Peering from the Cape of Good Hope
What is it about edges that attract us? Why do we gladly stand, albeit timidly, at the precipice of a cliff? Why the compulsion to see the very last tip of land? When all that we know for sure is safely and surely behind us, why linger at the edge to gaze squinty-eyed at the breathless gap before us?
The Cape of Good Hope is the ultimate edge experience. It seduces with the wild, the open, the unknown.
The rugged outcropping holds what many believe to be South Africa’s southernmost grain of sand and its southernmost sun-bleached rocky beaches. (Actually, Cape Agulhas, 95 miles east, is the continent’s most southern point.) No matter. The Cape of Good Hope holds our fascination.
And because the edge is there, the people arrive. In cars and SUVs, pickups and taxis, they arrive and park along the asphalt road and near the Cape Point Visitors Centre.
They park, step out of their vehicles and walk south toward the vast emptiness. They walk single file along the road. They say “Excuse me” to others they pass who have already had their turn. They notice the hardy purple daisies—here, vegetation of South Africa’s Fynbos biome—that line the road.
They eye the ostriches grazing in the distance. They see the large kelpy swaths that flutter to shore and snag on the rocks and driftwood from unknown, faraway voyages. They stand on tip-toe in the cool gusts that stir and blend the merging waters of the Indian and Atlantic Oceans.
They smile, teary-eyed, into the blinding noonday sun for photos to mark this occasion. They know they will never return.
For many of us traveling from other continents, the pilgrimage is made to the Cape of Good Hope for the first and last time. We know this.
Tucked inside airliners that require eleven hours to traverse Africa, we envision our eventual walk on the beach at the Cape of Good Hope. We land at Cape Town, fit in a night’s sleep and make the 45-mile southerly drive to arrive at the inevitable, exotic edge.
We peer into the distance at the unknown, watery wilderness, teetering at the tip of South Africa. We stare at the seduction, we embrace the edge… and then we leave.