Chasing the Sun: A Wintry Afternoon Drive Along The Cape Coastline

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After a long and frenetic first semester of second-year studies, I was all but chafing at the bit to leave the hustle and bustle of the Mother City behind for a month’s ‘down time’ back home.

These days, any road trip that takes me back home is a cause for joyous celebration and something I look forward to with much eagerness as skyscrapers are replaced by neat, rural farmlands and sleepy towns, and the masses of city folk by dusty Merino sheep.

However, my spirits were even more buoyed than usual by my parents’ proposal to take a slightly longer and undeniably more scenic route home along the Cape coastline.

Anyone who truly knows me can attest to the fact that, as much as I love the prospect of travelling anywhere, if there’s even the slightest chance of clapping eyes upon either a beach or the ocean… I will be good to go for hours and, upon arriving, will bundle out of the car faster than you can say ‘seashells’.

It doesn’t matter where it is but I have to see or experience it and I am always ready to answer the siren’s call of the ocean, be the waters calm or tumultuous.

After that, hitting the open road and seeing and savouring a little more of this earth with special person(s) is the next surefire way to fill up my happiness barometer… It’s probably the only time I feel completely happy and truly alive.

Judging by our recent trip, my childlike sense of excitement and insatiable wanderlust, which was so glaringly lacking as a young child, have only increased with the passing years.

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That’s one of the things I love most about Cape Town (if you don’t love the Mother City, you simply don’t know ‘her’!)… Not only are you constantly surrounded by God-given, natural beauty but, provided you have a mode of transport, within twenty to sixty minutes you can find yourself exploring some of the Western Cape’s finest offerings.

As mid-afternoon approached, we curled out of Cape Town and headed down the N2, past the Cape Town International Airport and onto Somerset West, making a direct beeline for one of my all-time favourite places, Gordon’s Bay.

Although Somerset West and the Strand have their long list of admirers, I have not and never will be one of them.

The Strand has a considerable and quite pretty stretch of beach, with fancy hotels and apartment blocks overlooking it, but I far prefer nearby Gordon’s Bay and its charming, cliff-side Bikini Beach.

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As soon as we came within sight of the GB symbols, neatly wrapped around an anchor, all made of white stones that can be seen engraved in the mountainside above (this is characteristic of the Cape as often one can see the names of towns and farming communities etched in white upon rugged, mountainous terrain), I was eagerly snapping photos with my smartphone.

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I still know how to enjoy a good road trip the old-fashioned way though and whether there’s cellphone reception or not (the drive in question did not always have signal, from what I can recall) my phone is either stubbornly set to ‘Silent’ or else ignored entirely but for its camera until journey’s end.

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We stopped in Gordon’s Bay for a lovely meal at a restaurant-cafe called ‘Old Cape Cafe’ (I will be doing a review on this) before crossing the main road and taking some photos on the grassy area that overlooks the tranquil, clean Main Beach.

Much like with Sea Point (which both this section and the main street further up the road are strongly reminiscent of) and its Promenade, dog lovers enjoy walking their four-legged friends here.

After that, we fled the sunset, clutching onto the fading golden light, as we began the beautiful drive along the mountainous coastline road of the R44 between Gordon’s Bay and Rooiels, my favourite of all the seaside villages we nipped through.

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Around every corner, you are blessed with wonderful viewing spots (be sure to indicate well in advance if you mean to stop at one, though, as the road can be quite busy and there are many blind bends) as you hug the stunning coastline and  mountainside alike.

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There are a few interesting sights to see along this drive, including: the Steenbras Dam (which is sometimes used to provide Cape Town with water), the fynbos fringes of the famous Kogelberg Nature Reserve, the Clarence Drive plaque (unveiled in 1998 by then-Cape Premier, Gerald Morkel, to commemorate the road’s upgrades; I advise stopping here… it’s a lovely, little place) and lastly, Dappat se Gat, a popular surf spot.

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(There is also an amazing looking campsite along the way – with rondavels and cute chalets that peep out from amidst dense trees and shrubbery for the less adventurous – a mere stone’s throw away from the stunning, pristine shoreline… my inner camper has already chalked that up on my bucket list, along with at least a day’s exploration of the Reserve.)

In the past nine months, I have had the immense privilege of experiencing both the famous Chapman’s Peak Drive and now the R44 Gordon’s Bay-Rooiels Drive and, although Chappies is undoubtedly one of the finest (and most cleverly engineered) coast drives to be found anywhere, this particular drive follows hot on its heels in my estimation in terms of unrivalled beauty and natural terrain.

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What’s more, much like Chappies, when you get out of your vehicle, a hush prevails over the surrounds as if even the majestic mountains, which, with their red cliff faces, stare out in silent contemplation on the alternating turquoise or deep blue waters that crash down below, are holding their breath in awe of the natural beauty that is so wild and free.

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Apart from the traffic, signage and viewing spots, you encounter very little trace of human life as you navigate past the stonewall-lined road.

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Both before and behind you, the views
are positively breathtaking and especially under the pinkish-blue and golden hues of sunset, this is a very special drive indeed.

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Regretfully, I left the coastline behind and paid scant heed to the popular little seaside villages that followed, though so-called ‘city slickers’ or anyone unused to seeing ‘klein dorpies’ will no doubt be charmed by these places, which proudly boast little more than one restaurant, a groccery shop and a filling station.

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To be fair, we passed like ghosts through these twilight towns as the sun set the wrong side of 18:00 p.m. but out of all of them, Kleinmond’s little harbour and quirky main street (which looks like something out of a Western movie in places) was my favourite after Rooiels, with its beautiful wooden houses.

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I did, however, like the wild and largely untouched fynbos terrain, with only the occasional desolate farmhouse to be seen, that preceded Pringle Bay, Betty’s Bay and lastly, Kleinmond.

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From there, you can head to Hermanus, turn up Sir Lowry’s Pass or carry on the road towards Caledon as we did.

Another wonderful aspect of the coast drive was seeing clusters of the national flower, the Protea, sticking their famous black and crimson faces up among other more common Western Cape flora and fynbos varieties.

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As we wound away from Clarence Drive, I pointed out the dark cross that caught the sun’s dying rays from its place among the rocks below.

This is a poignant and sad reminder of the young surfer, David Lilienfeld, who was attacked and killed by a Great White shark in April 2012 near Kogel Bay (referred to as ‘Koel’ Bay among surfers).

I still remember the horror and heart-wrenching sorrow of the story when it broke and as I stood there looking down upon them in the water, I could not help but reflect slightly on the reckless bravery (and often foolhardiness) surfers sometimes tend to show in their attempts to ride the waves.

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There is also a shark spotters’ cabin at one of the main viewing spots (and subsequently, my personal favourite as it yielded the most stunning views and photos alike) with a warning sign that, like the ones at Muizenberg beach, works on a coloured flag system.

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Despite the conditions being set as ‘poor’ even in mid-February when the sign was last updated, surfers dotted the wild ocean below on the day of our visit as they tried to catch and ride the crashing waves.

Also, during the right time of year, you can see whales and dolphins from the road.

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Few things can make me feel as infinitely happy and truly alive as a lazy drive through beautiful landscape, disturbed only by easy conversation with special people, the open road stretching out before and behind me, and they say in life it’s not about the destination but the journey… Well, on this particular occasion, both were immensely special.

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I hope that you too will get to experience the sheer beauty of this amazing coastline… It’s seriously worth it and though that was the first time I saw it, it will most certainly not be the last time! 🙂

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Many thanks to http://www.iol.co.za for the info. on the late David Lilienfeld. Rest in peace, David.

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3 thoughts on “Chasing the Sun: A Wintry Afternoon Drive Along The Cape Coastline”

  1. Lovely story telling, my home town of Gordon’s bay! Miss it! Only problem is, that that’s not Bikini beach behind you, its Main Beach, bikini beach is to your right, around the bend passed the Naval collage. But you right, it’s a breathtaking journey.

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