After living in Woodstock for a month and looking up to Devil’s Peak every time I leave the house, last week I finally hiked up there. Coming from Belgium, where open space and unspoiled nature are almost un-existent, being able to take a bus and a brisk walk and within one hour being in the middle of a stunning nature reserve is just heavenly. The fact that then you look back and see the most beautiful city in the world (not just my opinion but that of Capetonians) from birds eye view is just an added bonus.
I made the hike on a sunny and almost windless day (rare this time of year) on which Jan van Hunks wasn’t holding his pipe-smoking contest with the devil. Supposedly the origin of the name Devil’s Peak and of the clouds known as the table cloth that often surround it. So I could enjoy the stunning view of the City Bowl, Table Bay, the Cape Flats and Muizenberg and False Bay on the other side. Taking the alternative route back to Tafelberg Rd one that apparently isn’t used a lot since it is half overgrown, was a good choice as was doing this in spring when everything is still green but it isn’t cold and rainy any more.
Woodstock, between the slopes of Devil’s Peak and the train tracks and harbour, is the complete opposite of the nature and tranquillity of Devil’s Peak. While moving here Roger, who for years lived a few blocks from here, told me that I shouldn’t worry too much on the streets here. Dreadlocks are a gang of their own and no one messes with them, unless they want to risk a AK47 shoot-out. He himself (with dreadlocks) was only stabbed twice and shot at once (by the police). Good to know!
Another neighbour gave the advice not to leave the battery in the car, it would get stolen. So on day three I found myself chaining and locking the battery down. It felt like a rite of passage, something you do when you live in Woodstock. Living here, you can also survive in the townships, at least that is what a taxi driver, a big black woman, told me. She didn’t drive into Woodstock at night, and dropped me of in the centre of town. She lived in a township herself, I guess she doesn’t drive her taxi there either.
I do love Woodstock though. On the first days of walking around here, I’ve had people come up to me, shake my hand and start a conversation. There are car wrecks on the streets, cars on blocks the wheels taken off, shady looking characters at night. But this is also an area that feels more like Africa then Europe, unlike most of Cape Town. With its brightly painted shop fronts, its hair salons, shebeens and street vendors, this neighbourhood is alive and loud. I wouldn’t want to live anywhere else, except in Obz maybe, but that has just as bad a reputation as Woodstock, just more bars.