Cape Town, the city where I grew up and spent most of my formative years – to some extent the city has changed beyond recognition, while many features still remain; Table Mountain, of course, the townships and suburbs, University of Cape Town, the friendly people that have a special place in my emotional landscape. We spent some time looking for a camp site and eventually settled into the Fish Hoek municipal caravan park, right next to the beach, just behind the dunes. After settling in, we went to sleep quite early, 2 hours after sunset, what we referred to as chicken time. The next morning I woke up early to see the sunrise from the beach; it’s the middle of winter and we had clear blue skies, which does happen in Cape Town, though rains are desperately needed after a prolonged drought. The beach was already busy with dog walkers, many of whom would stop for a chat, and a few joggers, one of whom stopped to talk to me a few days later; she was a volunteer from Germany and I was wearing a jacket with a German flag on it, ex-army, you know the type. I later also learnt that the pre- and post-sunrise walkers had different characters, with the former seeming more friendly in general. On the opposite of the beach is an area restricted to swimmers, as in no dogs allowed, where pensioners gather with thier bodyboards at around 8 am, and a wonderful coastal walkway with the urban train from Simonstown alongside. A peaceful place that is ideal for quiet contemplation; I did not quite make it into the water, it was damn cold.
Anyway, there was a serious task ahead: I had volunteered to give 2 talks at UCT, one on Feedback and Assessments, the other on my experiences in Sierra Leone in 2015 (see previous blogs). The first talk was in the old Grootte Schuur hospital, where the first human heart transplant took place, and the second talk in the Department of Molecular and Cell Biology, where I caught up with former colleagues.
Then, the Cape town treat for me: Kirstenbosch Botanical Gardens, which are on the back slopes of Table Mountain with Skeleton Gorge on one side and Devil’s Peak on the other side. For me, always a want-to-go place when in Cape Town; I have never been there when some of the plants have not been in bloom, especially protea and strelitzia, and many species of birds, my favourites being the sunbirds. I would recommend at least half a day, probably even a full day that includes a picnic on the lawns. One treat is the Centenary Tree Canopy Walkway, known colloquially as the Boomslang (tree snake); a bit wobbly and jelly-legs syndrome is not uncommon.
The day ended with sunset on Chapman’s Peak drive with a view towards Hout Bay, I insist you take a few bottles of bubbly and good friends.
Next trip, the Franschhoek valley and a round-trip to Robertson.