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Matilda - Escape From Durban, Capers on the Cape

The weather window mentioned in the last blog for once proved to live up to its promises and we made t'other side of the Cape in one hit. Not that it didn't have its excitement. The first night we got caught up in the middle of some serious electrical storms that were probably for me (Heather) the scariest bit of the circumnavigation so far. At one point we seemed to be surrounded by lightning bolts, and, true to form, Jonathan decided he needed to do something at the mast. Arrgh! Where were the rubber soled boots when you needed them. I am not sure what you have to do to get hit in a powerful electrical storm, I would have thought passing through the middle of one underneath the only tall metal thing on the horizon would do it, but we got through unscathed, only to have the whole thing repeated again about an hour later.

Funnily enough our biggest problem on the trip (unlike pretty much any of the other boats we have talked to) was that on the whole we didn't have enough wind, and then when it was there we deliberately slowed things down for a day or two so we could get around the Cape on the back of some strong winds ahead. We rounded Cape Agulhas in quiet conditions, only to see some major squalls in front, but amazingly we had timed it just right and in front is where they stayed. We ended up having to motor some of the way and it barely got above 25 knots when we rounded the notorious Cape of Good Hope. Upon arrival in Hout Bay, Umineko were there to greet us and they said it was the first day of little wind they had seen in the entire time they had been there (around a week). Sophie is also here and Juba has recently arrived.

Hout Bay is a pretty little cove nestled among the mountains on the other side of Cape Town. It is still very much a working fishing port, but has a lovely beach and also a reputation for great sea food which brings the locals out from Cape Town for a day out. We were welcomed on our way in with an escort of fur seals that have provided us with much entertainment since. In fact, I can't think of a more entertaining marina so far - it is impossible to get bored watching the pleasure boats taking tourists in and out to Seal Island (just around the point), the seals performing (some enterprising locals get tourists to pay them to get some of the seals to do ''tricks" for fish), and the fishing boats preparing to go out and coming in with their piles of fish.

Just after we arrived Caroline and David from Peat Smoke very kindly took us out in their car along the Chapman's Peak Road to Simonstown and beyond to Cape Point. This has to be one of the most scenic roads in the world and we picked the perfect day for it. Our first stop was to see the penguins on Boulders Beach, a sanctuary for the rare African penguin. Its an idyllic place and it was great to see penguins sitting on lots of eggs. (Shame we are a bit too soon to see the chicks). After that we went to Cape Point and I am proud to say we didn't take the funicular up to the top, but walked all the way. The cliffs are covered in these little Dassies, which are like a large guinea pig that technically is a kind of hyrax (apparently the nearest relative to the elephant - which I find very hard to believe). After that we encountered ostrich beach bums and hitch-hiking baboons - you have got to love the wild life here.

For the last two days we purchased double decker bus tour tickets - better then it sounds. It has taken us to all the major sites in and around Cape Town with a canal and wine tour thrown in. I think the highlight for me was watching Southern Right Whales performing off the beach at Llandudno from the top of the double decker. We also got to the Kirstenbosh Gardens, one of the great botanic gardens in the world, and a really interesting wildlife rescue bird and monkey park.

Today has been a bit of a chore day, but we did manage to get over to the other side of Hout Bay. Just outside the Bay there is a shanty town which has an initiative for the unemployed of making art and crafts out of - wait for it - used tea bags. (I am pretty certain I could be their major supply source for all their used tea bag needs.) The stuff they produce is amazingly beautiful and bears no relationship to its raw material. I resisted the temptation to purchase a bag bearing the legend, I Am An Old Bag, despite Jonathan's encouragement, but we are now the proud owners of some beautiful coasters that will definitely be a talking point in years to come.

We are due to move around to the luxurious V&A Marina in Cape Town proper on Saturday, but I shall miss this place. When we get there and in a moment of "we need to get fit" madness, we have signed up for two walks up Table Mountain and environs. I am not sure I will be up to the second one, on New Years Day, which is one of the most difficult ways up without rope, pick and crampons. It involves a rock scramble on a cliff face, directly underneath the summit of the cable car, assisted by embedded chains and footholds . Why can I not get it into my head that I am just not good with heights - what a way to start the New Year. Last year we climbed the Gros Piton at St Lucia for New Year's Day. I think I must have a death wish.

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