The Most Beautiful City in the World?

I was filled with excitement to be heading back to Cape Town, man I love Cape Town. This time, fearing it may be our last time we had booked two extra nights giving us three in total. Which, as ever, just was not enough.

Our mini break did not start well and we watched the luggage conveyor belt at the airport spin round and round with no sign of the boys big bright red suitcase. Eventually we were told “there are no more bags to come off”, and the reality that one of our suitcases was missing hit home. We logged a missing bag report and would have to wait and see where it was but for the time being, the boys had nothing but the clothes they were standing in!

Determined not to let this ruin our time here, we left and met the ever lovely Julian, waiting outside to transfer us to our hotel. Having previously stayed in the tourist trap water front, and in the city centre, this time we opted for a beach side suburb of Cape Town called Camps Bay._MG_3356 Our hotel, Place on the Bay was lovely, and what it lacked in finishing touches in made up for in location, sat as it was just across the road from white sand beach, rolling Atlantic waves and the palm tree lined promenade of one of Cape Towns most beautiful districts.

Our time in Cape Town was amazing, we played on the beaches, paddled in the sea, shopped in local markets and went exploring in the rock pools. The highlight however was our day trip safari to Inverdoon Game Reserve. Reliably informed that the reserve was a two and a half hour drive away we set out to arrive at 10am, by leaving at 8 am, not as you will notice, on time! Traffic leaving cape Town was slow, and the whole of South Africa was, it seemed, covered in a thick blanket of fog. Despite having directions to the reserve, we did the usual thing and plugged our destination into the Sat Nav, and blindly followed it despite it taking a different route than that which was recommended. It wasn’t long before, in terms of time, we realised this was a mistake and we climbed higher and higher through steep mountains up into Bains Klooff Pass. Late we may have been, but speed was not an option as we travelled through stunning scenery of forest and cliffs with shear 400ft drops to the side of us.

Its hard to express just how incredible the landscape was, and unfortunately, already now very late for our safari I had no time to stop and photograph the area, but I was breath taken at its beauty. As a troop of baboon crossed the road ahead of us we reached the summit of the pass, and looked down the valley ahead of us, the twisted layers of rock, lush green trees and rivers cutting its way down hill as waterfalls either side of the valley crashed down to meet it.

Leaving the pass behind us we reached Cares, a medium sized town and the first in South Africa we had seen that felt like Africa, the shop signs were largely in Afrikaans and white man was all but absent. As we passed through, there seemed to be a protest of some sort going on, a large gathering of people and two or three police cars made us a little wary as we slowly drove through the crowds. We needn’t of worried it was all very peaceful, and we do not really know what the commotion was all about, but as we left town and came across another of South Africa’s shanty towns it was a stark reminder that behind the sheer beauty of the country and friendliness of it people there is still a troubled country. Thirty years after apartheid has ended the country is still divided by class and race and the ruling, majority black ANC party have some way to go before this country is at peace with itself and there is anything approaching equality in this beautiful land.

Leaving Cares was my opportunity to make up some time, as the most wonderful, strait road opened up for miles ahead on the flat, wide, river valley floor. High mountains boarded us and my foot hit the floor with the speed gauge hitting 150kph it was exhilarating to scream through the valley on the empty road in my little Hyundai! If we arrived at Safari past 10.30am there was a chance they would leave without us, it was now looking to be impossible to make up the time and as the tarmac road ended, and a gravel track lay out ahead of us our only hope was that the group was small and kind and that they would be gracious enough to have held off and waited for us.

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Long Strait Roads, paved in gravel made for exciting driving!

With clouds of dust behind me, and stones flying about I took the little car to its limits across the gravel, only slowing down when we came across the most wonderful road sign, “Caution, SLOW, Tortoise in road!!! Turning into the safari reserve we saw our first wild African animals, Springbok, the national animal of South Africa, grazing peacefully in fields adjacent to the gravel road. We were welcomed at the reserve and quickly hopped onto a safari 4×4 which shot across the African bush, shaking and bouncing us to catch up with the main tour group had already departed.

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Springbok are very common.

A wonderful three hours was then spent out on the reserve catching a privileged look of Elephants, Giraffes, Lions, Buffalo, Zebra and the delightful tortoise crossing the road, before the highlight in the Cheetah reserve.  A game reserve is not 100% wild, it is a managed environment, many of the animals have been rescued from hardship or exploitation, and the animals are fed during times of drought, but they are free to roam, to hunt and live an all but wild existence on the 15000 hectare estate. The flat valley floor and grassy plains stretched for mile upon mile bordered by a circle of mountains on the far horizon, it was a true privilege to be there and a day we will all remember, a big thanks to Gran Mitch for the gift that allowed us to do it.

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Relaxing by the pool. If the boys look cold, its because they were, the water was icy and Bev and I were going no where near it!

All too soon our time was done and we headed back to Cape Town. Surrounded by the 2000+m mountains of the Matroosberg Range, and following the wide flat Breede River valley through vineyards and mountains past lakes and streams the drive back was as stunning as the drive there, only this time I stopped to take some photos. This area is simply stunning and left me dreaming of returning one day for a more extensive exploration.  Returning to Cape Town we felt strangely at home in this foreign land, like we were somehow returning home from a day out, rather than returning to a hotel following a day on safari.

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Matroosberg mountains

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Vineyards of the Breede River Valley

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View from the car as we wound along the Breede Valley. (No I didnt take the photo whilst driving!)

 

Our last days in Cape Town went too quickly, more beach, more rockpools, more sun and more good food. Before long we were back in the now very familiar Seamans Mission, passing our luggage over to the handling crew, and waiting to once more board the RMS St Helena. We had been a little apprehensive about our new final year in St Helena. Many good friends had left the Island whilst we had been away, and I was due to start a new job. Just before leaving St Helena some 8 weeks ago I had interviewed for and been offered a post with the Airport Landscape and Ecology Mitigation Program as a Team Leader, supervising staff in the field, managing various outsourced contracts and assisting with the project management of the Islands largest ever conservation project. What would this last year hold for us, many changes in store, two parents working full time, Charlie starting in year 1 (proper school) and friends leaving the Island. Boarding the RMS is always special, but this time held even greater significance for us, as, just like two years ago, we stepped into something of the unknown.

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One of my favourite photos of all time. Taken with a self timer on a stunning beach in Clifton. I sometimes have to pinch myself at how lucky we are, and how lucky I am. Moments of peace and beauty allow one to remember the good things in life, I will never forget this moment.

As always the RMS has a calming influence and before long we had met new friends heading to St Helena for the first time, and old friends heading back following periods of leave or medical. The nervous and excited questions of our new friends helped to re-assure us, we were the old hands, and although changes were afoot, no doubt St Helena will be the same place, and as Cape Town disappeared into the sea mist a feeling of contentment came over me. St Helena we are coming home.

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4 thoughts on “The Most Beautiful City in the World?

  1. Dear Tyson, Very nice write-up on CT! Indeed it is a very beautiful city … as it is with most of SA’s landscape which has such stunning natural God-given beauty! Congratulations on your new job too! Sounds challenging but exciting!

    With no feedback from anyone on St. Helena we have decided to seek our ‘fame and fortune’ on a rather big island….Australia.Fritz got a brilliant job offer so submitted the visa end of August and we keep our fingers and everything else crossed! As beautiful as SA is, we cannot continue to make a decent honest living and let alone retire here. Good luck for the year ahead!Best wishes,Shalina

    From: Two Years in the Atlantic. To: shalinadatoo@yahoo.com Sent: Thursday, September 8, 2016 12:11 AM Subject: [New post] The Most Beautiful City in the World? #yiv0126823179 a:hover {color:red;}#yiv0126823179 a {text-decoration:none;color:#0088cc;}#yiv0126823179 a.yiv0126823179primaryactionlink:link, #yiv0126823179 a.yiv0126823179primaryactionlink:visited {background-color:#2585B2;color:#fff;}#yiv0126823179 a.yiv0126823179primaryactionlink:hover, #yiv0126823179 a.yiv0126823179primaryactionlink:active {background-color:#11729E;color:#fff;}#yiv0126823179 WordPress.com | paultyso posted: “I was filled with excitement to be heading back to Cape Town, man I love Cape Town. This time, fearing it may be our last time we had booked two extra nights giving us three in total. Which, as ever, just was not enough.Our mini break did not start well” | |

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  2. Hi Paul, Bev and the boys,
    You seem to have had a wonderful time in Cape Town, and your photos are, as usual, marvelous. I wish I had known you were going: as an old Cape Tonian and having fairly recently taken relatives back to my old haunts and several new ones, could have given you some pointers to quiet spots that don’t appear in the tourist bumf.
    If you think back to Ceres (note the spelling – named after the god of the harvest), you may be interested to know that the Matroosberg is the highest peak on the Western Cape, and gets quite substantial snow most winters. In my days of youth, decades ago, as members of the Matroosberg Ski Club we used to spend the most magnificent weekends etc up there. We even had a ski lift. Unfortunately the lift was only at the top, and we had to slog up a long way, carrying all our food, skiis and clobber, from the bottom hut to the top one. The local baboons sometimes added to the fun by lobbing us with stones or large rocks on the narrow steep path. It was quite a climb.
    I am so glad you enjoyed your safari – and the tortoise in the road. I can remember long ago when we were driving up north in Botswana and in one of the northern towns we saw a notice saying “Beware of elephants crossing” (this was IN the MIDDLE of the town). We smiled and joked about it, till we came across a pile of elephant dung in the the road outside the bank!
    I am delighted to know that you are staying on, for a bit at least, on the Island. The new developments are going to bring a lot of changes – no doubt some will bring sadness, others will be exciting. But it will be a new chapter, and the boys will be doing new things now that they are getting older and more involved at school.
    All the best for the time ahead, and please keep us up to date with your daily activities, the Island life, and your always fascinating and beautiful photos.

    Kind regards,

    Helen Eldridge (Johannesburg)

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