Thursday, November 01, 2007

Cycling against the Roaring Forties

My day starts at a respectable hour. No need to start too early as the post office and shops aren’t open till 9. I organise bike hire with the reception desk, am given a dodgy blue model with front suspension, almost no brakes and little air in the tyres. It’s the best one, I take it. I post 2.5kg of tat back to Dad, then hit the deli for fresh bread, some brie with crushed olives, salami, a bag of mixed nuts and seeds, and a bag of biltong, half normal half ultra spicy. She gives me some of the ultra spicy to try. I choke but remain composure. “Slightly peppery” I remark.

I’ve also got half a bottle of Villiera Merlot ’05 stashed in the bag, and plenty of water. Plus suncream, which the lady in the deli checks I have. Indeed, and a raincoat, I reply – you never know with the weather here, as you have big oceans and consequently weather systems colliding. This period just before summer is known for wind. On the road the journey starts out easily enough, with a gentle climb out of town, past the penguins in Boulder Bay from yesterday.

The sea is a wonderful mix of blues, and there are some marvellous houses sitting over the water, one with a Union Jack flying I note approvingly. There are pretty flowers in the scrub lining the road on both sides. The wind is gusting fairly strong in my face, something that is a big annoying at this stage, but isn’t too much of a problem.

As I approach the park, there are large signs warning people not to feed the Chacma baboons. Apparently they had become conditioned to getting food off humans, to the point where they’d grab stuff. LP suggests holding your palms open in front of them to show you’ve not got anything. Picnicking near them is strongly discouraged, as they get aggressive in their pursuit of food. The trail starts climbing steeply as I encounter my first critters, who are sitting around at the roadside (and in the road), picking flees and generally doing nothing, except causing small traffic jams. Apparently they comb the beaches for sand hoppers and even shellfish, something quite unusual in primates.

At the park gate I pay my 55r entry fee, and am slightly annoyed when the barrier is not raised for me – I may only be a bicycle, but I’ve paid the same as all those polluting road types.

The road climbs again, so I stop for a bite for brunch, finding a well-positioned bench just above the cliffs. If it weren’t for the gale force wind I could sit here all afternoon quite happily.

Back on the bike, the road undulates (Himalayan code for bouncing up and down quite nastily) before reaching Cape Point. The winds are so strong in my face that even downhills require pedding. The title of the blog refers to the strong winds that exist south of here, around 40 degrees (S) latitude. I'm feeling them, very much in my face. I hope they don't let up in the afternoon for the return trip!

The whole area is a reserve, mainly because of the array of flowers that are present here, including a good few unique species.

The actual Cape of Good Hope is on the right hand side, but I head past onwards to Cape Point.

Cape Point is the tallest point, and has a lighthouse sitting atop, along with various tourist amenities.

I’m very glad to be off my bike finally. Any battle hardening of my rear from cycling before has long gone, and I waddle up the final climb to the lighthouse.

The wind by now is absolute gale force, though still warm, howling around the metallic meteorological station tower. Under the lighthouse one is almost knocked back my the wind coming over the hill. The lighthouse itself is a metal construction built by the British in 1860. According to a plaque on the side of it, the flaw in its positioning on the peak of the headland is that if there is any fog or cloud, this is the first place to be enveloped.

Therefore later (after a few nasty disasters), they built a new lighthouse on the side down below at Dias Point in 1919.

On the way back down, I am accosted by a Dutch chap who identified me as being the crazy cyclist. Well I am English I say out of explanation. Down for a swim next!

Long way from, well pretty much anywhere! (Except the South Pole)

This area is interesting in that it is the meeting point of two great ocean currents – the Agulhas, a strong fast moving current bringing warm water down from Madagascar, and the Benguela, a larger but slower and very much colder affair running from the Southern Ocean up into the Atlantic.

The division of the Indian and Atlantic Oceans is technically at Agulhas Cape, slightly east of here. However the meeting point of these two currents varies according to time of year etc, but is mostly between here and Cape Agulhas, which is the southernmost tip of Africa. There are plenty of lighthouses to keep ships away from the rocks around the Cape area. In the small museum, there is a register of all the shipwrecks. Seems to be that Albatross Rocks on the Atlantic Coast are the most dangerous.

The path down to the beach is a well-constructed wooden walkway, which carries on around a 1.5hr path circling the Cape of Good Hope.

The beach adjacent to Cape of Good Hope

Steps down

The beach itself is wonderful, though I am disappointed to discover a “Swimming Dangerous” sign. Dangerous but not impossible, I remember seeing on a sign in Peru. Anyway, I stagger down the steep dune and hop down until I’m at the water’s edge.

The first wave to wash up makes me realise that perhaps I should obey the sign – even a few inches of this powerful surf almost makes me fall over, and perhaps more importantly, this water’s bloomin’ freezing! It’s just like Cornwall – looks great but you don’t want to spend too long in, and certainly never trust anyone who throws the line “it’s great once you’re in” which is so rarely true outside of the Tropics!

After cooling my feet off, I pick a spot to get comfy, and bring out the picnic gear. I don’t have a glass for my wine, which is rather uncouth, but I’m on my own so I’ll get away with it.

Fresh baguette with a dash of butter, some cheese (crushed olives brie), salami milano, and a sprinkling of mixed seeds. Marvellous.

I chew my way through the whole baguette, enjoying the waves crashing on the shore right in front of me. From above, they don’t look big, but down here one realises that they’re 5-10 feet high, and not to be messed with!

Another dip, then walk up. On my bike again, this time trying to avoid sitting directly on the saddle (I’m sure you understand). There are more hills going back than I remember, and the wind picks up, even pushing me right off the road a few times! I meet a turtle crossing the road (not the start of a joke), how does he survive without being squashed at his pace? He doesn’t seem to appreciate me moving him safely away, ungrateful sod.

I’ve obviously had too much wine as this pile of rocks I pass to me at the time looked exactly like a human figure. Can you see it?:

Minutes later, a small fluffy thing bounds across the road in front of me. What the hell is it? A Quokka escaped from Perth? A water mongoose? Weird creatures everywhere, this is much more fun than a safari!

Finally, back at the hostel, I jump in the showers. I hurt. It must be time to head out for a beer methinks. At Café Pescado the wifi’s not working, but their draft beer tap is – good that the priorities are straight. The Barman is surprised when I tell him Mitchell’s is a South African beer! From Knysna, I point out. He asks (in all honesty I think) me what I think about the World Cup. What a sensitive question!

Later, over my worl (sausage) and monkey gland sauce (not what it sounds like) pizza, live music starts, just one chap on his own playing keyboards, guitar, fiddle and some other instruments, belting out lots of classic rock tunes. I’m sceptical at first but it’s rather good!

1 comment:

pine-cones said...

You have been eating WELL! Mmm mmm MMM.