Tuesday was set aside to head south down the Cape Peninsula. Originally our plan was to rent a car and do the drive ourselves, taking in the stunning scenery and meandering to Cape Horn, what we thought was the southern most tip of the continent. But that meant I had to plan the day, be the navigator and the tour guide and I’ve learned that’s not always the most enjoyable option for either of us, especially when we get lost.
Research led me to Rob Davidowitz of Beautiful Cape Town Tours. Always reticent to get into a vehicle and be “talked at” for an entire day, Rob, a native Capetonian, sounded like a breath of fresh air. We corresponded via email and his emails were engaging, warm and welcoming and I could tell I had found someone very special. Rob arrived at Sea Five, with maps and photos in hand and we started our day together by outlining the various sights and experiences to be had, with Rob asking us to indicate our interests and preferences. He pointed out Cape Horn is in fact not the southern most tip of Africa and the additional one and a half hour drive to get there, though pretty, would only yield a sign for us to photograph – a long way to go to take a picture. We agreed and together, with Rob’s expert guidance we mapped out our day.
We headed south along the stunningly beautiful west coast to the town of Hout Bay. Rob, a strong proponent of community empowerment, suggested we stop to see an incredible community project called Original Tea Bag Designs , a program very dear to his heart, which he actively supports.
From their website: “Original T-Bag Designs makes ‘Functional Art’ out of recycled tea bags. Used tea bags are dried, emptied, ironed then painted! Each artist has their own individual styles and patterns. There may be similarities, but no one painted tea bag is identical. These miniature works of art are then applied to stationary, wooden items like boxes, trays and coasters and even fabric items! For a group of previously disadvantaged people in Hout Bay near Cape Town, South Africa, one cup of tea has indeed provided community, love, excitement and financial security.”
This program has changed the lives of many who live in the nearby township shanty town, enabling many previously unemployed women to purchase their own houses, provide education for their children and support their relatives. What these beautiful, soulful people do with a tea bag will change the way you look at your cup of tea forever. And yes, you can help for just the cost of postage by mailing them your used tea bags .
Our drive took us along the magnificent Chapman’s Peak Drive
which winds it way between Noordhoek and Hout Bay on the Atlantic Coast on the south-western tip of South Africa. This 9 km route with 114 curves and switch backs skirts the rocky coastline of Chapman’s Peak (593m) is often referred to as the world’s most famous coastal road and has been used by Mercedes and BMW to shoot high performance car commercials.
Rob’s encyclopedic knowledge, gifted storytelling and incredible passion for his country made every minute entertaining, fun and engaging. With stops along this gorgeous route, he explained the topography and illustrated the unique geology of the surrounding striated mountains in a way that actually brought those peaks to life! Who can make rocks sound exciting? Rob!
Though the day was foggy and a bit overcast the scenery was still beautiful and the accompanying stories captivating.
Our next stop was through the touristy town of Simon’s Town to visit the Boulders Beach Penguin Colony. This rapidly disappearing colony of tuxedoed birds used to number 3,300 and is now down to only 600 in a period of just 3 years as their food stocks are being depleted by the effects of warming oceans and changing currents.
We continued our trip along the coast of False Bay, past Fishoek and into the fish market at Kalk Bay where Rob, his parents and grandparents have come forever to purchase their fish, fresh off the boats. The wives of the fishermen sell the fish, all line caught, for no more than a few dollars and for an extra 50 cents you can get your fish cleaned and dressed, ready for the pan.
We enjoyed a fantastic lunch overlooking the harbour at where else, but Harbour House restaurant? The freshest fish, delicious local wine and fantastic conversation with our new friend made for a memorable afternoon respite.
We continued our scenic drive with Rob regaling us with marvelous stories of his family and his ancestors and stopping to gaze at Muizenberg and the long, deep beautiful beach that stretches all the way around the bay, where many a Jewish family reunion used to be held. Muizenberg was sort of a cross between Miami Beach and the Catskills. Oy vey! The day we were there it was clear and beautiful, but Rob explained the southeasterly winds keep the area generally cold, foggy, damp and dreary – a most unlikely place for the alta kachers (look it up) to stake out their piece of the beach, yet they did, for years, complaining all the while about the lousy weather!
Our final stop was to the world renowned Kirstenbosch Botanical Gardens
set against the Eastern slopes of Cape Town’s Table Mountain. We couldn’t even scratch the surface of this 8 square kilometre paradise filled with thousands of species of plants, trees and flowers only found in this part of the world. Rob explained every South African kid is brought to the Gardens annually throughout their education to not only learn about nature, but also to be taught about the medicinal and therapeutic properties of the many plants. As such, botanical medicine is far more common and accepted than most anywhere else in the world as it’s part of the cultural fabric of South Africans.
It was hard to believe our fantastic day with Rob had come to an end. Michael stayed awake the entire day and loved every minute of conversation! We felt we’d spent our time with an old friend and we hated to see him go. We hugged and vowed to meet again (maybe in Niagara Rob!).