I’m standing against a sturdy stone wall, looking down at the Dias Point lighthouse, built to warn seafarers of the treacherous reefs that lie submerged in these waters. The ocean floor around the Peninsula is littered with the remains of ships that foundered at the Cape of Storms over the centuries, and one can only imagine that there must have been few survivors, as the sheer cliffs on this extremely narrow promontory have shattered boulders at their feet from millions of years of relentless pounding of the Atlantic swells pushing in from the deep south. Ahead of me the ocean is empty except for a few small volcanic islands before reaching Antarctica. There is something majestic and awe-inspiring about standing on the edge of a continent, with only the shrill cries of gulls and cormorants to break the silence. The waves crashing below are too far away for any sound to reach the lookout and it is as though I am standing in the bow of a great ship, setting out for destinations unknown.
I got here via the trail that starts at the foot of the cliffs of the real Cape of Good Hope, the promontory to the west at the end of Dias Beach, a pristine cove where cormorants gather to roost and breed on cliffs that have natural ledges piled up like multi-storey buildings purpose built for their nests. A poorly maintained and rugged path leads from the car park to the lookout on the Cape and today the cloud cover gives the scene a crisp, subdued light in which to appreciate every detail of this much-loved Cape of ours. The brunt of hundreds of thousands of visitors who flock to the area is borne by the trails, together with the constant abrasion by wind and water in a place where there is seldom a time of stillness. Stunted versions of plants that grow vigorously on the Peninsula appear bonsai-like, yet prolific as they take root in the shallowest of soil sheltered only by the cracks in a rock.
Without international visitors, we feel as though we have set off into the wilderness, far from home comforts and everyday life, with only piles of dung left fresh by passing buck making us aware of the privilege of living within an hour’s drive of untamed beauty. We branch off to the new lighthouse when we reach the funicular station, and soon are overlooking the wide expanse of False Bay, unrippled and darkly gloomy below the clouds, revealing no secrets in its hidden depths. A steep downhill reminds us that everything that goes down must come up, and indeed it was so. But a few hours in almost isolation from a tumultuous world that seemed so, so far away was the cure for all ills and a complete assuaging of the longings of the soul.