The Southern-most landmark: Cape Agulhas

Cape Agulhas is a landmark that’s a bit of both. Firstly it’s a natural Cape jutting out into the ocean and secondly, in an effort to promote it’s geographic placement, has a man –made marker placed on it. So naturally we will kick off our posts with the best of both worlds. A mere 230 km drive from our hometown, Cape Town, through the picturesque country towns of Bredasdorp, Napier and Struisbaai (the drive alone makes it worth the visit) Cape Agulhas quickly came into view. A popular holiday destination for South Africans especially from Johannesburg, Cape Agulhas is apparently going through some changes. One in particular its size just ask Jaco owner of the local general grocer – the Agulhas Corner Shop. Other than claiming to have the southern-most corner café on the continent, Jaco also enthralled us with his tales of how just twenty-five years ago it was a one-horse village that is now fast becoming a sizable town. My how much things have changed.

With one big change in particular having occurred circa 1848. The building of the lighthouse called the Arniston (not sure if it was named after the sinking of the ship with the same name circa 1815). The lighthouse to say the least is impressive, built to resemble the mystical Egyptian lighthouse, the Pharos of Alexandria or the Lighthouse of Alexandria; it has since stood up to its reputation due in part to the sharp decline in maritime disasters. The downside of it being the climb to the top (especially if you suffer from extreme vertigo), but all was forgiven in favour of the breathtaking views it rewarded us of the Cape. Wobbly legged as I was, after the harrowing climb down; I was still able to hobble along the walkways to the Cape Agulhas landmark. This is the official stamp to mark the dividing line between the Indian and Atlantic oceans. It’s small but its flat top is fun to stand on with one leg pointing east and the other west. Knowing all the while you are as far south as the continent of Africa will allow, with a foot in each mighty ocean. Interestingly the marker was erected by then President P.W Botha’s administration, one of South Africa’s last apartheid presidents and is fitting to note, if there are people who know how to put up monuments that divide it would have been him and his administration of the time.

But the landmark is more than just an official mark and dividing line, it is also a homage to all the brave sailors, friend or foe alike, which sailed past this Cape, and were either stranded or drowned here. It’s not classed as one of the Great Capes for nothing, treacherous yet beautiful, welcoming and frightening to many a modern day circumnavigator it is one of the places on earth that is not to be missed while circling the globe. And in essence was the inspiration to the building of the iconic L’Agulhas lighthouse. Oh how tripping down memory lane can work up a hunger. Stopping off at Jaco’s neighbour’s seafood restaurant, the L’Agulhas fish & chips. I had one thought on my mind, without the discovery of this place and the many survivors whose ships had run aground, ultimately leading them to the establishment of a settlement. I would probably not be enjoying my battered hake and slap chips.

Cloud cover like a tidal wave over the lighthouse Arniston. Photograph by Nomadic Bug, Nomadic Existence

Fun Factoids:

  • Discovered by the Portuguese, the name Cape Agulhas loosely translated from the Portuguese name Cabo das Agulhas is “Cape of the Needles”. And for good measure the rocky outcrops jutting out from the Cape sure as hell look like a spine of sharp needles waiting for ships to be punctured on. The Cape has and is still known to be a maritime hazard and is considered to be one of the Great Capes of the world.
  • Common mistakes are more often than not made of Cape Point, at the tip of the Cape peninsula, to being the southern-most tip, but this is in fact incorrect. Cape Agulhas is.
  • It’s also the official meeting point of the worlds two great oceans the Indian (from the east) and the Atlantic (from the west). The currents of both oceans the Benguela (Atlantic) and the Mozambique (Indian) respectively merge to form the Agulhas current. Adding to the dangers of shipping as evident in the number of shipwrecks that can be spotted in a number of stages of decay strewn along the coastline.
  • The lighthouse, although still in service, doubles up as a fantastic museum to all of South Africa’s lighthouse installations. A sort of homage to the trade, the artifacts and exhibitions on display are nonetheless riveting.
  • The Arniston Lighthouse at Cape Agulhas is the second oldest in South Africa, can you guess which is the oldest???
  • Oh, and please when driving the country roads en-route to Cape Agulhas be aware of the Spotted Cape Leopard Tortoises. A number at any given time will attempt to cross the road, and as you well know are not the fastest animals in the land, so slow down or stop.

By Slippery Joe Lyzard © (Writer for Nomadic Existence) Photography: Nomadic Bug ©  Nomadic Existence 2015 ©

 Explore. Conserve. Discover.


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