Blue Heaven

Alone on the ocean

For a moment it’s as though the world has been tipped into a vat of indigo dye. Blink and the wash of colour separates into different components, mountains purple topped with white cotton, sweeping azure sky, navy-green sea scattered with glitter.

The blue haze is False Bay, one of the great waterscapes of the world and the biggest true bay in South Africa. Although Naples might be a hot contender in the blue stakes, in a competition to find the most beautiful bay in the world, FB would be right up there with the best.

Why a fairly negative name for a beautiful place? Around 400 years ago when spice-hungry explorers from Europe were attempting to find a route to the East, they turned left when they thought they’d gone far enough south, and ended up at Cape Hangklip by mistake. They thought this was Cape Point and the southernmost tip of Africa, and when they discovered their mistake, they labelled it False Bay and retraced their steps.

Capricious moods render False Bay’s beauty fickle, though, and the weather can turn nasty in a moment. The coastline round the area is littered with shipwrecks that floundered in its treacherous seas; the original Cape lighthouse was erected in 1860 at Cape Maclear, to be replaced 50 years later by the most powerful lighthouse in South Africa, on the lower Cape Point.

History is seldom an objective study so let’s take a week of time travel to explore – to dig far enough back into time, explore the length of the coastline. Long before man ever tied two pieces of wood together to use as a raft, early Stone Age man roamed here, and middle Stone Age man wandered these shores 400 000 years later, hunter-gatherers all, as were the later Stone Age San, or Strandlopers. There’s evidence of all those long-ago lives in middens and stone implements that have been found over the years, sites of inestimable value but not open to the public.

I hope I’ve whetted your interest, so I’ll see you next week for the start of our travel week.