All Hope is Good

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Cape of Good Hope, South Africa – August 2015

It was once said that the journey down the west coast of Africa was a descent into hell. It was the realm of maelstroms and sea serpents. Eventually, all voyagers would be engulfed in flames. Those who made it to the Cape of Storms, as this windswept place was first called, had to do battle with Adamastor, a spirit that manifested as a sinister storm cloud. If he appeared, disaster would befall those who continued onward. Out there, beyond this unremarkable promontory, is the graveyard of over three thousand vessels. One of these ships haunts the horizon, doomed to sail the seas for infinity. Searching for a safe harbor that’s forever out of reach.

To motivate traders, the King of Portugal renamed this point the Cape of Good Hope. Never underestimate the power of creative rewording.

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Here, everything churns. Sea: an incessant agitation. Somewhere around the bend, in an ever-changing location, currents clash. Air: a wind determined to push you off course. Speechless, its brutality is physical. It batters the eardrums into ice. Cloud: ghostly wisps appear over the mountains, fusing into a thick, upward-flowing cascade. A long, luxurious exhalation. A smoking contest between the Devil and an infamous pirate, according to legend. Here, everything is malevolent.

It is far too late to turn back, now. What did you hope to discover? Was the possibility of fame and riches worth the uncertainty and hardship? Can you still remember why you set sail into unknown waters?

This is both the bounty and deception of circumnavigation: if you go far enough, you end up right back where you started.

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69 thoughts on “All Hope is Good

  1. I have such great memories from exactly this spot and our excursion on foot on this promontory with its incessant waves,Julie, that it makes me happy to know that you were there, too.🚣

    • Hi Martina – I would like to have done a walking excursion, but the day I was there was extremely windy. I couldn’t stand being out of the car for even two minutes, so unfortunately I only took a couple of photos. But I’m happy I was able to visit.

  2. I remember walking out to that inhospitable point a few summers ago and being wind-shipped and sea-sprayed as I tried to photograph the sign above. It was a moody place, and you’ve captured that especially well in your misty, monochromatic picture.

    • Yeah, it was not pleasant. I’m usually pretty tough, but I don’t think I’ve ever felt such a vicious wind. It took so much effort just to stand upright and hold the camera steady. Plus, there were so many tourists waiting to have their photo taken at the sign, I had only a couple of seconds to take a photo without someone in it. Luckily it turned out.

  3. Great seascapes Julie especially the second shot. Interesting that the King of Portugal was such a smart marketing guru but where is the theme park and the ‘Good Hope Experience’ 😉

    • Thanks, Robin. I’m pleased that the few photos I managed to take turned out okay. “Good Hope Experience”…given the enthusiastic tourist industry in Cape Town, I wouldn’t be suprised to see that in the future. Flying Dutchman ride and Adamastor show and all.

  4. What a cunning ploy by the King of Portugal. My ancestors came out to NZ via the Cape of Good Hope. Their greatest hope was probably that they would get round it.

  5. The power of creative rewording indeed. The Ministry for Truth would have been pleased.
    I enjoyed this read. I must try and speak to my cousin Aqua Draco and see if he knows Adamastor, 😉

    • It seems that various incarnations of the Ministry of Truth have been around for a long time. Aqua Draco! You come from a family of superheros? Just full of surprises, aren’t you?

  6. The number of dreams I’ve had about the Cape of Good Hope…most stirred from seafaring novels I devoured as a kid. While I’ve never visited, your photo series here brings it to life for me. Thank you Julie ~ wish you a great autumn!

    • It is a place much romanticized. I also had dreams about it when I was a kid. I was surprised to find that it’s not very imposing. In fact, it’s dwarfed by nearby Cape Point, from where I took the photo which looks down at it. A splendid autumn to you, too, Dalo!

      • Isn’t it funny how growing up, in many ways the curtain is lifted and we see things in a much different life as adults? I want to take a sailboat around the Cape just so I can tell people “Oh yeah, I’ve sailed around the Cape…no big deal…” 🙂

  7. Dear beautiful friend ….so haunting ” to sail the seas for infinity ” …only to begin again …your words bewitch me as if a dream ….love you , megxxx

  8. Hi Julie.
    Long time. Been out of blogging for a while.
    Read your post on “some of those who wander are lost”. (Comments closed so I took a bypass)
    You may be right, wanderlust may be an illness but one many share or understand. Your words about walking out the michigan garden into the Amazon forest is exactly what we did my sister and I… when living in Africa. 🙂 Or on holiday in the woods of Normandy.
    I hope you are well and happy.
    🙂
    See you soon
    Brian

  9. “Never underestimate the power of creative rewording.”

    Ha! I just finished reading a book about collapsing societies and one of the examples was Greenland, whose discoverer named like that with the purpose of enticing, or fooling, others to join him there. Seems than him and the King of Portugal went to the same marketing school!

    Brilliant piece, glad to read from you again. And while I’m at it, I caught up with your blog post about your Grandma’s garden: it’s really beautiful and bittersweet. Thanks.

    Fabrizio

  10. I wonder if renaming a desert trail or a mountain pass the Trail of Many Glories wouldn’t have yielded more returns in the end… 🙂 It is amazing how the weather goes haywire down there around the earth’s axis. I don’t believe Cape Horn was any better for wind-powered fleets, though a little more grimly named…

    Michael

    • Hi Michael – Yeah, that area of the planet is very rough sailing. I believe the area around Cape Horn (the Drake Passage) is even worse. If I get my wish, one day I’ll be traversing that on the way to Antarctica. 😀

    • That’s a good question. I looked it up, but it seems that hurricanes in the southern Atlantic are extremely rare and usually occur on the Brazil side. I found nothing about tropical hurricanes (cyclones) forming or occuring on this side of South Africa. Thanks for giving me something to learn. 🙂

  11. I love history too, well, just a short overview of the place though. 🙂 The place looks so spooky as you’ve said. And I think the storms here are somewhat larger or fiercer from where I came from, where we’re often hit by typhoons that easily sweep away the island.

  12. Pingback: All Hope is Good | mollyellarae

  13. Very interesting – makes me imagine what it would’ve been like to sail there back then (seems more exotic than it would now). Imagining stuff like that is a favorite pastime for me, haha! (PS. I wonder if people in 200 years will think our current boats and other vehicles are romantic, exotic and tale-inspiring? Somehow I don’t think the materials we now use will look as pretty as old wooden ships…)

    • Thank you. I daydream about such things, too. A treacherous journey on a wooden ship is so much more romantic than sailing on a cruise ship with hundreds of tourists.

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