Adventures in Cape Town! BLOG #17
Hey everyone! Instead of flying home to Utah right away after the end of my contract I decided to do something a little different this time and travel to a location that I’ve wanted to go to for some time now- South Africa! This pit stop was out of the way of my journey home (just a bit), but I was in a place financially to allow myself to take an opportunity to get some solid travelling in on an entirely new continent. Cape Town is an incredible, vibrant city with hundreds of different things to do within a short distance and I crammed in as much as I could in my short time there!
My flight itinerary began from Heathrow, London into Dubai before arriving in Cape Town, which consisted of about 14 hours of flying time and a six-hour layover in Dubai. The company was able to reimburse the amount they would’ve paid for my plane ticket to Salt Lake City, and I used that money to purchase the flights to Cape Town- the six-hour stop in Dubai being the cheapest option. Hopefully I can do something similar at the end of every contract since it offers a financially viable option to see new places. I’ve been hoping to make my way specifically to Cape Town at some point, I met someone in college five years ago (another musician) that grew up in Zimbabwe and lived in Cape Town for the past three years and was planning to leave soon, it ended up being perfect timing! I figured the best way to travel in a new location was with someone I could stay with and show me around, particularly in a place and continent I knew pretty much nothing about. I’ve heard some stories from other ship musicians that Cape Town can sometimes be a very dangerous place, especially for a solo traveler.
I had never been to South Africa before (Africa in general), and one of the very first things that struck me as different upon arrival was how in-your-face the line between the wealthy and the poor is. You’ll walk into a restaurant (some with bouncers at the door) and the inside will be very well kept, seem newly renovated and the staff is very cheerful and welcoming, but practically the moment you walk outside someone is passed out in the gutter or pressuring money out of you or others. Many people say that you should avoid walking around on your own in certain locations, especially at night, stabbings and muggings occur very often. The Apartheid events, where all colored people in a certain area were forced out of their homes for a whites-only sector in Cape Town, occurred only about 30 years ago, and there are still some lingering effects of the aftermath. The politics and economy as well seem to still have its issues and corruption, and the USD goes very far- about 12 Rand to 1$. I was able to Uber around the city for very cheap (about $1-3 USD for a ride) as well as feed myself very with a low budget, in a lot of ways I felt very wealthy in the area. Since the conversion rate is so favorable, there are a lot of nice properties, franchises and restaurants that are owned by people from Europe and North America.
My friend made me a huge list of various things to see, eat and do in Cape Town and the first check off the sightseeing list was visiting the top of Table Mountain, a beautiful plateau that is in the backdrop of the city. The mountain is an iconic symbol of the area and offers a 360 degree view to the surrounding buildings, beaches and other landmarks. I had thought the scenery in general would be a lot greener based on pictures I had seen, but South Africa recently had a big drought that caused widespread panic and actually forced the city to declare that they had run completely out of water. In fact, still now, with drought over, the friends I stayed with have short showers and place buckets on the ground to reuse the water for flushing toilets, following the general rule: “if it’s yellow keep it mellow, if it’s brown flush it down.”
I was feeling a bit lazy, and a bit tired after all the travel and proceeded to take the cable car up the mountain instead of taking the three-hour hike (no judging, I was on vacation). At the top, many trails branch off in every direction and actually requires quite a bit of time to see everything from the top. The views are spectacular! The color of the water is a vibrant blue and you can spot every beach, mountain and see for miles in every direction, in a lot of ways it reminded me quite a bit of the view from Corcovado in Rio. I proceeded to hike down the mountain after spending an hour or so taking in the views, I should have known better and switched around my hiking plans! I definitely should have hiked UP the mountain and taken the cable car DOWN! The elevation change is drastic, and the trail is a bunch of switchbacks at a very steep degree. My knees!!
Upon making it back to ground level, I called an Uber out to Sea Point beach on the northeast side of Cape Town. I found a cheapy little bike rental store with cheapy little bikes and biked along the promenade deck with the water hitting the walls and the mountain at my back. Very relaxing to just coast alongside the ocean as I made my way back to my friend’s place in the city. I didn’t have service again and got a bit lost when the road went away from the water but getting lost in a new city seems to be a regular day-to-day occurrence for me now and I wasn’t worried!
The following day consisted of two different animal sanctuaries, the Two Ocean’s Aquarium and a bird exhibit called the World of Birds. Unfortunately, I didn’t have the time to go see big game animals like lions, giraffes and elephants in the wild, but it is on my bucket list and I’d love to visit the Serengeti and backpack there for that reason in the future. At the south side of Cape Town, known as Cape Point, is an area considered to be where the Atlantic and Indian ocean meet hence the name “Two Ocean” Aquarium, as it consists of animals that reside in both oceans. I always love aquariums, it’s very calming to me to observe the big tanks with the various animals, many of which I had never seen before. It’s a bit ironic, as one of my biggest fears is being underwater and the creepy creatures that live within such as giant squid, octopus and eels!
World of Birds was a very pleasant surprise, as I had really only wanted to go for one reason: the monkeys! If you’ve read my blog, I’m sure you know by now I love animals, and friendly monkeys are a personal favorite. One of the exhibits lets you walk around with the tiny monkeys on certain hours of the day, allowing you to see them jump around the trees around you and even jump on you when you approach them! The rest of the sanctuary consisted of about 100 or so different exhibits that showcased exotic birds from around the world, a lot of which I had never even known they existed. Most of the areas consisted of walkways that you would walk through with multiple animals in the enclosure, and given the size of some the birds it’s definitely not a place for someone with a bird phobia as you get right up next to a lot of them! Side note: most of the birds were rescued or injured animals, a lot of which local political parties would prefer to just dispose of.
I learned this trip just how important a day of rest is when you travel, this one particularly since I had just finished a 5-month stint of working and moving every day. I chose to take a nice relaxing day to sleep and chill out and not go as gung-ho with the adventures! As much as I try to cram various things to do in a short amount of time, a day of recovery is always necessary eventually, and I believe it to be important when travelling to get your energy back. My friends showed me some hip local bars (one had a hot tub on the top floor open deck!) and we went to get see some live music and try some local cuisine including pap, a corn meal side dish and Tanzanian BBQ.
Well rested, the next day my friend took me on a hike up to Lion’s Head peak, though not as high as Table Mountain, you do have to climb ladders and metal spools that are hammered into the rocks as you boulder your way to the top (hopefully someone is testing those every once in a while). Cape Town is known as a “windy city” and it got up to around 20mph at the top of the hike, causing some traffic jams with people taking their time. It offers another great view of Table Mountain and the surrounding beaches including the Bakoven beach, a boulder shore beach that I would go to later visit in the day. This specific beach has beautifully clear water and a majestic view of the nearby mountain range, known as the 12 apostles.
Being the high time for musicians in Cape Town (summertime) my friend was busy for the entire next day with various projects and gigs until the evening, so I hopped on a red bus 8-hour tour excursion that drove two hours out of the city and consisted of seeing Cape of Good Hope and the penguins at Boulder Beach. I had wanted to make it down to Cape Point since the beginning of the trip just to stand at the line of the Atlantic and the Indian ocean, as well as try to see the exotic animals in the national park such as baboons and elephants. As dangerous as those animals are, I would’ve loved to see one a up close, but we only saw a couple baboons crossing the road from the bus. The cape itself is somewhere that if I ever return to Cape Town, would enjoy trying to spend a couple nights out there- there are trails that go in all directions to beautiful cliffs above the surrounding water and a lot of areas to explore that I was unable to get to, given the time constraint.
The colony of penguins was an interesting sight, another beautiful area with giant boulders on the beach just COVERED with the little black and white animals! I don’t think I’ve ever seen that many at one time, most of which were just standing around in the sun, a very peculiar sight. I guess it was “shedding” season for this type of penguin, some of the little army were in the middle of losing all their feathers.
And just like that I arrived at my last day in Cape Town, I only had eight nights, but I felt I did a good job trying to fit in as much as I could in a short amount of time. I went with my friends to a nearby winery in the mountains, and with a scenic view enjoyed the tastes of local white wine and rose, I also ordered a giant cheese and fruit platter to go along with everything (I was still on vacation, after all!).
I was going to try and sneak a last-minute hike before my flight the next afternoon, but disaster struck that night. I woke up around 2am with a lot of pain in my stomach and proceeded to need to use the bathroom around eight times (for unspeakable things), I wasn’t able to fall asleep til 4 or 5 in the morning and even then, it wasn’t very restful. Maybe it was the food I ate earlier, or maybe as my friend noted, it may have been my reaction to drinking the tap water- even though it is considered safe to drink, my body may not have been used to it yet compared to a lot of the locals who had grown up digesting it. Not the best ending to an otherwise fantastic week in Cape Town, but it definitely made me exhausted and extra sleepy for my flights. After five months of working on Queen Victoria, plus a week of travelling in a foreign location, I was ready to head home. Thankfully whatever bug I caught was gone by the time I was heading to the airport and I didn’t have to deal with being sick for the flights!
At this point I’m getting pretty used to flying, however my journey home consisted of a grueling 34-hour travel day. The 12-hour flight to London didn’t seem too bad, as I did sleep for most of it- what was, however, quite painful after a 4-hour layover was the next 10-hour flight to Dallas! Somewhere about 6-7 hours into that flight back to the states I was ready to be done with the airplane and done flying! Thankfully the flight from Dallas felt very short after all that, and at long last, after another extended adventure away from home- I arrived back to a chilly winter in Salt Lake City, Utah, just in time for the holidays and ready for some long-awaited rest. Until next time Africa!
Big shout to my good friend and colleague Gemma Griffiths who I met way back in college, thanks for letting me stay with you and showing me this great city in South Africa! Gemma left Cape Town shortly after my departure (December 20th, I believe) and is currently living out of a van on a big road trip touring the entire continent of Africa with her partner, Marc. You can follow up on there whereabouts here:
That’s all for this BLOG, hope you enjoyed reading about my time in Cape Town, it will forever be a place I remember and hope to return to. I do have an overnight in Cape Town some time around March on my next contract, I'm glad I know some things to do now! I'll be back on the Queen Victoria for the start of my WORLD CRUISE for my next blog. Stay tuned! Be sure to check out the Gallery for more pictures! Thanks to you who are reading! Please give it a thumbs up, or share with anyone you’d think would find it interesting! If you’d like to ask me anything feel free to do so in the “Contact Me” box that should be in the bottom right of the screen.