Cape Town, the Mother City
I’ve always been fascinated, dumbfounded, intrigued, and horrified by South Africa and its history. However, I knew I always wanted to go there, so I chose Cape Town for my first go around.
While most people understandably flock to the coastline for water activities, there are a ton of things to see and do in the city itself. The nightlife on Long Street is definitely a must see, at least for a few pints and people-watching. The waterfront is a tourist haven with buskers and a cappella musicians and amazing restaurants everywhere.
You are also reminded of the country’s enthralment with Nelson Mandela at every turn. There are many things that adorn his name and the museums and nearby Robbin Island where he was imprisoned for almost 20 of his 27 years, are well-maintained and relatively cheap to visit.
Through my exploration of the city, I kept thinking I would unearth the darkside and remnants of colonialism but I couldn’t find any overt traces of it. This is not to say it didn’t exist but on the outside, Cape Town was like any other tropical tourist destination.
I did, however, see it the following day as I drove out of town and passed the plethora of township communities where poverty, crime and despondence run rampant. I was struck at how the poverty was so segregated from Cape Town proper, like it was almost cordoned off to maintain the fascade of a harmonious and progressive society that has successfully shed all traces of its ugly past.
It wasn’t until the end of my trip that I met a local who told me about the persistent divisions in South Africa. And although it has a long way to go before achieving equality, most South Africans, both black and white have a fervent desire to see it get better. Here’s hoping…
The Cape Town area definitely provides you with an abundance of tourist activities for those with gonads and a ton of energy. I went shark cage diving which was insane, to say the least. The tour took us about two hours up the coast to the small town of Gansbaai and then about a 30-minute boat trip out into the ocean to meet our afternoon companions. How it works is they put you in this cage which is fastened to the side of the boat and then they lower you into the freezing water that has been saturated with ‘chum’, a mix of fish guts and anything that smells rancid, which attracts the Great Whites to said cage.
When it was my turn, there were about four sharks swimming around the cage, peaking in and giving us all the stink eye. I swear one of them licked his lips as he gave me the stare down and pictured me between two pieces of bread. I think I even heard the Jaws music off in the distance, but I can’t be sure…
I remember thinking I was going to pee my pants but thought about a conversation I had with a friend about doing the shark dive, who reminded me that peeing in a wet suit meant you just sat in “it”, so I became stressed about that on top of the sharks. I only spent about 20-30 minutes underwater but it was well worth it. Such a scary yet exhilarating experience being next to these magnificent creatures, one that I will never forget.
The next day, I did an amazing wine tour which was quite fitting after spending the previous one with things that could have killed me. There is much more to a wine tour than sampling copious amounts of wine, so I wholeheartedly recommend doing one even if you don’t possess an intense (and sometimes obsessive) love for wine as I do.
I went with Wine Flies Wine Tours which consisted of a private tour to five very different vineyards where we were treated to local delicacies, learned about the culture behind each of the wine lands and basically drank a shit load of wine. Our guide was knowledgeable and organized, but thankfully not so stuffy that he couldn’t enjoy a few glasses of wine with us. I actually think he had as much fun as we did, which looking back, was not easy to parallel.
To cap off my trip, I hiked Table Mountain which, together with Devil’s Peak to the east and Lion’s Head to the west, forms the most beautiful backdrop and prominent landmark that overlooks all of Cape Town. You can take a cable car up to the top, or you can choose to hike it. I chose the latter which was no easy feat, not for the three hours it takes to climb it but for its steepness, not to mention the grueling heat and wine-induced hangover I had going on.
One week in Cape Town was definitely not enough to see everything in the area nor the country, but juuuust enough to make a certain ‘someone’ come home and scour the teaching positions at local universities, search the real estate market, read up on what it’s like to live there and what the necessary visa requirements are. So I’ve heard….