Day eight – peninsula tour
We were up early for breakfast at 7am. Luckily we didn’t have to have everything all packed and ready to go as we were planning to come back to the hotel. Breakfast was yummy – except for the tea, of course. They make quite strong teas here like they do in the UK, but instead of boiling the water properly, it’s just hot water out of a carafe at the buffet. Disgusting. I’m running very low on caffeine these days and, coupled with a lack of sleep from being up late every night packing, blogging, or doing sink laundry (often all three), I’m a grouchy person in the am! My left arm for a Starbucks chai latte!!
After breakfast we all trooped outside for our first glimpse of the truck that is to be our home for the next three weeks. The seats are reasonably comfortable and there is a fairly decent amount of leg room. We’re a bit spoiled as the truck is built to haul enough camping gear for 16 people and we are a lodge tour. So plenty of storage for souvenirs! There are two big freezers at the back that we can use to chill our water and drinks for the day. Very handy!
After an introductory speech from our tour guide (I swear I will learn to spell his name soon!) we departed Cape Town for a tour of the peninsula.
It was a foggy morning and we were all pretty bummed about the fact that we couldn’t go up Table Mountain first thing as our tour itinerary suggested we should. The inside of all the windows fogged up as there is no heat (or air con) in the passenger compartment of the truck. We had to keep wiping them to see out!
We drove out via Camp’s Bay – where we’d departed from earlier in the week with our rental car. Pretty scenery – partially obscured by fog. Then we drove through Hout Bay and up Chapman’s Peak Drive – stopping at all the obligatory view points to take photos. Eventually the fog began to clear and the views just kept getting better. We all kept an eye on table mountain throughout the day and that stubborn “tablecloth” just refused to budge!
En route to Cape of Good Hope, we drove by the ostrich farm and stopped for a few minutes by the side of the road to peer at the ostriches. Very glad we had decided to do that one on our own!
The scenic highlight of the day was definitely the view from the old lighthouse at Cape of Good Hope. Apparently the old lighthouse was built too high and was almost always obscured by the same fog and clouds that frustrate tourists on table mountain today! They had to build one much lower down to be of any use to the ships. We hiked up the hill for about twenty minutes and took about a gazillion photos.
On the way down we had our first close encounter with baboons. There were three mothers with their babies and a few other adults. One of the adults rushed us looking for handouts as soon as we rounded the corner. One of the bigger babies was very inquisitive and fearless – he grabbed at some girls that came around the corner and tried to pull Grant’s jacket from around his waist as we walked by! Another gazillion photos later we carried on down the mountain to meet our group …this whole keeping to a schedule is going to be an adjustment!!
On the drive through the park we saw some different varieties of the protea plant and other native flora. There were a few wild ostrich and a couple of eland as well. We even managed to spot some southern right whales off the coast.
We headed into Simon’s Town for a quick lunch near the pier and then took off for Boulder’s beach to view the penguin colony. Boy am I glad we did!! I hadn’t realized that we’d formerly done only part of the boardwalk.
Previously, we had entered from the end near our hotel and the beach there had a fee for swimming. I mistook that for the entry point and thought the penguin boardwalk was therefore free. We walked quite a ways down the boardwalk and saw loads of penguins up close in the trees. I thought the building at the other end was a visitor centre …not so much! For $5 you can actually walk the boardwalk all the way down the beach and see the larger colony and watch them swim! I had no idea – talk about feeling stupid!!
As it was, we only had a few minutes with the penguins. We had to park quite a walk away due to parking regulations for tour vehicles and could only spare half an hour for the whole stop if we wanted to try and get up Table Mountain before it closed. Despite the lingering “tablecloth” we were all keen to try the cable car. So we did the penguin dash!!! Got some good photos though.
Luckily our guide knew his way round all the road construction and got us back to Cape Town in record time. As we pulled into town, the “tablecloth” was still as solid as ever. We began to resign ourselves to a view of the city from the parking lot, or potentially an ascent through the mist.
However, just as we were nearing the mountain, the clouds cleared ever so slightly. We excitedly piled out of the truck and I grabbed all our warm gear. I had been told it’s very COLD on top of the mountain. Gear up! So I had a backpack jammed full of toques, gloves, sweaters and camera gear.
The cable car was super cool! The floor rotated so that everyone got an awesome view. When we got to the top, the cloud had lifted off part of the summit so that we could walk in and out of the clouds and get some pretty cool photos. Jess was so excited to be visiting “cloud world!” It wasn’t that cold at the top at all. Jess put her toque on but with her braids her head gets cold easily.
We descended with another huge tour group and were jammed in together. I was super glad we’d had the space on the way up to take good pictures.
Back at the waterfront and on our own again,we did a little bit of shopping – Jess bought some small things. We really haven’t bought much on this vacation so far… Potentially because the shops are always closed!
We did McDonald’s for dinner – quick and easy. Then we headed to pick n pay for drinks and snacks – we seem to be forming a bit of a habit! Got some more cash from ATM because I’m forever worried about not having enough cash on us for the rest of the trip and I can only withdraw $400 at a time.
We headed back to the hotel. I had discovered earlier that they had a washing machine so I was determined to leave with a bag full of clean laundry!
While sitting in the lounge waiting for the dryer, I met a super interesting young man from Washington. He is here working with local kids teaching performing arts. Very cool. We were chatting for a while as he sorted his clothes – nice guy! Then my tour guide walked around the corner. His reaction to my sitting talking to a strange black man in the hotel – alone in a lounge – was striking.
I had obviously noted that this kid’s skin was black and he had a ring through his nose, but I had detected zero threat and was merrily chatting away. We were in a public place and in a secure hotel. He was nowhere physically near me, either. Totally non threatening situation. The tour guide, however, did a complete double/triple take and you could tell that he was reading the situation ENTIRELY differently than the people in it! It was very strange.
Finished my laundry around 9:30 and spent the next hour and a half helping Jess unbraid her hair – she’d already spent an hour on the front! Watched Harry Potter while we finished her hair. Everyone was asleep (again) as I packed the clean clothes for the next day’s departure.