Take the bus and see the sights

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WAY TO GO: Enjoy the sights, sounds and smells of a working harbour at Hout Bays Mariners Wharf. Pictures: Adrian de Kock

Cape Town - There are a few cracks beginning to show, but overall the MyCiTi buses are still a great way to get around Cape Town. My reasons for being a fan include the cost – as opposed to petrol and parking – and the elimination of drinking and driving hassles. No, it’s not always convenient (long distances mean factoring in long travelling periods) and they don’t always run on time, but the pros outweigh the cons. I love riding the bus, whether it’s for daily commuting or excursions, and am always keen to try the new routes.

The one from the Civic Centre via Sea Point and Camps Bay to Hout Bay is a great one for sight-seeing trips, or for taking a day tour. For experienced MyCiTi travellers, sometimes making two or three connections can be quicker; Sea Point’s main road has heavy traffic during the day, and the bus stops frequently. Other options are to take the Camps Bay bus, or the one that goes along the Sea Point beach front, and change en route.

Once you get to the other side of Camps Bay, however, it’s one of the most gorgeous short drives in Cape Town, along that winding coastal road. Something else you forget when you’re driving everywhere, is to admire the scenery.

For the Hout Bay test we went to Mariner’s Wharf, which, as one of Cape Town’s top tourist destinations, quite rightly has a stop outside. It’s also a stop on the City Sightseeing topless bus route. Founded in 1984, Mariner’s Wharf was our first harbourfront emporium and has been visited by people from all over the world.

They’re probably the ones most likely to be shopping at the Mariner’s Chest or Shipwreck Shop for souvenirs, nautical artefacts, and other treasures and memorabilia, and choosing an oyster guaranteed to contain a pearl, which can then be set in a piece of jewellery. I suspect foreigners are also the biggest buyers of the famous fish-shape bottles of wine, exclusive to the Wine & Liquor Locker, although locals would do well to note the seven-day-a-week trading licence.

And yes, it’s true the fish markets, bistro, sushi bar and restaurant are a huge drawcard for visitors looking for a seaside meal, whether it’s from a packet, eaten while dangling their legs over the harbour wall and fighting off seagulls, or ensconced in the warm wood-panelled Wharfside Grill with proper crockery and cutlery. There are still seagulls if you sit on the outside deck, of course.

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WINNER: Mariner's Wharf is one of Cape Towns top tourist attractions.

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But like most of the things that make Cape Town a consistent chart-topper in global tourism surveys, these attractions are not just for “them”. They are for us too, and everyone should take a day now and then to experience what all the fuss is about. The best time to do this is during winter.

Yes, we’ve had some real stormy weather this week, and there’s more where that came from; it’s winter, people. The clue is right there in the name. But the sun does shine and even if it doesn’t, the sea on a blustery day can be a thing of beauty. Plus the Wharfside Grill has some super low price specials on the menu, like a seafood platter for R99, a sirloin steak for R75, and calamari with chips or rice for just R60.

Finish with a malva pudding (I have tried this and it’s delicious on a cold day) for R28, and wash it all down with wines for R75 (sauvignon blanc) and R85 (merlot) a bottle. If you’re not taking the bus, these are available by the glass.

l Mariner’s Wharf, Hout Bay Harbour, telephone 021 790 1100, e-mail bookings@marinerswharf.co.za, or go to www.marinerswharf.co.za - Weekend Argus

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