Cycling the Cape (by Paul Robinson)

Recently my wife had to attend a conference in South Africa (Cape Town) so I had the perfect opportunity to go as well and extend the visit into a holiday. Whilst browsing the web I came across a website my luck may be in I thought. Further investigation revealed that they had 3 rides, 45 miles, 75 miles and 95 miles perfect training for London to Paris. I emailed for details and arranged with Mark my cycling guide for the day to meet at the hotel at 9.30am, he would provide the bike, helmet if required and take me on my chosen route. Being optimistic I opted for Cape Town to the Cape of Good Hope, the 95 mile route.

As the day drew nearer the optimism was starting to fade a little 95 miles seemed suddenly a long way. The day dawned Mark arrived at the hotel with bike (Boardman road bike) which was a pleasant surprise, well maintained and good for the ride ahead, I had taken my own helmet so the only other thing needed apart from stamina was a drinks bottle as the day was surprisingly warm considering it is winter in South Africa. Mark guided us out of Cape Town via the sea front and Clifton Beach with Table Mountain dominating the skyline to our left. The roads were busy but the surface was good (no potholes) and whilst there was plenty of traffic leaving Cape Town the ride was very pleasant with Mark providing details of points of interest. Mark then told me we were heading for Wales and Yorkshire, hard to believe but we would be going via Llandudno and Scarborough, the main difference being the warmer temperature and the spectacular views. Leaving Llandudno behind we were heading for Hout Bay, again more jaw dropping scenery. It was at this point that I saw the road in front of me, Chapman’s Peak described in the book as the road that links Hout Bay and Nordhooek with its 114 curves and its jaw dropping views along its 9km route, a little slice of paradise for motorists, well it is even better for cyclists as you have tie to admire the views as you can continue climbing on a gradient that is not too steep but constant.

Reaching the top you can do nothing but stop to admire the view and count yourself lucky that you have had the chance to cycle what must be one of the most stunning routes in the world. Now we were heading for the Cape of Good Hope via Scarborough but just like its Yorkshire equivalent the wind was starting to get stronger and you’ve guessed it, a headwind. Mark informed me the nearer we got to the Cape, the stronger the wind a comforting thought as we now pedalling hard just to stand still. We were now cycling along a road with signs saying beware of baboons, beats sheep on Harris End I thought! We were now approaching the entrance to the Cape when a cafe stop loomed from nowhere, a garden centre specialising in indigenous plants and a wonderful setting. I was now introduced to the joys of Rooibos tea, a very refreshing drink and a tasty piece of chocolate cake. It was at this point that Mark thought a ride to the Cape of Good Hope might be 10 miles too far as it was all uphill and against a very strong wind which might mean we didn’t get back before the light went. Not sure if I was relieved or disappointed but we were now back on the road and heading for Simon’s Town established by Dutch East India Company and now home to the South African navy. We passed by Boulders Beach home of the jackass penguins, views out to sea were once again breathtaking. We were now on the return leg going via Fish Hoek , Sun Valley heading back to Noordhoek. At least now the wind was behind us and helped with the climb of Chapman’s Peak. Feeling rather pleased with myself I reached the top not far behind Mark but it was at this point that he said just one more climb to go and for the life of me I couldn’t remember it! However as we left Hout Bay it came back to me when I saw it stretched out in front of me, what a slog! Mark said he would wait for me at the top, I responded by saying I’d like to be waiting for him but knew there was absolutely no chance. The climb seemed to go on for some time but at least once at the top it was now a downhill run back to Cape Town. Arriving back at the Hotel gave me chance to think about the fantastic day I had, approx 80 miles of cycling, a good guide who filled me on all the points of interest, history and was a great companion to cycle with. The scenery was hard to describe, from Table Mountain, Hout Bay, Chapman’s Peak but at least I have the photographs.

If you ever find yourself going to South Africa I fully recommend cycling the Cape and with a knowledgeable tour guide, cycling companion Mark Lawson, sunshine and a decent bike you have all the ingredients for a perfect day out.

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