Cape Town’s ‘lentil curtain’
The route soon turns downhill, careering around corners with sheer drops, past landslide nets, and through a tunnel cut into the cliff to the graceful sweep of Noordhoek Beach, where you can go horse riding. The line of white sand arcs between the blue of Chapman’s Bay and Noordhoek Lagoon, with a lighthouse at the far end and a green undulating hinterland. In Noordhoek village is one of Africa’s most sustainable buildings, the hemp house, built entirely from the cannabis-derived fibre. The two-bedroom mountainside home looks like a typical contemporary seaside retreat, but the materials used in its construction include hemp insulation, hemp plaster and “hempcrete”, and the carpets, furniture, lamp shades and canvases decorating the walls are all made of hemp. The house cannot be seen from the road, but email the owner Tony Budden (also the proprietor of Cape Town’s Hemporium store) for a tour, available weekdays before 10 am and after 5 pm.
Recover from Chapman’s Peak with a tasting at the peninsula’s only wine estate, Cape Point Vineyards, 2.5km away. Its 20 acres of vines ripen slowly in the cool Atlantic breezes, producing excellent sauvignon blancs. Nearby, the Cape Dutch-style Noordhoek Farm Village is a popular peninsula pit stop. The white-gabled buildings contain four eateries, a country pub, an eco-hotel and craft shops.
Continuing 6km south to Masiphumelele township, African chaos erupts in the form of speeding minibus taxis and people wandering along the roadside. Down a red dirt road is pottery studio Zizamele Ceramics, which melds creativity with social empowerment in its colourful artworks; designer Toni Burton’s team of eight previously-unemployed Xhosa women are learning skills from pottery to computer literacy. The distinctive pieces include pottery bowls and vases ringed with figurines of Xhosa women with babies on their backs, which illustrate the Xhosa concept of bambanani (friendship and strength in unity).
Burton has lived here for decades, and has the relaxed demeanour to show for it. She explained that the peninsula has long attracted people who want to live a New Age lifestyle with the city just an hour’s drive away. “It used to be sparsely inhabited and there were a lot of hippies out here living an alternative lifestyle. It has a lot to do with the landscape -- it’s very dark at night with starry skies,” she said. “There are lots of people living a rural life and letting their kids run round barefoot, but also professionals like architects and filmmakers who prefer a gentler pace of life. Cape Town in general is very creative, like the San Francisco to Jo’burg’s New York.”
A few kilometres further on, at the entrance to the village of Kommetjie, is the historical farmstead Imhoff Farm, today an agritourism hub. Families can meet farm animals, watch goats being milked, ride camels and purchase products such as organic lavender honey in the farm shop. On the same property is the Waldorf School where children receive a broad, humanistic education, following the holistic Waldorf Steiner philosophy, in wooden cottages among the pine trees.
Some 7km down the Atlantic coast from Kommetjie are the “conservation villages” of Misty Cliffs and Scarborough, where residents live in a sustainable, environmentally-friendly way. In the wild, ultra-alternative area sometimes called the “crystal curtain”, art stalls and sculpture gardens dot the roadside between boulder-strewn hills and signs warn against lighting fires and feeding the baboons. At the 310-hectare Baskloof Fynbos Private Nature Reserve, 3km south of Scarborough, you can see how the site, which is not connected to external electricity supplies, meets its energy needs through wind, hydro and solar power.
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