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.
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.