Canals at the Waterfront, Table Mountain in the background.
On the morning of 16th of April, after ten days of sailing from
Tristan da Cunha, we arrived in Cape Town, South Africa. For seven
weeks we had been living on the Bark Europa together with less than 60
people, hearing mostly waves and other sounds of the nature. As the
ship was moored next to the Cape Grace hotel at the Waterfront, we
found ourselves in the centre of a major city with a population of
almost 4 million.
A small motor vessel slowly overtaking us.
Already on the day before the change had been obvious. As we
approached the South African coast, the ocean was suddenly full of
traffic: cargo ships transporting thousands of containers, fishing
vessels at work, private boats cruising in the sunshine. The coastline
featured picturesque looking villages and small towns in front of the
hills and mountains raising up from the turquoise water. We could
already hear the traffic on the coastal road, and as the darkness fell
the coast was dotted with lights all along the way. We anchored for
the night in front of Cape Town, and listened to the hum of the city
from the distance.
An excellent view from the mast when arriving in Cape Town.
In the morning Sandra and I climbed up to the main mast to take some
photos. Just as we were doing that, the pilot ship arrived and started
leading us into the city. We decided to stay up at our viewpoint and
enjoy the ride as the ship slowly made its way to the inner harbour in
the centre. A couple of dozen people were waving to us on the piers as
we passed by. Some of them were relatives of the three South Africans
on board, others most likely just happened to be there at the right
moment, admiring the arrival of our handsome old tall ship. It took
still a couple of hours and a detour to the bigger main harbour and
back, before immigration and customs procedures were cleared and we
were free to step on the land.
One of the paths leading up the Signal Hill.
We walked a bit around at the Waterfront area, listened to a street
music band and bought some fresh fruit at a supermarket. Especially
Sandra was overwhelmed with the transition from life on the ship to
the busy city streets. A fair share of the crew headed out to a bar
for the first evening, we joined them shortly but returned soon back
to the ship. We had enjoyed good winds on the last leg from Tristan da
Cunha and arrived in Cape Town two days ahead schedule. That meant
that we could still use Bark Europa as our base for the first couple
of days, a nice soft landing which we took advantage of.
Evening lights of Cape Town, as seen from Lion's Head.
On the morning of the third day
hosts Ian and
Helen came to pick us up. We had emailed them from Argentina before
boarding Bark Europa, and they had agreed to host us in Cape Town
— although we didn't arrive by bicycle. After a short tour
around the ship and last good-byes we packed our backpacks and drove
with Ian and Helen to their cosy apartment just south of the city
centre. Still the same evening we hiked together on top of Lion's Head
and enjoyed a spectacular sunset with amazing views over the Atlantic
and the city. There we felt of really having arrived in South Africa,
the last part of our trip had begun.
Penguins on Boulders Beach.
On Sunday Ian and Helen took us for a trip out of the city towards the
south. Our first stop was at Boulders Beach near Simon's Town to see
... penguins! As big penguin fans we definitely didn't want to miss
that. It was a quite different experience than in Antarctica, this
time we were mostly observing the animals from a viewing platform
together with dozens of other tourists. But it was funny to see
penguins in a warm environment, and a few hundred meters further we
could even wade through the shallow water between rocks and get close
to the animals without a fence in between.
Steep cliffs at Cape Point.
From Simon's Town we continued to the Cape Point and the Cape of Good
Hope. Unlike many think, neither of them is the southernmost point of
the African continent, nevertheless they are popular spots to visit
because of the magnificent cliffs and excellent views. Nearby we saw
ostriches and later baboons right next to the road. Our classic day
trip was completed by a drive back to Cape Town on the curvy road
along the west coast and a stop in one of our hosts' favourite ice
An ostrich on the road near Cape of Good Hope.
The next few days we explored the city mainly on foot. For a major
metropolis, the centre of Cape Town is fairly compact, making the city
feel smaller than it actually is. We found the city quite pleasant and
interesting with quite distinctive styles of buildings in different
districts, and a mix of cultures visible on the streets. In the
wealthier areas, fences and alarm systems were common, but most of the
houses were not surrounded by high walls or excessive security
measures. Some friends in Germany had advised us to always take a taxi
when going somewhere — we didn't feel any need to do that and
felt quite safe walking around and using buses. That being said, we
did not set out to explore any townships of dubious reputation, nor
wander around drunk in the middle of the night, which is probably the
easiest way to attract pickpockets and robbers in any big city.
Playing with squirrels and pigeons in Company's Garden.
One of the great things about Cape Town is that it's relatively fast
and easy to get out of the city. There are nice beaches nearby in both
directions along the coast, as wells as several hills and the famous
Table Mountain to get up and above the roofs. We spent one day hiking
up the Table Mountain and walking around on the top of it, observing
plants and colourful sunbirds on the way. On another day, right in
the city centre we made acquaintance with other animals: in the
Company's Garden we bought a small bag of nuts and soon attracted
numerous tame pigeons and squirrels around us. They ate from our
hands, climbed on us and we had many good laughs while playing with
Posing with the tandem on the beach at Table's View.
The last few days we stayed with other very nice WarmShowers hosts in
Table View, about 15 km north-east of the centre. They were a family
with three children, who had a few years earlier done a long cycling
tour in Europe. We compared our experiences and got some insight into
cycling in South Africa, should we ever decide to do a tour there. On
Sandra's birthday they borrowed us their tandem and we celebrated by
riding it to the beach and watching the sunset. Neither of us had been
on a tandem before, but it was relatively easy to get started. I was
sitting in the front, which made the experience quite similar to a
normal bicycle. Sandra behind me had to get used to not being able to
turn the handlebar, in other words to trust that I'd steer the bike to
the right direction.
The silhouette of Lion's Head at sunset time.
After ten days we had a flight back home, which we had already booked
half a year in advance. The stay at Cape Town had been a nice ending
to our five month long honeymoon, but it also felt the right time to
return home. Should we ever travel to Cape Town again, we'll certainly
venture further out from the city and probably also to neighbouring
countries. On this first visit, however, we had plenty to do and
explore in the city itself and the surroundings — the day trip
to Simon's Town and Cape of Good Hope was a perfect extension to
that. Bark Europa, after a short stay in the dry dock for maintenance,
left the city almost at the same time than us, continuing to sail the
world with new crew on board.