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Africa’s Cape Peninsula

Posted June. 16, 2004 21:17,   


Until his death, Columbus was not aware of the fact that the land he had discovered was a new continent, and that in the future, this land would be called the American continent named after Amerigo Vespucci. He did not know that Bartholomeu Deaz would be the first European to confirm the Indian ocean east of the African continent by discovering the Cape of Storms which opened the door to cultivation of the Indian sea route, and that the point of contact between the two oceans (the Atlantic and the Indian) would be changed to a more plausible name called the Cape of Good Hope. One additional fact: That Cape of Good Hope became the Peak of Good Hope for us.

Even if the dead Columbus feels victimized and Deaz strongly opposes it, there is nothing to be done now. It is because when something is incorporated into history, nobody can change it. Why? Because that is history. However, the origin as to how the Cape of Good Hope became the Peak of Good Hope can be inferred by visiting the actual spot. The Cape of Good Hope is a flat plain on the coast. If there were to be a peak, there would only be Cape Point. It seems that this is a misconception formed by a 87m-high coastal cliff. Even Westerners misconceive this place as the Cape of Good Hope.

After leaving early in the morning from the downtown area in Cape Town, I set forth to the Cape of Good Hope. It was a daily course (total 200km) to travel southward along the west coast until reaching the tip of the land, then moving north along the east coast to return to Cape Town. The course includes a visit to a village on the coast as well as an arboretum at the foot of Table Mountain.

--The Peak of Good Hope that became History’s Hope: A Succession of Penguins and Seals

The topography from Cape Town to the Cape of Good Hope is a peninsula. And a special peninsula at that. It is a peninsula that commands two oceans; the Atlantic to the west and the Indian ocean to the east. On this peninsula, humans and animals live peacefully in the presence of each other. The beach in front of the house is a nest for penguins, and the stone island of the gulf in front of the village is a resting place for thousands of seals.

In the thicket grassland of the Cape of Good Hope, one can encounter ostriches and baboons on mountain roads. Having a Californian atmosphere, it is a part of Africa that does not resemble Africa. This is the national park of the Cape Peninsula, situated at the bottom tip of the land.

The peninsula surrounding two oceans is best traveled along its coastal drive to appreciate the spectacular oceanic view of the coasts on both sides. Beautiful picturesque villages can be seen here and there, in addition to scenic restaurants where people take pleasure in watching the ocean view while sipping on wine. It is heaven on earth, and a place where everyone feels an impulse to live at least during one point in their lives when they visit.

How beautiful could it be? To quote a statement from an Englishman that I met at a restaurant called Black Marilyn on the hills of the beach: “Forget it.” As an answer to my question of comparing this place to California’s coastal highway (Monterrey Peninsula-Santa Monica), he was determined in his reply.

Sea Point, to the north of the peninsula (Cape Peninsula), is a good starting place for a drive along the coast. The morning fog is famous here on the western coast. The fog is caused by the cold current that moves north from the south pole, and the view revealing the foot of the mountain (left), the rocky coast, and the oceanic coast of white sands from the fog is simply spectacular. The next destination to reach is Sandy Bay. It is the area’s only nude beach, and it deserves to be so, surrounded by this nature.

--Fog rises on the coastal roads and coils at the foot of the mountain

The Foot Bay Coast has a towering peak called Herman Peak (592m above the sea). The coastal road that coils the waist of the foot of the mountain sinking into the ocean is marvelous. Taking this route and traveling north, one reaches the Cape of Good Hope. The term “Good Hope” from Cape of Good Hope reflects a wish. It is a wish to find a route to an unknown world, to India, as rumored to exist in Europe of that time.

In that voyage era, when the ship was the best mode of transportation, Portugal Deaz’s achievement was stupendous. He found a new ocean route to India in 1488. And then, 10 years later, the Indian route was further cultivated by Vasco da Gama. It is needless to say that this was a warning shot for colonization and pillage towards India and Asia.

--The contact point between two oceans

There is always heavy wind at this place because it is the junction between warm current and cold. Because of this wind, the environment near the tip of the peninsula is desolate from the extreme erosion. Ostriches move about peacefully on the plain. As a matter of fact, the Cape of Good Hope that Deaz found is not the southern extremity of the cape. To be exact, it is the “west-and-southernmost point.” The actual southernmost point is Cape Aghulas, 250km east of this place.

However, history is benevolent to Deaz. It settles on Cape Point as the contact point of the Atlantic and the Indian ocean, approximately 2km away to the east of the Cape of Good Hope. It is the tip of the land of the Cape Peninsula, 60km from Cape Town.

Despite this obvious fact, travelers return home believing that Cape Point is the southern tip of the African continent. This is Deaz’s “great illusion.” Regardless of time’s passing, it has remained unchanged. Could it be because that is part of history as well?

Seung-Ha Cho summer@donga.com