Growing up in Cape Town meant you spent summer days at the beach, nights playing till the stars shone and Sunday afternoons you took “a drive”. More often than not, you were piling into the car as your parents drove to Chapman’s Peak. Guaranteed, there would be a stop along the way. Here you would clamber out of the car to peer over the edge of the rocks to the crashing waves, meters below.
If you were lucky, you would spot a Dassie, lazily sunning itself on the granite boulders. Soon you would be ushered back into the baking vehicle to continue your journey. The curvy road and persistent sun were almost certain to lull you to an afternoon nap. Perhaps that was the reason our parents kept taking us… Many of us keep this “tradition”: as teens, as young adults and now as parents!
What makes Chapmans Peak so tantalising? Why do generations of Capetonians, and hundreds of tourists, flock to it? It’s just a road! Right? In theory, you’d be correct. Chapman’s Peak Drive links Hout Bay to Noordhoek, creating an alternate route between Cape Town and the South Peninsula. It’s a little over 9 km long and has 114 curves. It was so dangerous to build in 1915 that convicts formed the labour. With sheer drops to the Atlantic and rocky peaks above, Chapman’s Peak has had a fair amount of fatalities. Rockfalls, strong winds and heavy rains all impact the drive and it is often closed during the winter. Now, there is a myriad of activities you can enjoy after you have traversed the infamous drive. From farm stalls to wildlife experiences and tea shops: there’s something for everyone.
But for most, none of these things matter. The mountain draws us back time and time again: the views across the bay taking our breath away. The towering peaks humble us and bring about calm.
As children, the allure lay in the journey. As young adults the curvy drive allowed us to soak up sunsets and starry nights with friends and lovers. As parents, we go back for the nostalgia of simpler days