Wednesday, 14 December 2011

cape town and a new 7th wonder

We flew into Cape Town and caught their new snazzy MyCiti bus service almost directly to the B&B we’d reserved, Port View Guest House.  We arrived and were warmly greeted by Daniel, who then informed us that our room had been upgraded to the best room in the house (the hotel is a renovated, massive house overlooking the harbour…) This meant that not only did we have great views directly over the ocean (and a great sunrise view as well we were told), we also had a massive ensuite, even bigger bed and a full English breakfast each morning.  Since the price of the room was a little higher than our budget we’d only reserved 1 night, but with the upgrade we quickly booked for the following 2 nights feeling the need for some proper R&R after the hectic pace we’d been keeping.

6328079837_a2bf2c0327We went straight down to the harbour to check out the restaurants, cruises and more importantly to book a tour of Robbin Island since you need to book a couple of days in advance as it is so popular.  The harbour was beautiful, it reminded us a lot of Sydney with all the cafes, shops, boats etc… 

After finding the place to book the tour, we were informed that they were all booked out until the 10th of November (we would be halfway through Argentina by then!) which was unbelievable until we found out that the tour guides and boat operators were protesting as they don't receive  very good wages for their work and also because there are no promotions within the company.  This meant that the number of tours running had been greatly reduced and on most days they didn't run at all.  Disappointed, but unable to do anything we decided to check out the free Robin Island museum instead which was interesting but not very well maintained and only worth a quick look.

The next day was forecasted to be fine weather so we feasted on our breakfast (Dave enjoying bacon and eggs ) and then set out to tackle Table Mountain (now a New 7th Wonder of the World).  Daniel told us that it was a walkable distance from the hotel to the cable car that ascends the mountain, and since it didn’t seem clear which buses we needed to take, we decided to walk as we could go through part of town on the way and check it out.  As per usual, we misjudged the distance and it took us 2 hours just to reach the cable car.  Even though we were already tired (we’d literally spent the last 8 days sitting in car all day in Kruger) we decided that we’d climb up the mountain and then take the cable car back down.  So we refilled our already empty water bottles (we forgot how hot the sun is in the Southern hemisphere!) and started up.  6328867922_07d21cc42bThe first part was a stiff upwards climb and after an hour we found a shady tree (a rare occurrence on the mountain) and stopped for our picnic lunch (mainly so that the backpack would be lighter!).  The scenery as we ascended was beautiful, but we severely underestimated the amount of water we’d need, and to make matters worse we passed numerous little streams of deliciously cold water that we couldn’t drink but that we gladly dunked our heads under in an attempt to cool off.  Every South African who passed us seemed to make the same stock joke – “Its refreshing if you ignore that its coming from the toilets on top”..   Comedians everywhere!

We were still slogging it up at 5pm and severely dehydrated when we remembered there was still an apple in the bag and eagerly shared it, sucking out the juice to try and get some moisture in our mouths.  It was just enough to get us to the top where we could finally refill our bottles and enjoy a well earned rooibos tea ice slushy! 

When we arrived into town by bus and saw the Mountain, it really looked very plain and boring – but the top of Table Mountain truly has stunning views over the neighbouring mountains and ocean with lookouts in every direction.  At the very end of the larger tourist trail was Milton Point, which is the highest point at the top, and we figured that since we’d climbed up this far (technically all the way from sea level where our hotel was) 6328870856_31b835ceb9it’d be silly not to make it right to the top. The path wasn’t as well kept as the ones closer to the cable car and seemed to pass through some natural springs that were leaking from the mountain (remember the toilet joke?) which finally ended at a pile of stones that marks the summit with 360 views of the mountain and plateau below. It was highly recommended to us that we stay around for the sunset, which didn’t disappoint… as we managed to witness a spectacular sunset over the ocean, the first one in a long time :-)

Something we didn’t realise was that the gondola that you caught down, also rotated so you could have 360ᵒ views as you descended/ascended.  Finding a taxi was easy as there is a ‘taxi master’ who points you towards the nearest available car and whisks you to your destination, which in our case was the main street where we chanced upon a cheap food hall and feasted on a gigantic portion plate of naan, curry and dahl until we couldn’t move, all for less than $10!

The next day we decided to take it a bit easier (our legs actually decided for us) by completing6328121703_effa2d4194 the two walking tours outlined in the Lonely Planet, which we usually do if there isn’t a free walking tour available (which we’ve enjoyed in every city where we’ve been able to partake in one).  On our must visit list was the District 6 museum which is a history of apartheid, particularly in the Cape Town area..  We arrived there after swinging by the ‘Castle of Good Hope’ since Dave can’t not see a castle if there is one (it’s worth looking at from the outside…) - It seemed that our bad luck was continuing as the museum was shut (reopening on the day we flew out from Cape Town) since a meeting was scheduled between the Israelis and Palestinians at the museum was closed all week to make the necessary preparations.  Disappointed again as now we were unable to experience two of the major attractions in Cape Town, we headed into the centre of town where we chanced upon some local markets in Green Square and had a fantastic cheap lunch from all the stalls there.

6328120409_822217b159Afterwards we befriended the squirrels in the park and wandered the rest of the town till our tired feet took us back to our hotel where we quickly decided that it’d be crime not to taste the local seafood on our last night in town.  We headed to the harbour and shared a fantastic seafood platter and two of the local ciders (Savannah Dry – very nice!) all for around $40… 

We hired a car for the next couple of days and 6328878500_f37d7c46d6cruised around the cape, stopping in for a brief tour of Simon’s Town and moving onto Hermanus where we failed to spot any whales at the famous bay (although Dave thinks he might’ve seen one breach, but the sea was so rough it was hard to distinguish a whale from the general froth….)

From there we headed to the Stellenbosch region, known for it’s superb wineries and for being a student town.  The place itself was a nice, walkable town and at least 20 wineries surround it in close proximity.  Following the advice of our hostel guy we firstly headed to Ernie Els Winery (although neither of us are particularly into golf) where Sarah paid to do the wine tasting (6 wines) and Dave sampling the local water since he was designated.  6328881436_3de3d8a961The wines were a bit hit & miss, the reds generally nicer than the whites, but the grounds were beautiful which made up for it.  Next we headed to Bilton for their recommended ‘chocolate and wine’ tasting.  At least Dave could join in this time tasting the chocolates! The place was again beautiful and we tasted our wines expertly paired with Belgian chocolate in front of an open fire.

After this second round of wine tasting Sarah was finished, so it back to town for some food and an early night - as the next morning we were getting up early to try to fly into Buenos Aires with our one-way tickets….

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