So I found yet another city I could call home. Cape Town, South Africa. The moment the pilot told us we were beginning out decent into Cape Town, I knew I’d want to stay long. The flight from Johannesburg was around two hours long, and I managed to sleep for most of that. Sleep was difficult the night before, having had so much excitement running through my veins.
I was driven by taxi from the Cape Town airport to the backpackers hostel I was booked in to for a few nights. Azeez, the driver, had lots to tell me about his home city, and was proud to share that the hospital was the first to do an open heart transplant.
I arrived and was able to leave my bags at “The Sunflower Stop,” as I was too early to check in. A really good friend of mine from home, Kylie, had told me about this hostel. Ky had spent two months here at the end of last year, and fell in love with a man that works here, named Andrew! That was the fella that welcomed me at The Sunflower Stop, and was so kind as to help offer his suggestions with what I could do and where I could go within the city. I was already thrilled with my decision to stay here, and will definitely be back in the future!
After I set the bags down and had to figure out what I would do first, I decided to take a walk up the street and grab some breakfast. Extrablatt was the name of the restaurant, where I had an amazing two-egg breakfast, which I was thoroughly happy with, and was full for R50 – which is less than $5.00!
Leaving there, I walked to the waterfront using the directions that Andrew had given me, and had a lovely few hours down there. I booked my Robben Island tour for the next morning, and visited a place called Scratch Patch, a gemstone museum/gallery/gift shop that Ky had told me about. The markets and the atmosphere at the waterfront was great! Lots of people, locals and tourists, markets and other various stores. The walk back to the hostel was the reverse of how I’d walked down, only much warmer! The weather has been AMAZING here. When I was able to check in, I met Andre, a guy from Germany who was in the same six-bed dorm room I was going to be staying in. Shortly thereafter, I met Juul, from Holland, and we visited by the pool outside.
There was mention of a small group taking the cable car up Table Mountain later than evening, and Juul and Andre told me I was most welcome to join! Since I couldn’t quite predict exactly how the next few days were going to go, I quickly accepted the invite. At 5:45pm, we assembled in the reception area of the hostel; Juul, Andre, Jon (the manager) and his Aunt Helen, (visiting from England), and I. Andre drove us up in his car, and when we reached the bottom of the mountain, there was a digital sign that said CLOSED. We still drove up, as the traffic was still going that way, and it was a group decision to check out what was going on as to why the mountain would be closed. The thought was possibly wind, but it seemed relatively calm, but learned quickly that there was a fire somewhere up on the mountain, and therefore it was closed for the night. The traffic was bumper to bumper in the return lane, from the cable car entrance to the bottom of the hill. Helen, Jon, Juul and I walked to the bottom, snapping photos, and ended up meeting Andrew at the bottom of the hill. We all figured we were out and could find another vantage point for the sunset, so headed over to Signal Hill together. Many others had the same idea, and the lanes filled quickly! Driving to the parking lot at the top would have been nearly impossible, so we found a spot on the side of the road to park and walked the side of the road down a little ways, and then back up, snapping photos and enjoying the evening as the sun headed down towards the horizon. I’ve never ever seen traffic as insane as this, not for speed in this case, but for the lack of care or regard for other drivers trying to drive or park along the road. One side of the road was filling quickly with cars parked bumper to bumper, and the other side followed suit. So… a narrow two lane road with little to no shoulders, was now even more narrow – there was just enough room for a vehicle to drive one way… but there were still people wanting to go up, and down the hill… so of course, this was the perfect situation to practice, 3, 5, 7, 9, 11, etc point turns, and make the situation even worse! There’s a photo to go along with this story, but it won’t even do justice to the pure chaos. Horns beeping, people weaving in and out of the cars on foot or motorbike (if it could fit!), but apparently all of this was nothing new in Africa – only to my eyes.
We all made it down safely, and without any damage done to ourselves or the car. After a short wind down at the hostel, the five of us got ourselves together and headed out for dinner. After a few drinks and a great feed, we wandered back to the hostel and found our beds.
Monday was an early start, as I had the 9am Robben Island tour departure from the waterfront, which is a good 20 minute walk. The boat filled quickly, and likely reached it’s carrying capacity of 175 adults, most of who were of retirement age. The boat ride was about 45 minutes long, and presented all those on board with incredible views of Cape Town. The most famous silhouette includes Devil’s Peak, Table Mountain, Lion’s Head and Signal Hill, and it’s absolutely breathtaking. Table Mountain is just over 3000 ft tall! The ride over to Robben Island was exciting on it’s own, as we all saw whales, penguins, seals, jellyfish, and various ships and boats. Once we arrived, we filed out onto the jetty and boarded the busses that were waiting for us. As the busses filled, the tour guides stood at the side doors, and greeted each passenger. Our guide’s name was Yasein Mohammed, and he was exactly the kind of tour guide you’d want for any type or tour. He was funny, dynamic, included people in his presentation, and spoke with so much expression and emphasis. There were several stops on the Island before we stopped at the jail, where another guide took over. The tour was very sobering, and the history of the island is deep and dark. I loved how during the tour, Yasein would ask people where they were from, and would share how in some way their country’s impact on freedom or the history or SA. As a solo traveler, I’m always meeting new people. This time on a bus your, I only occupied one seat – so I was bound to make a seat buddy! I met a really lovely woman named Marilyn, and we chatted between Yasein’s presentations, about many different topics! She later introduced me to her partner, Bill, who is quite familiar with Canada from his former marriage. The couple was so kind, and I’m sure our paths will cross again in the future!
After the boat ride back, I had to hustle back to the hostel by 2pm. I didn’t have my phone with me, nor did I have a watch. Only an idea of the time was what kept the giddy up in my step as I walked as quickly as I could while carrying my camera bag, back to The Sunflower Stop. We’d mentioned the evening before that we’d attempt going up Table Mountain again the next afternoon, before Helen had to catch her bus at 6pm. The spoken plan was to leave the hostel for our second try at 2pm, and that if I was back in time, I would join them. Did I ever smile when I opened the front entrance to the hostel to hear four happy voices greet me with “ehhhhh, you made it!” or “She made it!” … What a happy traveler moment. Friends you’ve only just made are happy to see that you’re able to join them.
Our second attempt was extremely successful. We booked our tickets online, and the queue was nonexistent. The cable car’s floor rotates, so each passenger could get a view up and down and along the mountain. Once we reached the top, the silence really surprised me! The air seemed to capture any sounds made, and even speaking to one another had to be done relatively close to one another. The views were stunning, and the photos just don’t do any justice… I was so happy to have made it to the top of the mountain! My original plan was to hike up the path to the top, but since my time was already being filled quickly, I was beyond content with the cable car adventure instead of the hike. We wandered around the top of the mountain, snapping photos and chitchatting, until we’d had enough of the hot sun and required some shade. We also had to make sure that we got Helen back down and sorted for her departure.
For dinner, Jon, Juul, Andre and I went for pizza at a restaurant down the road. The thin crusty pizza and fresh toppings made for a really delicious and satisfying meal! We visited over another drink when we got back to the hostel before we scattered to our beds.
Today was another great day in Cape Town! Gilli’s cousin Stephen lives in Cape Town, and we’d planned on meeting for breakfast. I walked to Mouille Point, which was about 15 minutes away, in another gorgeous little area I hadn’t been yet. Stephen and I had never met, but go on like a house on fire. His kindness and interest in my trip and travels and our conversations about life could have gone on for much longer! It was an excellent way to start the day. After I came back and hung out at the hostel for a bit, Juul and I took a great walk to the Green Markets Square in the city, across to the waterfront, then back to the hostel. The markets were busy, buzzing with people both local and from around the world. I was thrilled to have Juul with me, as she’s been to Cape Town before and really knows her way around. The sun was hot, so we got cold fresh smoothies and juices at the waterfront before coming back to the hostel.
The evening has been quiet, as I reflect and unwind, and plan for another busy few days. Early bed for sure.