Finding my way around the Republic of Hout Bay

Hout Bay

Hout Bay

When you first enter the Cape Town enclave of Hout Bay there is a sign that reads “Welcome to the Republic of Hout Bay.”

The story goes that several decades ago some clever Hout Bay resident decided to shun Cape Town and the rest of South Africa, and print his own Republic of Hout Bay passport. He then apparently managed to travel around the world on this faux passport collecting stamps at different border crossings.

Who knows if this story is true, but it does to capture the independent beach spirit of this Cape Town neighborhood, which is where I’m staying during this trip.

Hout Bay is about a 25 minute drive to the south of the Cape Town city center, just before the start of the stunning toll road that winds around the Cape of Good Hope (the scenic road was made famous in the opening aerial shots of Searching for Sugar Man).Tall mountains isolate the town on three sides, which makes for magnificent views.

While it is beautiful, land prices tend to not be as expensive as you might think. That’s largely due to the fact half the town is built on a giant sand dune that constantly fights to push its human colonizers out. Sand often blows across the main roads and if you stand on the peaks overlooking Hout Bay you can see the vein of sand that cuts right through the center of the town.

On Saturday, Sean and I went down to the harbor to explore the market that runs each weekend. Similar to the more famous Biscuit Mill market in the city, the Hout Bay market features a dozen or so food vendors, plus stalls with vendors selling crafts, clothing and other curios.

The food would look familiar to any foodie in Portland. There were South African takes on classics, like the gemsbok burger and ostrich carpaccio. Other stands sold smoked salmon sandwiches, sushi, some excellent looking dim sum, roasted lamb and more.

Hout Bay also has several bars lots of character. We had a Windhoek beer at The Workshop, which is billed as “the smallest pub in Africa.” In indeed is quite tiny, although the outdoor seating area seems like cheating.

We then headed up the road to the old-school Chapman’s Peak Hotel for dinner. In a move that felt straight out of a Hunter S. Thompson novel we sat at the bar and promptly ordered three steaks and three beers.

Today is my first weekday in Cape Town, so it will be interesting to experience how the town differs once everyone is back to work. First stop will be the shopping center down the road to get some groceries and a SIM card.

In my next post I’ll introduce you to my rented Volkswagen Citi Golf, which will by my ride around Cape Town during my stay.


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