Thursday, September 13, 2012

Good Hope at the Cape

Our next spontaneous destination was one of the best places I’ve ever visited: Table Mountain National Park.  Vast expanses of African fauna greeted us as we left city crowds to enter a more peaceful adventure.
This is the African stereotype at its best: open space as far as the eyes can see, few people and even fewer cars.  Thanks to Michael’s attention to detail (or hunting skills, which I don’t really want to consider), we saw a herd of Oryx.   
Enormous rugged mountains peppered the horizon, and the ground-hugging foliage flashed from browns to purples to almost-neon yellows.
Experiences and places like this enable the imagination to consider what it must have been like for explorers finding these coasts for the first time.

Crystal-clear waters painted an ombre pattern of turquoises and blues, quickly turning to bright white when waves crashed against the rocks and cliffs of the beaches.  When I grew tired of gaping at the sight, I started The Climb.

The stairway alone was an international experience.  People from around the world gathered against the rock-covered walls to snap photos and marvel…or just to hide the fact that they had lost their breath on the steep stairs.  Each stop provided an increasingly better view of the ocean below.
Breathless both from exertion and beauty, we found this top-of-the-world landmark:
 An even rockier coast waited on the other side of the lighthouse,
With an amazing view of a whale lounging in the water far below.
I loved every minute on the mountain but the nature-loving overachiever in me was bothered by a seemingly unreachable trail that stretched along the narrow land of the Cape below the lighthouse, heading out to the point. Thankfully I had a fellow adventurer, and Michael and I wandered through small buildings (formerly housing for lighthouse guests) and even smaller gates to find it.

There weren’t any international friends here – no one else seemed to understand the deserted potential of this path except for the black lizards that congregated on sunny rocks.
The view here was even better, enhanced by the additional challenge and lack of humans. 
Old military foundations lined the walkway, suggesting a time when visitors were less welcome to the cape than the tourists are now.  In the distance, huge cargo ships slowly worked their way around the Cape of Good Hope toward the port of their destination.

We didn't walk all the way to the point of the Cape because the rest of the group was waiting, so I made the most of every moment on the walk back.  Birds singing, mysterious animal droppings littering the path (we hoped it was babboons) and the distant crash of the ocean waves below made it pleasant, to say the least.


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