Cape Town Sept 2018
Sunset from Camp's Bay, Cape Town
Ok, I’m really going to try to keep updating these every week (might not always succeed since things are busy with work and such). I’d like to give a huge shout-out to my grandma, who’s been reading these with one of my aunts, and she wants to hear more about my adventures here. She did so much to support my while I was growing up (listening to band concerts, cheering me on at cross country and track meets, and making some of the best food in the land) that I’m happy to do a little in return by sharing more about my experiences. This one is a throw-back to early in my time here (September), when I went to Cape Town with some friends. We packed a lot into 2 days. Will be going back over the long Easter weekend, so more photos then!
Cape Town- I realize there are many places in the world I haven’t been, but I can say that it’s probably the most beautiful city I’ve ever seen. It’s like the mountains and sea of Acadia, Maine became even more striking, then you plopped them in a city of 4.5 million. It has a very complicated history, with control shifting between the Dutch and British since the 1600s until the establishment of South Africa as a republic in 1910. The native African population suffered quite a lot under the reign of both colonial powers. Given the long-standing European influence and development, the infrastructure feels essentially European. It’s also a very diverse city, with about 35% black African, 15% white, and the remaining 50% being mixed race, Indian, and East Asian.
We were only here for 2 days, so we did our best to maximize our time. We arrived late Friday night, and on Saturday morning there was a “park run” where many people gather to run a timed 5k for free. I didn’t really have the right shoes and was pretty slow, but it was a great time and the way that Table Mountain frames any event is just spectacular.
Crowd before starting the Park Run
After the run, we went to a market that happens every weekend called Oranjezicht. I think we were all completely blown away by it. In addition to being set in one of the most ideallic locations I’ve ever seen, it was also one of the most incredible markets I’ve seen. Many fresh food and beverage offerings, and a great vibe with music and nice places to sit and hang out. Plus it was relatively cheap, even relative to Botswana, probably because everything is sourced locally while minimal produce is produced within Botswana. We all had a wonderful time there and didn’t really want to leave, but duty called.
In addition to seeing the beautiful nature, we also wanted to see some historic parts of the city. In 1834, when Cape Town was under British rule, the empire emancipated all its slaves throughout the world. A number of the slaves in Cape Town had been brought there from elsewhere, and many of them were Muslim. Originally known as the Malay Quarter, this area had originally been used as their slave quarters, but after independence many stayed and others moved in from elsewhere. Now known as Bo-Kaap, it stands as an example of eastern influence very early in South Africa. Several mosques were preserved until the present day and the whole district is now protected for its beautiful, historic buildings.
Cape Town is also known for its excellent wine, so of course we had to go wine tasting. It wasn’t in the most iconic area, which I understand is probably Stellenbosch, but it was a very nice winery and vineyard. It was incredible cheap, under $6 for tasting 5 wines. One of the more outgoing members of our group was also able to negotiate for getting us a tour in this Land Rover up into the vineyards behind the winery. It was amazing to get the full experience.
One of my friends from Botswana had given me a guide of everything to do in Cape Town, including the time of day to do them. He suggested Camp’s bay as an evening activity, so we went there to watch the sunset. It’s hard to imagine a place much more beautiful than that. The waves crashing over the rocks, turning colors as the sun cast its final rays of light upon them, all with the backdrop of city lights and Table Mountain in the background. It’s one of those places where you just couldn’t take a bad picture.
Camp's Bay Waves at Sunset
We went to a nice indoor market with a variety of food options and shops. I had a surprisingly good Chipotle burrito (the wide-spread nature of Mexican food in Africa persistently amazes me), then relaxed while listening to this band, Abavuki, play live marimba music. They were absolutely fantastic. I had no CDs for my car in Botswana, and there aren’t many good radio stations, so this was the first one I bought. I’m sure I’ve listened to it over 100 times by now. And thus concluded day 1, which probably tells you a lot about my typical travel style…
The next day we headed to Boulder’s Beach, which is the residence of a large community of African Penguins. They are apparently also known as “black-footed penguins” or “jackass penguins,” presumably due to their donkey-like bray. Some South American penguins do the same thing so I’m not sure how these adorable creatures got stuck with that name. Anyway, they’re super cute and a huge hit with tourists for good reason. They’re so expressive, seems like you can perceive their personalities. They get their food from diving in the ocean, so we saw a number of them headed out to adventure. Others were molting, or replacing their feathers. It takes time for this new layer to fully replace the old and become waterproof, so they fast for an average of about 3 weeks while this is happening. No wonder they looked unhappy. We also got some good photoshoots for the Doris Duke crew at this place.
It’s about an hour outside the city, so it was lunchtime by the time we returned. It took a little while, but we decided to still give Table Mountain a try. When it became evident that we wouldn’t make it to the top by the time the last cable car went down, several of us headed back down to the base, got a very nice couple who happened to be parked nearby to bring us to the base of the cable car, then got to the top to watch sunset. Just like the night before, I could have cried it was so beautiful. The striking mountain, the “table cloth” as the clouds just capping the top of the mountain are commonly known, and the beautiful changing colors of the evening light. It was a special experience.
Table Mountain + Table Cloth at Sunset
The next morning before a mid-morning flight, we scrambled up Lions Head (another smaller mountain right next to Table Mountain) for the sunrise. Again, another highlight of beauty on this trip. It’s hard to believe how much we saw in a little over 2 days, and amazing just how much of it was among the most beautiful things I’ve ever seen. Going up in the dark, the lights of the city below were beautiful as the moon glowed over the water. Once the sun began to illuminate the sky, the silhouette of Devil’s Peak (one part of Table Mountain) was striking over the city and mountain range in the distance. Then the ball of fire emerged over the distant mountains, making the fog over the city shine bright yellow. At one point I turned around, and there was a shadow of Lions Head where I was standing on the fog out over the sea. The pictures don’t fully do it justice, but it was breathtaking and I’d honestly never even heard of such a thing before. It’s fair to say that this brief stint in Cape Town was well worth it and warrants a return to explore more.