As I wrote in my first post, an opportunity occurred this fall, which led me to Africa. The fall was a bit of a weird period for me as I was done with my Masters, but unemployed and homeless. A wonderful girl, whom I call my person, had moved back to her hometown of Cape Town, South Africa, and was excited at the thought of me going to visit. All these circumstances made my choice very easy. So I chose the new adventure, the new country to discover, the possibility to see my person and an amazing way to spend time until graduation weekend.
A spontaneous decision that led to a once in a lifetime experience. I am indeed very ‘American’ having been raised by a North American mother and a South American father. Like anyone else I had ideas about ‘Africa’, about the continent and the culture. You know, like people believe that Canadian children go to school on the back of a dog sled and live in igloos? Of course my friend had told me about her life in Cape Town. But I headed down to Cape Town without too much preparation, except a few jabs and complete bewilderment in front of what was about to happen.
Arriving in Cape Town after about 25 hours of travels from London (including 9 hours of losing my mind at the Dubai International Airport) felt like a dream. First, I had arrived from the superbly grey and cloudy weather of the United Kingdom into a haze of heat and sun in Cape Town. It was great to also finally live a real summer after over a year of Scotland’s constant 5-12 degree weather and grey sky. Seeing my friend also felt like a dream. We met in Scotland and to see our friendship transported thousands of miles down to the southern hemisphere felt very incongruous.
It was a life-changing five-week trip so there is so many things to say about it. I thought I would keep it to my top 3 of the highlights of my trip.
That is not a particular moment but multiple instances of awesomeness. My first afternoon in Cape Town was spent at the Waterfront, which was gorgeous (though a bit windy). It was a lovely walk by the docks and then an amazing sushi lunch at Sevruga, one of the best in town I was told. The second instance I want to refer to, was our morning walk and breakfast on Bloubergstrand. It was a gorgeous morning and that beach was amazing! I personally had never seen such white sand! There was also the incident of the car that couldn’t start and we had to push it to give it a start– felt like our own ‘Little Miss Sunshine’ moment.
Although not Cape Town, was one of my great memories of the trip. We house sat for a friend of my friend who has a house on a vineyard. Stellenbosch is all around gorgeous: the mountains, the vineyards everywhere, and the university campus is also beautiful. That week we did a big tour of the farms. We started by the Spice Route – which would be the best if you only have one place to go to because it has a wine, chocolate, biltong and beer tastings, it’s a massive property with lots to offer. We stopped by Fairview for some cheese tasting, then had lunch at the Hillcrest berry farm. On a different day we had lunch at Tokara, which was also gorgeous, despite the rain that caught us as we were playing like children in the gardens, then we had afternoon tea at La Motte. On Halloween, we celebrated by going to do a champagne tasting paired with marshmallows and meringues at J.C. LeRoux. It was all in all an amazing week of living it up.
So – according to MOST foreigners (and 100% of the friends who asked about my trip) – the thing to absolutely do whilst in Africa is a safari. My friend told me that the best place to do a real safari was in the bush and that the Kruger National Park would be the best place. Unfortunately, budget and time didn’t allow us to leave the Western Cape so we found a private game reserve that offered safaris and headed there one morning! We went to to the Aquila private game reserve and it was lovely! The safari lasted about two hours and we drove around the large park to try and spot animals. Of course the people who work there knew where the animals hang out therefore they brought us there right away and it felt almost like a guided tour of a large zoo (which it kind of is technically). As a positive point though, I must say that our guide was really great! He explained everything about the reserve and the animals and even told us about the lives of the current animals of the park. Moreover, lunch was included in the pretty steep price. Perhaps if it had been a nice day I would have thought the price to be more reasonable, but unfortunately we fell on a rather cloudy and very windy day which sometimes made it hard to enjoy the drive in the open jeep. However, I am very glad that we went and that we got to do a safari and see animals!
If you want a few other suggestions of great things to do in the Western Cape here are a few quick thoughts:
-World of Birds is a must, it was lovely! A great afternoon being in awe in front of all the amazing animals (not just birds!), monkeys climbing everywhere, being scared by loose owls and eagles, trying to find Hedwig, renaming llamas Tina, etc.
–Afternoon tea at Mount Nelson. One word: Amazing! I’m telling you it’s worth it, nice full tables of savoury and sweet things, a chef close by to explain what is what and suggests pairings, and a wonderful ambiance paired with great couches to spend an afternoon reading and stuffing your face!
–Penguin colony at Betty’s Bay. Although the smell was slightly overwhelming, the gorgeous coast where the penguins are harboured is a nice view! We got to see little baby penguins near the pathway made for the visitors and penguins taking in the sun or jumping in the feisty waters.
-Didn’t spend much time there, but Clifton beaches were amazing! Some were more secluded, some others bigger, and it was great exercise to walk up the steps to the main road afterwards!
-We spent an afternoon at De Hoop Nature Reserve – and except for the slight cold wind and the dirt roads that seemed never-ending, it was a great time! The sand dunes were amazing and it gives a great panorama over the ocean and I’m told the months of September and October are great for whale-watching. We also had lunch in the park and we got to see plenty of animals!
–L’Agulhas. Pretty much just a tiny little dot on the map and a bit of a touristy thing to do, but you can go stand and be at the southernmost point of Africa and at the exact point where the Atlantic and Indian oceans meet.