South Africa Part 2

After our last game drive at Kruger National Park on a Sunday (South Africa Part 1), we were taken to the Johannesburg airport where we boarded a short flight to Cape Town. We arrived in our Airbnb, which was perfect – a lofted apartment right in the city center for which we paid $671 for a 6 NIGHT STAY (again, wow SA was affordable!). I would recommend staying in Greenmarket Square or close to Long Street as they are walking distance to a lot of bars and restaurants. Camps Bay is also a good area but it can get a bit pricey. I would strongly discourage walking more than a few blocks, especially if you are a female, and even more so if you are blonde. It’s not that we felt unsafe or threatened but the amount of haggling and crude comments were not worth saving $5 (sometimes even less) on an Uber. I bought a week of international data for $30 so we would always be able to order an Uber or call for a restaurant reservation.

We were pretty beat from traveling all day so the first night was spent getting wine drunk, watching the Lion King and YouTube videos referenced in Part 1, as well as determining our game plan for Cape Town.

Day 1: Table Mountain

We got up at 10 AM and walked to a local Whole Foods equivalent called Food Lover’s Market for breakfast. Everything was so tasty and CHEAP that this store was responsible for 75% of our diet in Cape Town. On that first morning I lost all control (I question whether I had any to begin with) and went ham at the salad, sandwich, omelet, and coffee bars. This boded VERY poorly for me while climbing Table Mountain…stay tuned.

Next, we took an Uber to the foot of the Platteklip Gorge. The route was pretty self-explanatory and well paved with stones positioned as stairs. Jenny picked this route for the way up because it was the shortest, most direct way to the top, which logically would be the most difficult. Clearly, I didn’t follow this rationale prior to starting the hike and was surprised by a grueling two hour stair-master workout at a 75 degree incline. That large Americano and a pound of bruschetta I had for breakfast? Let’s just say they took a round trip. My friends on the other hand, especially Jessica, sprinted up the mountain like gazelles. I had to constantly pretend I was taking pictures but really, I was just trying to catch my breath. The entire ascent took us about two hours. If you are in slightly better cardiovascular shape than me, I would expect it to be an hour and a half ordeal. This route was wide open with plenty of fellow hikers so it was optimal as far as views and safety were concerned. We also saw a snake, I had a freak-out of epic proportions. It was great.

We spent about two hours at the top – walking around, taking pictures, and having a picnic lunch (with goods from the Food Lover’s Market).

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Our three hour descent was along the Skeleton Gorge trail. This trail was vastly different from Platteklip Gorge as it goes through the Newlands Forest aka an actual jungle complete with mini waterfalls and sliding rocks. We only met one other couple on our way down and in hindsight, three young women walking through a secluded forest with no cell reception was proooobably not the best idea. But we didn’t die, did we? The trail ends in Kirstenbosch Botanical Gardens. Being too exhausted from the hike, we did not spend time exploring the gardens other than buying massive water bottles at the gift shop after ordering an Uber to take us back to our Airbnb.

Once we got back to our Airbnb we enjoyed some rosé on our rooftop “pool”, better described as a large bath tub, before heading out to Mama Africa for dinner. We walked two blocks and immediately realized that we should be using Uber to get around. Nevertheless, the restaurant was great. They had live African music and AMAZING food. We got the Mama’s Wild Game Mixed Grill (crocodile, ostrich, springbok, kudu & venison sausage) and were not the least bit disappointed. In fact, this is where our romance with kudu meat began. After dinner, we attempted a wild night out on the Cape Town bar scene but failed miserably because 1) we ended up at a place called Beerhouse and 2) it was a Monday night.

Day 2: Cape Town Tour

After having breakfast at a local bakery (egg croissant sandwich and coffee for a whopping $2.00), we met our group for a full day tour of Cape Town with Cape Convoy ($79 per person). Our itinerary was as follows:

Muizenberg -Nice beach with colorful houses and a great view of Table Mountain

Kalk Bay Harbour – Great views of Table Mountain and a chance to say hello to seals

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Simon’s Town and Boulders Beach National Park – penguin heaven

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This may have been Jessica’s favorite part of the day and maybe the whole trip. This is a beautiful beach that’s home to a bajillion wild African Penguins. We spent forever taking pictures and videos of penguins fighting and snuggling.

Cape Point – great look out

This place is a phenomenal look out and prime spot for pictures and lunch. It’s a short scenic walk to the light house but watch out for baboons. No, seriously. Baboons love to come here and steal food from tourist and they have zero fear or shame. In fact, we witnessed several people fight off baboons with sticks. So if you want to avoid an encounter with a sharp-toothed baboon, hide yo snacks.

Cape of Good Hope – known as the southernmost tip of Africa. Technically, not true, but close enough.
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Hout Bay – surrounded by mountains to the north, east and west and the southern Atlantic Ocean to the south.

Our tour ended at the Victoria & Alfred Waterfront, which is similar to Fisherman’s Wharf in San Fran with lots of shops and restaurants. We walked around for a while and headed home to get ready for dinner at the Cod Father. I know…why!? Despite the atrocious name, this restaurant was 10/10. Located in the prestigious Camp’s Bay, it’s a fancy place to get fresh seafood and sushi. We ordered a bottle of wine and I proceeded to point at cuts of raw fish, which would later be cooked to perfection, while trying to look like I knew what I was doing. That slab of raw tuna which looks identical to all the others? Suuuuure, we’ll have that. Thanks to me and my “eyes bigger than my stomach” attitude, we ended up with about three pounds of shrimp, calamari, tuna, and salmon. The food, coupled with a snazzy bottle of wine, cost us about $30 per person. I would suggest making a reservation as this is a popular spot.

Wild night out attempt #2 took us to Ocean Blue, a water front bar with a nice patio where I found it necessary to order a miniature keg of an unidentified red alcoholic substance. Our next stop was Asoka, a trendy bar in the Gardens area. Their drinks were fantastic and we loved the open air/courtyard concept.

Day 3: Spa Day

Because a) it was supposed to rain all day, b) we’re pretty basic, and c) the South African Rand gods blessed us with the best exchange rate ever, we spend our third day in Cape Town receiving various beauty treatments at Langaro. This salon was basic girl heaven, serving champagne with a cotton candy garnish. I loved every minute of my manicure, pedicure, facial, etc., especially since it all came out to less than $200.

For dinner we went to The Bombay Bicycle Club, which we were convinced was a strip club because the website describes it as the world’s oldest gentlemen’s club. Sorry to disappoint – no nudity here, at least not that we were privy to. Conversely, the VERY eclectic décor (swings instead of bar stools) and perfectly prepared food, did not let us down. I cannot recommend the chocolate chilli steak highly enough. I still dream about that steak. Is it weird I dream about meat? Rolling my eyes at Kevin saying there there is a dirty joke in there somewhere while reading this.

After dinner, we got some dranks at The Gin Bar, where all the different gin varieties went way over our heads but we enjoyed the “old mansion” style décor. We also hit a few other bars not worth mentioning and ended up at what would become our regular spot – The Village Idiot. This bar is HUGE with lots of indoor space (two floors), a dance floor with a great DJ, and a wraparound outdoor veranda. The drinks are $2 and tipping the bartender $1 guarantees you’ll get overserved. Goodnight.

Day 4: Lion’s Head

This was going to be our second big hike day so we got a hearty breakfast at tashas located on the V&A Waterfront. After breakfast we visited the farmer’s market where I tried oysters for the first time (bleh) and we walked around with big ice cream cones. Don’t worry, unlike during the previous hike, this breakfast bought a one way ticket.

Once we were done exploring the waterfront, we took an Uber to Lion’s Head and began the two hour hike (which turned into three hours for us). This hike was about half as strenuous as Table Mountain but in my opinion, twice as pretty. As the trail winds up, you’re blessed with breathtaking views of first the city, and then the sea. Wally’s Cave, a popular Instagram spot, is located on the side of the mountain. Find Wally’s Cave they said, it will be fun they said. Since we can’t follow even simple trail maps, we got very lost looking for Wally’s Cave. SHOCKING, I know. After about five wrong turns and double backs, we abandoned all hope and returned to the main trail, reaching the summit shortly thereafter.

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At the top, you can see all of Cape Town, including Table Mountain’s Twelve Apostles. We spent about an hour at the top – people watching some proposals and near deadly photo ops. On the way down we attempted to find Wally’s Cave once more and with the help of the tenth and only stranger that replied to our question of “do you know how to get to Wally’s Cave”, succeeded. Can’t say I was blown away but Jenny and Jessica seemed to like it so worth looking for it if you have the time.

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We ordered an Uber at the bottom of the hiking path, got ready at home, and had dinner at Aubergine. The drinks here were great – lots of craft cocktails and expensive wines. The food was just OK, mostly because I think our palates are not refined enough for degustation menu type food. For after dinner entertainment we went back to our trusty Village Idiot. Jessica convinced me that drinking vodka sodas was equally as hydrating water. This was the cause of LITERALLY the worst hangover of my life the next day.

Day 5: Wine Country

*Disclaimer: My memories of this day very SEVERELY affected by a massive hangover so my positive opinions are likely understated.

We grabbed a quick breakfast at a small café beneath our Airbnb and took an Uber ($60 split among 3 people) to Franschoek, one of South Africa’s wine country towns about an hour away from Cape Town. Once we reached the city center, we got on a wine tram, which we booked the night before. The tram, about $18, operates under the hop-on hop-off concept and has several different routes (we picked the RED line).  Our first stop was the Maison family winery – a beautiful spot with an on-site restaurant and a pet boar (or a REALLY large piglet) that has its own little house. We tasted six wines for $5 and were very pleased.

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Our second and last stop was the Leopard’s Leap winery. This place is what I imagine wine heaven to be. Rolling green hills on one side, picturesque mountains on the other, a fountain/pond, huge indoor space with a restaurant and bar, but most importantly, a giant lawn where it’s perfectly appropriate to lounge around with a bottle of wine and take a nap. Which is exactly what we did after doing a wine tasting and eating lunch.

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Because we spent close to SIX hours at this winery, we didn’t make it to any other ones but were content with our South Africa wine country experience nevertheless. We walked around town for a bit, popping into the local galleries, and Ubered back to our Airbnb. This was where my night took a turn for the worse and I didn’t make it out for dinner. However, I couldn’t live with myself if I didn’t force my friends to stay out until bar close on our last night in South Africa. I arose from the dead just in time for some bar hopping. On our last night we went to Aces ‘N’ Spades, a fun bar with a live band playing oldies rock n’ roll and some new jams, NOMAD bistro & bar, and of course, The Village Idiot.

Day 4: Old Biscuit Mill

On our last morning/afternoon in South Africa, we went to the Old Biscuit Mill, essentially a fancy farmer’s market with lots of local artisan displays. I wouldn’t say this is a must do but it was a nice way to round out the trip. All the goods here were pretty expensive, even by US $ standards but I did buy Kevin a very nice buffalo leather wallet that he still uses today. We somehow got reservations at The Pot Luck Club, a super hipster fancy restaurant that has a month long waiting list. I was not a fan. If you are a huge foodie, this place is your jam, but tiny portions with a lot of sauce drizzelage costing more than all of our lunches combined were not for me. Catching a quick last glimpse of Table Mountain, we headed for the airport.

South Africa was a once in a lifetime trip that I hope I can repeat one day. It had everything – safari, hikes, great night life (other than on Monday nights), AMAZING food, penguins, and picturesque views literally everywhere you go.

Tips:

  1. Whatever you do, DEFINITELY hike (or take a cable car) to the top of Table Mountain and Lion’s head. It would actually break my heart if someone went to Cape Town and didn’t see what it’s like atop those mountains.
  2. If you’re interested in cage shark diving, do some research beforehand. Jenny and Jessica were very into it (and I reluctantly agreed) but we were told that there haven’t been many sharks around lately.
  3. Take Ubers EVERYWHERE. Even if it’s three blocks. Unless you’re a 200+ male. Then you’re probably fine.
  4. Make reservations for restaurants a day or two in advance, the good ones are busy.
  5. Don’t expect South Africa to have a Vegas style nightlife (which was my expectation). Just like in any other normal city, the bars are pretty dead Monday-Wednesday.
  6. Trying exotic meats like kudu and ostrich. Indian food is also top notch in Cape Town. And the avocado toast, oh my god the avo toast!
  7. Some other things that we didn’t do but are worth exploring – bungee jumping (Bloukrans Bridge Bungee is supposed to be the tallest in the world), Stollenbasch (another winery town), and the Kirstenbosch National Botanical Garden.

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