Heading Home

In the morning, I went for a final little walk along the waterfront, trying to soak in the views, scents and sounds one last time. Then I met up with most of the group at Bootleggers. We discovered this place later than I would have wished. It’s in the opposite direction of town and the main strip of restaurants and stores. We had seen it when driving, but didn’t know how good it was from looking at it from the outside. Their almond milk mocha was dreamy (I’m still dreaming of it) and the atmosphere has a beach town vibe. It’s constantly filled with cyclists, stopping off for a coffee break while cycling along the coastline. The main down side is that there’s no view of the ocean from there. But we enjoyed it thoroughly and were happy to make it our last stop before walking back to the house to pack up and head to the airport.

The return trip to the airport was a lot less harrowing than the arrival night had been! It couldn’t have been more different. By now, David was very accustomed to driving the 10-seat van on the left with the left-handed stick-shift. It was daylight, rather than dark, and we understood the traffic patterns and customs and were more familiar with the roads themselves. Plus, we had finally managed to get my GPS to work, so we weren’t blindly trying to figure out when to turn if we couldn’t find a street sign. We were all remarking on the difference and reminiscing on that insane experience our first night in Cape Town.

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A Very Packed Van

We had allowed extra time in case of traffic and to fill the tank and drop off the car. As it turned out, there was a massive traffic back-up on the opposing side of traffic, but everything ran smoothly and efficiently heading in our direction. Dropping off the car was quick and simple, unlike our long wait to pick it up. So we ended up at the check-in too early to check our bags. Thankfully, there’s a nice selection of restaurants on the second floor overlooking the check-in area. So we enjoyed a nice lunch in Primi, one of the chain restaurants we had enjoyed by our house, then checked our bags and went quickly through customs and passport control. We had about a 4.5 hour long layover in Johannesburg, but were able to spend the time doing some shopping in some fun stores with African-made items (including some tasty gluten-free and dairy-free chocolates!), getting a massage to prepare for the 16+ hour flight back to Atlanta, and eating another meal. It’s a good thing our trip was so active because we indulged in many great meals and thoroughly enjoyed the local wines/beers/cider/cocktails (each of us having our own preferences for what we like to drink).

David asked everyone what their favorite part of the trip was. Some said golf, some said climbing, some said surfing, but I think we all agree that just driving through this southern region of South Africa, enjoying the beauty, seeing the animals, experiencing the food and drink and eclectic mixture of people has enriched us all and left us with too many wonderful memories to count.

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Final Full Day

Our final day held few plans except for the golfers, who had an early morning tee time. It was a day to relax and do whatever we hadn’t had time for on previous days.  With 8 adults, there were many ideas of what to do. Normally, this isn’t a big deal, but there were only 2 sets of keys (and 2 sets of automatically locking gates to pass through to get to and from the house). Additionally, almost everyone in the group didn’t enable international cellular service because of the extra cost. So we could only text to communicate if we were somewhere with wi-fi, which was spotty and often weak. Plans had to be made carefully, and that was a challenge.

The day started with an unscheduled power outage. We were told this could happen sometimes, but with the golf clubs stored in the garage, which could only be accessed via the funicular or electric garage door, power was needed to access them. So after waiting as long as possible, David and David Luke had to cancel their tee time. Turns out, the individual house power ran out and the system just needed to be reset. Wish we had known that a lot sooner!

We all went out in intervals for some coffee and food, and Kendall and I walked to our pedicure appointment we had made a few days earlier. Even in the upscale area where we stayed, the pedicures were a good price for us as Americans. They did a phenomenal job with a long leg and foot massage too.

We eventually decided to drive the whole group into the V&A waterfront again, where we wanted to check about getting tickets for a sunset champagne catamaran cruise, then split off into separate groups. We were able to bargain a price that was 1/3 off the published asking price (Hannah had found better prices online, plus we were a large group, so that gave us some confidence in bargaining). David and I then went to the covered market that sells locally crafted goods where I found some pressed wildflower earrings I liked as a souvenir. They had a block of the compressed wildflowers to demonstrate how they make them. I appreciated the ingenuity as much as the design.

From there, Heather, David, and I drove out to Stellenbosch to visit the Kanonkop winery that a Swiss couple with whom David and David Luke had played golf recommended. The Swiss couple, who visits Cape Town regularly, assured us Kanonkop made excellent cabernet, which is our favorite grape. We did a tasting of 7 different wines, which is their standard tasting for only 70 rand. That fee is even waived if you purchase wine. We had been helped by a young man originally from California, who was friendly, upbeat, and very happy to give all kinds of information about their grapes, philosophy of wine-making, and sales and history. We made some purchases and Heather and I had a few more sips from our favorite wine until it was time to head back to the V&A Waterfront to grab a meal before our cruise.

Meanwhile, all the others had taken an Uber ride from the waterfront to the Iziko museum. They enjoyed a few hours there, ate some dinner across the street, and met us at the catamaran on the waterfront.

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The catamaran cruise made our last evening special. We had been swimming or surfing in the ocean at the beach, on the mountains, hiking through meadows, in a jeep for our safari, in caves, and on golf courses, but not yet out on the ocean in a boat! The views back toward Cape Town, Table Mountain and along the coastline were stunning, especially as the sun set after such a perfectly clear day. Additionally, we were able to get up close to some harbor seals and watch many dolphins playing in the water all around us.

We returned to our rental home content, but sad, knowing we had to pack since this was our last night.

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Climbs and Curtain Calls

I was so excited for Monday. We were headed out to the Silvermine area of Table Mountain National Park to do some sport climbing. The whole family went out for the hike, but not quite everyone decided to climb. This area is good for varying experiences and abilities since several levels of routes are close to one another. So everyone was able to watch and cheer each other on, even while climbing different levels of routes. The rocks there tend to be juggy with lots of vertical cracks. It was great fun for both lead climbing and top-roping!

 

There are also some wineries in that area, so we went for tapas and some wine tasting at Steenberg Estates. The atmosphere at Steenberg is upscale and beautiful, but welcoming and comfortable even in our climbing clothes.

Since four of us had purchased tickets to the Theater on the Bay for Monday night, we had to rush back to change clothes and walk to the 7:30 performance. They were performing The Producers, which was a bit raunchy at times, but the quality of the acting, singing and dancing kept the show entertaining. For a small theater, we were pleased with the quality and enjoyed a night out. It was almost 11 pm by the time the show let out and we hoped to find a bite to eat since we hadn’t had much of a dinner. However, all the kitchens were closed at every restaurant we tried in the area, so we decided to Uber back and eat some left-overs we had in our kitchen. But we couldn’t find an Uber ride either! So we kept close to one another and walked back, keeping vigilant of our surroundings. Thankfully, we didn’t have any incidents at all. It made us wonder if reports of danger were over-emphasized.

Sunday Funday

Sunday was less planned out than the other days. David and David Luke played golf again in the morning at Steenberg Estates. The rest of us had a more leisurely start. Josh and Adri decided to try out the climbing gym in Cape Town. It’s huge and they really enjoyed trying out some different styles of holds than what we’re used to at home. I was too afraid I’d wear out my fingers and forearms, so I declined that experience.  Heather took the cable car up to the top of Table Mountain to enjoy the gorgeous views.

All of us except the golfers met midday at the botanical garden. It’s over a century old and has focused on eradicating any foreign plants in order to make the entire garden replete with endemic species. It’s less cultivated than many botanical gardens, but has very mature trees and plants and is absolutely beautiful. There were also some statues of dinosaurs from fossils found in the Cape Town area. Some of my favorite areas to explore were the tree canopy bridge and the palms. Many of the century-old trees with thick branches twisting everywhere just begged to be climbed!

Surf’s Up!…and Penguins!

Next up was surfing! Hannah, Josh, and Adri decided to take surfing lessons from the famous Gary’s Surf School on Muizenberg beach. We all went along to cheer them on. What a fun beach town! We had breakfast at an open-air coffee shop called the Hang Ten Café, that is in the same building as the surf store. Great food, as we’ve had everywhere we’ve eaten in South Africa so far. Although service tends to be on the slow side everywhere, the taste, presentation, and selection of foods has been fantastic wherever we’ve eaten, from little cafés to higher-end restaurants. Most places accommodate food allergies well and we’ve found almond, oat, and coconut milk products available in most coffee shops and many restaurants.

Muizenberg is full of people learning to surf in the slightly warmer Indian Ocean waves. The beach is ideal for beginners with constant, small swells. There were so many people out there that it was a bit crowded, but not to the point of frustration. Besides, with so many learners, you’re just one of many, so the pressure to perform is lower! Hannah, Adri, and Josh all did great, popping up quickly and getting some nice rides. Their instructor kept them moving, so there was little rest time and they were pretty fatigued by the end of an hour-long lesson. For those who wished to continue practicing on their own, the company allowed an extra hour of surfing for a small fee.

After they changed and tried to rid themselves of the stale wetsuit smell, we headed out along the coast, passing through one quaint seaside town after another. The 3 things they all seemed to have in common were stores selling artwork, stores selling antiques/used furniture, and coffee shops.

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We stopped off at Boulder Beach to see the penguin colony and cool off in the water. We parked and then hiked along the rocks, past some little beaches, then along a boardwalk to the park entrance. Although most everything in South Africa is a bargain for Americans right now, we found the foreigner price for the National parks to be way too high. We had already seen a bunch of penguins at the free beach, so we voted to skip the 160 rand entry fee ($(10.15 at the time) and go back to swim a bit in the cove.

Ready for lunch, we found another beautiful restaurant perched along the coastline with perfect views, called The Black Marlin at Miller’s Point. From there, we headed out to Cape Point, also part of Table Mountain National Park. We intended to visit the Cape Point lighthouse and see the ship graveyard along this treacherous point. However, when we got to the entrance, the per person fee of 320 rand ($20.35) was again more than most of our group wanted to spend. I’m not sure if we made the right call turning around and missing that one or not, but when traveling with a sizable family group, you often have to make compromises. So we headed back home, enjoying yet more gorgeous coastal views.

That night’s blackout started in the late afternoon and lasted until 8 pm, so eating in wasn’t much of an option. Thankfully, we had so many great restaurants within a 10-minute walk of our house, eating out was simple and enjoyable. That evening, there were so many people walking around since it was a Saturday night, that we decided to walk back rather then Uber. We had no problems at all as a large group, but 2 of our group stayed out a little later and had a few uncomfortable moments returning.

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Climbing, Golfing, and Beaching

Pick-n-Pay and Woolworths were just down the street from our house, so we stopped there after visiting the waterfront for some quick groceries and some charcoal for the braai, and cooked a simple dinner to eat in the house while we enjoyed the sunset views over the ocean. Planning this dinner was actually a challenge because of the daily electrical blackouts throughout South Africa. We downloaded an app that tells us when each day’s blackouts will occur in our section, but sometimes they’re at very inconvenient times. This day, one of the blackouts was from 6-8:30 pm, so we had to have everything cooked no later than 6 pm. We managed…with seconds to spare.

After an early night to bed, the day Adri, Josh, and I had been anticipating the most arrived!  We were up at 6:30 am to grab an Uber to Table Mountain to meet our guide by 7:45. We hiked up a rocky path to a climbing point, where we were given very detailed instructions about how we were going to trad climb as a group of 4. Our guide, Kai, was extremely talented at managing the 3 ropes we had to negotiate as we made our way up the side of the mountain one-by-one in stages. Kai would go first, setting 2 sets of cams, followed by me, cleaning up the cams on my rope, followed by Adri and then Josh cleaned up the rest of the cams for his rope.  The route we took was pretty easy for us, which was both a relief and a slight disappointment. We decided that for our first trad climb up a mountain, it was probably good to feel so secure. Regardless, it was great fun and a whole lot of exercise.

Meanwhile, David Luke and David went golfing at Milnerton Golf Club. This is a links-style club located right along the coastline of the ocean, with great views of Table Rock in the background. They loved the course, but had to contend with the challenge of adjusting their game to extremely windy conditions.

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In the afternoon, we strolled out to one of the little secluded cove beaches along our waterfront. The water was very chilly, but refreshing for a quick dip, followed by relaxing on the sand and soaking in the views we couldn’t stare at too often.

Camps Bay, Cape Town

Arriving at our house in Camps Bay, Cape Town, we were greeted by our house manager, Robyn. She gave us all kinds of great tips about where to eat, grocery shop, and find some secluded little local beaches within walking distance. We were also warned, not for the first time, not to be out walking after sunset. During the day, runners, bikers, and walkers enjoy the spectacular sea-walk. But in the evening, it becomes a hunting ground for thieves. So, following all the advice we’d been given, we walked 10 minutes to a nice seafood restaurant for dinner, but took Ubers for the short ride back.

Unlike our penthouse at Pinnacle Point, our house in Camps Bay had both air-conditioning and wi-fi. Some of our group slept fine with a bit of breeze, but the rest struggled to stay cool enough to sleep without the air-conditioning. Plus, there are always pictures to upload and share, which is tough to do without wi-fi. So the modern amenities of our Camps Bay house were much appreciated and everyone got a good night’s sleep.

We were greeted the next day by gusts of wind coming off the ocean. We had scheduled a Robben Island tour for 11 am, but the ferries were all canceled because of the choppy ocean conditions. This was disappointing since we had all looked forward to touring the island internment camp where Nelson Mandela and so many other political prisoners had been held. Instead, we split up and explored the V&A Waterfront. Some went to the aquarium and enjoyed it, but didn’t find it to be anything special. Others went to “Cause and Effect,” rated the 2019 cocktail bar of the year for South Africa. They had a great experience there. The rest of us walked the waterfront, stopped at the original transit station for Robben Island to look at photos and read some history, then found a picturesque restaurant along the quay with a unique menu. I was in the mood for a smoothie and tried their Revved Up Red, a mixture of beetroot, red pepper, watermelon, strawberry, cucumber, lemon and ginger, which was phenomenal!

Later, we re-grouped and tried some locally produced beer, wine, and cider at a brewery at the waterfront. Some of our boys tried a flight of beers from that brewery, while the rest of us enjoyed hearing their comments.

We were impressed that the V&A Waterfront had a lot of character and charm. Although there is a typical fancy indoor mall, much of it is a combination of current working piers, individual shops and restaurants, and several museums.

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