What does a week in South Africa Look Like?
When a Christmas miracle in the form of an airline price error of a $500 round-trip flight from Chicago -----> Johannesburg, South Africa occurs, you jump on the deal and go!
Day 1: Touch Down in Cape Town
We were picked up last night by our new friend Andrew. After the 32 hours of traveling, we were in a sleep deprived daze, and the promise of an actual bed was the only thing on our minds. However, I was way too excited to sleep in, and ended up waking up at 7a.m for an easy run around our new city. Now when I say "easy", it was anything but that, because Cape Town is one steep hill after another. I had been used to running in Manhattan where the steepest hill we have is the beginning of the Williamsburg Bridge. But the challenge was welcomed with open arms, and I ended up running a short bit of Table Mountain before I headed back to wake up Edwin from his (much needed) sleep coma.
Luckily our place had great WiFi, so we were able to connect with Allie on WhatsApp when she landed at Cape Town International Airport. We sat out in the sunshine eating grapes and awaiting her arrival. I hadn't seen my sister for months, so when she stepped out of the Uber, we both ran towards each other (in one of those sappy cinematic montage moments) and I swear we both had never smiled bigger than that moment right there.
Our first stop was to the waterfront. We walked along the boardwalk, went into the mall for a bit, and explored the shops and restaurants along the water. Ambiance is a major factor in deciding where to eat for us, so of course we ended up at an outdoor restaurant with the best view of Table Mountain, docked sailboats, and people watching. The conversion rate from US dollars to South African rand is incredibly cheap (10 rand is 75 cents), so I went big and ordered a kilo of mussels for roughly 5 dollars. You can't beat that!
After fueling up we grabbed a taxi to the trail head to climb Lion's Head Mountain. In hindsight, we definitely should have started our trek a couple hours before we did, because once the sun set it was too dark to climb safely to the top. We started the hike at 6pm with amazing sunset views and watched as the sky changed colors as we made our way up. The hike itself is an easy climb, and only starts to have unsteady rock footing as you get to the last third of the mountain. The path narrows and if you're not careful the loose rocks could result in dangerous situations. We kept hiking to the top with our flashlights once darkness set in, but we made the decision to head back down once the ledge and path became hard to find. Always remember that it's not always the hike up a mountain that is difficult, but hikers usually run into trouble on the way back down. Unsteady footing, loosing the trail, or making a wrong turn in the dark can be extremely dangerous.
Since it was the first Thursday of the month, Cape Town art galleries, bars, and other cultural attractions stay open late in the central and East city districts. After getting freshened up, we made our way down to Bree Street to check out the nightlife in Cape Town.
I had the most incredible burger at Inside & You're Out on Bree Street. It was so good that I might have to make special trips from NYC to CapeTown just for that burger and kale chips. I highly recommend checking them out!
VIDEO: Hiking Lion's Head at Dusk
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Four days in Cape Town presents a time crunch for experiencing all that the incredible city has to offer. Writing down lists is my way of organizing the continual racetrack that is my mind, so in typical fashion I had already made a list of my top excursions I wanted to experience while in Cape Town, South Africa. Without much knowledge of the travel time between spots in and around Cape Town, I wrote a list that was deemed impossible to do in four days. However, our good friend Andrew helped us to get the most out of our short time in Cape Town (and looking back at my list, we did everything except surfing and diving; which just means I need to go back soon).
Seeing the seal and penguin colonies was at the top of our plans, and we got even more than we expected with a full day of exploring the Cape Peninsula. Our guide for the day picked us up at the apartment at 7am, and immediately made me wish I had drank another espresso to keep up with him. Our trek van was filled with a diverse group of travelers from Germany, Brazil, England, and Argentina. All of our various backgrounds made for stimulating conversations throughout the day.
Hout Bay was our first stop of the day. We hopped on a boat and made our way to the seal colony out on the rock formations in the middle of the bay. I closed my eyes, feeling the sunshine sinking into my skin and the wind combing through my hair. Moments later Edwin grabbed my arm, and we were awestruck at the site in front of us. We quickly grabbed our cameras and started capturing the colony of seals playing in the water and lounging on the rocks. As the others gravitated towards the bow of the ship, my lens focused on a seal pup gravitating towards the water about to dive in. As I waited for the perfect moment to snap the pup jumping into the clear blue water, the pup's eyes looked straight into my lens. That enigmatic connection could have been fabricated in my own subconscious, but I swear it felt as if that moment had been created specifically for me.
As we made our way back to land, surrounded by rocky cliffs and stunning blue water, Edwin and I laughed at how beautiful and intricate it all was. This feeling lasted throughout the day as we bicycled to the most Southwestern point of Africa, saw the African penguins at Boulders Bay, and discussed the history and culture of South Africa with our guide and local craftsmen.