Even though I’ve lived here most my life, the Western Cape’s
tendency to switch seasons in what feels like a matter of seconds never fails
to leave me reeling. No prior warning. No gentle reintroduction. Just a sudden
realisation that the next phase has arrived and you’d better go with it.
For instance, when my alarm clock buzzed at 6am this
morning, I immediately thought I’d made a terrible mistake setting it the night
before. It was pitch dark outside. 4:30am kind of dark. Yet, there they were:
the familiar sounds of early-riser traffic and birds tentatively chirping their
greetings to the rising sun.
Just a week ago, soft light had filtered through the gap between
my curtains at this exact time… and now, it was just a very gloomy shade of
grey. Yup, summer went and did it again – her customary Irish goodbye.
But let me tell you a secret - I’m not really that upset. Of
all four seasons, Autumn is by far my favourite and April the month I love the
Plus, I’ve come to think of it as the best time of year for
adventures – both, into the unknown and to rediscover the forgotten wonders
just down the road. It’s a season of intense and gripping beauty; an aesthete’s
delight. And isn’t the search for some sort of splendour always a driving force
behind our travels?
There are very many reasons I’ll forgive Autumn its gloomy
mornings (and maybe I’ll just set the alarm half-an-hour later from now on
too), of which these are probably my top six:
This past weekend, we headed out to the winelands for lunch.
As we took the turn-off to Stellenbosch, I heard myself gasping before I really
even knew what it was about. In the distance, and right next to the road, grapevines
had started exchanging their cool summer garb for a warm Autumn glow.
It’s a slow process and one which has by no means reached
its colourful crescendo, but the vineyards are now interspersed with patches of
light-catching orange and yellow, among the deep, late-summer green. Later we
found the Liquid Ambers and Pinoaks of Tokara Wine Farm shaking off their
leaves, falling red as rubies to the ground.
Quality of light
There’s probably some mind-boggling scientific explanation
for this – something about the angle of the sun and the spinning of the Earth -
but there’s a certain softness, a sort of haziness to the light in Autumn. It’s
like the world enters an enchanted realm and we all get to glide around like elven
queens and kings.
But, seriously, the light is pretty amazing and nowhere do I
find its display more beautiful than in the coastal Overberg. It ignites the
fiery tips of various fynbos species and leaves a misty shimmer hanging above
the mountains. While this special sort of luminescence lasts all day, early
mornings and twilight hours are when it’s at its most magical… which brings me
to my next two points.
This is the time of year where evening scrolls through
Instagram are characterised by one spectacular scene of fiery skies after
another. There’s just no arguing that sunsets in Autumn are by far the fairest
of them all.
Whether you’re strolling along Sea Point promenade, settling
into the comfiest chair on a large Karoo stoep, lighting a braai fire in the
bushveld or sipping a cocktail along Durban’s beachfront, there will certainly
be a show of incandescent splendour… all you have to do is capture it. Or even better
- just enjoy.
Misty mornings and
I live just far enough from the iconic Green Point
lighthouse to find the blaring of the foghorn cosy and comforting. My personal
signal to snuggle up on the couch with a hot cup of coffee or a glass of red
wine, depending on the time of day.
Mistiness does, of course, occur ever so often in summer,
but it becomes a far more regular visitor from April onward. Sometimes it
arrives so unexpectedly that you find yourself far away from the comfort of
your couch, yet in just the right spot to appreciate its bulbous beauty from afar
– I’ve seen the CBD swallowed in clouds from high up in Vredehoek and watched a
wave of white roll in over the Atlantic seaboard from the top of Lion’s Head.
I’m sure there was even one time on Table Mountain that the surreal scene of
skyscrapers poking through a puffy blanket left me feel just a little dizzy.
One of the best beach days I’ve ever experienced happened
exactly two years ago to the day of writing this – on 13 April 2014 (so
Instagram tells me). I woke up to a crisp Sunday morning (fortunately not at
gloomy 6am) all a-glow with that special light we spoke about earlier. There
were wispy clouds in the sky and just a hint of a breeze, keeping the
temperatures at a pleasant mid-20s median. This was it: the beach day I’d been
waiting for all summer, so I called up my friend, Marli, who I knew had been
waiting too, and we set out for Clifton 2nd.
Arriving at around 9am, we spent the entire day stretched
out on our towels, catching up on conversation and the books that had gathered
dust on our nightstands. The ocean was even a few degrees warmer than usual and
utterly inviting, prompting me to intersperse my relaxation with a series of
I remember having the same sort of experience, growing up in
Betty’s Bay – April, May and June bestowed jewels of days upon us, as if to
say: “You’ve been so patient, enduring that howling summer South-Easter and all
those scorching days. Here’s a little reward.”
Perfect time for mini
road trips and camping
Finally, Autumn seems to signal a marked slowing down of
social calendars. Wedding season draws to a close and everyone seems to slip
into a sort of pre-hibernation mode. This means that weekends are no longer
filled up months in advance, instead bringing with them much more opportunity
for spontaneous exploration.
Since it’s also the end of the traditional tourist season,
you are more inclined to find affordable last-minute accommodation when the
road trip bug bites without warning, as it always seems to do.
If you’re a camper, even better! You can just pack your tent
and head out in whichever direction you choose. Apart from being almost certain
of getting a stand in any campsite around the country, the weather is typically
mellow, making for the best sort of outdoors experience. Unless, of course, you
are just an unlucky
camper. Even so, I believe Autumn’s magical powers are such that they can
dazzle even Murphy and his annoying little law.
Which is your
favourite season for travel? Tell us about it by sending a mail to firstname.lastname@example.org
Nadia Krige is a
freelance writer based in Cape Town. She’s also an unlucky camper, an
occasional hiker and enjoys catching tiny waves in the whitewash of Muizenberg
whenever she can. You can find her on Twitter and Instagram.