Cape Point Tour
Ben, August 24, 2010
Sorry that we've missed a few days of blogging. Things got busy, we did some moving around, and internet access has not been quite as easy to come by as it was during our time in Cape Town. We spent Friday on a tour of the peninsula around Cape Town. We started the morning by driving past Camps Bay and heading to Hout Bay where we hopped on a boat that took us to a seal colony. It was a small island just outside of the bay where hundreds of seals congregated. They were a bit smaller than I expected, but it was very cool to see. The scenery around the bay was also incredible -- lots of mountains surrounding a small harbour town.

After seeing the seals, we got back into the tour bus and headed through the Constantia winelands to the Kirstenbosch Botanical Gardens. We walked through the gardens, where Pam enjoyed taking pictures of numerous flowers. I think she enjoyed this part a bit more than I did, as I almost forgot about it for this blog post.

From there, we continued down the shoreline through a couple of small towns, including Fish Hoek and Simon's Town. Simon's Town included a port for the South African Navy. Apparently their navy is relatively small and more akin to the US Coast Guard, mostly focusing on preventing poaching. Our guide told us that a US aircraft carrier (the Roosevelt) came through the area recently. Despite not being one of our larger carriers, it was still too large to come into the port and had to ferry people back and forth. He claimed that it seemed like most of Cape Town took a day off to go see it. While in Simon's Town, we also went to see a colony of Jackass penguins, which live on a beach near town. We didn't know that there were warm weather penguins, but apparently they also have them somewhere in South America.

After grabbing lunch, we headed along the road on the way up one of the mountains so that we could get a view of False Bay. Supposedly there are a good number of whales in the water there, but we didn't see any. This area is also famous for the leaping great white sharks. Apparently it is the only place in the world where great whites will leap out of the water when hunting for seals. If you ever see a picture of a great white flying through the air, it was taken in False Bay (according to our guide). There was a hut near the area where we stopped with a man who was a shark-spotter. Any time he sees a shark near the shoreline, he radios down to alert the surfers to get out of the water. But alas, we also saw no sharks. Our guide, Carl, told us he had a great agreement with the sharks: \"I stay out of the sea and I expect the sharks to stay out of the bar.\"

Next, we continued on to the Cape of Good Hope Nature Reserve. We saw a little wildlife around the area, including some ostriches and some deer-like animals (can't remember the exact name). We went to the Cape of Good Hope, also known as the Cape of Storms. We got to see the old lighthouse, which apparently was placed too high and frequently got lost in the cloudy mountains, making it relatively poor at its job. Eventually it was replaced by another light house which was closer to sea level. Up until recently, it was the strongest light house in the world, before it lost that distinction to a light house at the southern tip of South America. Many people falsely believe that the Cape of Good Hope is the meeting place of the Indian and Atlantic Oceans. Our guide told us that this is actually incorrect and that the meeting place of the currents from the oceans changes with the winds. Therefore, the \"official\" meeting place has been proclaimed to be at the southern tip of Africa (which is east of the Cape).

From there, we started to head back to our hotel. On the way, we stopped at an ostrich farm where we got to see a bunch of ostriches up close. They are a very weird looking bird, and they are not particularly bright. However, their hides produce the second strongest leather (after alligators), and their meat is relatively tasty (it's poultry, but is a red meat). Their eggs are also extremely strong -- able to hold over 300kg, because the parents step on them. Next, we headed up the western coastline to Chapman's Peak for more spectacular views.

After finishing the tour, we were exhausted and decided to order in for dinner. We relaxed around the hotel and talked with Chadrick, one of the hotel staff, about his work to get healthy food into South African schools. He told us that they have run into problems with healthy foods in schools, because the children complain about the food to their parents, who then refuse to pay for it. He said that they are now trying to engage parents to get their support for healthy meals, instead of just focusing on the school administrators. We also talked about the South African and American political systems and how they work. He said that he liked Obama, but overall I think I expected foreigners to gush about how much they loved him, and we haven't run into that much. People seem to like him, but I guess not quite at the level that I thought or expected
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