- Nita Bajoria
On the Shore of Table Bay - Cape Town
Rhythm and energy filled our hearts as young African dancers swayed to the beats of marimba and djembe under a tree. The Victoria and Alfred Waterfront, named after the two harbor basins it stands on, has everything in the name of entertainment. You can gaze at the array of ships docked at the harbor and experience romance around the red octagonal Clocktower that has a gothic feel to it. Or while getting immersed in the African music, bask in the grandiose view of the entire Cape Town and the Table Mountain from the towering cape wheel, or shop till you drop at the Victorian style shopping complex. And when hunger takes a toll on your tired body, surrender yourself to the sumptuous food and drinks at some of Cape Town’s best cafes, delis, and diners. Finally, satiate your soul by taking a walk on the pristine white beach for some refreshing herbal Rooibos tea beside quenching your thirst with South Africa’s famous wines.
“The last car down is at 8:30. And if you forget that then you are most welcome to be the guest of the flora and fauna at the Table”, the humorous attendant of the Ariel cable car alerted us in an African accent, rolling the r’s and playing hard with the g’s. Within a few minutes, we were at the summit of the plateau, visible from every corner of Cape Town.
But, what do you actually do when you are at one of the 7 natural wonders of the world? I pondered. Like a romantic fool, I marveled at the breathtaking potpourri of a landscape it offered. If at one side the vast Atlantic kissed the jagged end of the cliff of the mountain, the other side with awe-inspiring bird’s eye view of the entire city would lure you. Go a little further and you would be mesmerized by the cloud fairies posing for their admirers with selfie sticks. And if you are tired, take a break on a boulder and bask under the crisp sun or go lucky looking for some amazing flowers like red heaths, purple ester or the yellow blister bush.
But, in whatever manner you decide to spend your time at the Table, do not miss the sunset. In one single day where else would you find the sun setting behind the Devil’s Peak, trailing down the Lion’s Head hill and finally dipping down the blue water, all at once? I devoured the magical moments till the red ball of fire finally disappeared and a fairyland of Cape Town city lights emerged. The magnificent evening is etched in my memory forever.
If it’s raining you might miss the Table Mountain but you can still ascend the Signal hill with your umbrellas for a spectacular view of the city and its football stadium built for 2010 FIFA World Cup. And if you are lucky to be there just before noon, you could witness a canon go boom exactly at 12’o clock. The ‘noon gun’, an ancient method of conveying time to the sailors on the sea is still alive and one can watch the ‘noon gun’ show for free. Till date it’s only once that the canon has failed to fire and for the social animal like us, it also has a twitter account that goes “Bang” every noon except on Sundays and holidays.
Being an Indian it was exciting for me to witness the exact point where the Atlantic Ocean meets the Indian Ocean. Sitting atop a big boulder at the Cape of Good Hope I tried looking for an imaginary line that joined the two oceans. Obviously, I found none. To me, the waves looked a little merrier at their conjoining point where the cold Benguela current of the Atlantic Ocean met the warm Agulhas current of the Indian Ocean. The towering cliff of sandstone rock is climbable and takes you to the highest point of the southernmost tip of Africa, where explorers like Vasco Ga Gama were the first to reach.
When I first saw Robben Island from the Table Mountain, it appeared like a dotty piece of land left abandoned in the vast Atlantic. But a tour of the island left a deep impression on my mind. The dry desolate island is actually an important part of South Africa’s history which strengthens your belief in perseverance, hope, and courage. If leaders like Nelson Mandela, Govan Mbeki, and Walter Sisulu could endure through decades of imprisonment and yet emerge victoriously and attain their freedom, we can at least try to do our share.
The peninsula, surrounded by oceans and dotted with mountains and hills, is any nature enthusiast’s paradise. The land of big five that includes the African lion, elephant, leopard, rhinoceros and Cape buffalo, has more varieties of flora and fauna than Europe and Asia put together. But it’s not when you only go to a forest area that you get to see animals. They can surprise you anywhere during your Capetonian experience.
While returning from Cape Point we visited a colony of animals in Simon’s town. I found myself literary in splits when I saw a cute little penguin peeping through a bush. And by the time we reached the Boulders Beach they were in hundreds. Cute little ones plopping their way around at the shore. These African penguins, endemic to South Africa and Namibia have a peculiar nickname called “jackass” owing to their sounds that hilariously resembles that of a donkey.
Though Oudtshoorn, the ostrich capital of the world, has numerous ranches to get you up close with these tall legged birds, spotting them roadside is fun. But, you must be cautious of chacma or cape baboons. Though mostly they are harmless, food packets in your hands could be provocative enough for them to jump on you to snatch it. You can also watch out for zebra and wildebeest grazing on the slopes of the Table Mountain.
Mosque Shafee at Boo Kaap
Colour is an important aspect of South African culture. Whether it’s the Bokaap area where all houses are painted in vibrant colors or the beaded costume of Zulu dancers, sandstone sculptures, wooden masks or Nelson Mandela’s bold signature silk shirts, the rainbow nation never ceases to delight. I handpicked some souvenirs, not to just push them on shelves as decorative pieces, but to treasure them in memory of a place that hasn’t yet forgotten its roots.