South Africa: Cape Town

If you want to read part 2 of my South African adventure first, click here:

Day 7: arrival in Cape Town

After our meeting with Brian Vandayer from Jorvan Community Outreach and seeing a few of their projects, we drive 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 decor and the Cape Peninsula around the corner. Cape Town, nicknamed “the Mother City”, is the capital of the Western Cape Province and is the legislative centre of South Africa. This city really has it all: vibrant city life, markets, shop till you drop, art galleries, museums, lots of restaurants, café’s and bars, luxury or mid class hotels, colourful B&B’s, apartments, etc. It is just too much to mention.

Upon arrival in Cape Town we need to adjust. We have just been in 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 for one extreme to the other, but realize this is 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 situated at the foot of Table Mountain. It is a popular accommodation and from here there are 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, you can have a meal by the pool. And the hotel has family rooms!

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

From Hotel Adderley we walk through the city. In the nearby area there are 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, our last hotel visit. Thys, who works at the 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. 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 go and 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 and to see everything properly. We are lucky, because this day is a crystal clear day. Our bus drops of at the cable car entrance where I also see the Hop On Hop Off bus (what a great way to explore cities). We take the cable car to the top in just 5 minutes and just going up we already have 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 so “flat as a table top” and the mountain owes its name to this.

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 register everything at my own pace. I see Cape Town, Robben Island (the island where Nelson Mandela has been imprisoned for 27 years), the 12 Apostles (mountains), all kinds of beautiful bays and the sea. It is March and the end of summer, but the sun is burning bright and the temperature is rising up to 30 degrees. Make sure to bring water and protect your head from the sun when going up on the mountain. Small wildlife lives on top of the mountain, but they must find it too warm in the afternoon to come out. Apart from a few lizards and a marmot sitting in the shade under a rock, I do not come across anything. But that is OK: the views are so stunning, from every side of the mountain… I do not need much more to feel content. I see a group abseiling from the mountain; what a spectacular place to go abseiling. On the mountain there is of course a shop and a cafe to drink something or eat a snack.

At the end of the afternoon we go to Leisure Bay, Milnerton Beach (just outside Cape Town) where we will spend the night. We get a refreshing welcome drink before checking in. To me it is a wonderful accommodation right by the sea (well, the South Atlantic Ocean) and we get a comfortable, spacious 3-room apartment with sea view. Of course me and my room mate do not stay inside. The rest of the groups relaxes by the pool with a drink and we go for a walk along the beautiful sandy beach. We are sandblasted now and then by the strong wind, but we love it. 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 off 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 to for 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 there is an amazing view over Cape Town and the Table Mountain, but right now it is dar. The 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, from my room I could hear the ocean; what a great sound to fall asleep with. I love being by the water, on the beach. I cannot do without and the sound of the sea to me is therapeutic. After an early breakfast we check out, today is 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 as well.

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 before we move on. Along the drive we find 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!

We see ostrich along the route and signs that people need to watch out for the baboons, but I think they no longer exist in this area. 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, creating spectacular sights. I take lots of photographs I think I see seals, but maybe I want to see them. But no, I am seeing them for real, although 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 a few minutes from Cape of Good Hope. We are free to go for a walk. We get ourselves a sandwich 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 the top. We are a bit lazy. We take the Flying Dutchman Funicular that runs from the car park to the north up to slightly below the level of the old lighthouse. From here there are 123 steps that take us to the lighthouse and a second path leads to the lower peak. We are glad that we have taken the funicular because it is warm and even the 123 steps are quite a climb. But the view is so worth it! When our time is up, we walk down 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 drive 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 very nice to see how they move and behave on their own beach. They swim, sunbathe, groom, cuddle… just walk around bit or lay on their belly on the look out. The are is beautiful. Next to the penguins beach I see huge palm trees. I can see myself sitting underneath one, with a nice glass of wine 😉

We go back to Cape Town where we visit Waterfront. Again we have some free time to walk around. We walk into a huge shopping mall first, here you can shop to your heart’s content. All brands are represented here, but there are also souvenir shops, supermarkets and speciality shops (for example, Biltong). We walk into a supermarket; I just love to see what foreign supermarkets sell and always end up buying something. I buy some spices for bobotie and rooibos tea. Outside an the Waterfront, which is a pleasure port with yachts, tourist boats, jetties, ramps, shops and restaurants and lots of terraces. There is a Ferris wheel and many street artists perform. It is a vibrant place and there is a very good atmosphere. We spend our last Rand and decide not to hurry any more. We 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 for dinner at the Gold restaurant, which is housed in a museum. The restaurant serves all kinds of African snacks and dishes, prepared and served by ladies in typical African clothing, and during dinner there are shows with African dance and singing. It is great end to a wonderful trip in beautiful South Africa. Unfortunately our journey is over and at midnight our KLM flight goes back to Amsterdam. But we had a great time and this educational trip has taught me so much. 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, great wine… If you are an active traveller, there is so much you can do; too much to mention here. You can travel by group or individually by car. The roads are good, infrastructure 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. Leaving tips for chambermaids, porters, waiters is therefore highly desirable.

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 understand why everyone who has been there is so enthusiastic and wants to return! The country is enchanting! Just like the other blogs this one has hopefully inspired you. If you want practical tips, do not be shy to ask!

Travel Blog by Elisabeth, One Lucky Traveller

March 9, 2012†††††††††††

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