Just up the road from Observatory, we found the Rhodes Memorial. A little gem of a place!
Cecil John Rhodes, founder of the famous De Beers Diamond Company and British Empire builder had a big influence on the way Southern Africa was carved up politically in the nineteenth century. He was Prime Minister of the Cape Colony from 1890-95 but by then he had already made his fortune through Kimberley Diamond Mines and a huge Gold strike near J’burg.
He established British Colonial power in Rhodesia (later Zimbabwe), Northern Rhodesia (Zambia) and Bechuanaland (Botswana) to name but a few.
Mind you he profited personally from these ventures as he established a few more gold mines on the way.
Strangely enough he’s probably better known for the Rhodes scholarship. Something he established by way of his will devoting most of his wealth to this noble cause. The scholarship even today still sends winners from countries other than Great Britain to study at Oxford University.
From an Australian point of view the most (in)famous winner was the then beer swilling Bob Hawke, arguably it’s most popular Prime Minister ever.
Well they’ve built a memorial to this guy (Rhodes, not Hawke) on the slopes of Devil’s Peak. It’s a bit like a mini coliseum, all columns and bronze statues of Lions bordering impressive bluestone granite steps that lead to a bronze bust of Rhodes. Really over the top stuff!
We found out about this place from a couple of white University students who we chatted to on one of our many minibus trips. We’re harden pro’s now. That same bus was also driven by, much to our surprise, a white guy, so times are definitely changing.
Actually they said that the little café next to it was worth a visit. In fact it was almost more fascinating than old Rhodes. To coin a phrase “it was just so colonial”. Wicker chairs and small round tables were scattered around the garden.
Nothing scattered about the young white waiters though, about six of them stood guard at the front of the garden, in their gleaming white shirts and black bow ties, waiting to pounce on unsuspecting prospects. It was the sort of place that had this been England or even Australia, would have made your wallet tremble. But this is South Africa and even our pitiful dollar made it real value for money. Mind you we only had coffee and cake!
Table Mountain in Cape Town from Robben Island former prison of Nelson Mandela
In our previous visit to Cape Town we had taken the cable car to the top of the 1000 metre Table Mountain (and back down again).
This time, we promised ourselves, we would walk to the top and catch the cable car down. Today was a public holiday and even minibuses would be few and far between so we had to brave another of Andre’s lectures as he very kindly gave us a lift into the city.
From there it was just a short walk to the main track that winds up the Platteklip gorge the easiest way up from the that side of the mountain.
There are two very distinct features about Table Mountain, the fact that from a distance it appears to have as the name suggests a completely flat top and it’s “tablecloth”. The tablecloth is cloud that regularly rolls in and covers the top for anything like a few minutes to the rest of the week. This phenomenon usually happens around mid- morning so we wanted to ensure that we got up there early enough to see the 360° views.
Last time we got to the top we had about 5 minutes before our vision was reduced to about 5 metres. This time we hadn’t even got up to the top before it rolled in, reducing visibility to a few metres and slowing our already slow progress.
The track was a winding trail that zig zagged awkwardly and was strewn with large boulders and obviously designed for mountain goats. Worse still we had the challenge of having to clamber around hundreds of people all with the same idea. Now we had to pick our way through damp mist and poor visibility. Being as I said a public holiday, the last thing was I would have expected would to be find teenage school groups. But there hundreds of the little shits who, as well as some adults, seemed oblivious to the fact that there was actually a trail with lots of signs asking us to keep to it.
But the gods did smile on us as we approached the top, the ‘tablecloth’ disappeared as quickly as it had appeared and we were able to spend a good hour and a bit admiring the great views. Table Mountain is at the end or the beginning of a small range called the twelve apostles that travel south and reduce in size at the beginning of the Cape Peninsula. It had cleared enough for us to see the famous Cape of Good Hope some 70 kilometres away at the end of the peninsula.
Cape Town from Table Mountain