If you think a flat walk is boring, let me assure you that there can be no more interesting one than that offered by a stroll along the promenade between Three Anchor Bay and Bantry Bay here in our beautiful city of Cape Town. On the one side is a busy road and the imposing residential flats famed for sea views and high-end prices, and on the other, the crashing Atlantic rollers flinging spray across the promenade with a dash of shattered kelp in the mix.
It is good to see the once drought-stricken lawns restored to lush green. Children’s playparks featuring intricate structures (no more swings and roundabouts or seesaws to knock out teeth), an occasional innovative sculpture and an outdoor gym for those who like to flex their muscles in public catch the eye, easy to enjoy without breaking your stride along the even paving. This is not to say you shouldn’t watch where you are going, as this is a very popular dog-walking venue and not all dog owners remove the evidence of their passing.
Cyclists who hire Dutch bicycles further down the promenade weave in and out of the pram-pushers and joggers, despite a painted sign on the paving, and it’s not clear whether they should be there, but tolerance is the name of the game as Capetonians enjoy the fresh air and cool conditions in this most cosmopolitan of suburbs. Down on the beach, two women are piling up the heavy kelp that has washed up overnight from the rough seas currently pounding the Peninsula – surely man’s work, but none in sight save those propped up against a wall looking worse for wear after a night under a rough shelter of cardboard and plastic. They are sharing food and coffee, the universal language of gatherings.
The public swimming pool is empty save for two hardy individuals exercising, and the smaller pool is a playground for gulls who don’t mind a little chlorine. In summer, you can’t see the water for the people. Further along, a pop-up electric bike/scooter hire tent seems popular, but we give it a miss, leaving it for the youngsters. We pass a line of milkwoods bent horizontal by the prevailing northwester – a strange sight as these are resilient trees and nowhere else along the walk did we see this deformity, but perhaps this is a form of wind tunnel as it gathers strength over Lion’s Head.
Public toilets abound along this walk and there is one below the promenade on the rocky beach where we climbed down for our coffee break near Bantry Bay. Public toilets have a bad rap in such areas, with associated social problems and it is incredible to find it manned (or rather, womanned) by a cheerful lady who keeps it spotlessly clean, sanitises your hands even after you have washed them with the soap and paper towel provided, and still apologises for the ghastly music coming from the radio of the homeless woman dancing outside in her own world. Life is full of pleasant surprises if only you expect them!
A half hour spent idling on the rocks, watching the waves break over rocks far offshore, an ever-present danger to small craft, is part of the magic of this walk, and an opportunity to admire the fascinating geological formations that make this a place of international importance in our knowledge of Earth and its history. Regrettably, informative plaques describing each area are constantly vandalised, but a Google search is well worth doing, particularly before you come to see what Darwin stopped by to study.
The lawn is busy today with tandem paragliders landing one after the other like planes at Heathrow, having launched into the southerly breeze from high above on Signal Hill, the adrenalin-fuelled shrieks carrying before them as they land expertly, without a stumble, on the open grass area where this activity is designated. Touts thrust pamphlets under our noses, offering a special just for today of only R1 200 for a few minutes of being free as a bird. For now, I will remain a flightless bird.