A Travellerspoint blog

August 2011

The little town of Wagon-House-Cliff

Arniston, South Africa

semi-overcast 25 °C

The first half of our Saturday we spent at Agulhas, before returning to Arniston. At Arniston we went to the hotel to warm up with Hot Chocolate with a beautiful view of this dangerous ocean in front of us. Arniston is a tiny coastal village.

1. The hotel and beach view

2. Me, being extremely excited about something

Arniston derives its name from the Arniston ship that sank there in 1815. She was part of the British East Indian fleet and was rounding the Cape to return wounded soldiers home to England from Ceylon. A chronometer was a very expensive instrument at that time. The Arniston didn’t have one, so her Captain had to rely on the other ships in the fleet to know where he was. When a storm separated him from the other ships, he had to rely on his own intuition to navigate himself home. When the captain rounded Waenhuiskrans, he thought that is was the Cape of Good Hope and started to steer the ship north. This meant that he ran the ship ashore onto the rocks at Waenhuiskrans. Of the 378 people on board, only six managed to swim ashore. They started to make their way to Cape Town when they realised their mistake. They were found on the beach by a farmer’s son. A memorial was erected on the beach by the wife of Colonel Giels. Their four children died on that fateful day.

3. Arniston memorial

The inscription on the memorial reads: Erected by their disconsolate parents to the memory of Thomas, aged 13 years, William Noble, aged 10, Andrew, aged 8 and Alexander McGregor Murray, aged 7 (the four eldest sons of Lieut. Colonel Andrew Giels of H.M. 73rd Regiment) who, with Lord and Lady Molesworth unfortunately perished in the Arniston Transport, wrecked on this shore on 3rd May, 1815.

4. At Arniston you can also do some whale watching

While at the hotel we decided to take a walk to the nearby cave. Arniston’s other name is Waenhuiskrans. This is an Afrikaans name which literally means “Wagon House Cliff”. The reason the town was given this name is because the cave that can be found here is big enough to house an entire wagon and its oxen. This is a limestone cave and can be found to the right of Roman Beach, which is about 2km south of Arniston. The cave can only be accessed at low tide as the cave is under water during high tide and thus very dangerous.

5. On our way to the cave

6. Steps down to the cave

According to the pamphlet we got at the hotel, it is best to plan your trip to the cave at sunset. The reason for this is that the darkness of the cave makes the colours outside even more spectacular which means that sunsets seen from inside the cave must be amazing. When the last ray of sun sinks below the horison, a green flash can be seen. This 2 second flash is caused by the dispersion of the blue light. Unfortunately we weren’t there are sunset, but the cave was still pretty spectacular. It really is as big as described with the prettiest rock formations inside. The roof is spectacularly grooved as a result of the water erosion. At the far side of the cave, the rocks and sand are still wet. Kelp was also lying here and this is proof that the ocean does completely fill this cave at high tide.

7. Almost there

8. The Cave

That night we made dinner back at the house and then decided to go out for a drink. Arniston has no pumping nightlife and this we found out on the Saturday night. We wanted to go out for a drink, but finding the hotel closed for a private function, we had no choice but to go home. There are no other bars or restaurants open in this little town that time of the night and it was only nine o’clock!

9. Dinner time

The next day we decided to explore the white washed and thatched roof houses of Kassiesbaai. This is a 200 year old fishing village and it has been declared a National Heritage site and South African Monument. At some of the houses you can enjoy a traditional meal consisting mainly of fish. An arts and crafts shop is also set up. Most of the residents here still make their living from the sea.

10. On our way

11. Welcome to Kassiesbaai

12. Arniston harbour

13. Cute cousin playing on the anchor outside the hotel

After that we headed back to Roman’s Beach again for some ice-cream. At this ice-cream stand you can only choose between strawberry and vanilla or a strawberry/vanilla mix. If you don’t like any one of these flavours, then you’ll just have to do without ice-cream.

14. Roman’s beach: path to The Cave can be seen at the far right

15. Ice-cream on the beach

16. Soft lime stone at the beach makes for interesting sand art

After that our weekend at Arniston was finished. After lunch and some careful packing, with me still managing to forget things, we headed back home.

17. A Goodbye sunset

Posted by Anja Fourie 15:22 Archived in South Africa Tagged food beach memorial ship cave south_africa ice-cream arniston Comments (0)

The Southernmost point of Africa

Agulhas, South Africa

semi-overcast 20 °C

On the South coast of South Africa, about 280 kilometers from Cape Town, two oceans meet at the little town of Agulhas. It is this collision of two very different oceans that creates one of the most dangerous stretches of coast in the world. Divers, explorers and researchers also know this stretch of coast from the Cape of Good Hope to the Eastern Cape as Shipwreck Coast. This weekend we stayed in Arniston which is approximately 40 kilometers and a 30 minute drive away from Agulhas. There are about 4000 permanent residents in this area between Agulhas and Arniston.

Little towns install a different feeling in people. The sky is clearer and bluer and the air cleaner. Life moves at a slower pace than in the city and people practice Il Dolce far niente without ever having heard of it. Il Dolce far niente is an Italian saying which can be translated as “the sweetness of doing nothing”. It describes a pleasant idleness which can only be found when you know the value of doing nothing.


Driving away from Cape Town, snow can be spotted on the mountains in the distance which could be a sign that we are in for a cold weekend. As we progress through the countryside, the air becomes blue and clear and after a little rain a beautiful rainbow can even be seen.

1. Pre-rain skies

2. Countryside

3. Double rainbow outside Caledon

4. The rainbow seen from the house

5. The house in Arniston that we stayed in

On the first night we didn’t do anything, but relax inside the house under blankets in front of the fire. On Saturday we drove to Agulhas. This area was named Cabo das Agulhas by the Portuguese in the 1500’s. It means Cape of Needles, because the Portuguese navigators noticed that Magnetic North coincided with True North in this region. The name can also refer to the jagged edges of the coast. Until the 20th century the area was known as Cape L’Agullas. Today the town is known as L’Agulhas with the area known simply as Cape Agulhas. The name change is a result of French influence in the Cape. To get to the point you drive through L’Agulhas and park close to the lighthouse. The last few meters to the official meeting point of the Indian and Atlantic oceans has to be walked. This official point has been chosen by the International Hydrographic Organization.

6. Walking to the most Southern point

7. The official meeting point of the Indian and Atlantic Oceans

After having a quick snack on the benches by the point, we headed back to the lighthouse. The coastline of this area is so dangerous that a lighthouse just had to be built. Numerous wrecks can be found along the coast. Dangerous winter storms and waves which can reach 30 meters high gave this piece of coast its reputation. The very shallow Agulhas bank and very strong winds, combined with the conflicting currents of the warm Agulhas current and the cold Benguela current creates a nightmare for any navigator. One of these ships was the Japanese Meisho Mauro which sank as recently as 16 November 1982. She was carrying 240 tons of tuna on that fatal day. Luckily all 17 crew members managed to swim to shore.

8. The Meisho Mauro on the spot where she ran ashore.

9. Climbing to see the actual ocean

10. This is where oceans meet

These types of waters can sink even large ships. For this reason, the Agulhas lighthouse was built in 1848. Michel Breda, mayor of the Cape at that time, gave a part of his farm, Zoetendalsvalleij, for the lighthouse to be built on. It is modeled after the Pharos of Alexandria. This is the second oldest lighthouse in the country and at the time of its completion it cost approximately £12 000. The lighthouse in Green Point, near Cape Town, is the oldest. L’Agulhas is also the only settlement in South Africa that developed around a lighthouse.

11.The lighthouse

There are 71 steps to the top of the lighthouse. They are in fact not steps, but straight-up ladders. Going to the top was easy. Coming back down, I was trembling a little. The lighthouse keeper’s house has been transformed into a small museum and coffee shop. The light of the lighthouse was first lit on the 1st of April 1847. They choose a very good day as this is also my birthday! A Frenchman, Le Paute, was the engineer of the optical apparatus for the lighthouse and this was where the French name L'Agulhas was attributed to.

12. Climbing to the top

13. View from the top

14. View from the bottom

15. Hyperventilation time

16. Fibre glass figurehead of the French ship, Marie Elise, that was wrecked on 6 November 1877P1040764.jpg

After all this stressful climbing, we had some lunch at a nearby restaurant. Next we headed to Struisbaai where there are more shops to buy some things for dinner that night.

17. The most Southern Cafe in Africa

18. Shopping for dinner

19. 11356 kilometers away from Tunis, the most Northern point in Africa

We then returned to Arniston to continue the rest of our exploration of this dangerous coast.

Posted by Anja Fourie 11:54 Archived in South Africa Tagged coast south shipwreck lighthouse storms blue_sky atlantic_ocean indian_ocean eat currents arniston Comments (1)

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