We chatted so much and learned so much from each other. One of the most valuable things for T and I when we travel is to be able to interact with locals as a way to absorb and understand local culture. As much as he told us about the history of the Western Cape, we also flooded him with questions about the people and culture of South Africa. Consequently he also took a genuine interest in asking about Singapore (ahhh, and of course every non-Singaporean's impression of the country is how strict and clean it is). Sensing Rob's British accent, we asked, Are you from England? We then learned that Rob, a white South African, was born in the country and then fled to England with his parents during the apartheid. He spent some time growing up in England before returning permanently to South Africa at the end of the apartheid.
Western Cape is a province of southwest South Africa, with Cape Town being the capital of this province. Western Cape was first discovered by the Dutch settlers, who were then fleeing religious persecution as Puritans, and then later setting up the East India Company for trading in the Cape. Eventually Indians and Malays were brought in as slaves. The Dutch never intended to make their stay at Western Cape permanent but over time they did, which led to the strong European influence that we still see today as well as the thriving minorities that remain there.
Interestingly, there were originally no black South Africans in the Western Cape. Today, all black South Africans living in the Western Cape were from the process of migration from the Eastern Cape. If there ever was a question about who were the earliest people of the Western Cape even way before the Dutch arrived, it would be the Khoisan people of medium dark skin who were thought to be the closest relative to the earliest human population.
Prior to our trip to South Africa, T and I had always thought that in addition to the English language, all South Africans spoke Afrikaans. However, we soon learned that we were wrong about it. The Afrikaans language is a bastardized form of the Dutch language and is spoken only by white South Africans, while black South Africans speak Xhosa (pronounced kho-sa). Therefore white and black South Africans generally communicate with each other in English, and of course English is one of the official languages of the country.
Our first stop was the active fishing harbor of Hout Bay . The waterfront was filled with vendors ranging from displaying dried fish to arts and crafts. A big collection of yachts and boats were docked at the waterfront area.
We couldn't have had more beautiful weather on that day and managed to ride a boat out of Hout Bay harbor to Duiker Island to see the Cape Fur seals. As we got closer to the seals, the water was getting choppier. There was a huge number of seals lazing on the island waiting until they reached breeding age, while the others were diving and swimming in the rough sea.
Hout Bay is surrounded by the majestic Sentinel Mountain which was purportedly an interest for purchase by Johnny Depp and Donald Trump. Fortunately, the community of Hout Bay vetoed against the idea.
We left Hout Bay and drove along the beautiful and scenic Chapman's Peak Drive and made a halfway stop so that we could just sit by the coastal road and stare out at the vast blue Atlantic ocean right in front of us. Known as one of the most scenic drives in the world, the foundation of Chapman's Peak Drive is based on solid granite rock and was originally constructed by convicts back in the early days. Dynamos were used to blow up the granite rocks to make way for the road. The narrow and winding road today is very popular among cyclists which we saw alongside our vehicle. We thought that running along the scenic drive would be amazing in every possible way.
Chapman's Peak Drive led us through False Bay to Simon's Town which is the South African naval town as seen by the navy ships docked at the harbor. We stepped into Simon's Town and it felt like we were transported to a place like Cape Cod, Massachusetts. A quaint little town with local stores and restaurants, it felt tremendously European and not something that one would expect to experience in South Africa. And then, we were reminded only again about the huge Dutch and British influence in the country. It was really quite an amazing sight.
Minutes away from Simon's Town lies the sheltered cove of Boulders Beach with its white sandy beaches and clear blue waters. We walked along the beautiful and calm shores and it felt like we were in the Mediterranean, but no, this was beautiful South Africa. This was the South Africa experience that we never knew to expect and had come to fall in love with.
Set in a residential area, Boulders Beach is also home to the thriving colony of the famous jackass penguins. It is not uncommon to spot the wild jackass penguins walking on the streets outside of peoples' homes and to the chagrin of some residents, the clever penguins sometimes look to nest in the gardens of nearby homes. The residents now take to their own cleverness and put up wires around the bottom of their gates to prevent the penguins from coming through.
For the most part the jackass penguins prefer to be in their own enclave by the beach. Breeding uniquely in South Africa, the jackass penguins were named so because of the braying sounds they make that could very well sound like donkeys. We observed the penguins in close range and an interesting thing we learned was that the penguins blink their eyes upward. In other words, the bottom eyelid moves to the upper eyelid when blinking.
Next we were on our way to Cape Point where the turning point in world history happened. The discovery of Cape Point by the Portuguese explorer Vasco da Gamma in 1497 (Rob, who was with us, drummed the historical dates into our ears!) led to what the world is today: the spread of western culture to the East. Cape Point became the gateway to the East, when the explorers realized that they could now sail from Europe via Cape Point to the East. This is why countries as far as Singapore or Malaysia speak English today. Cape Point provided the West with a gateway to the East.
We walked up the steep slopes and stood on the high and mountainous top of Cape Point, looked out onto the vast ocean, and heard the waves crashing onto the rocky shores. Cape Point had been untouched since it was discovered by Vasco da Gamma in 1497 when the turning point of world history happened. Cape Point today is what it was like when first discovered. It was in every way beautiful and even a little surreal to be standing at the top of this historically untouched place which is also where the Atlantic and Indian oceans meet.
Interestingly, the earlier discovery of the Cape of Good Hope in 1488 by Bartholomew Dias actually led to the later discovery of Cape Point by Vasco da Gama in 1497. The Cape of Good Hope was named so because it provided the Portuguese explorers good hope and optimism of a sailing route to India. However, when Dias arrived at the Cape of Good Hope, he dealt with mutiny on his ship with the sailing crew protesting against the long and arduous voyage they had endured. As a result, Dias turned his ship around and sailed back to Portugal where he informed Vasco da Gama on the indication of a possibly open route to India. This inspired Vasco da Gama to set sail on his voyage which led to him to sail beyond the Cape of Good Hope and eventually ending up at Cape Point.
The Cape of Good Hope is also famously known as the most southwestern point in the African continent.
We spotted gorgeous ostriches along the shores of the Cape of Good Hope. The ostriches were minding their own business and were pecking away on the ground on the side of the road. They were so close to our vehicle we could have easily touched them with our hands if we stuck them out of the window. The ostriches gave curious stares and we bid them goodbye before returning to the city center of Cape Town with an overload of interesting facts in our heads.