If you’ve never been to Cape Town, as I hadn’t until last weekend, let me tell you what you’ve been missing.
But before I go into the detail of my amazing adventure, let me thank the organizers of this trip, South African Tourism for gloriously living up to their, “South Africa -It’s possible” motto.
Going to Cape Town was a dream come true as I had long wished to see the much talked about beauty of the city and its famous Table Mountain.
I was lucky to get a window seat on the SAA flight from Jo’burg as I wanted to get a bird’s eye view of the city before setting foot on its soil, and I was not disappointed. As we descended out of the cloudless blue sky, the magnificence of the City with its mingling of natural and man made beauty, was truly awe inspiring. And then, there was the mountain, towering over the city like a guardian angel.
Table Mountain dominates the skyline, and as we were driven to our five star hotel, which was to be our home for the next four days, I found that, like a newfound lover, it was difficult to shift my eyes from its stunning presence. All I wanted to do was climb into its embrace, and I knew that it was only a matter of time before we would get up close and personal.
Feeling like royalty
The Taj I read from the accompanying itinerary “is a five star hotel set in the vibrant heart of Cape Town, offering guests a combination of refined Indian hospitality and an authentic Cape Town experience.”
From the pictures in the brochure it seemed that we would be following in the footsteps of the rich and famous, so I was already excited, but nothing had prepared me for the opulence that I was about to encounter. Not for the first time on this memorable trip, my breath was simply taken away as I stepped inside my room and discovered a living space fit for royalty. The room with its exquisite furniture and king size bed, made it hard to want to get out from under its cool linen covers, but then with such an exciting programme ahead, it was worth the effort.
Having freshened up and exchanged gasps of appreciation with other members of the group, it was time to go for what was named in the programme as a ‘dinner cruise.’ Our set off point was the world famous Waterfront, beyond which lay rolling waves and endless ocean, which coming from land locked Botswana, is a sight for sore eyes. In fact all the senses are treated in Cape Town, from the scented salt air, to the sounds of the wind and water, and now our stomachs were to be treated to a sumptuous meal.
The horse race and its fashion
The focus of our trip was to be the famous J&B Met horse race scheduled for Saturday under the theme ‘Larger Than Life.’ I was not sure what to expect from the event, and wondered how despite being sponsored to the tune of R2.5 million, a horse race could claim such outer worldly qualities.
They call it the Sport of Kings, and it certainly fitted into the living like royalty theme that had already been our experience. So again I was ready to be impressed, and once again I wasn’t disappointed.
The J&B as I was now learning to call it, combines all the excitement of the racing with the spectacle of what I can only describe as the biggest fashion show on earth. The place was awash in a kaleidoscope of colour and vibrancy that truly was ‘larger than life,’ or at least larger than anything else I had experienced in my life.
Local celebrities turned up in large numbers dressed to kill in weird and wonderful attires, and I spent much of the time walking round with my mouth gaping open, my eyes bulging, and my mind boggling.
Not knowing much about horse racing I was lucky to get a teacher, Dr Patricia Milligan, a British national who like many overseas tourist visits Cape Town every January to attend the event. She talked me through the intricacies of horse racing and the betting process where some punters didn’t think twice about parting with P100 000 to bet on their fancied horse. She told me that even though she had been coming to Cape Town for many years, the place never lost its unique charm and excitement. “It has a special appeal like nowhere else in the world I know, and I’ve been around, I can tell you my dear,” she said with a wink of the eye that said it all.
The highlight of the event that kept everyone abuzz with anticipation was the main horse race, the J&B Met Grade 1, run over 2000 metres. 17 horses, groomed as if they had just emerged from a beauty parlour, strutted their stuff for inspection and appreciation before lining up at the start.
Then they were off, and I watched what for me was the greatest sporting spectacle I have ever had the privilege to witness. A stunning display of artistry and strength as the horses and jockeys sped past to cheers of encouragement from the excited crowd. The race was won by a horse called Past Master ridden by Gerrit Schlechter, and for as long as I live, their names, as winners of the 2011 J&B Met Grade classic, will have a special place in my memory.
Sunday was the day set aside to see the beauty of Cape Town from the air as the organizers had arranged to take us on a helicopter flight.
We flew over the 64 000 seater Cape Town stadium used in the World Cup and seen as a sporting icon around the world, and as we took in the other earthly delights, I had already run out of superlatives to describe the wonders we were seeing. So if the words ‘incredible,’ ‘amazing, ‘stunning,’ have already been used, then again I apologise, and can only suggest that you get yourself down here to marvel for yourself.
The striking drive and horse riding
Having spent some minutes in the air, we were back on the road heading to Noorhhoek (North Corner) for our horse-riding treat on what is called a ‘Not to be Missed Drive.’ There was no chance of me missing out, and the views and scenery on Chapman’s peak drive were utterly thrilling and breathtaking.
The road curves and winds like a roller coaster in-between views of mountain and sea along this famous causeway, that for several years was closed out of concern over rock falls. It has been re-opened after a host of safety measures, in an incredible feat of engineering that has now made the route safe, and which must be considered as one of the modern wonders of the world.
We finally reached our horse-riding destination, bringing butterflies flying into the stomachs of those brave enough to take the challenge of their first ever experience on horseback. But I was glad to overcome my fears and pounding heart, and discover the delights of such a thrilling mode of travel as I bonded with my new friend called Maestro.
What a great time we had in Cape Town and how lucky the Capetonians are for having all the beauty right in front of their eyes. Some people are truly blessed.
But you don’t have to be a local or a visiting millionaire to enjoy the delights of the Mother City. There is so much to see and do in a holiday that you can tailor to suit your pocket, so that anyone reading this article could make Cape Town a possibility. Where there is a will, there is a way, and I know that I will visit again. As our guide said when we were saying our goodbyes, “There is no goodbye in Cape Town, its only totsiens, which means till we meet again.”
Once visited, never forgotten. Thanks SA Tourism for being such wonderful hosts and for the splendid fun filled weekend in Cape Town.