I wake up early for my Cape Peninsula Tour. I drop my laundry off to be washed one last time before I leave for home on Sunday. This load is free for losing my shirt the last time. I get picked up by Emmanuel from Mile by Mile Tours at 8:22am. The weather is cloudy and cool today. It’s a mini bus like I’ve got on several times before. We have only one pick up before starting the tour. There are only two people on the tour, me and Helga from Iceland. We are making our way to Cape Point where the Indian Ocean and Atlantic Ocean meet. Our first stop is on Chapman’s Peak Drive to view Hout Bay.
We continue down the winding Chapman’s Peak Drive overlooking the Atlantic Ocean to Table Mountain National Park. It takes about 2 hours to reach Cape Point. We have one hour by ourselves at Cape Point. The entrance fee to the park is included in the tour cost but it costs 52 rand to ride the Flying Dutchman Funicular to see the panoramic views and lighthouse at Cape point. This saves visitors the long uphill walk from the car park. The entrance to the Dutchman is accessible. The loading area and floor of the Dutchman are level with only a small gap making it easy to wheel between the surfaces. It’s about a 3 minute ride from the car park to the Upper Funicular Station. Once to the top, there’s a door frame lip to get over that has a small ramp on each side of the lip. These two ramps are steep with some wheelchair users requiring help. There is a steep ramp down the view plaza that I will need help up when I leave. The pavement is crushed stone and not bad to wheel on. The walkway to the lookout for wheelchairs has a slight incline about 40 meters long. There are two viewing areas at the lookout but only one is accessible. This is the only area that is accessible to wheelchairs. The other is narrow and down several steps. From this one viewing area I can see Cape Point, Cape of Good Hope and the Lighthouse. All the other areas (Lighthouse, WW2 radar station, Cliff Lookouts) have many steps to negotiate. Wheelchair users should get some discount since they have very limited access. I get help the ramp from a worker to board the Dutchman for the ride down.
Our next stop is Cape of Good Hope, originally named Cape of Storms by Portuguese explorer Bartolomeu Dias in 1488. John II of Portugal later renamed it Cape of Good Hope because of the optimism that India could be reached by sea from Europe. We have a close encounter with a local resident on the way. The parking lot is accessible but most of the other areas are covered in boulders. I get my “tourist” picture taken at the Cape of Good Hope sign.
We have a 30 minute drive to Boulders Beach in Simon’s Town to see the penguin colony. This is the home to over 2000 endangered African Penguins. The wood decking walkway is very nice and easy to wheel on. It is steep in some areas but we only went the downhill way. It would be difficult to wheel back to the drop off area.
Helga and I meet Emmanuel at the end of the walkway for lunch at Boulders Beach Lodge. Helga and I eat outside because there are multiple steps up to the restaurant. We spend most of lunch discussing my travels; she’s very interested since she works in the medical field. Our last stop is Kirstenbosch Botanic Gardens. We arrive at 2:35pm with 1-1/2 hours to spend at the gardens. There are three ramps to go up to get to the gardens, Emmanuel helps me up these ramps. I may have been able to wheel up the ramps myself but they are too steep. The walkway upon entering the gardens is brick pavers with a long slight uphill. Emmanuel helps push me up the hill. The most popular flower at the gardens is the Nelson Mandela Flower. I start through the gardens by myself wheeling by the Peninsula Garden to the Water-Wise Garden. This grade starts getting steeper by the Water-Wise Garden. The grade becomes flat by the Fragrance Garden. Several paths coming off have steps and large stone walkways to other parts of the gardens. I make it halfway around the main pond to the Useful Plants and Otter Pond. I try to make it up the hill to Ericas but only make it halfway because of the steep hill. My arms are pretty tired by this point. These gardens are not very accessible with the many hills, steps and stone walkways. I start back downhill to the Otter Pond remembering the crash I had in Wellington not wanting to repeat this. I make a stop for about 15 minutes to relax by the Main Pond before making my way pass the Vygies to the entrance.
This is another instance that a discount should be offered since a wheelchair user can only see about 5% of the gardens. The gardens are beautiful but they are located on the eastern slopes of Table Mountain so there are a bunch of steep slopes that wheelchair and terrain users can’t wheel up. It’s about a 20 minute drive back to Cape Town to drop off Helga. She gives me her name to contact her if I ever make it to Iceland. Never thought about Iceland but I may have to add it to my list. Emmanuel drops me off at the hotel then I head to the hotel bar for a few beers to work on writing, organizing photos and blog posting. I received all my laundry back with no lost clothes.
The Mile by Mile Tour with Emmanuel was very good. Emmanuel was very knowledgeable on all aspects of the tour. He left us alone on the visit to Cape Point, Boulders Beach and Kirstenbosch Botanic Gardens. Most of the tours I’ve been on the guide has joined the group during the stops and given information, not just left the group alone. The two biggest issues I had where there is only one area that is accessible to wheelchairs at Cape Point and the limited accessibility with the many hills, steps and stone walkways at Kirstenbosch Gardens. Wheelchair users should get some discount since these places have very limited access.