Chapmans Peak Drive in South Africa is a little south of Cape Town leads from Hout Bay to Noordhoek along the flanks of mountains that tumble into the restless sea. Above are high crags where only eagles and fixed-line mountaineers dare. Below are inaccessible beaches of the type that belong in dreams. The Chapmans Peak Drive is a great road to take for hire cars because the surface is so good.
The Chapmans Peak Drive Project
Construction of the nine-kilometre-long winding Chapmans Peak Drive route began in 1915 using convict labour wielding picks and shovels. Engineers exploring the cliffs above found them steep, rotten, and unstable, but the administrator would not take no for an answer. The route the engineers chose follows the seam between flat, sedimentary rocks above, and a cape granite base that scientists describe as a ‘geological unconformity’.
Stupendous Views from Chapmans Peak Drive
There are occasional pull-off places where it is possible to stop and gaze in awe at the mighty ocean, and the indigenous fynbos plants that cling perilously to cracks and crevices below. Beware of climbing beyond the safety barriers because the spoil that road builders left is loose and gravelly, and uncertain underfoot.
The Splendour of Noordhoek Beach
Almost without warning the road leaves the impressive cliffs behind, as Chapmans Peak Drive snakes its way down open mountainside towards the unspoiled Noordhoek Beach. Protected wetlands behind the strand limit urban sprawl and offer numerous hiking trails through nature. Forget the restaurants and tourist shops. Slangkop Lighthouse at Kommetjie is calling eight kilometres away across the snow white, shifting sands.