was the minister. We also visited the birthplace, a small cottage “manse” next to the church. That is where Christian Barnard’s ashes are scattered and there is a plaque with the words “I came home” which I thought was a nice touch.

Saturday 12 July Beaufort West to Kimberley
Another long haul, this time through the Karoo which is semi arid desert with not much to look at; miles and miles of nothing, yet beautiful in its own way. It certainly gives a feeling of how vast this country is. As we approached Kimberley, we took a detour to visit Magersfontein, the site of a very bloody Boer War battle involving thousands of Scottish troops. The museum was excellent and we saw the memorials to all the Scottish regiments; Seaforth Highlanders, Highland Light Infantry, Black Watch, Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders. It was all very well researched, with the names and ranks of all the soldiers who were killed, including pipers and drummers. These were boys of around fifteen years old. What a dreadful experience for them. The battle was a disaster for the Scots; their general misinterpreted the position of the Boers and as a result the Scottish troops were massacred. The stretcher bearers couldn’t get across the fields to the injured, who then had to lie in the blistering African sun all day. The Boers were not, as expected, at the top of a hill; instead, they had dug trenches at the bottom and this was the first instance of trench warfare which of course was soon used again by both sides in the First World War.
The hotel in Kimberley was superb; brand new, with wonderful décor, huge chandeliers and magnificent fresh flower arrangements. It was right at the edge of the famous “Big Hole” and had a viewing deck where we could see right out over the hole. The hole is famous because it is the largest hand dug hole and was where Cecil Rhodes made his fortune, but in fact the diamond mine at Cullinan near where we live is actually much bigger.
We had planned on staying two nights in Kimberley but we faced a problem; the hotel had no water! This is not the first time we have encountered this, it happened at Bakubung when Martin visited. So we decided reluctantly to bail out and I am writing this in the car as we head for home. We had considered staying another night or two elsewhere, but to be honest we can’t really be bothered lugging the suitcases in and out of another hotel, so we are just going to head back to Benoni, even though it is again quite a long haul, about 500k. The route this morning is still through the last part of the Karoo and we have seen lots of wildlife. Firstly we passed a huge lake which was pink with flamingos, hundreds and hundreds of them, so that the water’s edge looked pink. Then we passed quite a few monkeys and some mongooses as well as a couple of ostriches. Some of the cows down here are huge and have enormous horns and very patterned hides. These are called Nguni castle.

End of the Road Trip
We finally reached home at 4.30pm on Sunday, having driven 5027 in just under three weeks. It has been a remarkable experience, we have seen so much of this country. Now it’s on with the laundry!

No comments: