My Travel Book - The Western Cape (South Africa) - Fire? Let's Go Surfing in Muizenberg!

Our third morning in Cape Town.

We had spent the day before mainly assessing the condition of Swee’Pea’s appartment at Sea Point. Not really fit to live in yet. We had aired it and brought sheets and stuff to the cleaners. Not that they were dirty. A bit smelly and damp as could be expected after such a long absence and a vacant appartment by the seaside, all winter long. (Remember? Cape Town is in the southern hemisphere.)

As I got up to draw the drapes, I was feeling very excited since this was the morning we had chosen to go to Cape Point. We had spent a long time planning the day. We were to start having breakfast at a place called Hout Bay. I had been dreaming about this small café by the beach ever since Swee’Pea had sent us a picture of him and his friend Sebastian looking very happy facing a huge breakfast spread out on a white wooden table and looking at an incredibly beautiful bay.

It was quite early. What was this brownish cloud right in front of my eyes? Getting stronger by the minute. I am a Southerner and I am used to fires. I also knew that fires are quite common in South Africa, especially around Cape Town. The only puzzling thing was the lack of reddish glow, sure sign of flames.

I called Swee’Pea. “Fire,” I said. I imagine this woke him up quite swiftly. And then : “Not at all. Mom, this is fog coming up from the sea.”


“Yup. Change of plans. We get breakfast at the hotel because we’ll have to go to Cape Point using the other road, across to False Bay, the one we were supposed to travel on on our way back to Cape Town. Sorry. No breakfast at Hout Bay.”

Breakfast at Hout Bay was to become a family joke. Because we tried three times to get breakfast there… Oh well!

Actually, this is  one of the reasons why I like the Western Cape so much. Not missing having breakfast in Hout Bay but because just like in Brittany, you have to adapt to atmospheric conditions without hesitating and enjoy your day to the fullest no matter what.

We had (some great) breakfast at the hotel and we left.

The fog was extremely dense for a while but it would probably clear out in the afternoon. And we drove towards False Bay. First stop: Muizenberg on our way to Cape Point.

I love South African names. Most of them are puzzling mainly because I do not speak Dutch (Afrikaans?). A lot are British though and this summer in England and Wales, we went through a lot of places which sounded very familiar… Sounded familiar but did not look familiar at all!

False Bay is a strange name for a beautiful and huge bay, isn’t it. Those were times without Google Maps nor GPS system. No kidding. Who would nowadays mistake Cape Point for Cape Hangklip (“Hang-ing Rock” in Dutch)? Cape Hangklip being called Cabo Falso in Portuguese and False Cape in English… So easy then to call the bay in-between “False Bay” i.e. not being Table Bay which the sailors were trying to reach rather desperately sometimes!

As soon as we moved away from the seaside, the fog disappeared. Blue and sunny skies. Amazing. Great landscapes.

We did arrive on the other side of the Cape, by the sea. False Bay and Muizenberg (spelled mew-zin-burg). (From Sergeant Muys ("mouse") who was one of the earliest postholders. Hence the name Muys Zijn Bergh - Muys' mountain.)

I had heard so much about Muizenberg from Swee’Pea. We’d call him on a Sunday morning and he’d say: “Sorry. I’m leaving in two minutes. I’m going to Muizenberg. Surfing with some friends. I'll call you when I get back. Bye!”

I only learnt about the Great Whites much later. I can’t remember how. Swee’Pea probably mentioned one day that there were watchers at Muizenberg so it was really safe to go surfing there.

“Watchers? What for?” (In metropolitan France, you get watchers on the beaches to check on the swimmers.)
“Shark watchers, Mom, for… white sharks.”

Great! Well he surfed there a lot with a lot of friends… and he’s still alive. So are his friends who still keep on surfing in Muizenberg.

I was eager to go to Muizenberg. I am not too much into surfing but I wanted to see the beach, 20 kms long (more than twice as long as our beach in Brittany) and probably much more beautiful because of the mountains and steep cliffs that surround it.

I loved the stunning beach. White sands. Beautiful waves. Interesting brightly colored beach huts that reminded me so much of the Netherlands, except that they looked a little bit more battered… Sorry.

But when we got there, there was a flag waving in the wind. 

A black flag with a white shark outline. “Well,” said Swee’Pea. “Murky waters. This means that they won’t see the sharks coming.”

“But…” There were surfers everywhere. People swimming. “Did you go surfing whenever there was a…?” Sometimes I am such a fool. Surfing is a lot about adrenalin. So imagine with sharks probably lurking about! 

“Well, I’ve never seen a green flag here. Never ever.”

I did not even ask whether they went surfing anyway when the red flag was on.

Muizenberg looks quite run-down though and a perfect home for surfers!

Nowadays it is hard to imagine the once very elegant beach surroundings when Agatha Christie came to surf there in the 1920s. Yes. Agatha Christie used to surf in Muizenberg. I wonder if in those times, there were watchers and sirens wailing whenever a shark was spotted. But let’s not forget that Muizenberg is supposedly the birthplace of surfing in South Africa. A Mecca for surfers.

I missed a lot in Muizenberg though. We were in a hurry. Precious time lost because of the fog. So I did not get to walk along what is called the Historical Mile with the Posthuys (1673), the Casa Labia (1930) and Rhodes’ Cottage Museum. “We’ll be back,” said Swee’Pea.

But since my son is an astronomer well-versed in scientific outreach, I did not miss the AIMS (African Institute for Mathematical Sciences) which is a very important African center for education and research in mathematical sciences.

We left Muizenberg with no regrets even though Swee’Pea had mixed feelings about not being able to go surfing, I’m sure…

Our next stop was to be Simon’s Town, home to the South African Navy and African penguins.

Guess what I was awaiting with keen anticipation…

*Good Luck, and Good Night*

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