Postcards from the seductive edge of South Africa

Peering from the Cape of Good Hope

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Photo: Unsplash

What is it about edges that attract us? Why do we gladly stand, albeit timidly, at the precipice of a cliff? Why the compulsion to see the very last tip of land? When all that we know for sure is safely and surely behind us, why linger at the edge to gaze squinty-eyed at the breathless gap before us?

The Cape of Good Hope is the ultimate edge experience. It seduces with the wild, the open, the unknown.

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Photo: Pixabay

The rugged outcropping holds what many believe to be South Africa’s southernmost grain of sand and its southernmost sun-bleached rocky beaches. (Actually, Cape Agulhas, 95 miles east, is the continent’s most southern point.) No matter. The Cape of Good Hope holds our fascination.

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Photo: M. Yung

And because the edge is there, the people arrive. In cars and SUVs, pickups and taxis, they arrive and park along the asphalt road and near the Cape Point Visitors Centre.

They park, step out of their vehicles and walk south toward the vast emptiness. They walk single file along the road. They say “Excuse me” to others they pass who have already had their turn. They notice the hardy purple daisies—here, vegetation of South Africa’s Fynbos biome—that line the road.

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Photo: M. Yung

They eye the ostriches grazing in the distance. They see the large kelpy swaths that flutter to shore and snag on the rocks and driftwood from unknown, faraway voyages. They stand on tip-toe in the cool gusts that stir and blend the merging waters of the Indian and Atlantic Oceans.

They smile, teary-eyed, into the blinding noonday sun for photos to mark this occasion. They know they will never return.

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Photo: M. Yung

For many of us traveling from other continents, the pilgrimage is made to the Cape of Good Hope for the first and last time. We know this.

Tucked inside airliners that require eleven hours to traverse Africa, we envision our eventual walk on the beach at the Cape of Good Hope. We land at Cape Town, fit in a night’s sleep and make the 45-mile southerly drive to arrive at the inevitable, exotic edge.

We peer into the distance at the unknown, watery wilderness, teetering at the tip of South Africa. We stare at the seduction, we embrace the edge… and then we leave.


Thanks for reading! We traveled to South Africa with family in 2012. I’m documenting some of my memories from the trip in short essays. Next up: touring the Cathedral of St. Michael and St. George in Grahamstown.

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Travel to places that make you feel small: Monument Valley, Utah

Monument Valley is good for that.

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Photo by Maria Sabljic on Unsplash

Those spires. Those ledges. Those bluffs. Behemoths of weight and mass, rising from the high desert floor with quiet heft and bulk.

The space between them is as much a part of the experience as the monuments themselves. My perspective disintegrates. My awe overwhelms. There is no way to determine: how far is that from me? How much expanse between those mittens?

The valley appears surreal, other-worldly. The interior of a cave where the sky forms the walls.

I hear the purr of a single car traveling the dusty road, a red thread snaking in the distance. Other than that, nothing. Even the breeze is silent, its sound swallowed in the burnt sienna drapery of rocky canyon gowns.

The valley transforms me and I am small, insignificant, a dot of breath in the stillness.


We travelled to Monument Valley three years ago and I’m still thinking about it.

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