On completion of our walking tour, our guide again checked with Table Mountain and they were still reporting substantial queues for the cable car. Therefore, the plan was to visit the castle then head up to Table Mountain, stopping enroute at Bo-Kaap to view the colourful houses. This schedule worked well as we did not experience any traffic delays or queues all day.
Castle of Good Hope
Initially called the Kasteel de Goede Hoop, when originally built by the Dutch East India Company, it is the oldest existing colonial building in South Africa. Originally built on the shores of Table Bay, with subsequent extensive land reclamation, the castle is now at least 1/2 mile from Cape Town harbour.
In the mid 1660’s tension between the British and Dutch resulted in the local commander being instructed to replace the existing wooden fort with a stone built pentagonal fortress, which was constructed between 1666 and 1679. The interior buildings generally backed onto the outer walls, which reduced the number of walls required, and included a church, accommodations, bakery, stores, workshops and other assorted facilities. Although no wars were actually fought at the castle, 2 Anglo-Dutch battles occurred locally in 1795 and 1806, with the British assuming control from 1806 after the Battle of Blaauwberg.
The castle currently hosts the South African Military Museum that covers the history of the battles between the British, French and Dutch for control of the Western Cape. It also include the William Fehr collection, which is an extensive collection of paintings, furniture and assorted household items.
The balcony is the original dating from 1695 and is where all proclamations and announcements were made to the soldiers and local civilians. It was also used for the reading of all sentences and official visitors to the castle were welcomed on the balcony.
The Town Hall, built in 1905 from honey coloured limestone imported from Bath, in United Kingdom it is located immediately West of the Castle on Grand Parade. The Town Hall balcony is the location for Nelson Mandela’s speech on 11th February 1990, which was only hours after being released from prison.
Returning to the vehicle the excitement was starting to build, as it was time to head for Table Mountain, one of our primary reasons for visiting Cape Town. However, enroute to Table Mountain we had a brief stop at Bo-Kaap to observe the colourful homes.
While now a culturally diverse, eclectic and vibrant suburb located on the slopes of Signal Hill, it was originally used by the Dutch East India Company to house the slaves, hence the original name of Malay Quarter.
The houses were originally all white, but to celebrate the end of apartheid the residents painted their homes in bright, vivid colours.
In addition to the bright colours, many streets still have cobble stones and numerous small cafes are located throughout the area.
Finally we reached the highlight of the day, the Table Mountain cable car base station. If you visit Cape Town, we suggest pre-purchasing a ticket online and don’t drive up. Our guide dropped us at the entrance, but if we had to park, it would have been on the street about 1 mile away. With our online ticket we by-passed the ticket office queue and headed straight to the cable car, which was just arriving. Literally within 5 mins of being dropped off, we were in the cable car and waiting for it to depart.
The cable car is an unbelievable experience, with no towers, it is an exceptionally smooth ride and the floor rotates 360 degrees while ascending and descending so everybody gets a great view.
Here is the opposite view once the floor had rotated through 180 degrees
On reaching the top the view is simply spectacular in all directions.
West of Table Mountain Between Camp Bay & Hout Bay
Downtown Cape Town, Harbour and Signal Hill
On departing the top station the paths are well maintained with numerous platforms affording spectacular views of the sprawling city below. The top is very barren and as you move away from the top station the path gives way to a rock walkway, which is more than adequate, as I found a very small proportion of people actually go any distance from the top station. We only had about 40 minutes on top, so I made the most of it and probably got to at least the middle.
Views from various locations atop Table Mountain
Unfortunately time was short, so while still basking in the amazing sights, I had to turn around and return to the top station to find Judi, who was wandering at her own pace.
Before we returned for the descent we stopped at one of the viewpoints for a final photo atop Table Mountain.
A few minutes after arriving at the top station the next car arrived and shortly thereafter we were being whisked back down the mountain on a rotating gondola.
At the bottom we had a few minutes to wait for our guide so I captured another few quick photos.
Well that concludes a fabulous 1/2 day seeing some of the sights in Cape and we hope you enjoyed the photographs as much as we enjoyed the sights.
Tomorrow we are off on a full day trip to the Cape of Good Hope.