07 April 2016
It’s a breezy autumn Sunday morning, the sun is out, the sky is a brilliant blue and Cape Town’s City Bowl feels quiet and serene. I’m sitting up high, looking into the second-storey balconies above Long Street. I’ve never seen the street from this angle before and I’m enjoying this vantage point.
This is not my usual Sunday morning hangout, but then again, this is not my usual Sunday outing. Today I’m playing tourist in my home city, and am finally taking a tour on one of the red double-decker City Sightseeing buses that I’ve seen along the Mother City’s scenic drives all summer.
I thought my friend and I would be joining crowds of foreigners on our tour, but, in fact, we’re one of many locals. It seems we’re not the only ones getting a different taste of Cape Town today.
It’s a perfect day to be cruising the city aboard an open-topped double-decker bus – not too hot, not too cold – and we settle in for the drive. We’ve chosen the Blue Mini Peninsula Tour (I’m drawn by the idea of weaving between mountain and sea), and soon we’re cutting along De Waal Drive with Table Mountain soaring above us, the city and harbour stretching away below.
Photo courtesy of Stacey Nel
Each seat can plug into a recording of historical titbits, and I find myself listening attentively to the information: zebra roam the lower slopes of the mountain, Mostert’s Mill is a fully functioning restored Dutch windmill, the Groote Schuur Estate, for decades home to prime ministers and presidents, takes its name from a large barn… I even enjoy the colourful descriptions of local culture that are for the benefit of foreigners.
All too soon we’re at the Kirstenbosch National Botanical Garden – the first stop on the tour. But we stay put; we’re here to ride the bus. Ensconced in the warmth of my jacket, I’m delighted by the swaying of the bus as the wind whips at my hair, and I notice all kinds of new things along roads I’ve often driven. Did you know the shady pine forests were planted to harvest wood for the corks of wine bottles, way back in the day?
We’re through the lush suburbs and onto Constantia Nek now. If we felt like a glass or three of wine, we could hop off here and join the Purple Wine Tour. But again, we stay right where we are, and head down the mountainside into Hout Bay. More interesting facts follow: stories about woodcutters and massive groves of indigenous yellowwood trees, of long-ago tensions between the Dutch settlers and San people, and urgent issues of impoverished communities; we’re whizzing through South Africa’s historical landscape.
Down in Hout Bay you can hop off the bus to join a tour of the Imizamo Yethu township, or, like us, you can keep riding along. We keep going, through Hout Bay to the harbour, which smells of fresh sea air and fish. And now we’re getting to the part I’ve been looking forward to all day: the road from Llandudno to Sea Point, along the Atlantic seaboard.
Photo courtesy of Stacey Nel
It doesn’t disappoint. I’m hanging over the railing, snapping pics that could never do justice to the magnificence of the scenery, and wishing the drive would last forever. And seeing it from this vantage point, the wind in my hair and salty air in my nostrils, is something quite special. With every curve in the road there is a new vista to behold. Oh Cape Town, you beauty!
We wind our way back into civilisation, catching some weekend traffic through Camps Bay. But we’re safe from the hustle and bustle up here on our red throne.
We pass the beaches of Clifton, where sunbathers are enjoying the last summer days. In Sea Point there are people walking-running-cycling along the promenade, and I almost want to hop off the bus to join them. But I stay; I like it up here.
In fact, I like it so much that I stay on as almost everyone else hops off at the Two Oceans Aquarium in the V&A Waterfront, and the bus moseys on back through the city centre to Long Street. I could get off here and go back home, but I like it here, up high, so I stay put – and do the whole tour all over again!
Stacey Nel is a constant traveller with a passport full of stamps. But as much as she loves wandering, she always comes back home, because she's yet to find a country as rich in natural beauty as South Africa. She lives under the shadow of Table mountain, rides her bike to work and runs away to the mountains every chance she gets. girlonawander.wordpress.com