Monthly Archives: January 2009

Not quite the J&B Met

Horse racing

At the end of last week I mentioned that we were going to visit friends in Royal Ascot for breakfast today and were hoping to get some photos of horses training outside the Gold Circle stables.

On the way to their apartment this morning we heard the radio DJ mention that the J&B Met - only the largest horse racing event in Cape Town - was on today! It had completely slipped our minds. This meant that there were very few horses training this morning, and the photo above is one of the few that I managed to snap of horses working off a little excess energy before presumably being transported to the Met at Kenilworth.

Thanks guys, the breakfast was awesome - but it does seem as though we'll have to do it again some time soon. :)

Egyptian geese

Egyptian geese at Kenridge Dam
We went down to Kenridge Dam this evening for a mini-outing, just before sunset. We haven't been to this particular dam for quite some time, and I was stunned to see how tall the reeds have become and how much of the dam is now being taken up by them. They must be covering at least three-quarters of the dam already - I can't imagine that this is good for the dam's eco-system. These Egyptian geese looked quite happy waddling around on the banks though, so I'm guessing it's not affecting them too much (yet).

They’re not a band, they’re the police

Police officers

I can't understand how people justify tossing cigarette butts from their car window. Fairly frequently I'll be stopped behind someone at a traffic light, or driving behind a car on the highway and I'll see a burning cigarette butt being tossed from the window.

People who do this make me angry because it's well known that Cape Town is susceptible to bush fires that take over large fields, stretches alongside highways and huge parts of Table Mountain, leading to people and animals dying, property being destroyed and an assortment of other incidents, from vehicle accidents to theft. It seems as though people don't think carefully enough about the consequences of their actions until it's too late.

If you see someone tossing a cigarette butt from their window, give the 24-hour Emergency Control Centre a call on 021 424 7715. You'll be asked for your name and contact number as well as the description and registration number of the vehicle involved so that the case can be investigated.

Rules of the road

Traffic lights

So there are rules of the road and rules of the road, and every once in a while for some (and more frequently for others!) these rules get tested and broken.

The council is busy re-tarring and widening the R300 road (between the N1 and N2 highways). For some time I've noticed what looked like speed cameras along the road (only a couple of kilometres apart), but since I could see no flash nearby I assumed that the cameras were not yet working.

Only yesterday did I learn that cameras that don't require a flash were being tested in our province! They apparently take photos of every car that passes by and use the time that it takes the vehicle to move between the two cameras to determine its average speed.

Now, I was recently in an awful hurry to get to the airport... let's see what the mail holds in store. :-/

Have you paid for your parking?

Parking paid

The blurry sign that you see in this photo reminds clients of this shopping centre to pay for their parking before exiting to the boom-gates. I still remain unconvinced that shopping centres aren't ripping us off by forcing us to pay for parking. Certain centres provide free open-air parking and paid undercover parking, leaving customers to decide whether or not they are prepared to pay for some shade from the African sun. This particular centre has no free parking.

I find paying to spend money at a shopping centre much like being charged to walk into a restaurant and look at the menu. I guess the shopping centre wins though - I still shop there regardless.

Partial eclipse of the sun

Partial solar eclipse from Cape Town

Once every month, the moon moves in between the sun and the earth and casts a shadow; but most of the time the position of the moon's orbit relative to the earth's means that this shadow misses us entirely.

This morning, however, we got to see the first solar eclipse of 2009 (and the best one that will be visible from South Africa for several years). The eclipse was only partial, with a maximum coverage of about 65% visible from Cape Town just after 8am.

Of course, a partial eclipse doesn't mean darkness by any means, despite what you see in the photo - the sky was actually perfectly blue, but Paul took the photo using a very high shutter speed and small aperture. Everything seemed to take on a slightly paler, softer look, though, almost as though the earth and sky were covered with gauze.

And don't worry, no eyes were harmed in the making of this photo. ;-)

Update: Take a look at Justin Hartman's awesome shot of the eclipse. I love the colours of the swirling clouds - that'd look good on a canvas, don't you think?

Up on Lion’s Head

Lion's Head

It's been quite some time since we've taken a walk up Lion's Head. I chatted with Robynn (mentioned in the previous post) and she told me that she was up on Lion's Head earlier this month, when it was full moon. A lot of people walk up this "little mountain" at night, especially when it's full moon.

We've heard differing opinions on whether one should take a torch up Lion's Head when there's a full moon. Some say that if you use a torch, all you can see is the small area in front of you. Robynn was telling me though that there were plenty of people without torches, stumbling dangerously as they followed the circular route down the mountain.

Although the full moon does provide a lot of light, the moon rises on one side of Lion's Head and creates a very dark shadow on the other until it gets overhead. So perhaps the safest option is to take a torch anyway, and decide as you're hiking whether you need it or not.

Today's photo, with Lion's Head in the background, was taken at a farewell gathering at a friend's place for a couple visiting Cape Town from our sister-city, San Francisco. Thanks for visiting, Ray and Renee - and come again soon!

Royal Ascot, a killer view

Royal Ascot at sunset

Tonight we got to spend some time with a group of people whom, for the most part, we'd never met before. It seems that these days we have several friends who don't know each other, so when birthday parties crop up (like tonight) we often find ourselves meeting new and interesting people - which is awesome!

Scott and Robynn live in what must be one of the best situated apartments in Milnerton's Royal Ascot development - right next to the Gold Circle stables and horse training track. If our plans work out as we hope we'll be joining them for breakfast next week - where, apart from enjoying good company and good food, I'll try snapping a few photos of the horses training in the early morning. Watch this space! :)

Pro20 cricket at Newlands

Newlands Cricket Ground

Kerry-Anne was asked to live-blog for the local Standard Bank Pro20 cricket matches at Sahara Park in Newlands. She asked me to tag along to... well, drive her, carry her bags, and take photos.

Today's photo was taken from "The Oaks" lawn area - possibly the best seats in the grounds when it comes to atmosphere. It was so packed tonight that we ended up on the (also packed) far lawn, just to the right of the scoreboard (which can be seen heralding the latest 6 to have been batted).

The Cape Cobras managed to beat the Warriors by just 5 runs tonight. The Warriors needed 6 runs off the last ball, after losing a wicket on the previous ball. However, it wasn't to be, and the Nashua Cape Cobras went home victorious.

Perdeberg has lost their zebra

Walking Zebra

You might recall us mentioning the Perdeberg Winery in a few of our previous posts. Well, late last year we received a letter asking us to help out in the search for Perdeberg's missing zebra.

Apparently, so the story goes, Merlot the zebra vanished from the winery on 6 December. The next day a ransom note was found, in which the kidnapper demanded one case of wine a week for 12 weeks, or else Merlot stays missing for good.

The kidnapper promised to send through a clue leading to a new drop-off location each week, and apparently he's insisted that the public must get involved in solving these weekly clues. If you solve the week's clue correctly, you'll stand a chance of receiving a free case of Perdeberg wine yourself, plus there are discount vouchers and other promotional items up for grabs too.

So go and read all about Perdeberg's missing zebra, and make sure you get your answer to this week's clue in by 1pm on Friday to be in line to win.

Unfortunately for our international visitors, the competition is only open to South African residents. On another note, can anyone confirm what species of zebra this is? It appears to be a Burchell's zebra, but I'm not too well-versed in zebra identification, so I can't be 100% sure.

Back in beautiful Cape Town

Signal Hill and Lion's Head

On Sunday, after launching our new WordPress version of Cape Town Daily Photo, I caught a flight with four colleagues to Johannesburg (the largest city in South Africa), a mere two hours' travel time from Cape Town.

I remembered after landing how different Cape Town is from Johannesburg. It seems almost like a different country entirely. We ate lots of good food, stayed in a nice hotel, and spoke with many interesting people, but today I'm really happy to be back in sunny Cape Town.

Perhaps I've mentioned it before, but us Capetonians are often teased about how preoccupied we are with our mountains - especially Table Mountain.  Even though I'm aware of this there came a point when I genuinely realised that I missed the mountain - I just couldn't find my bearings without the landmark. Were it not for a trusty GPS I'd still be roaming the streets looking for our hotel. :) I really think Cape Town would slip into a huge emotional depression if the earth one day swallowed up our beloved mountain.

We are silly, aren't we?

LNG ship at anchor

Liquefied Natural Gas ship anchored near Sea Point
According to the Cape Ports website, the Celestine River, a ship just like this one, caused quite a fuss last year when it was anchored off Sea Point, as some people were concerned that it might explode...

According to the same site, the ships that lie at anchor off the coast like this (we see quite a few of them) are in fact empty, and so these fears were entirely unfounded.

"LNG" stands for Liquefied Natural Gas - natural gas is converted to liquid so that it can be transported, and then returned to its gaseous form once it reaches its destination, so that it can be piped.

This photo was taken from the promenade at Three Anchor Bay.

Cape Town Daily Photo Reloaded

Cape Town in the World Version of Monopoly

Well, things do look a little different today, don't they? We've been stealthily working on the new version of Cape Town Daily Photo for a few months now, and let me tell you, it's been really tough keeping quiet about it. From the day I saw the first mockups that the wonderful Max Kaizen had designed for us, I knew that this new version was going to be worlds better than our old site.

We've thought and planned and tweaked and played and written and rewritten, and at last we're ready to unveil the basic structure and design of the new site. There's a whole lot more to come though: over the next few weeks we'll be adding quite a number of new pages and features, some specifically for tourists and those unfamiliar with the city, and some that will appeal to locals and regular visitors to Cape Town.

Thank you to everyone who has played a part in bringing this new version of the site into being; I think quite a few of you wouldn't even have been aware of the fact that you influenced our thinking in some way, but it's fairly certain that if I've had any kind of conversation with you about Cape Town Daily Photo over the past five or six months, you've played a part. So, thank you.

Now to the subject of today's photo... remember way back in August 2008 when it was announced that Cape Town had secured enough votes to appear in 3rd spot on the board of the new Monopoly World Version? Well, we finally got to play the new version of Monopoly on Saturday evening, and it was loads of fun, even though I didn't win. ;-) We thought this would be an appropriate photo for the official launch of Cape Town Daily Photo version 2, since we're Passing Go and all (I'm still hunting for the $2M we're supposed to collect, though). If you look carefully, you'll see the Cape Town property card in the front right of the shot.

Twelve Apostles from Table Mountain

Twelve Apostles from Table Mountain

It is a beautiful scene, isn't it? The photo can't fully describe how phenomenally spectacular a sunset from the top of Table Mountain is. The cableway is still running a special where you can buy a return ticket after 18h00 for only 72.50 ZAR. A price like that for a view like this? It's a no-brainer.

I have to be honest and confess that this photo is a little out of date. We're in the process of preparing version 2 of Cape Town Daily Photo, so there really hasn't been much time to get out and take photos. I shot this one a month ago when we went up Table Mountain with our visiting family from Sydney. :)

Gugulethu Tenors

Gugulethu Tenors
I had not heard of the Gugulethu Tenors until I saw them performing at the open-air Willowbridge shopping mall today. Their style of music, much like that of Luciano Pavarotti or Placido Domingo, isn't really my cup of tea, though I have to admit that these guys delivered a sterling performance.

I think I must have had my head in the sand for the past few years, because it seems as though these township-born tenors have quite some reputation, and have even performed for the likes of Oprah Winfrey.

The guys look very casual in this photo, but they look quite different when dressed up in their suits and ties - take a look at their website to see what I mean. Because of where I was when I shot this photo I was unable to get the fourth tenor in the photo - he was unfortunately right next to a huge pillar that was blocking my view.



While visiting Australia a few years back we discovered that Woolworths in South Africa is quite unlike Woolworths in other parts of the world. The South African Woolworths started off as a upmarket clothing store - not like the Woolworths food shop that non-South Africans know. Slowly over the years it's become more affordable, and today caters for middle to high income groups.

I mentioned that the store started off as a clothing store; they then later branched out into homeware. A number of years ago the company introduced a food department supplying carefully graded, high-quality foods. These days we even have petrol stations (service stations) with small on-site Woolworths convenience stores that are open 24 hours a day. They're awesome - and a great step up from the often-dodgy convenience stores found at many other petrol stations.

Stodels Nursery

Stodels Nursery

My parents have shopped at Stodels Nursery forever. Robert Stodel, a horticulturist originally from Holland, discovered the local demand for flower bulbs more than 40 years ago. After selling bulbs door-to-door and even at the Parade in Cape Town, Robert opened the first Stodels Nursery in Kenilworth in 1968, later expanding by opening a second shop in Bellville (close to where we live) in 1973.

Since I was born only the year after, I guess it's fair for me to say that Stodels has been around forever. :) The earliest memory that I have of the nursery is of my parents buying a small Plane tree (also known in North America as a Sycamore tree). That tree is now a huge (and I mean huge) tree directly in front of their house.

So, needless to say, Stodels is still a thriving nursery, with a little restaurant and an assortment of farmyard animals for kids to touch and play with. It's still a fun place to shop, though every time Kerry-Anne mentions visiting Stodels my heart sinks just a little... good plants don't come cheap. ;)

Dust off that bicycle, the Argus is nigh

Man on a bicycle

There are only 52 days left until the 100km+ Cape Argus Pick 'n Pay Cycle Tour. It's around this time of year that guys around South Africa start remembering bets made and lost. You know the kind: "Oh please, I bet you can't get that fire started without firelighters. If you do, I swear I'll ride the Argus next year."

And so, with dread, they start thinking about dusting off their bicycles, so that they can practise at least a few kilometres in the saddle before honouring their lost bet. Guys do say so many foolish things after a few drinks. :)

Break glass, press here

Fire alarm

Shopping malls and many other large buildings have fire alarms similar to this one. Don't you find that you just want to press on the glass? Every time I see one of these I have to hold myself back and stop myself from pressing that button. In fact, it took much restraint on my part not to press this one while trying to take the photo. I guess it's much like a dieting woman holding a slab of Lindt chocolate... irresistible. Well, almost irresistible.

The fire alarm in my office building is cleverly covered by a plastic flap that one would have to lift to expose the glass "button". It's a good thing too - I walk past this alarm 10 or 15 times each day.

The best beach in Cape Town

Clifton 4th beach

I think by now you probably know that we're quite fond of the beaches along the Atlantic Seaboard (Camps Bay, Clifton, Llandudno). Our favourite of these is definitely Clifton 4th Beach. I don't think I need to say any more really - just take a look at the photo. Doesn't it look idyllic?

After the sun has set

Dusk at Clifton 4th beach

We went down to Clifton 4th Beach this evening with a few friends. I wanted to do something to mark the one-year anniversary of my brother's death, but I wanted it to be happy and special, rather than sad and melancholy. So we took a picnic and spent a couple of hours watching the sky change colour after the sun had set.

The weather was sublime, and I even went for a swim (on my own, since no-one else had brought their costumes) just before it got completely dark. This is an experience I can totally recommend - if you live in Cape Town, you should do this at least once in your life.

It turned out to be a truly beautiful evening, spent with people I love - which is just what I'd wanted.

Two South African inventions

Fishing from a dolos
South Africans are proud of their inventors. It's almost guaranteed that if you're a foreigner and find yourself talking with South African friends on a harbour pier, at some point someone from the group will mention that it was a South African who invented the dolos (the 20 ton pieces oddly-shaped pieces of concrete seen in the photo).

This bit of information will more often than not be followed up by the story of Ferdinand Chauvier's world-first automatic pool cleaning system, the Kreepy Krauly and how the American company, Zodiac, allegedly stole the South African design, with their Baracuda pool cleaner.

Ironically, I'm South African and I own a Baracuda... which, much to my dismay, sucked all the water from my swimming pool during the night because I left the pump on backwash by mistake! Perhaps it's the Gods of Invention that are trying to teach me a lesson about patriotism. :D

Does it rain in January?

Tractor in the rain
Perhaps it's because January and February are normally so hot that I was surprised by the rain that we had today. I googled "cape town rainfall" and discovered a few sites showing that the Western Cape's historical rainfall is about 11mm in the month of January, increasing each month until it peaks at about 98mm in June, and then decreasing again to 13mm in December.

Our province experienced heavy water restrictions a couple of years ago and at the time it seemed as though everyone was installing well-points or bore-holes. I even tried to install one myself - this makes for an entertaining story. :)

At the time talk was going around that the government was considering placing restrictions, or perhaps levies, on the use of ground water for residential irrigation, due to the impact that the increased and uncontrolled use of ground water could have on the province's water table, and consequently on natural vegetation.

Read this interesting article for more information about the origin and use of groundwater in Cape Town.

Graeme Smith arrives in Cape Town

Graeme Smith arriving at Cape Town International Airport

If you follow cricket, then you'll know that South Africa made history recently by winning a test series against Australia IN Australia. You'll probably also know that Graeme Smith, the captain of the South African side, got hit by a ball on the second day of the third test (South Africa having won the first two tests), breaking his left hand. Despite being in obvious pain, he came out to bat at number 11 on the final day of the match, in an effort to stop Australia from winning the final test. (I'm not ashamed to say that I cried when the radio commentator announced that he was walking onto the field.) He scored three runs, amazingly, but was unfortunately bowled out when there were just ten balls left in the game.

We went through to the airport this evening to join other fans in welcoming our Captain Courageous back home. Unfortunately, it seems that ACSA's online real-time flight info is not quite as real-time as one might have hoped. Graeme's flight landed a full thirty minutes early, but the "expected arrival time" was only updated AFTER the flight had already landed. So, sadly, we arrived too late and missed him.

Fortunately we came across four really friendly and helpful policemen and -women, one of whom agreed to let us post the photos he had taken of Graeme with his cellphone. Thanks, Albert; you are indeed an officer and a gentleman. :)

You can see the other photos on Cape Town Daily Photo Extras.

Fishing boats of the V&A Waterfront

Fishing boats at night
Fish Quay, seen above, is in the V&A Basin of the Waterfront, very close to the Clock Tower mentioned in this post a few days ago. Although I've never seen fish being offloaded, presumably because we normally visit the Waterfront over weekends or in the evening, I believe that visitors to the Waterfront can stand and watch as these deep-sea fishing boats dock and offload their super-fresh fish.

Unfortunately, I doubt that one can purchase fish directly from the boat captains here. If you're keen on this, then Kalk Bay harbour is the place to be, as recently caught fish can be bought directly from fishermen on the pier.

Look right, it must be white

Cyclists on Sir Lowry's Pass

In yesterday's post I asked a question about the direction in which I was taking the photo. Trust an engineer to work it out first - although I guess it would be fair to mention that Duncan knows this particular road pretty well. :)

So yes to all of you who agreed; from this shot (taken a little further on) you can easily deduce that yesterday's photo was indeed taken in reverse. While the reason Duncan gave was correct, it's not the reason I was probing for - read on.

South Africa has a few large roads that carry traffic in one direction only. If the line on the road (in yesterday's photo) were white then this road would be one of these roads (carrying traffic in one direction only) and I would have been taking the photos facing forwards.

If you're ever driving in South Africa and find that darkness or fog prevents you from seeing too much, take note of the solid lines on the left and right of your vehicle - left should be yellow, right should be white... if that's not the case, pull off the road really fast!

Surprisingly, this does happen - I once experienced two such incidents in a single day. Leave a message if you're interested in reading the story and I'll add it as a comment.

Left, right, yellow, white

Photo from the car's window

I shot this photo out the car's window. My question to you is this: in what direction did I take the photo? Was I pointing my camera towards the front of the car or towards the back, and why do you say so?

I'll post the answer and the reason for the question tomorrow.

Girls, lifeguards and blue flags

Girls and lifeguards on Clifton beach

If you've been following this blog it will be no surprise to you which beach is being featured today. Clifton 4th beach, obviously. :)

The guy and girl sitting on the unusually high chairs are lifeguards watching over bathers. We watched for some time as about 10 people practised their lifesaving skills by dragging a "victim" from the ocean; and unlike my brief description here, watching this mock-rescue was actually fairly entertaining.

Clifton 4th is classified as a Blue Flag beach, meaning that it complies with certain quality requirements set forward by the Foundation for Environmental Education.

In this case "quality" doesn't refer to how beautiful the people on the beach are (though if it did, Clifton would retain its status, no doubt). Instead it refers to a number of criteria in the following categories:

  • Bather environmental education and information
  • Water quality
  • Environmental management
  • Safety and services

You can read the full list of measurement criteria on the Blue Flag website.


Aqua zorbing
I've always wanted to go zorbing in the hills of Rotorua in New Zealand - it's right up there with skydiving, learning French, and writing a book, on my list of lifetime goals. I was tempted to try this mini-version of zorbing at the V&A Waterfront on New Year's Eve, but I suspect it wouldn't have been quite as much fun as the real thing.

The kids that were playing in these giant plastic balls seemed to be having a pretty good time though, rolling and tumbling along on the surface of the water. Have you ever been zorbing? Is it as much fun as I think it would be?

New Year’s Eve at the V&A Waterfront

Crowds at the V&A Waterfront

As I said in yesterday's post, it really was busy at the V&A Waterfront last night. If you're familiar with the Waterfront then you'll likely remember the narrow swinging bridge at the Clock Tower. This crowd on the Clock Tower side was trying to change places with a similarly large crowd on the other side.

Speaking of the Clock Tower: in case you don't know what it is, the Clock Tower was the old port master's watchtower, built in the late 1800s when the harbour was still full of old-style sailing ships.

The tower houses a huge clock (hence the name "Clock Tower"), which was about 5 minutes slow on New Year's Eve. The crowd on our side of the harbour must have been watching the tower because only when a roar of cheering was heard from the other side of the harbour did our side erupt with the realisation that 2009 had arrived at last.

Another revolution

Ferris wheel at the Cape Town Waterfront

With no particular plans for seeing the new year in, Kerry-Anne and I went through to the Cape Town Waterfront to join the thronging crowds watching the annual fireworks display. We bought tickets for a ride on this ferris wheel just before midnight and watched the new year approach from several metres above the ground.

You may notice that only the "W" in "Ferris Wheel" was lit. As we boarded the giant wheel I wondered whether or not I should be concerned that the ride operators were not even able to keep all the lights in working order... :)

In closing, thanks for spending the last year with us; we've certainly enjoyed ourselves and hope that you've enjoyed sharing in Cape Town each day. We wish you an exciting and fun-filled 2009 with much love, joy and peace!

As of this post we've moved from the Blogger platform to a whole new look and feel using the WordPress framework. The past twenty two months under blogger are still available by clicking on the "archives" link at the top of the page.