Cape Town, South Africa
Holy bucket list Batman, I completed THREE goals on one post! Granted, I could write about each one of these individually, but they go hand in hand. I could cross the equator going somewhere else, but I did it going to Cape Town. Also, I could go somewhere else in Africa to cross off Africa, but again, I went to Cape Town. So, all three in one post it is!
Africa is one of those places that has always seemed unknown to me, but I’ve always wanted to travel to. I had this idea in my head of what South Africa would be like, mostly due to The Lion King, and I was so far away from that idea that it isn’t even funny. What I imagined to be flat, dry lands with exotic animals roaming around and particularly unsafe, ended up being a lush, green landscape, with mountains everywhere and tropical blue water which made me feel like I was in Hawaii instead. And Safe? You betcha! Granted, you should always take precautions when traveling, especially at night, however, I felt extremely safe the entire trip. I found this particularly noteworthy because so many people worried about my safety going here (people who have never been there, of course). It’s funny that we always fear what we don’t understand.
Crossing the equator was, well, just crossing the equator! It obviously didn’t feel like much. However, it was pretty cool to know I was leaving winter in my home town to go to summer in Cape Town. I traveled to the future and jumped seasons. It was great! The plane ride to get to summer….LONG! It was a 16 hour flight from DC to Johannesburg and then another two hours to Cape Town. However, South African Airways really takes care of you! I have never had so much food on a plane in my life. Not only was the wine and beer ALL free, but I had four large meals complete with a main meal, cheese and crackers, a side of fruit, pasta or salad, a roll, a piece of chocolate, and a dessert. Did I mention this was four times worth? Yea, a lot!
Cape Town is spectacularly beautiful. The entire stay there I was in awe that I was even in Africa, because not once did it ever feel like it. The locals are descendants of the Dutch and had Dutch like accents. A lot of the street names were Dutch words as well. Everyone was extremely nice and respectful. The first day we were there we decided to walk around town. Gasp! Yes, it is SO unsafe there, that we walked around and survived. Can you imagine that? We walked down to the V & A Waterfront.
This is a big shopping, restaurant and marina center at the waterfront. It was nice, but was your typical tourist trap. However, compared to other places I have been, the shopping did not seem as touristy or cheaply made as shops in other countries, or even in the states.
I really wanted to find a nice African mask, but most of them were extremely creepy looking that I decided to pass. Also, be sure to bring and wear lots and lots of sunscreen. I forgot. It’s summer. It’s hot. I got pretty burned the first day. Ouch Africa!
After swimming in the shark cage, we decided to partake in some African food and ventured to Mama Africa, a place well known in town for having good cuisine.
They did not disappoint either! We chose the meat platter of various African meats. We tried Ostrich, Kudu, Springbok, Warthog, Venison Sausage and Crocodile with some sides that I don’t remember what they are called.
The Sprinkbok and Kudu officially ranked as my new all time favorite steak to eat. I’m actually sad I may not be able to get it anywhere in the states. It was amazing. I was told I would make a good South African if I liked it as much as I did.
On Saturday we took a wine tour around Stellenbosch, which is a city just 31 miles from Cape Town. Bet you never would have thought Africa would be known for their wines? Me either!
And the view?? Yea, this definitely isn’t what I expected for Africa either. South Africa is known for making a Pinotage. For being world famous in production there, we only had it at one winery, and I wasn’t particularly thrilled about it. We went to four wineries.
The first winery was my favorite. Babylonstoren was located on a lush botanical garden with mountains in the background. I felt like I was in Charlottesville or Napa Valley with the scenery. They had four good wines to choose from, to which, I ended up buying their Shiraz. The second winery was Stellenbosch Hills, where we tried a variety of wines paired with Biltong. Biltong is dried African meats.
My favorite was the Springbok, of course. The pairing was a little odd, but interesting. However, I think I prefer my wine tastings sans meat for now. The third winery was a restaurant and winery combined. Clos Malverne served their wine tastings with a pairing of ice cream. YES, ice cream.
It was seriously good stuff. The ice cream flavors were a little on the weird side, but worked. There was Kiwi fruit and chili (my new favorite flavor), Vanilla and sweet melon, Red pepper, maple syrup and pine nuts, and then there was pineapple, coconut and lime. Again, a little weird, but more wineries should pair with ice cream! The fourth winery was Ernie Els wines (the golfer). The wines here were good, but it was the scenery that made this place completely worth it!
Later that night we met up with some of my local friends there and went out on the infamous Long Street. This part of town is known for having a row of hip bars. It reminded me a lot of Nashville, where as Lauren said it reminded her of Bourbon Street. Either way, it was packed and everyone knew about it. This particular street is known for having some crime, mostly muggings. So, like anywhere, you need to be a little safer with your belongings, but I never felt a threat while walking around.
The next day we took a hop on hop off bus tour with my friend Sue-Anne.
This took us around the town that we didn’t walk in. We went to a Bird Sanctuary and played with the birds and monkeys.
We also were driven to Camps Bay, the famous beach in Cape Town. The scenery was amazing around there. I could not believe how much it reminded me of the coasts of Hawaii.
After strolling along Camps Bay we headed to Table Mountain, another must do of Cape Town. From the ground, Table Mountain looked clear, but once the rotating cable tram got to the top, we were surrounded in fog. Bummer for sure, but it still provided some decent views of the town.
On our last and final day in the beautiful town, we took a peninsula tour around the city. I highly recommend this tour because you see EVERYTHING. We even saw Baboons just lying on the streets.
We were taken to Cape of Good Hope, where it is the southernmost tip of Africa, and to Cape Point where the lighthouse is located.
Man is that a hike to the light house too, but it offers pretty views so it is worth it.
After leaving the Capes, we were taken to Simons town where Boulder Beach is located. Located on this beach are PENGUINS! African Jackass Penguins makes this beach their natural habitat and you can get fairly close to them. From the paid access park, you can stand on a bridge and see all of them just standing around, or in their nest. However, there is a beach access point where a few hang out and you can walk right up to them. The penguins and sharks were definitely the highlights of my trip.
Some interesting things to note about being in Cape Town: Everything is extremely cheap for the American dollar. It was $1 to every 15 Rand. We couldn’t even spend all the cash we brought because everything was to our advantage. This really helped out when eating out. Good, expensive food was cheap for us. I felt like a millionaire!
Condoms are free and available absolutely everywhere! They were available at the airport, in all bathrooms, in the hallways at the hostel. Everywhere! I guess when nearly 60% of the population has AIDS you can never be too careful.
My hostel was where it’s at!! The Backpack Hostel in Cape Town was awesome!! Aside from the fact I had to find available showers all the time, they were great. Great location, clean, and provided a really large free breakfast daily. Not to mention, every tour guide commented on how great of a place we were staying in. Beats over priced hotels I guess!
If you can, UBER everywhere! I wish we could have done this more with our cell phones, but the US phones are limited unless you pay a lot. UBER is prime time in Africa! So much more efficient.
WOULD I DO THIS AGAIN: In a heartbeat! There is so much to do there that I would love to go back and experience it all again, or differently.
HOW TO DO THIS:
Fly South African Airways
Cage Diving: ZAR 1950 (around $140) http://www.capetownsafaris.com/tour/shark-cage-diving/
Safari: ZAR 2490 (around $178) http://www.aquilasafari.com/day-trip-safari
Cape Peninsula Tour $61.18 http://www.viator.com/tours/Cape-Town/Cape-Peninsula-Tour-from-Cape-Town/d318-2382SC1
Table Top Cable Ride $18 http://www.tablemountain.net/content/page/rates
Backpack Hostel https://backpackers.co.za/
*Thank you Lauren and Sue-Anne for accompanying me on this adventure!