Phil's Travel Pages (Africa #2)

Lush valleys and fertile soil make for ideal grape-growing countryVineyard in secluded valley - Capetown
Photo: P.McKenzie

Beautiful landscapes, panoramic views, broad green fields, blue-water bays and lush and fertile valleys. Just some of the words one can use to describe this wonderful part of the world.

Some excellent examples of Cape-Dutch architecture can also be found here and around every corner is a picture-postcard opportunity.

The contrast to the dry and dusty north is amazing! Yet the soil is the same. Amazing the difference a regular supply of water can make. This is true of Botswana and Zimbabwe as well. When you pick up a handful of the dry stony soil, you wouldn't believe it is capable of growing anything ... and then around the next corner is a well-irrigated field that almost explodes with huge healthy crops. But here in the south, where water is plentiful, the contrast is most evident.

View from Table Mountain, overlooking the Atlantic OceanView from Table Mountain, over the "Lions Head"
Photo: P.McKenzie

Set against this are the imposing and panoramic Drakensberg and Outeniqua mountain ranges with their quintessential flat-tops. The mountains are primarily a hard form of granite, the softer rock having eroded over millions of years. The most famous of course is Table Mountain (at 1,087 metres high).

The day before we visited Table Mountain, everything was closed due to gale-force winds that battered Capetown throughout the entire day. By the time we arrived, at aproximately 10:00am, the place was jam-packed with visitors who were also making the most of the good weather.

The Cable car ride to the top was wonderful. The carriage, big enough to hold about 40 people, revolves all the way up; so that everyone gets a chance to take the photos they want and they can all experience Table Mountain in the best possible way.

Facilities at the top are excellent. There is a good restaurant there and an outdoor bar that has got to have one of the best views in the world.

They even run some abseiling from up there ... and although the abseil is only about a 200 metre drop, it is done over a sheer cliff face that is over 1 Km straight down!

I would have LOVED to do this ... but time was a little short and to be honest, it wouldn't have been the same without the gang (Howard even offered to pay ... maybe he was trying to tell me something). In any case, this is a "must-do" on a future Bandanna Club expedition.

Even at over 1000 metres, wildlife is here in abundance. Table Mountain boasts a number of quite rare species of native African flora, fauna and especially birds.

South African Bugs BunnyA Rock Rabbit suns himself on Table Mountain
Photo: P.McKenzie

South Africa alone has over 900 different bird species and birding (birdwatching) is a very popular pastime there (Bill Oddie would think he had died and gone to heaven if he ever got a chance to get out there).

These little rock rabbits (Rock hyrax - Procavia capensis, alternatively known as Cape hyrax or locally as 'dassies') are fairly plentiful up on Table Mountain. They will eat right out of your hand, but visitors are discouraged from feeding them (if you're not careful they can give you a nasty nip apparently).

There is of course so much more to see in this part of the world. Further up the coast are places like Hermanus, which has some of the best land-based whale-watching in the world (The Whale Festival in August is apparently a sight to behold), when the Southern Right Whales migrate there to breed. There is also the world-famous Gansbaai ... renowned for it's Great White Sharks!

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