The Mouille Point promenade is a picturesque, safe and popular walking route for Capetonians. I parked beside CPUT’s Granger Bay campus and set off along Beach Road with the sea on my right. Turning into the gates of Cape Town’s hotel school, I stopped to view the remains of the old Mouille Point Lighthouse, a circular brick-and-slate base about four metres high. This was the second lighthouse in South Africa, completed in 1842, and operated until 1908 when the Table Bay Harbour’s breakwater light rendered it obsolete.
But the Mouille Point light was too weak and easily confused with shore lights. Indeed, during its lifetime a number of vessels ran aground on the rocks in front of it, most tragically the Royal Mail Ship Athens.
Less than 100 metres offshore, I could make out the remains of Athens’s rusty engine block sticking out of the water. The sinking of this 68-metre barque happened on the night of 17 May 1865 during the Great Gale of that year, an infamous storm that saw the loss of 19 ships. It is thought that her boiler fires were extinguished by an enormous wave, leaving the Athens to drift ashore. All 28 crew died in the freezing Atlantic waters that night. The only creature to survive was a pig that managed to swim ashore.
I continued west along the promenade, passing Off-the-Wall, my favourite local surf spot, until I reached the red-and-white-striped Green Point Lighthouse. Built in 1824, it’s the oldest in South Africa and is considered to be the home of the South African Lighthouse Keeping Service.
Crossing Beach Road, I entered Green Point Urban Park. This lovely green area was opened in 2011 as an extension of the World Cup Stadium development and saw the revitalisation of Cape Town’s old commonage. I ambled past the Golf Course Lake, a body of water that harks back to a much larger pond, the Grand Vlei, of the 19th century. A natural depression in the common would fill with water each winter and sailing regattas were held on this shallow, seasonal pond.
I wandered through the park’s delightful biodiversity garden. The Cape has the world’s richest floral kingdom and this garden offers a glimpse of the Cape’s many vegetation types, from renosterveld and strandveld to lowland fynbos and coastal thicket.
Leaving the park via its Park Road exit, I re-joined the promenade at Three Anchor Bay. In the early hours of 19 July 1965, at the age of 31, Ingrid Jonker walked into the sea here and committing suicide by drowning. Jonker was a liberal Afrikaans poet who challenged the conservative literary establishment of the 1960s. She’s thought of as the Sylvia Plath of South Africa due to the intensity of her writing and her tragic life. Indeed, Nelson Mandela read one of her famous poems during his address at the opening of our first democratically elected parliament in 1994.
It was time to return to my car, following the promenade all the way back, the sea washing the rocks below me on this, one of the city’s finest urban walks.