Resetting the Cape Compass – Cape Town

Due north

You can’t help but linger in Cape Town. No matter how often you visit this remarkable city – slipped audaciously between the ocean and a flat-topped mountain at the very tip of Africa – you feel almost compelled to do the sights. So l took the ferry to Robben Island and watched the penguins at Boulders Beach; I dawdled along the precipitous Chapman’s Peak Drive and strolled the new ‘Boomslang’ canopy walkway at Kirstenbosch gardens. From wave-pummelled Cape Point to the tranquil V&A Waterfront, Cape Town cast its spell.

Penguins At South Africa’s Boulders Beach

It was only when I joined an off-road scooter tour on Table Mountain that my thoughts turned to the north. Weaving down a gravel track on the fat-tyred two-wheelers, we paused at a viewpoint overlooking the city and Table Bay beyond. It’s a view that never lets your gaze settle. Similar to a path through a forest, the coastline draws your eye and leads you onwards – a filigree of surf curving seductively northwards until it’s snuffed out in a haze of sea spray.

Like the surf, my destiny pointed in a singular direction. There’s no denying the fact that in the 90 minutes it takes to drive the 120km north from Cape Town to Langebaan, you could not only reach the vineyards of Stellenbosch but squeeze in a couple of cellar tours as well. Yet as tempting as it was to follow the well-trodden path east of the city to South Africa’s famed Winelands, the north promised something altogether wilder and more interesting.

The R27 highway clips a sprawling mosaic of sandy beaches, lagoons and antelope-nibbled strandveld before reaching Langebaan. On the way, I sidetracked into the West Coast National Park, swerving past a sunbathing tortoise and pulling over to outstare a steenbok, its enormous ears splayed out like a pair of fuzzy radar dishes. Kudu, gemsbok, eland and zebra are also found here, but the wildlife is upstaged each spring by vast carpets of flowers. The best displays were draped between the hills of the Postberg, near the tip of the club-shaped peninsula that separates the ocean from Langebaan Lagoon. White, yellow and orange daisies embroidered the strandveld: nature’s very own confetti.

At Indigo Blue, a chic, self-catering beach house in Langebaan where I spent the next couple of nights, you could almost belly-flop from the terrace into the lagoon. Making the most of a mirror-calm morning its owner, Marie-Louise Kellett, took me sea kayaking.

Indigo Blue Beach House

The surface of Langebaan Lagoon was a deep blue, like royal satin pulled taut, as we paddled out to Schaapen Island – a kelp-wrapped sanctuary fussed over by nesting cormorants, terns and gulls. Turning south, we headed deeper into the lagoon, the tide ebbing to reveal a distant sandbank rimmed with a pink mirage of flamingos.

As we span our kayak round to depart, I threw one last glance back, only for Marie-Louise to proffer a hot tip. “They’re not the only birds drawn to this coast,” she prompted. “If you’re heading north, be sure to drop in at Lamberts Bay.”

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