Corner Kloof and Upper Union Street Gardens Cape Town

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Van Hunks

The 18th century Dutch pirate Van Hunks loved what he saw when he sat down under his favorite tree with his favorite pipe on the high nameless hill just east of Table Mountain. Table Bay, Signal Hill, a quaint little harbor teeming with rich East Indiamen, all spiced up and ripe for the plucking on their way back to Europe. His reputation as a freebooter never amounted to much, but if they awarded Springbok colours for pipe-smoking, Van Hunks would have been captain. Nobody could match the old man at puffing away and nobody tried, until one day a stranger awaited Van Hunks under the tree on the hill and asked for some tobacco.

Age had mellowed the pirate somewhat and he stuffed the stranger's pipe, wondering how the black-clad man under the huge hat could have escaped his attention in this little town on the edge of the Southern Ocean. He started boasting about his piratical career - Van Hunks' Wild Years, as it were - to finish with the relatively paltry boast of being able to smoke any man under the table. The stranger saw this as a challenge and they smoked. And they smoked and smoked until Table Mountain was covered in their fumes. Van Hunks was holding his own, showing no sign of tiring, when the frustrated stranger wiped his brow, knocking his hat off, revealing a nifty set of horns. Unmasked, Satan lost his rag and disappeared in a sulphuric bang, leaving Van Hunks short of breath but unbeaten.

Today the hill is called Devil’s Peak and Old Nick still ascends from the Netherworld for an occasional smoke-off with his old adversary. He never wins, but when the southeaster blows you can see him trying – in the white cloud that covers the mountain from the east.

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