On the road to the Cape

Stephanie and I decided that South Africa was the only country on the voyage where we could safely rent a car and take off for a couple of days. Finding a car was a problem.

The 15th in a series of blogs about Semester at Sea, a round-the-world voyage with 600 students.  David Mould is the author of Postcards from Stanland: Journeys in Central Asia (Ohio University Press, 2016) and the upcoming (2109) Monsoon Postcards: Indian Ocean Journeys. Read excerpts at (Travel Blogs) or Facebook /PostcardsFromStanland/

We had arrived in South Africa in the middle of the Cricket World Cup series and the upscale waterfront area where the ship docked was full of British and Australian cricket fans. The guy at the Cape Town Tourist Office was not optimistic. “I don’t think there are any hotel rooms or cars left in Cape Town,” he said, making us feel relieved we had a cabin on the ship, but after a few calls he found us a small Toyota. We set off for the highway that would take us south to the peninsula, and eventually the Cape of Good Hope. We stopped for lunch at Kalk Bay, one of many small towns that look like English seaside resorts. South of Simonstown, we visited a colony of tame penguins.

South Africa 048.jpg
South Africa 052.jpg

The southernmost part of the peninsula is a national park, with sweeping vistas, towering cliffs, rocks and sand. On the one side, the Atlantic rollers crashed on the shore; on the other, the calmer waters of the Indian Ocean. Out at sea, we saw two whales leaping and spouting.  In the warm light of early evening, eland antelope came out to graze.

South Africa 057.jpg

With night falling, we drove up the narrow road on the western (Atlantic) coast to a small town, Kommetjie. We stopped at the general store to ask if there were any hotels or guesthouses. The store owner wrote down two numbers and Stephanie called the first; after a few seconds, she started speaking in German. It turned out that the guesthouse owner was from Cologne and had retired there. Frau Fendt started speaking in German and didn’t seem to notice that Stephanie responded without batting an eye. Apparently, the Fendt guesthouse expects advance bookings, and doesn’t get many walk-ins. After a solid German breakfast of cold cuts and cheese, we drove up the coast back to Cape Town, ending up at Signal Hill—a stunning setting with Table Mountain, part of the southern mountain range, towering in the background, and sweeping views of the city.

South Africa 060.jpg

Next week: Passage to Dar