South Africa: Cape Town

This amazing South African adventure started in the north and we continued our journey doing the Garden Route. If you want to read part 2 (or part 1) of this South African adventure first, click here:

Day 7: arrival in Cape Town

We say goodbye to Brian Vandayer from Jorvan Community Outreach and we go to Cape Town. Cape Town is considered to be one of the most beautiful cities in the world! It has the amazing Table Mountain as its backdrop and the Cape Peninsula is just around the corner. Cape Town, nicknamed “the Mother City”, is the capital of the Western Cape Province and the legislative centre of South Africa. This city really has it all: it is vibrant city life, markets, shop till you drop, art galleries, museums, lots of full of restaurants and bars, luxury or mid class hotels, colourful B&B’s, apartments, etc. There is just too much to mention and you can easily spend a few days or a week in Cape Town.

Upon arrival we do need to adjust. We have just been visiting the townships where people are struggling every day, but still try to make the most of their lives. And now we are in a city where there is “plenty”. We go from one extreme to the other, but we realize this is all part of the journey we are taking. In Cape Town we have some hotel visits (I prefer the word visit instead of inspection). Our first stop at Floreal House, which is located at the foot of Table Mountain. It is a popular accommodation and from here there are amazing views over Table Mountain, the harbour and Table Bay. The building dates back to the 1920’s and I love to stay in “old” hotels. There is a colourful garden with an inviting swimming pool, where you can have a meal as well. A big plus is that the hotel has family rooms!

The second hotel we visit is Hotel Adderley. It is a totally different hotel; very stylish and modern and its location is not too far from city centre! This 4* hotel is luxurious, has modern rooms, a restaurant and a swimming pool on the rooftop. If you want to stay in the city, this is a great option.

From Hotel Adderley we go for a walk through the city. In the nearby area I see plenty of tourist attractions such as Groote Kerk, Slave Lodge and St. George’s Cathedral. Unfortunately there is no time to visit any of them, but I am positive I will return here someday. We walk towards Hotel Fountains for our last hotel visit. Thys works here and shows us around before we sit down for lunch. During lunch I am trying to take in the contrasts of all we have seen this morning and to me it is a bit overwhelming. Will there ever be a smaller gap between rich and poor. In my eyes the gap just gets bigger. I count myself “rich”. I have a roof over my head, a job, I can pay my bills and am lucky to be able to travel. I count my blessings every day!

After lunch we see one of the high lights of South Africa: Table Mountain is the main attraction of Cape Town. The weather must be good and the visibility clear to be able to visit the mountain. We are lucky today, because today the weather is beautiful and the visibility crystal clear. Our bus drops off at the cable car entrance where I also see the Hop On Hop Off bus (which is a great way to explore the city). We take the cable car to the top of the mountain in just 5 minutes and while going up we already get to enjoy spectacular views. When the weather is bad or the mountain is covered with clouds (the South Africans say “covered with a tablecloth”), Table Mountain is closed. The Table Mountain is flat as a table top and the mountain gets its name from this comparison.

The view on top is truly breathtaking and I am happy we have time for a walk. I decide to walk alone, I want to take it all in at my own pace. I see Cape Town below the mountain, Robben Island (the island where Nelson Mandela has been imprisoned for 27 years), the 12 Apostles (mountains), all kinds of beautiful bays and the ocean. It is March and the end of summer, but the sun is burning bright and the temperature is rising up to 30 degrees Celsius. Make sure you bring water and protect your head from the sun when going up on the mountain.

Small wildlife lives here, but they must be hiding from the sun only to come out late in the afternoon or at night when it is quiet as well. Apart from a few lizards and a marmot sitting in the shade under a rock, I do not come across anything. But the views are so stunning from every side of the mountain, I do not need much more to feel content. I see a group of men abseiling from the mountain; what a spectacular place to do so. On the mountain there is a shop and a cafe to drink something or eat a snack.

At the end of the afternoon we go to Leisure Bay at Milnerton Beach (located just a few minutes outside of Cape Town) where we will spend the night. We get a refreshing welcome drink before checking in. Leisure Bay is a comfortable accommodation located right at the beach and the South Atlantic Ocean. We get a spacious apartment with 2 bedrooms, a living room and kitchen and sea view. Wendy and I of course do not stay inside. The rest of the group relaxes by the pool with a drink, but we go for a walk along the beautiful sandy beach. We are sandblasted now and then by the strong wind, but we love it and even put our feet in the cold water. From the beach there is an amazing view on Table Mountain, which is slowly covered by clouds.

We cannot swim in the ocean, the wind is blowing too hard and the water is too cold, but we cool our tired feet by walking through the surf. The current is also dangerous and this applies to most beaches in South Africa, so you have to be careful and follow instructions. There are a number of sheltered bays where you can swim, I think we will see some tomorrow. Kitesurfing is also not allowed in Milnerton due to the strong wind and the fact that the hotels and roads are too close to the sea. However, there are plenty of beaches where you can go kite surfing! We do see 2 canoes paddling bravely through the waves.

We walk back towards our apartment; we need to get changed for dinner. The sun is setting as we walk back. We have a reservation at restaurant Bo-Kaap Kombuis. The Bo-Kaap is one of the nicest neighbourhoods of Cape Town with colourful houses in lovely streets. The area is formerly known as the Malay Quarter and is actually a former township, situated on the slopes of Signal Hill. It is located above the city centre and a historical centre of Cape Malay culture in Cape Town. The restaurant is owned and run by Yusuf and Nazli Larney, who welcome us. They like to call themselves “total Bo-Kaapers”. Bo Kaap Kombuis is a restaurant serving the Traditional Cape Malay Cuisine and the food is absolutely delicious! From the restaurant we enjoy an amazing view over Cape Town by night. This dinner is a perfect ending to a long day full of impressions.

Day 8: Cape Town & Cape Peninsula

We had a good night sleep at Milnerton, listening to the sounds of the ocean (what a great sound to fall asleep with). I love being by the sea or on the beach. I cannot live to far away from the coast and the sound of the sea to me is therapeutic. After an early breakfast we check out, today is unfortunately our last day in South Africa. We start our day by driving back to Bo-Kaap, the morning light shines a totally different light over this colourful area. We have a few more hotel visits; we stop at Sweet Ocean View Guesthouse and Bantry Bay Luxury Suites. I will not bore you with more details, but I can tell you here in Cape Town there is so much diversity in accommodations. I do like the Bo-Kaap area, would love to stay here, but then again I enjoyed staying at Milnerton.

From Bo-Kaap we are taking the Chapman’s Peak Drive, one of the most beautiful landscape routes and coastal roads in the world. Our first stop is in Houtbaai/Hout Bay, where the office of AAA Travel is (who organized this trip for us). We have a coffee/tea break, get to know the staff en then move on. I decide to sit on the right side of the bus, so I can enjoy the coastline. During the drive we see a number of beaches where it is possible to swim, real bounty beaches like Houtbaai, Camps Bay, Noordhoek and Kommetje. I wish I could go for another beach walk at Kommetje, it just looks so inviting and the beach is huge!

We see ostrich alongside the road and signs that people need to watch out for the baboons, but I think they no longer exist in this area (we did not see any). We stop at the Kaap die Goeie Hoop or Cape of Good Hope. People say it is the most southern tip of South Africa, but this is a misconception: it is not (Cape Ahulgas is)! The weather is perfect again, the sun is shining, the water beautifully blue and the waves are hitting the rocks. I take lots of photographs and I think I see seals, but maybe I want to see them. But no, I am seeing them for real, although they are far away in the distance. I put my feet in the water, always have the need to do so when I am at the coast, but when I see blue bottle jelly fish I quickly pull them out!

We continue our drive and stop at Cape Point, just a few minutes from Cape of Good Hope. We have free time to go for a walk. We get ourselves a sandwich and a drink and in small groups we decide to walk towards the lighthouse. The ridge that rises from Cape Point at sea level develops into two peaks. One major peak dominates the skyline and this higher peak has the old lighthouse on top. We are a bit lazy because we take the Flying Dutchman funicular that runs from the car park up to slightly below the level of the old lighthouse. From here there are 123 steps that lead to the lighthouse and a second path leads to the lower peak. We are glad that we have taken the funicular because it is really warm and even the 123 steps are quite a climb. But the view is worth it! When our time is up, we walk down on a beautiful walking path and see that there are various walking routes in this area. Time… If only I had more time!

From Cape Point we go to Boulders Beach to see the penguins. The African Penguin is unfortunately threatened and was almost extinct and that is why Boulders Beach is now a protected area where they can roam freely. They are incredibly cute and I could watch them for hours. It is a lot of fun to see how they move and behave on their own beach. They swim, sunbathe, groom, cuddle, walk around bit or lay on their belly on the look out. They are funny creatures. Next to the Boulders Beach I see huge palm trees. and I can see myself sitting underneath one, with a nice glass of wine 😉

We go back to Cape Town where we visit the Waterfront. In small groups we walk into a huge shopping mall first, where you can shop to your heart’s content. All brands are represented here, but you also find souvenir shops, supermarkets and speciality shops where you can buy Bilton for example. We walk into a supermarket, I just love to see what foreign supermarkets sell and always end up buying something. I buy spices for bobotie and rooibos tea.

The Waterfront is a pleasure port with yachts, tourist boats, jetties, ramps, shops and restaurants and lots of bars. There is a ferris wheel and street artists perform and entertain the public. It is a vibrant place and there is a very lively atmosphere. We want to spend our last Rand and decide not to find ourselves a place in the sun, order a glass of wine and just relax for a while.

At the beginning of the evening we leave the Waterfront and go for dinner at Gold Restaurant, which is housed in a museum. The restaurant serves all kinds of African snacks and dishes, prepared and served by waitresses in typical African clothing. During dinner there are shows with African dance and singing. It is great end to a wonderful trip in beautiful and diverse South Africa. Around 9 pm it is time for us to leave…

Unfortunately our amazing journey is over and at midnight our KLM flight goes back to Schiphol, Amsterdam. But we had a great time and this educational trip has taught me so much about South Africa. I am grateful and positive that I will return someday!

South Africa is a country of great contrasts and with a huge diversity: nature, culture, history, architecture, flora, fauna, sun, sea and beach, delicious food and good wine. If you are an active traveller, there are so many acitivities you can do; too many to mention here. You can travel by group or individually by car. The roads are good and the infrastructure is getting better all the time. The people are incredibly friendly and helpful. The poor population will try to sell something, possibly ask for money, but I thought it was not too bad and I did not find anyone intrusive. A lot of people are homeless and this too is part of the street scene: people who sleep under overpasses or trees. But there are many projects in the country that ensure that the country improves.

Well, I can keep on talking for hours about South Africa, because I think it is a fantastic country (from what I have been able to see) and now I understand why everyone who has been there is so enthusiastic and wants to return! The country is overwhelming and gets under your skin!

Travel Blog by Elisabeth, One Lucky Traveller

March 9, 2012†††††††††††

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