Finding Wine and Penguins at the Tip of Africa

Day 71, Grand World Voyage

Wednesday, March 15, 2023; Cape Town, South Africa.

Raise your hand if you thought the Cape of Good Hope was the southern tip of Africa?

If so, you are wrong. But didn’t we learn that in school?

The most southern point in Africa is Cape Aguilhas, about 34 miles further south of the Cape of Good Hope. But the latter is where ships traveling down the western coast of Africa started turning east, so it became known simply as “the Cape.”

Did I say it was windy?

Today we toured this peninsula south of Cape Town, driving along the stunning rock cliffs, the very expensive homes clinging to them and the windy, scrubby landscape of this famous waypoint on the clipper-ship journey to the Far East and Australia.

We encountered baboons, seals and even an ostrich that peeked up from behind a bush. Mostly we encountered gale-force winds that sweep across the peninsula.

Just a bit farther north we stopped for a lunch of grilled fresh fish and beer in Simon’s Town and then walked through the Boulders Penguin Colony. It’s one of few places where we can see endangered African penguins at close range.

We arrived in Cape Town yesterday morning, and indeed it is a beautiful city, set at the foot of Table Mountain. By afternoon the mountain was covered in clouds, or the “tablecloth” as the clouds are known. The cruise line offered a free shuttle from the pier to the nearby V&A Waterfront, with its shops, restaurants and bars. I never made it there, as I had scheduled full-day tours for both days.

Elaine spent some time people-watching over a couple of beers, and said the tab amounted to about $5 US. We have been the beneficiaries of a strong dollar on the international currency market during this cruise.

Yesterday after arriving the three of us took a popular excursion northwest of Cape Town to the Winelands, a lush area surrounded by mountains that produces much of South Africa’s famous wines. The most popular tasting among our group at both wineries was the Pinotage, made from grapes that are a cross between pinot noir and hermitage.

On our way, we stopped at the Drakenstein Correctional Centre, famous for being where Nelson Mandela finally walked out of prison after 27 years for campaigning against apartheid.

We had a delightful picnic lunch of cheese, meats, salads packed in Mason jars and warm brownies, before heading through the mountains to the village of Franschhoek, settled by French Huguenots. During our brief shopping break, I couldn’t decide between two stunning necklaces – each a statement piece in my mind – so I quickly bought them both. So far this cruise I’ve only bought clothes and jewelry, items that will pack in my suitcase.

Our last tour was through Stellenbosch, a beautiful university town famous for its oak trees. As we returned through Cape Town to the ship, we passed a large shanty town, which apparently has grown to 3 million people.

South Africa is a beautiful country that welcomes visitors and has much to experience. If you look below the surface, you can see its struggles. It can’t meet the demand for electrical power so every so often the power goes out in a process called load shedding. It is sorely short of housing, and the unemployment rate hovers near 50 percent. But it is a democracy, with the dark days of apartheid behind it. I’m sure I will return.