It's hard not to be effusive when talking about the drive as it was just fantastic following the coast all the way. In addition, we often passed trains hugging the coast to and from Cape Town on the way down to Simon's Town, the southernmost train station in Africa. Simon's Town was earmarked as a safe winter harbor in 1687 and then received that official proclamation in 1741. Not surprisingly given its early history, the town is home to the country's navy.
We had seen a number of Beware of Baboon signs all along the road/highway south of Cape Town. We knew to exercise extra caution when near them because they couldn't be not played with, touched or fed as they can be aggressive.
A few years later, the park's name changed yet again, this time to Table Mountain National Park which contains two well-known landmarks: Table Mountain in Cape Town, for which the park is named and the Cape of Good Hope, the most southwestern most extremity of Africa. The latter property is included as part of the UNESCO Cape Floral Region World Heritage Site.
Shortly after entering the park, the terrain changed markedly. It became very rocky with a profusion of spectacular flowers and multi-colored low lying bushes.
It wasn't surprising that, since the southern part of Table Mountain National Park near the Cape of Good Hope is constantly exposed to gale-force winds, the vegetation was limited to hardy milk wood trees and scrub.
The country's fynbos makes up 80% of the Cape Floral Region, a world of finely branched plants exquisitely adapted to flourish in poor soils and wildly varying rainfall. "In this small area, equivalent to a thinly smeared Portugal, there are more than 9,000 plant species, and of those, 70% are endemic." I thought it amazing that a full 3% of all the world's plants are found here, on less than 0.05% of the earth's land surface!
These gorgeous yellow bushes, known by their Dutch name, as Kreupelhout or English name as pincushions, bloom from August until January.
Our drive continued slowly south toward the Cape as we took in the fabulous views still of the Indian Ocean.
From the Cape Point parking lot, we hiked to the lighthouse, barely visible in the background. On the lower left of the photo is the sign that reminded us of how dangerous baboons could be, especially if there were food around.
I persuaded myself I was so far behind Steven because I had been busy taking flower pictures, not because I needed a breather!
We were lucky that there were few winds at the top because at times they are reputed to be extremely fierce. I always think these directional markers are fun; we were 'only' 12,541 kms or about 7,800 miles from New York!
Someone else wrote very poetically that "Cape Point is a dramatic knife's edge of rock that slices into the Atlantic." Looking out to sea from the viewing platform, we felt like we were at the tip of Africa, even though that honor officially belonged to another dramatic point at Cape Agulhas, about 100 miles to the southeast.
Dias called the Cape Cabo das Tormentas or "Cape of Storms" which was the original name of the Cape of Good Hope. It was given its more optimistic title by King John of Portugal who saw it as a positive omen for a new route to India.
When we looked out across the water, it was hard to imagine that the next land fall is Antarctica! I wonder if Steven and I will ever reach that continent.
I read that the park has some excellent land-based whale watching spots from about June to November when whales return to these waters to calve. We were too late for them, though.
Seeing the waves pounding the shore unrelentingly was just out of this world.
Later, we drove on the Indian Ocean side of the Cape to the first of two replicas, the da Gama Cross, of navigational beacons erected by the Portuguese government. It, and its companion, the Dias Cross located on the Atlantic Ocean side, commemorated Vasco da Gama and Bartolomeu Dias, the first explorers, in 1497 and 1507 respectively, to reach the Cape. While at the Vasco da Gama beacon, I learned a new word 'padrao,' which meant a limestone memorial with the Portuguese coat of arms and an inscription stating when and by whom it was raised. The cross symbolized Portuguese sovereignty and Christianity.
The Dias and da Gama crosses weren't however original padraos. How the originals were built, what they looked like and where they were is a matter that has never been resolved. Both structures, built in 1965, were monuments to da Gama and Dias and serve as beacons helping ships avoid the nearby dangerous Whittle Rock.
This stretch of coastline was rather ominously called Black Rocks.
It was so hard to tell whether these trees, which I am pretty sure were called milk wood trees, were alive or dead! If indeed they were milk woods, they are a Southern African coastal tree, with dense foliage, black berries and small, stinky, greenish flowers.
It was so easy to imagine the overwhelming power of the Cape winds battering the trees' branches to and fro.
This has got to be one of the most unusual road signs surely you've ever seen, right? Well, if not for you, it sure was for us?
We caught sight of a number of small coves with white sandy beaches and calm shallow water interspersed between boulders of Cape granite.
There is no record of the birds having lived here prior to the mid 1980s, so their decision to settle so close to a residential area was remarkable. There are only two other penguin populations on the mainland in southern Africa.
The newly constructed boardwalks at Foxy Beach made all the difference in our being able to have superb views of the penguins.
It was positively captivating viewing them from the boardwalk as we could observe them from very close range as they wandered freely in a protected, natural environment.
Think I could have gone without gazing at these poop-covered boulders, though!
We didn't know in advance that December was the peak time that so many juvenile birds molted on the beach. What a lucky break once again for us being able to witness that happening!
During the molting season, old worn feathers are replaced. Because the birds lose their waterproofing, the penguins are confined to land for about 21 days. African penguins 'fatten up' before the molt, which is a period of starvation.
The penguins' distinctive black and white coloring is a vital form of camouflage: white for underwater predators looking upwards and black for predators looking down into the water.
It was definitely our pleasure making our acquaintance of penguins in Boulders!
Literally just across the road from the shantytown was this gorgeous and beautifully tended farm.
A case of the haves and have nots, living so close together and yet, so far apart.
Once again, the beauty of the drive and the scenery was just mind boggling as we approached Misty Cliffs, a conservation village.
Though the rock formation was called Camel Rock, I found it hard to determine how it had gotten its name!
The beaches had some of the whitest sand imaginable. Too bad it was getting rather late in the day for us to curl our toes in the sand and walk for miles along the many beaches!
Mini sand dunes were common along this part of the highway.
Since 1500, more than 2,000 ships have been wrecked along the coast of South Africa and yet it took years of negotiation to raise awareness and funding before many of these beacons of light were built. Lighthouses were often located in remote, inhospitable places that made them difficult to install and maintain as well as lonely for lighthouse keepers.
From Kommetjie, the Cape veered pretty sharply inland as we followed the Chapman's Peak Drive northward, a toll road and famous for being one of the most breathtaking drives in the world.
Construction of the road, which started in 1915 and took seven years to complete, first opened to traffic on May 6th, 1922. It was closed in 2000 due to rock falls and was extensively modified to make it a safe toll road. In most places, the speed limit was only 12 mph.
However, there were still constant signs admonishing us to use the road at our own risk because of the danger of falling rocks!
When we had this view of Hout Bay from the summit of the drive, it was great that all the morning clouds had burned off and it was a beautiful clear day.
The toll on the Chapman's Peak Drive was only an extremely reasonable 42 rand or $3.50 and worth every penny as it had been an absolutely phenomenal drive.