My Travel Book - A Sudden Gust of Wind Blew Us up to Cape Point, South Africa

After spending some time at the Cape of Good Hope and taking tons of pictures, don’t forget to drive to Cape Point! This huge peninsula stretches forcefully into the Ocean and is much more impressive than the Cape of Good Hope since its ragged cliffs are towering about 200m above the sea.

Didn’t I tell you how grand it must be to reach the Cape by sea?

Once again we never did go by boat. But Swee’Pea looks pretty happy anyway even if this trip probably was his umpteenth time there… and even though he’s carrying one of my camera cases, the heaviest one, of course!

Tourists aim at reaching the “old” lighthouse. People like Swee’Pea and his friends will hike from the Cape of Good Hope and will walk even further than this lighthouse. They will trek around Cape Point, all the way down to the “new” lighthouse and back up again… One day of hard trekking!

Besides trekking, there are two solutions to get up there. If you are in a hurry or not feeling like walking, hop aboard the “Flying Dutchman”* (and make sure you do not loose your return ticket… they are not very understanding up there and you’ll end up walking down which is quite worse than to walk up there).
The second solution consists in walking all the way to the lighthouse. There is a rather easy path, very steep indeed with lots and lots of stairways but where you can rest from time to time. Mainly you get to enjoy one of the most magnificent and breathtaking view ever. The whole way!


From the cliffs of Cape Point and the raging sea to the other side of False Bay and down to the Cape of Good Hope. I’ll grant you that it does look quite dwarfed from this height and somehow not quite deserving Dias’ description: “Cabo das Tormentas”…

Once you get to the lighthouse, you’ll have literally to brace yourself against the wind. Its strength is really, really impressive. And I’ve also seen people getting very dizzy there. Not funny because they still have to go down.

This lighthouse built in 1855 is no longer used. Its light was either seen too early which meant that captains would navigate too close to the coast or it would become invisible behind the fog and the clouds that tend to float at a very high level there.

In 1911, the SS Lusitania, a Portuguese liner (not to be confused with the British liner RMS Lusitania which was torpedoed and sunk in 1915 by a German U-Boat) was lost at sea because of the mist hiding the lighthouse.

Consequently a new lighthouse was built on Cape Point, much lower and much more powerful. Actually the most powerful lighthouse in South Africa.

Swee’Pea and his friends told me it’s a lot of fun to hike down to this lighthouse. I never did. So I had to rely on Wikipedia to show you what it really looks like. But I know that my "inquiring mind" will drive me to do the trek one of these days!

While I am not a great hiker, I love birds. I spend so much time in Brittany that cormorants are part of my life. It is always interesting to watch them fly very close to the sea surface and then dive into the water to catch a fish. Afterwards they spend a lot of time on a rock, spreading out their wings to get dry.
On Cape Point, the cliffs are so rugged that the winds and the waves have created  furrows where colonies of cormorants nest during the breeding season which happens more or less from October till December in the Southern Hemisphere.

In Brittany, a cormorant’s life is very easy. At Cape Point, it’s a steadfast fight. Whoever is not sitting on the egg has to go fishing… to feed its partner and a few weeks later the young.

From our point of view, this should be very easy, shouldn’t it? You go fishing, meaning that you dive down to the sea level, you fly for a while over the water, see a fish which you grab and then you fly back to the nest, not even feeling overloaded since you have swallowed your catch. You’ll only have to regurgitate the fish once you get back to your nest.

Actually a cormorant’s life is not this easy after all at the tip of Africa. The winds are fierce there. Airstreams are quite forceful.

We spent quite a long time watching them, not even feeling entertained by their efforts some people might have considered as antics. Truly feeling a lot of empathy. Swee’Pea and me, we have weathered heavy storms those past few years and it was truly gripping to watch how those rather “small” birds (as compared to the hugeness of the settings) were able to land wherever they wanted to after so many vain attempts most of the time. So many landing bids! And then success!

They leave the cliff, fly over the sea, defying the waves and the eddies until they get to a calmer area where they fish.

 This one was on his way back and ended up being tossed like a rag doll by some airstream. It simply let itself fall down again, flew back again, fell down again and again and again and managed to land by its nest, exactly by it. Probably exhausted but still able to feed its partner since he had kept the fish safely in its throat.

This one fought hard too and managed to land but by the wrong nest, in the wrong furrow actually. It looked dismayed (yes, it really did) and flew away again, turned around, tried a new approach. 

A fourth attempt later, it did land at the right place. Looking a little bit ruffled up, feathers wise, I mean. But home.

We eventually had to leave and go back to Cape Town.

Paris was so far away but who cared!

I was so happy. Imagine… One of my oldest dreams fulfilled! And so many more opening to me.


*The “Flying Dutchman” refers to the legend of the said galleon captained by a Dutchman, Hendrik van der Decken. In 1647, the Flying Dutchman was going back to Holland when she got close to the Cape of Great Hope. There was a sudden and very violent storm which ripped the sails. The crew was terrified even though the captain had rounded the Cape many times before. They asked him to turn back. Van der Decken refused, lashed himself to the wheel and swore he’d sail around anyway even if it’d take him till Doomsday.

Ever since 1647, many mariners have sighted a ghostly sailing ship around the Cape. She glows red in the night and is steered by a mad captain. Her sailors get into rowboats to deliver letters to be sent home to their families. Those who accept those letters are never to be seen again.

*This legend won international and everlasting fame thanks to Richard Wagner who wrote an opera in 1843 about it and called it… “The Flying Dutchman”! Except that the Flying Dutchman no longer rounds the Cape but sails on the North Sea, by Norway! (What a shame!)
*Good Luck, and Good Night*

1 comment:

LeRon and Colleen Torrie said...

Beautiful photos. I love cormorants too. We see them every once in a while in Alberta. I have not seen them here in Kenya but I know they're here somewhere.