Friday, July 10, 2015

Last full day in Africa. All the work’s done. Time to make some final memories. Time for the Cape of Good Hope.

We’ve invited the Simpsons and the Paynes to come along. It’s the least we can do to show our appreciation for all they’ve done for us these 2 weeks.

We go by Kevin’s house at 9 am, where the Paynes are waiting as well. One last time over familiar roads—the R102, Van Riebeeck, southeast past the Eersterivier church to Baden-Powell Drive (named for the founder of the Boy Scouts, which originated here in South Africa), then southwest along the eastern stretch of the Strand, the beach at the north end of False Bay. We stop near Muizenberg to run out on the beach, but there’s red tide visible in the breakers, and we decide that’s not something we want to soak in.

Past Muizenberg and Fish Hoek and onto the Cape proper. Down the coastal drive to Simon’s Town, where, as I tell the team, I would want to retire to if I were the retiring type. It’s a fishing village with a small naval base and a large British feel. We stop for an hour there to see the African penguin colony—I believe the only free penguins outside of Antarctica—which used to be called jackass penguins for their distinctive bray. The people who decide such things decided that wasn’t a very attractive name, I guess, and renamed them.

Then south to the Cape of Good Hope National Park. Pay at the gate, and drive across the windswept craggy grassland—very much the way southern New Mexico would feel if it were surrounded by ocean, if that makes any sense—until we see the Cape itself. It’s not very impressive looking—a promontory of middling height, much lower than Cape Point, its neighboring promontory on the eastern side of the Cape. We park, eat some lunch, and take the requisite photo at the large wooden sign. We can prove we were here.

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Then the hike up the Cape behind us, to see the southwest corner of Africa clearly. The coast comes down from the north and then turns sharply east, toward India. Perhaps, think the explorers, this is the corner. And so they call it Good Hope.

There’s a path from here across to Cape Point, which we follow until we reach the stairs—over 200 of them—leading down to Dias Beach, a U-shaped beach in a bowl between mountain peaks, feeling very isolated. Down we go.

This is my favorite spot on the planet. It feels like the end of the earth. Reaching the bottom of the stairs, we run down the sandy slope onto the beach proper, and the crew, ever the tourists, feel obligated to run into the water. It’s frighteningly cold, which I could have told them.

They play on the beach for half an hour or so while I sit on a rock and savor the location. The girls throw Gershon into the water—he’s had that coming for some time—and then we walk the length of the beach to the east end to take another photo.

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There are some great climbing rocks here. I lead the crew up and over, avoiding the high sea spray until we can see an unspoiled, hidden beach around the corner. It’s in a bowl of sedimentary rock, and the layers make climbing pretty simple, so I work my way down to the second beach, which I’ve never stood on before. I find some evidence of a shipwreck here—I learn later it was an Iranian tanker being transported to scrap, which ran aground here in 1970.

Back to Dias, up the 200 steps—we take our time—and on over the path to Cape Point. Toilets, drinking fountains. And Tony and Kevin have brought the vehicles around, so we don’t have to walk all the way back.

We’re tired, so we take the funicular railway up the hill instead of hiking it. Then follow the lighthouse keeper’s path out as far as the authorities will let us go. It’s highly scenic, probably 2000 feet above the water—we spot some whales breaching—and at the top of a steep precipice right next to the path. Time to pay attention. At one point we’re essentially on a knife edge with precipices down both sides. Awesome view.

Another photo out at the end of the trail, and then back to catch the last funicular down. We meet the Simpsons and the Paynes in the parking lot, load up the vans, and head north. I’m hoping to time it so we catch sundown on Chapman’s Peak Drive overlooking Hout Bay.

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We end up about 15 minutes later than peak viewing, but it’s gorgeous nevertheless. Ronald Reagan once spoke fondly of driving the Pacific Coast Highway at sunset; this is a parallel experience.

Into Hout Bay for supper at Mariner’s Wharf, a fancy seafood joint. We all order what we want, and it’s all delicious, and the waitress is a hoot. And we feed 16 people for about two hundred bucks. I love this continent.

Down the highway to home. We invite the Paynes and the Simpsons to stay to help us finish off our ice cream and enjoy a little fellowship.

Then our final team devotions. Good singing, good testimonies. I share the unique contributions that I think each member has made to the team, and I congratulate them on their success. Then we pray, thanking God for grace of many kinds—protection, strength, direction, forgiveness, companionship, local leadership. And much more.

Logistics—we have to be out of the house by 10 am, and the flight is at 1:15—and then to bed. Tired. Grateful. Done.

Homeward bound.

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Dan Olinger

Chair, Division of Bible in the BJU School of Religion.

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