Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Chapman's Peak Drive


In the days before I left the Cape was lashed by some heavy storms. My heart sank. Chapman's Peak Drive could easily be closed again before I get there. But luck was on my side!

So early on the morning of the 29th I set off direction Cape Town. Time was not on my side so I had to tough it out along the N2 all the way there in order to free up time for the scenic stuff.

Luckily it was a beautiful day! The view from the N2 over Great Brak:

That is the only photo along the National Road. I wanted to get this part of my journey today over and done with. By noon I stopped at the Cape Town Waterfront where I met Kola, my riding partner for today. Lunch and a cold one was in order before we set off.

The first glimpses - I have been wanting to ride this pass for a very long time

Chapman’s Peak Drive on the Atlantic Coast between Hout Bay and Noordhoek in the Cape Peninsula is one of the most spectacular marine drives in the world.

Initially constructed during the First World War, this 9km route with its 114 curves skirts Chapman Peak, the 593m high southerly extension of Constantia Berg, and follows the rocky coastline to unfold breathtaking views in both directions.

The route starts at the picturesque fishing harbour of Hout Bay and the climb winds steeply up to Chapman's Point, revealing breathtaking views of the sandy bays down below, until the road reaches lower levels again at Noordhoek.

The view looking towards Houtbay - simply spectacular.

This surely must be one of the best motorcycle rides in the world. Chapman's Peak Drive from the air:

(Photo from this website)

Some photos I took along the route. 114 turns! Bliss.

Note the catchment "nets" in case of rockfalls. Since before this project started it was accepted that continuous maintenance would be needed to clear the road of rockfalls, but after a tragic incident in January 2000 the road was closed. In a one-in-million-chance a rock fell on a car fatally injuring one occupant.

Chapman’s Peak Drive was re-opened as a toll road in December 2003, but is still closed periodically when rockfalls occur.

Surely a motorbike must be the best way to see this route. Spectacular! What could be better? Although I do admit it would be great riding around here on a cruiser. Somehow it just seems right.

Another photo from the air:

(Photo from this website)

The reopening of Chapman’s Peak Drive is the culmination of one of the most innovative road engineering projects ever to be undertaken in South Africa. The upgrading (or rather reconstruction) of Chapman’s Peak Drive is indeed an engineering feat that will for many years be regarded as one of the top road engineering projects in the country.

We kept on riding with the intention of riding right around Cape Point. Riding past Kommetjie you find the Slangkop Lighthouse:


Slangkop is the tallest cast-iron tower on the South African coast. It was installed on the 4th March 1919

Slangkop is the tallest cast-iron tower on the South African coast. Standing 33 metres high, the tower looks out over the surfers, fisherman and divers in the little village of Kommetjie. Over the years it has served its purpose steering ships around the dangerous rocks and hidden reefs
Slangkop was established as a result of a commission appointed on 29 September 1906 by His Excellency, the Honourable Sir Francis Hely Hutchinson, Governor of the Cape of Good Hope.

Unfortunately around Misty Cliffs the road was temporarily closed to remove the remains of an unfortunate whale that beached itself here

So we decided to ride back over Chapman's Peak again. You often get a different perspective doing the same route from the other side.

I hope the people living around here still see and appreciate the beauty.

(Photo from this website)

Mission accomplished:

I'll highly recommend riding this route to anyone who has the time and means to do so. But wait, there's more...

Leopard Rock:

This bronze statue of a Leopard was placed on its rocky pedestal in March 1963, a gift from Ivan Milford Barbeton. The bronze leopard is in memory of the last leopard sited in the area in 1930. Beautiful setting:

Kola leading the way back to Cape Town:

We stopped for another cold one in Camps Bay. The perfect end to a perfect riding day. And amazingly enough it was all tar.

This was a very good start to my long weekend. And there were lots of riding to be done still!

Sources: Lighthouses of SA, Chapman’s Peak Drive, Romance of the Cape Mountain Passes.


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