Emperor Jehangir once said if there is paradise on earth, it is Kashmir. Perhaps that’s because he never had the chance to visit Cape Town, says Nikita Chawla
When you think Africa you think animal safaris, hunger, poverty, savannas and perhaps pygmies, but Cape Town comes as a surprise package. The Mother City is a temptress of note. She woos you with her pure and utterly breathtaking beauty making you want to relocate to the shores just so that you can see her every day. Cape Town is a bit of unexpected heaven on earth on the toes of the African continent and it’s not hard to see why.
I checked into Sun Rise Ranch (a local B&B self-service apartment), kicked off my shoes and fatigue, all set to visit the famous Table Mountain.The owner and guide, Robbly Bhai, a Capetonian of Indian origin took me around the Mother City in his Nissan.
Table Mountain is more of a plateau with steep, dramatic slopes occasionally engulfed in a surreal thick white mist, (the locals call it the table cloth) that kept on blocking the view. It is an endless game of peek-a-boo as you watch the mountain disappear behind a veil of white as if it never existed. The weather changes in an instant and I quickly learnt to carry my jacket more faithfully than before.
Table Mountain with its remarkably unspoiled wilderness coated in a unique flora is quite the showstopper. From atop, it is an eye popping affair with incredible views of the twelve apostles, Lions rum, the three sisters and an endless blue ocean. This city can turn any amateur into a photographer! After every some time an adrenaline junkie would bungee jump in a suicidal fashion armed with a selfie stick precariously strapped on to his wrist.
There is no way you can get lost in Cape Town; it’s a well-organised city and tourist-friendly with the iconic mountain slap bang in the centre of the city to help orient you. We drove slowly through the serpentine roads and each time I urged to hurry, Robby Bhai said, “Honking is not allowed ben (read behan). We Capetonians love our peace very much.”
We spent the evening at Houts Bay, sharing our fish and chips with Hornbills and Egrets who happily nibbled crumbs off the powder white sand. Soon the birds made their way home and I lapped up the last rays of sunlight until the orange fireball set swiftly on the Atlantic shore. “The crime rate here is high ben,” Robby bhai warned against flaunting gadgets, jewelry or anything that catches too much attention. On my insistence, we later drove to Chappmans peak to get a mind boggling 360 degree view of the city. The nightlife is bustling with Casinos and bars but Cape Town is not very safe, even during the day.
Cape of Good Hope
The next day our aquatic fauna roll continued with the Jackass penguins (they are named after the sounds they make) at Shelleys beach. We walked around without disturbing their natural habitat. Right at the tip of the legendary Cape of Good Hope is Cape Point, another alluring scenic spot. It was pouring cats and dogs and for the first time in my life I heard the whistling wind. Though drenched I ran up till I reachedthe tip and wished on a coin, throwing it as far as possible into the foamy waves. On the way down I spotted Petite Asians (who were literally getting carried away by the mighty wind) make steadfast human chains with one hand and hung on to the rails with the other for dear life!
For lunch I had the famous bunny chows and hot Gatsby (a huge local kathi roll with chips, sauces, shredded fish, salad and what not) at a local restaurant. Cape Town is a cosmopolitan city with rich architectural heritage and cutting-edge design that’s proudly on display. You see it everywhere- from the homes of Capetonian glitterati at Camps Bay and the Newlands Cricket and Rugby Grounds to the staggering seaside vistas that go all the way down to Cape Point. A lot of famous Bollywood stars have houses here and it’s not hard to see why. We spotted Anil Kapoor’s and Akshay Kumar’s house on our way to the little village of Hermannes, a land based whale watching destination home to the world’s only Whale Crier. If you are the adventurous kinds, try shark cage diving and encounter these ferocious sharks at arm’s length. I stuck to the safer ostrich riding at Oudtshoorn (Ostrich farms are popular there) which was just about all the rush I could handle. These cartoonish birds are stronger than they seem and can run more than 40mph!
Cape Town bristles with world-class shops and restaurants offering world class sea food against stunning views of the ocean. The Gucci gazers and versaceophiles won’t be disappointed at the stylish Victoria and Alfred Waterfront. The waterfront is home to the Cape seals, these furry little creatures we spotted on our boat ride around the harbor. If funky is your taste, check out the Waterfront Craft market, within the same complex an indoor flea market open seven days a week. For souvenirs we stopped at the Greenmarket Square, a central crafts market where African carvings, masks, beadwork and jewelry are displayed and bargained with the African Mamas to my heart’s content.