Grandma Gertie always said there's not a savory dish that can't be made tastier by just a touch of tarragon.

Tsunami and Me

Tsunami and Me
too big to escape now....

Friday, June 23, 2017

Reaching the End of the Earth

Heading for Cape Point, Cape of Good Hope

Until I actually got there, I figured I was traveling to one of the ends of the earth, the promontory that was the southernmost point of Africa. But our guide helpfully destroyed this notion by pointing out that modern cartographers claim the southernmost land on the continent actually lies about 90 miles tot he southeast at Cape Agulas. Nonetheless, the point where the Indian and Atlantic Ocean currents merge fluctuates between that obscure tip and Cape Point, where I happened to be standing at the time. And it's true that when ships approached from the west, it's at Cape Point that they begin traveling east, rather than south.

New Cape Point lighthouse
So, I at least reached the southwestern-most point of Africa where I took the Flying Dutchman Funicular to what's still called the new lighthouse.  The light of the new Cape Point lighthouse, built in 1914, is the most powerful on the South African coast, with a range of 63 miles

There's a sign adjacent to the lighthouse that points out distances for those who haven't yet completed their journeys. I learned that though I stood a distant 11,642 kilometers from Sydney and 6248 from the South Pole, I was only 6,055 kilometers from Rio de Janiero. Those three site are on my to-see list, for certain. To prove my hardiness, though, I walked down the winding path to the bottom.

On the trip out from Cape Town, our bus also stopped at Boulder Rock, where I visited  the marvelous South African penguins. Because oft their bray, they sometimes are called jackass penguins. An endangered species, they are much smaller than the Antarctic Emperor birds you may have seen at a zoo. At full adulthood they range from just under five pounds to nearly eight, while the Emperors can reach nearly 70 pounds.

Love birds at Boulders Beach
The monogamous South African adult pairs return to the same site each year. At Boulders Beach they allow humans to get within a yard or so of them, but we were warned not to try to attract their attention in any way whatsoever. This is their turf, and we're forbidden to toss food at them, call to them, or stick selfie sticks over the stone barriers to try to get their attention. They seemed to be blissfully oblivious of the hundreds of gawkers who were snapping their photos the day I visited. African Penguins swim an average of 4.5 miles per hour but can reach speeds of 15 mph if they feel a need to. They swim by using their feet as rudders and their wings as flippers. They move their feet when swimming at the surface.

Kirstenbosch Gardens

When you only have a couple of hours to visit one of the world's most beautiful botanical gardens, you have to plan your time to fit your interests. I had known of the Mandela statue, and wanted to see that, and also of the temporary exhibit of dinosaurs. I was lucky enough to get to both before I had to head back to the bus. Kirstenbosch Gardens would be worth several days' explorations. 

Nelson Mandela
From the Gardens brochure:
Nelson Mandela. A bust of Nelson Mandela stands beside the pepper-bark tree (Warburgia salutaris) that Nelson Mandela planted on his visit to Kirstenbosch on 21 August 1996. The bust was sculpted by John Francis Gardner and donated to Kirstenbosch by the sculptor in January 2010. It portrays Nelson Mandela during the pivotal years of his presidency and captures his radiance and generosity of spirit the world has grown to love. Mandela's bust and tree can be found just inside the Visitors' Centre entrance to the Garden, at the bottom of the main lawn.

Extinction! Dinosaurs, and Cycads?
An exhibition featuring five life-sized, anatomically correct dinosaurs and a pterosaur, sculptured in tin, in amongst the cycads in the Cycad Amphitheatre. The sculptures are by David Huni. The exhibition draws attention to the fact that many of South Africa’s cycads are on the brink of extinction, and could soon face the same fate as the dinosaurs, but it is a crisis caused not by an asteroid impact but almost entirely by mankind. The aim of the exhibition is to raise awareness about the threats faced by cycads, and to increase public participation and support for cycad conservation and research. The exhibition will run until June 2017.

Table Mountain

No trip to Cape Town would be complete without going to the top of Table Mountain. I went on a hot afternoon, and was grateful for the fans in the cafe above the cable car station and gift shop. While my companion gamboled over boulders to take photographs, I relaxed with a cold iced tea, and looked up from my Kindle now and then to stare at a mural that fascinated me, "The Invention of Walking Feathers." 

The artist, Walter Battiss (6 January 1906 – 20 August 1982), Wikipedia tells me, "was generally considered to be the foremost South African abstract painter and known as the creator of the quirky Fook Island concept." In 1949, he became friendly with Picasso, who encouraged his style. Then in 1972, he visited Seychelles, which inspired his make-believe Fook Island.

Fook Island could be the subject of another whole blog. Check out its fascinating story here: 
A modern natural wonder
Cable car to the top
View of Table Mountain from below

The Invention of Walking Feathers

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