CAPE TOWN - South Africa Part 3
Cape Town was the final destination on our South African adventure. Cape Town is such a beautiful place to visit and surprisingly has many similarities to Australia, giving it an almost familiar and homely feel. There are a million things to see and do here, so instead of trying to cover it all, we thought we would give you the highlights that we found.
Cape Town has very convenient and user-friendly public transport. There is a Red Sightseeing bus which will take you to most of the key sightseeing locations for a cost of approx AU$11 a day. However, we decided to rent a car from the airport instead. It gave us so much freedom to see all of Cape Town at our own pace, as well as explore areas further outside the city that we may not have visited otherwise. It also meant that we had transport to and from the airport, which can become quite pricey. The roads are similar to that of Australia so are not too hard to navigate around with the help of GPS. One word of WARNING: the South African drivers can be a little bit unpredictable, with a tendency to change lanes without an indication. As long as you are alert, you will be fine.
Things to See and Do in Cape Town
Table Mountain is a landmark mountain that overlooks the city of Cape Town. Most visitors get to the top by use of the cable-car, however the more daring adventurers are also able to hike their way to the top. There is also rock climbing, caving and mountain biking. Once at the top it provides a 360 degree view of Cape Town and is home to one of the cutest animals I've seen, (outside of a Quokka that is, which are native to Perth) called a Rock Hyrax (aka Dassie). The amazing view is topped off with access to cafe's, a little retail therapy and additional activities such as audio tours and guided walks. My advice would be to go as soon as the weather is good. The cable-car closes during times of high winds so be careful not to miss your opportunity. Check the website link provided for a daily weather report and information about whether the cable-car is running or not.
Camps Bay is a trendy suburb, seven mins drive from the city. It is home to one of Cape Town's largest and most beautiful beaches. The main promenade opposite the beach is lined with restaurants and bars, all with a very relaxed and casual vibe. There is a large number of hawkers selling sunglasses, paintings etc along the beaches, however they aren't too pushy when you tell them you're not interested.
V & A Waterfront
You can spend the whole day at the V & A Waterfront with the amount of things there are to see and do. The V & A Waterfront is situated in South Africa's oldest working harbour. It has over 450 retail outlets, and features the Two Oceans Aquarium, Cape Town comedy club, several museums/exhibits, and Workshop 17. Workshop 17 was a highlight, it is the most forward thinking collaborative/innovative space I've seen. It is where we just happened upon a virtual reality playground where we got lost in our own little world for a good couple of hours.
Hidden Valley Vineyard
Hidden Valley is a vineyard situated on the northern slopes of the Helderberg Mountains in Stellenbosch. Stellenbosch is almost an hour drive from Cape Town, which is where having your own car comes in handy. We were lucky enough to make a friend on Safari who lived in this area. He was the one that told us about this place and we felt is was too beautiful of a place not to share with others. The head chef, Bertus Basson is a highly acclaimed chef in South Africa and also became known after appearing as a judge on "The Ultimate Braai Master" (a South African reality cooking show). The food and the wine were both inventive and paired beautifully. The restaurant overlooked the picturesque winery and made it very inviting to drink away the afternoon (responsibly of course).
We stayed in two different types of accommodation while in Cape Town.
Double Tree by Hilton Hotel
Double Tree by Hilton Hotel was a great home base to start our time in Cape Town, as it's conveniently located near most of the tourist hot spots. It is only a short distance from the airport and there is a complimentary shuttle that takes you to the V & A Waterfront in approx ten mins. The rooms are basic but comfortable. The Highlight for us was the stand-out bar where we spent many nights working our way through the impressive cocktail list (at approx AU$4 each, it's hard to just have one). It was easy to unwind and relax in this luxurious bar that had one of the most impressive spirit collections I've seen. Another little treat was the unlimited warm cookies you could obtain from reception. I dare you to not grab a handful every time you walk past.
We have had nothing but success and great experiences using Air BNB. Our host was lovely and made it so easy to pick up/drop off keys. It really is like having a home away from home. We chose to stay near the V & A Waterfront. It was a lovely and safe part of town, with access to so much to see and do. The only requirement we had to check for was whether there was a space to park our hire car.
Cape Town was such a surprise to me. I didn't expect such a happening and modern city, given the first two legs of our trip. It had so many similarities to Australia that it had a very familiar and homely vibe. By the end of our stay I was even starting to picture packing everything up and moving here. An idea that I quickly put to bed given I don't know if I'm brave enough to make such a big move and leave everything I know behind.
Again I had made a packing error that saw me unprepared for the Cape Town weather. It was a little cooler than I had initially anticipated. It was completely my ignorance that I packed assuming the whole of South Africa would be hot. Although of course, just like in Australia, the further down you move, the colder it's going to get.
There is just so much to see and do here. Our plan for tackling it all was to not make a plan at all. If I look at my life, the majority of every second is already planned out. At work, I have nearly every second accounted for with which baby I need to feed/change, which bloods I have to take and when all other procedures need to be attended to. Then all my time outside of work is filled with when I'm going to fit in a gym session or attend a certain event. It is so refreshing to wake up on a holiday and not know what you have in store for the day. Just give yourself the time to discover what's around.
This is literally how we found one of the highlights of our trip which was the virtual reality centre. We were just spending the day walking around the V & A Waterfront when we happened upon it. I asked what their most popular game was, of course I wanted to play the best. I couldn't help but laugh out loud when I was told it was their job simulator. My brain couldn't comprehend why (when you have the ability to do anything ... anything!!) people where wanting to pretend they were at work. I had to eat my words though. After playing a few zombie and alien games I decided to give it a try and it was the most fun I had. Not because I got to simulate being at work but because you got to do the things you would never be able to do in real life. I let off fireworks in a convenience store and threw a hot dog at a customer. I got out any repressed rage I had built up from my time working in retail.
Double Tree by Hilton was a great place to start our stay. Does it make me immature that I couldn't get enough of the unlimited warm cookies you could get from reception? There was literally a warm cookie drawer under the desk, amongst all the other drawers that stored the normal office stuff you would expect, like pens and staplers. I did the typical girl thing and justified eating as many cookies as I could, by the fact that I had use the hotel gym once.The bar was beautiful and I think we payed it a visit every night. How could you not when there was an extensive cocktail list and the most expensive one came to AU$5?
Table Mountain is a must-see, although head there in off-peak times to avoid the lines that can be quite lengthy. After narrowly avoiding a run-in with some people that thought they could cut the queue, we made it to the top. Again I did the usual girl stress out that I could capture the perfect Instagram photo. After Lawson calmed me down, he decided to push me out of my comfort zone in an attempt to capture the perfect photo. He guided me off the path to climb some of the rock, which ended up securing one of my all-time favourite photos from the trip (It's the main photo we ended up using for this post). After taking the pic we turned around to return to the path were we noticed we'd started a trend. There was a line of people waiting to capture the exact photo we had just taken.
Camps Bay was beautiful and I would describe it as a combination between the Gold Coast and Thailand. The beach had a very Gold Coast feel with all the touristy shops and bars lining the main promenade. The Thailand feel comes from the abundance of hawkers that roam the beach trying to sell you stuff. They are all friendly and most move on if you tell them you're not interested. The rocks along the beach provided the perfect back drop for any Instagram model to capture their outfits. I couldn't count how many girls we saw posing along the rocks with their loving boyfriend (presumably) taking photos of them from all different angles. It really was cute and I loved the confidence that all those girls had. I find it hard to not feel self-conscious when taking those type of photos. Hats off to you girls.
When you get to the last destination of your holiday I always think back on the trip and think "Shit where the hell did that time go?" But it never seems to go as fast while you are experiencing it. No mater whether you are travelling or not, always try to take some time to stop and smell the roses. We always forget to take time out to appreciate life. In the grand scheme of things we are all just drops in the ocean, but we only get one life and it can pass us by so quickly.
Cape Town was the last stop on our South African adventure. When we arrived at the airport we made a spur of the moment decision to hire a car. That was the best thing we did; it gave us so much freedom. We had no plans and having the car meant we were able to explore the Cape in our own time and not waste money on taxis while we explored what Cape Town had to offer. We hired the cheapest car we could find which happened to be a white manual Nissan Micra. I was surprised at how spacious it actually was inside. I love driving hire cars, it's like a little holiday away from my own car. We very quickly realised that the Micra seemed to be the choice of car for many people in Cape Town. They where everywhere. It was a great zippy little city car. Being a manual did mean I was the only one able to drive it seeing as though Cat doesn't have her manual licence (I thought you were from the country? ... tsk tsk tsk.) That suited Cat just fine as it can get pretty hairy driving in a country you don't know, especially in peak hour traffic. I know what you are thinking though, how are you meant to get your drink on and have a good time if you are driving? In Cape Town they have a service where two people come and collect you from where ever you have been getting boozy, one drives you home in your own car while the other drives behind to collect his mate.
After arriving at Double Tree by Hilton and settling in we used the front desk to get an idea of what we should see while we were in Cape Town. If you are unsure of what to see and do in a place, always use the front desk of the hotel you are staying at or your host. Because there is nothing like the knowledge of a local to give you insight and added information that you are not likely to find on the internet.
Table Mountain was explained as a must-see and that as soon as there was clear skies and good weather not to dilly dally and head straight there, as similar to Melbourne the weather can change very quickly. Being 1085 metres above sea level you can imagine it can get pretty windy. We took that advice and made our way up the mountain with not a cloud in the sky. If you are ever in Cape Town you have to experience the view from up there. It is breathtaking. It also lead to us making our next plan. From the top of the mountain we could see a beautiful little bay in the distance that we wanted to check out.
We headed down the mountain and drove over to (what we found out was) Camps Bay for something to eat. We stumbled across a restaurant that was doing half a kilo of ribs and chips for AU$12. We had an eight course dinner prepared for us that night by Double Tree Hilton but figured that was still a while away so ordered one each. I think their scale was broken because when the ribs came it was more like a kilo each and they were so good that we couldn't stop eating them and very quickly they were all finished and we were as full as a bull. We probably should have checked the time before ordering. It was 4:00 p.m and we had dinner planned for 7:00 p.m. Uh oh. We waddled around the bay exploring the reef and beach trying to walk off the food coma. We had to push our dinner back an hour to try and give us some time to recover. I'm glad we did because the dinner that night was incredible, eight courses of incredibly high quality food with each dish better than the last. I felt like Homer when he attempted to eat that giant steak and Bart is throwing the food in his mouth as it continues to fall out and roll down his belly. I regret nothing..
Although I had a couple of low moments in Cape Town, (check out the video for an explanation) I also had some of the best times from our trip. It was a great way to finish off such a life changing adventure. South Africa is a visually beautiful country but more than that, the people are what make it great. It is rich in history and they are still working towards a better South Africa, but also know where they came from and where they are now and the positivity and vibrancy of the place really puts things into perspective.