Tolerating the Outdoors During a Cape Town Winter

We planned the order of our around-the-world trip largely based on weather patterns. We were in Asia and Europe during their mild seasons when it was warm enough to spend months in short sleeves but cool enough to avoid suffocating humidity. Our itinerary brought us to Africa during its winter, the best time to go on safari as the animals have to travel and gather around scarce water sources. Here is what July has been like in Cape Town.

Despite a few days of rain, we have had minimal issues with the weather. However, every conversation with a Capetonian between the months of June and August will have them lamenting about the wet and the cold. Indeed the entire city goes into hibernation. Restaurants close for weeks at a time. Those bars that are brave enough to stay open shorten closing hours from 2 AM to 11 PM. Stores remain closed on rainy days when owners don’t feel like coming to work. It’s quite dramatic if you ask us.  For all the smack that Capetonians give their winter, we’ve thoroughly enjoyed the outdoors here. We’ve lost count of all the wineries we’ve visited. Rain or shine, the views are beautiful and, perhaps due to the winter slug, the tasting rooms tend to be relatively quiet.

The few activities we saved for crystal clear days were a cable car ride up Table Mountain, a hike up Lion’s Head and a day trip to The Cederberg Mountains, which hold the world’s greatest concentration of bushman rock art. Our house rests at the foot of Table Mountain so each morning we would peak out and check on the sky. We decided to visit the 3km long plateau by cable car after we heard that more people have died climbing Table Mountain than Everest. We saved our hike for Lion’s Head, a rock formation adjacent to Table Mountain. The slopes along Table Mountain and Lion’s Head are blanketed with yellow flowers in the winter. The area forms the Cape Floral Region, home to over 2,200 species of flora. Despite this beauty, we saw a local shake his head and say, “Shame. You really should come here in the summer and see all the flowers.”

A few days ago we ventured up north, a road less traveled, and into The Cederberg Mountains and reserve. Millions of years ago, this range used to be connected with Table Mountain range, so much of the flora is the same. The reserve is comprised of many privately owned farms and we settled on Traveller’s Rest Camp given its seclusion. Until two years ago, the area was only accessible by gravel road. Most of the farm’s visitors tend to be people who come to boulder the massive structures in The Cederberg, carved by passing glaciers.

Hidden among these rocks is art left by San bushmen. As far as historians know, the San painted for religious regions. Many of their art depicts animals and human-animal forms. Some of the rock art in The Cederberg range is about 8,000 old. The bushmen believed that every rock contained a spirit. Even to us non-believers it was undeniable that each rock held its own personality, from unique size to striking color and varied texture.

As we hiked through the mountains, Ava and Kayan felt as though they were in a giant jungle gym, climbing rocks, dodging branches, and squeezing between tunnels. Apart from our guide, we didn’t see a single soul during our three hour hike, just broods of Dassie (Cape Hyrax), whose petrified poop is collected in bulk for the perfume industry.

Between wines, whales, hikes and ancient rock art, there has been little reason for us to complain about Cape Town’s weather. If we enjoyed winter this much, then we’ll just have to come back in summer to see what all the fuss is about.

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2 Responses to Tolerating the Outdoors During a Cape Town Winter

  1. larry

    Hyrax are cute, but poop for perfumes! Do tell more….Is there a Chanel #2?

    • Diya

      Too funny! Well, the petrified poop is used as its chemical make-up gives off a musky smell. I still have my doubts, though. The fresh stuff is very pungent.

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