By Lauren Manuel
The peninsula of Cape Town happens to be spectacular from any angle you may look at it.
Hopping in your car and road tripping is one thing, taking a tour bus to all the most popular places is another, but actually using the public transport system of the train to see the bits of coast you can’t reach with your car makes for a beautiful ride.
In comparison to trains and subways of first-world countries, I must admit we do lack somewhat. The train’s route is not nearly as extensive as it should be, given that a large majority of Capetonians use it to commute to work every day and there are only one or two main lines.
But the one route that does run all the way from the inner city, through the suburbs and all the way along the coast into Simonstown is a lovely ride especially if you’re doing it for fun and outside of peak hours.
It was a public holiday, which meant that the rest of the city was not falling over each other to get to work.
Seeing the Sights
The train was fairly empty, filled only with families headed for the beach, and my boyfriend and I bought our tickets at False Bay station and headed for the final stop at the naval town of Simon’s Town.
The last time I had braved the train was back in university, but this time was different. I felt safe, relaxed and eager to see the sights only traingoers see.
A Day for Paddlers
With a northwest wind blowing, surfers had already paddled out in their dozens at Muizenberg beach. The water was incredibly clear and I imagined that this must mean perfect visibility for the shark spotters up along Boyes Drive.
Before we knew it, we were rapidly passing the cosy St. James Beach with its brightly colored changing rooms and children running into the water.
A couple huddled together away from the beach crowds and sought shade beneath a tree.
It seemed like the day for paddlers, kayakers and anyone possessing water sports equipment, for the ocean seemed to be glassy and fairly flat.
A man with a hat launched his orange kayak out beside the rocks as the mist hovered over the greater part of False Bay.
Turquoise and Blue
The ocean seemed to be dotted with a brush of turquoise and navy blue strokes with each different turn the train took.
The Brass Bell restaurant buzzed as usual, whilst moored fishing boats bobbed about at Kalk Bay harbor and groups of girls huddled together on the sand.
The red and white lighthouse stood tall and proud and never waivered at the sight of waves crashing against its sides. The regular visitors to the harbor, two massive seals, maneuvered up at stairs to get unwanted bits of fish.
On the opposite side of the road, the Cuban flag of Cape to Cuba’s restaurant flapped merrily and pedestrians in search of lunch waited for tables at Olympia Café.
Hot Summer Days
Tourists browsed the antique stores and boutiques filled with desirable clothing. The ice cream store seemed to be filling up with customers hoping these hot summers days would never end.
Older couples tanned along the boardwalk of Fishhoek beach and just before the train turned the corner, fisherman cast their lines outward in hope of a good day.
Lifeguarding squads began their training near Clovelly Corner and launched their paddle skis out in a rapid motion.
When I leaned a little way out of the train, the wind caught my hair and my face felt cool. I had to stand on the seat just to see outside the window.
An elderly man took his daily stroll along the boardwalk, not once lifting his head at the sound of the passing train. Children and their parents wading in the rock pools waved eagerly at us and we waved back.
Further on two youngsters enjoyed surfing a wave all to themselves. The mist seemed to form a canopy over the ocean, and I thought about how quickly this ride was flying by.
The journey came to end at the sign of a shipwreck and all the gigantic grey navy ships docked in the harbor. We were off the train, only to return for the 13:40 pm train back home.
Old Simon’s Town with its buildings dated from the 1800s, a cute sidewalk cafe and Salty Sea Dog’s fish and chips awaited. Crowds were seated on the water’s edge for lunch and coffee. Families leaned over the jetty pointing at the yachts and little boats. Foreigners posed for photos and booked boat tours around the harbor.
We had barely received our order of hake and chips and realized we had less than 15 minutes to walk back to the station before the train left us behind, only to return an hour later.
This time we hastily made our way past the Maritime Museum, manicured gardens behind a tall white wall and shirtless guys burping from their balconies.
Lunch on the Train
No sooner had we jumped on the train and walked to a carriage with open windows that the train slowly pulled away.
With plastic forks, sprinkles of salt and tomato sauce, we devoured our food, for it was well past lunchtime. I had driven this way countless times before, but the train provided a different experience.
For only R15 [about $2US] for a return ticket, we had explored one side of the peninsula in half an afternoon. And what a breathtaking coastline it is.
For more information on trains in Cape Town visit www.capemetrorail.co.za or ask a friendly local.
Lauren Manuel writes: “When I wasn’t teaching English in Seoul, surfing in Hawaii or competing in Hiphop dance champs in Germany, I was trying to capture it all in writing and through photography. A wannabe nomad, I’m now based in beautiful Cape Town, but explore new bits of South Africa all the time. A freelance travel writer, my stories and photos have appeared in Getaway Magazine, Tango Diva, Travellady, In the Know Traveller and The Travel Mag. Follow me on Twitter @Lauren_Manuel and read about my adventures on www.thetravelmanuel.blogspot.com.”
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