My wife, Josie, and I flew out to Cape Town for a holiday on 8th November. After a long but reasonably comfortable flight, we arrived at our accommodation about midnight.
We had packed two Kindles for use on the flight, but as we unpacked our hand luggage, they were nowhere to be found. To lose one Kindle is a misfortune; to lose both is carelessness. And so it began.
On our first day, we awoke to the news that the next American President would be Donald Trump. We planned to spend our first day finding our bearings, we walked around the Waterfront and checked to see if the cable car up to the summit of Table Mountain was running – it wasn’t, ‘operations suspended due to high winds’.
We booked a trip to one of the townships for the following day as part of an ‘Apartheid Era’ tour. We were extremely chastened by the conditions in which so many people are still living in South Africa but at the same time encouraged by their unfailing cheerfulness. That afternoon we were due to take the short boat trip to Robben Island, but on arrival at the quay we saw a sign which was to become extremely familiar to us during our stay - ‘operations suspended due to high winds’.
I had arranged car hire for the next three days so on the Friday we set off for Cape Point and the Cape of Good Hope. Having driven through some stunning scenery, we arrived at the ubiquitous Visitor Centre and got parked remarkably easily. I managed to open the car door at about the fourth attempt and stepped out into a howling gale. We struggled to the steps leading to a lighthouse at which point Josie ‘stalled’ in the teeth of the gale and literally could not continue a single step further. Attempting to be brave, I managed to get to the lighthouse by the simple expedient of hanging onto the handrail and pulling myself along. Coming down was much easier.
On the Saturday the plan was to drive out to the botanical gardens at Kirstenbosch, but on the way we saw the cable cars heading up Table Mountain, so we hurried to the base station and joined the queue (and what a queue it was!). Eventually, we boarded our gondola and took the 9-minute ride to the top. The views from the top were truly stunning – if you could stop your eyes watering in the very fresh ‘breeze’. We had done it! On the way down the wind was getting up again and just after lunch, the cable cars were yet again suspended.
Sunday had been designated ‘whale watch’ day, and so we set off to Hermanus located about 75 miles from Cape Town. We got parked right on the sea front and walked along the cliffs for a couple of miles or so before taking lunch in a small restaurant and then strolling back to the car. On the way back to Cape Town we stopped off in Stellenbosch – a famous wine producing area. We strolled around the quaint town in glorious weather with just a light refreshing zephyr.
Monday dawned bright, clear and windy and was a ‘free’ day according to our plan. We strolled around the Waterfront and enjoyed a leisurely breakfast and noticed that the wind seemed to be abating somewhat and the swell in the bay looked noticeably less than in recent days. We hurried to the quay to enquire about the boats to Robben Island – they were running - Hurrah!!!! We got aboard the first available boat and enjoyed a very pleasant trip out to the island. We had the tour around the island led by a former prisoner and were given some very explicit details about the life and conditions of prison life on the island.
The trip back to Cape Town was slightly bumpy, and it came as little surprise to see the notice boards displayed on the quayside announcing that yet again further ‘operations were suspended due to high winds’.
The following day, Tuesday, we had to pack ready for our night flight back to the UK, and so we just took the ‘tour bus’ along the coast all the way down to Hout Bay and back again. It was amazing to see how some of the trees are bent almost double in the wind!
All in all, a very interesting and enjoyable holiday where we got to do everything we had intended but perhaps not in the right order. Oh, I forgot to mention the whales… they had last been sighted two weeks before we arrived and had left for the summer. Oh well!