Cape Town in 48 Hours
If there is heaven on earth, it is this, it is this, it is this, said the Mughal Emperor Jehangir for Kashmir in India. I am sure that if he would have seen Cape Town, he would have said the same.
En route to a desert adventure trip in Namibia, I had only 48 hours to spare. Cape Town is located on the southwestern tip of the African continent and I could not pass up the chance to stand at the historic Cape of Good Hope, the same spot that Vasco de Gama rounded on his way to Asia. So I decided to go for it!
The Table Mountain is the focal point for the locals and is visible from almost anywhere in Cape Town. A visit to this famous landmark, right at the beginning, helped me get my bearings. Though there are many hiking trails to the top, I took the cable car, which rotates 360 degrees and affords some fantastic views on the ascent. Reaching the peak of a mountain cannot get easier than this. The top of the mountain is so flat that you can keep walking for two hours without falling off the summit. There is also a restaurant for refreshments. Such luxury at 1067 m above sea level! On a clear day, the views from the Table Mountain are unrivalled. But alas!, on that day, the clouds and the mist had spilled over, shrouding the mountain in its tablecloth. However, I did manage to capture some beautiful pictures at Bloubergstrand, where the Table Mountain can be viewed flanked by Devil’s Peak on the left and the Lion's Head on the right.
The legendary Cape of Good Hope is popularly perceived as the colliding point of the cold Benguela Current of the Atlantic Ocean and the warm Agulhas Current of the Indian Ocean. Standing at the most southwestern point of the African continent, amid the rugged landscape, looking over the foaming waters that stretch as far as the Antarctic, I felt as if I was living a piece of history when the courageous early explorers navigated the "fairest cape in the whole circumference of the Earth". Mother Nature has been particularly benevolent in bestowing this region with a rich variety of flora and fauna, many of which are endemic (ocurring naturally nowhere else on earth). No wonder the Cape peninsula is home to the smallest of the six floral zones of the world.
The Indian Ocean on the eastern seaboard of the Cape peninsula is warmer, the shallow waters extending quite far and therefore best for swimming. A short drive across this narrow finger of land is the Atlantic Ocean on the western seaboard, which is some degrees cooler than the Indian Ocean. The beaches on the Atlantic side enjoy longer daylight hours and offer spectacular sunsets. Also known as Cape Town "Riviera", these beaches are frequented by the fashionable set and stretch from the Victoria and Alfred Waterfront to the Hout Bay.
Still a working harbour, the V &A waterfront boasts many world-class five star hotels and is the more upmarket option for staying. It is the perfect spot to hang out when you are in the mood to "paint the town red", with opportunities galore for shopping and entertainment. The Belthazar restaurant offers a complete dining experience, with the juiciest steaks and the finest wines. The amphitheatre here showcases some extremely talented street performances, giving a glimpse of African music and dance. I loved the Victorian style architecture of the buildings in the harbor and spent some time observing harbor activity.
A more economical and "heart of the city" option is Longstreet and the adjoining Greenmarket Square. It is only a 10 minute drive from the V & A waterfront, though there are many pubs and restaurants in the vicinity too.
The cobbled Greenmarket Square hosts a daily market, where beautiful curios from all over Africa can be bought at bargain prices. Numerous cafes line the square, offering respite from the frenetic pace and an opportunity to quietly observe the craft on display at the Square. This gives time to decide on that perfect "dinner conversation- inducing" adornment for your house. The part of Cape Town nestled between the Table Mountain and the harbour is aptly called the City Bowl and is best explored on foot. Armed with a guidebook, it took me a couple of hours to visit St Georges Mall, the City Hall and the District Six Museum.
At the end of 48 hours, Cape Town had completely wooed me and I vowed to return for whale watching at Hermanus, tour the spectacular vineyards, do the Garden Route.......