The Ancient Waves Around Cape Town

There are few moments and places in life that haunt you as they have stood as sentinels in time and looked over monumental events and incidents that changed history and the course of humanity forever. Cape Point is one such point on earth which changed maritime history and played an important role in colonialism and brought together the west and the east in a tumultuous relationship. The crashing waves around the rocks of Cape Point are a perfect simile for this.

The Cliff at Cape Point
The Cliff at Cape Point

The ships that meandered past these rocks as they tried to pass the horn of Africa in the hope of spices from the west must have rejoiced at the sight of these rocks and the lands end of a vast and beautiful continent. In most colonial history narratives the journey to Asia or India is portrayed as land and maritime routes that were discovered by the white man but in reality the east beyond the horn of Africa had a very rich trading and maritime past.

Ancient Light House
Ancient Light House

Ships sashayed across the Indian Ocean and China connecting the Arabs, Indians, Malays, Africans and Chinese with great regularity and if any ship had reached Europe from Asia it is not known in popular historical narratives. Vasco Da Gama is mentioned on a board at Cape Point as having been the first European ship to have rounded the horn of Africa and reach India. Unfortunately in the Euro centric history that we read there is no mention of the first ship (which could have been eons ago) to have sailed from Africa to Asia or vice versa.

Cape Point Light House
Cape Point Light House

To say that the drive to Cape point from Cape Town is picturesque is an understatement. South Africa is one of the leading countries is bio diversity and conservation and it is quite apparent in the fynbos (short shrubs and grassland) one finds around Cape Point. Trees are rare in this region and hence the horizon is unbroken and is surreal in its vastness. The few acacia trees that are found in the region are a result of having been planted by colonial farmers. Cape Point Nature Reserve now protects this land and is instrumental is having retained its original diversity and beauty.

Fynbos found at Cape Point
Fynbos found at Cape Point

The sparkling blue sea around Cape Point is also known for whale sightings and seals that hug the boulders around the cliff. There is a light house and a really good restaurant called Two Oceans restaurant at Cape Point which overlook a dramatic cliff. A funicular can take you up to the light house for a better view or on a fair day it is a good climb on stone steps. The climb is a great way to get further acquainted with the fauna and flora which is nothing like anything else.

Cape Of Good Hope. The tip of Mainland Africa
Cape Of Good Hope. The tip of Mainland Africa
the intricate web of rock and kelp
the intricate web of rock and kelp

Cape of Good Hope is a climb down and there are trails that go across this region. Cape of Good Hope is also known as the meeting of the two oceans Indian and Atlantic ocean which can be imagined by the two points where the sea comes crashing down on the rocks. Cape of Good Hope is a rocky beach with kelp drying on the rocks which give it a characteristic smell. A little further from the Cape of Good Hope is a white sand beach which merges with the white mist giving it a eerie endless canvas where the beach extends into the sky.

The white misty endless beach
The white misty endless beach

This ancient land is one place where you get the feeling that this is the place when history was defined and the beauty of the place is that it has been preserved in its pristine natural essence. Cape Point is one place that is one my forever places.

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Cape Town on The Big Red Bus

I love the Big Red Bus. It has been a sure shot way to explore a new city and understand the lay of the land for me. Cities where I have thoroughly enjoyed the Big Red Bus tour have been Philadelphia, Shanghai and most recently Cape Town. We stayed at the Protea Hotel North Wharf Waterfront and had the Table Mountain and the bay defining Cape Town for us. It was only after looking at the routes on the Big Red Bus we got a better definition of Cape Town and its expanse.

Since the Red Bus has multiple stops you can start your journey from any point on the route. The Red Bus in Cape Town and Jo’burg is called City Sightseeing Hop On Hop Off. The bus has three routes to choose from but I always prefer to choose the city route first and then if we have time to continue on the other routes. The tickets can be bought online as well as at their various offices, counters and ticket sellers.

IMG_2948The Defining Table Mountain

The buses typically have open tops and riding on the top is great fun on a good sunny day. Cape Town is known to experience all four seasons in one day and is also known as the windy city. As a tourist the weather did throw me off a bit as I did not know how best to dress on a given day, we found ourselves cold on the first day as our jacket was not thick enough and hot the next day as we ended up wearing stockings and thermals.

Some of the must see points on the Red bus route are Table Mountain Cableway, Two Oceans Aquarium and Camps Bay. If you are riding the bus in the evening it would be a great idea to hop off near Camps Bay and have dinner at the cafes or enjoy the sun and surf during the day. Usually we cover the entire route on the bus during the first half of the day and decide on the places we would want to explore and the schedule the rest of the trip accordingly.

The commentary on the bus which is coordinated according to the stops can be very entertaining, it ranges from historical, to folk lore to celebrity gossip such as Johnny Deep’s favorite hangout place in Cape Town. The commentary is available in various languages for the tourists from across the world. The City Sightseeing office is also a great place to purchase souvenirs. Some of the places like Cape Point, Robben Island, etc are not part of the tour and need advance planning to reach there.

The Hop on Hop off tour in any city I have found to be very useful especially if we are new to the city and need a proper perspective on the city and need insights on places we want to explore. Next time you travel to a city do consider the Hop on Hop off buses which seem to ply in all major cities in the world.

Featured Image credit City Sightseeing Hop On Hop Off and Razor Rasu.

The Raw Power of Nature The Great Rift Valley

We drove some 9 hours across Kenya on our first day in Africa, which took us through some tall sky scrappers, slums, super ways, mountains laden with mists and tea plantations, mansions cordoned off by security cables and the vast Kenyan plains where zebras grazed about minding their own.

While on the road to Nakuru, we traveled on a stretch of road that was built by Italian POW in the 1940’s for the ruling British by cutting through the mountain with primary tools. A few kilometers down the winding roads there was a small stop for passing cars and a majestic view point. This was how we saw the first glimpse of the Great Rift Valley.

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The Rift Valley in Eastern Africa, cuts across some 96,000 Kms from Israel to Mozambique. Geologists believe that the rift valley is more of a complex system with the earths tectonic forces ripping the African continent into two parts and possibly forming a new plate eventually that will move North wards.

This was a majestic valley to the naked eye which clearly carves the land into two. The process started 1000 of years ago and will probably take another 1000 years. The Great Rift Valley which was a blurb from my geography text book  which I had all but forgotten(yeah! I was kinda of a nerd ;P) came alive quite unexpectedly while on the road in Kenya.

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We bought some souvenirs at the rest stop in exchange of using their rest rooms on that cold afternoon which was not the weather one imagines (read stereotypes) for an equatorial African country! Which goes to prove that traveling breaks stereotypes and a land and culture are much more that the one story that people try to compartmentalize it with.

The country of Kenya has many such interesting finds and wonders like the Rift Valley, Masai Mara and an array of wildlife that is hard to believe along with being a developing country taking strides. The sight of this natural wonder, The Great Rift Valley which is literally tearing a continent is a sight like no other!

A Kenya Safari Fit For A Toddler

Planning to go on a Kenya safari with a toddler did make me question our sanity and whether it was the right choice for us. There were numerous questions that crossed my mind such as safety, illness that could come up during the trip, food that my little one could eat, costs involved and many such criteria.

Our planning for this trip to Kenya revolved more around these issues than anything to do with tickets, etc. We spoke to people we knew who had lived in Kenya with their kids, scored various reviews and received a good amount of advice. Finally we decided to go ahead and book our tickets for Kenya because after all, they have children in Kenya too.

The day before the trip my little one got a slight temperature but it quickly went away. Still, it managed to give us a scare at the airport in Kenya where they measure the temperature of alighting passengers through some high tech gadgets.

Finally we decided to go ahead and book our tickets for Kenya because after all, they have children in Kenya too.

Once we landed we boarded a safari jeep, which would be our home for the next three days as we explored in Kenya. We had chosen to hire an entire jeep as opposed to sharing it with other tourists in order to be in control of our time and decide when we went on a safari and when we rested.

Our first stop was Lake Naivasha, which was the most beautiful but eerie looking lake I have ever seen. While taking a boat ride around the lake, the whole expanse of it hit me. It was a bit chilly in the evenings and since I was traveling with a toddler I was prepared with enough clothes to last us for a few months.

Lake Naivasha had many hippos and that gave me a bit of a scare as hippos are known to be territorial and can easily attack if anyone crosses their territory. Hence, whenever the guide insisted that we take a closer look, I flatly refused and relied only on the ability of our zoom lens. The resulting pictures are a treasure–never before in my life had I seen so much wildlife out in the open, all seemingly without a care. By the end of the boat ride, my toddler had learnt how to grunt like a hippo with quite some flourish.

One trick the tour guide did was getting an eagle to swoop and take fish from his hand as he made a whistling sound.  He said it was safe, but the mama instincts in me did not want to experiment with this. Also, I firmly believe that wildlife should be respected and when people go on safaris, the rules that need to be followed are the ones that the animals make.

By evening on the first day, we reached our lodge at Lake Nakuru. My son refused to get into the comfortable room and bed, which was what we adults needed after a long and dusty day on the road. To him, the end of the day signaled that the day of fun in the safari jeep was over.

Kenya and India have a slight time difference but how do you explain this to a two-and-a-half year old who promptly got up at 3:30 am Kenya time and started bawling to go out? He was so loud that a Masai, who was keeping watch outside, came to our window to inquire if something had happened to the child. After a packet of biscuits and some of his favorite stories, we finally got him to go back to sleep.

When day broke, we pushed aside the curtains in the lodge to find the most spectacular view of the safari park dotted with herds of animals. Lake Nakuru is known to be a haven for flamingoes and that is just what we found on the safari drive we took after a lovely breakfast at the lodge. We learnt a lot on this safari, including that my child loves cornflakes and can never have enough of it.

The African grasslands is a great equalizer, and I felt like I was just another animal in this landscape as the animals allowed us to enter their part of the world.

Words cannot describe the experience of the safari, the open top jeep and the bliss we experienced while seeing this piece of paradise tucked away in this corner of the world. In all of the safaris we have embarked on before, the animals looked at us through thick forests and shrubs. But, the African grasslands is a great equalizer, and I felt like I was just another animal in this landscape as the animals allowed us to enter their part of the world.

Wherever we went with our kid we received warmth, compassion and friendliness which put aside many of the fears we had when we embarked on this trip. This is not to say that we did not have bumps on the road, as well.

Published first on Pink Pangea