Thursday, 24 March 2016

Stop Press

In the previous post in this series Gough Island, I described our Zodiac cruise off Gough Island. We then had a voyage of around 1,500 miles across the South Atlantic to Cape Town, a journey which would took four days. ...

I'm at Dubai International Airport, it's 05:15 local time and in a couple of hours I should be boarding the EK039 to Birmingham on my marathon journey to Argentina, the Falklands, South Georgia, Tristan da Cunha and Cape Town.

Here's a quick update on the last two days.

Tuesday, 22nd March 2016: Around Cape Point and Cape Town

Because the weather was kind on the voyage from Tristan da Cunha to Cape Town, we were off Cape Town harbour, waiting for the pilot to board, at 07:15, rather than the scheduled afternoon arrival. The expedition n team had arranged an additional trip and offered one of three alternatives:
Visit to the wine making areas
Visit to the Botanic Gardens
Trip to see South African penguins and the Cape of Good Hope.
I chose the last alternative, as did most of my fellow passengers, so we set off in two modern coaches, crossing the peninsula to Simonstown on the east coast. I'd visited Simonstown in 2011 (as described here) but the weather then was wet and cold so I didn't get beyond the town itself. The second time, we had splendid weather and stopped just beyond the town at Boulder, where South African penguins were dotted around the beach. After a while, we moved on to the formal nature reserve, crowded with people, where we could observe more penguins and birdlife from a boardwalk.

Back on the bus, we continued south through spectacular scenery to the Cape of Good Hope where we made a brief photographic stop (along with lots of people enjoying a public holiday) before continuing to Cape Point, again with lots of people. There was a funicular railway to near the top of the point which we took, leaving a series of steps climbing further to the viewpoint at the old lighthouse on the summit. Although we had return tickets for the funicular, most of us chose to walk all the way down to our transport. On the way back to the ship, we stopped to observe a group of Benobo monkeys. Troops of these monkeys have become a menace, stealing food and breaking into cars or houses in search of food. We'd compressed what's usually a full day tour into half a day so, not surprisingly, it was after 4.00 p.m. when we arrived back at the ship. The restaurant on the ship had kindly stayed open for lunch, with a somewhat restricted menu.

The ship had also arranged a small shuttle bus to run between the ship and the V&A Complex. This is the old part of the docks reborn as a modern shopping mall and a magnet for tourists. I took a trip on the shuttle bus to wander around the 'V&A' but, as expected, found little to detain me so I carried on walking back to Cape Town Cruise Ship Terminal, in the newer docks, where our ship was berthed.

The day finished with a convivial dinner on board where we said our 'goodbyes' to fellow passengers before we went our separate ways early the next morning.

Wednesday, 23nd March 2016: Robben Island and Cape Town

Just before 8.00 a.m., I left the ship, picked up my luggage, and was met by the friendly proprietor of a tour company with a people carrier. A trip to Robben Island, notorious for the imprisonment of Nelson Mandela and other political prisoners in addition to serving as a criminal prison. The island lay 11 km offshore, making escape virtually impossible. A fleet of ferries shuttle tourists to the island for a bus tour outlining the history of the island and a conducted tour of part of the former prison. I was on the catamaran 'Jester' in both directions.

Back at the V&A, we walked through the shopping centre to the vehicle and my new fried readily agreed to provide some opportunities to view the complex of railway lines leading from Cape Town railway station. Before taking me to the airport for my flight to Dubai, he did say it was the most unusual City Tour he'd been asked to provide!

All my posts on this trip can be found here.

My pictures

There's currently a reasonable collection of pictures illustrating this trip at South Atlantic Voyage, but the rest of my pictures will not be uploaded until I return to the U.K.