Cape Town

12 November - 12 December 2015. Filed under category Travel.
Cape Town Mind Map (click to expand)

Cape Town Mind Map (click to expand)

After spending one month in Cape Town, I wish I had more than one day to write about it. But, the date I finally got to sit down and write it was already 30th December, and I refuse to let this 2015 trip go undocumented into the new year. So, despite Cape Town deserving better, I will here mostly give a taster of what Cape Town has to offer.

The City

Cape Town is striking. Few cities have a location like Cape Town, nestled in between the ocean and a mountain. Rio de Janeiro is the only other example I can think of, and the two have some similarities, like gorgeous weather in the ‘winter’ month of December. But, while Rio is all about the beaches, Cape Town is much more diverse, probably because the water is so cold that you can’t swim in it without a wetsuit.

Camps Bay Camps Bay

I’ll cover the main attractions in their own sections, but I want to mention some general activities here.

Dining is a big part of Cape Town. There are lots of interesting restaurants, especially around the entertainment district of Waterkant. It is also affordable for most foreigners since the South African Rand has taken a beating in the last few years.

Gaming is a small but growing hobby in Cape Town. There is a small but dedicated community, and even a couple of board game cafes. Google your way to one of the café nights, and talk to people. Once you get invited to the WhatsApp, you know you’ve made it.

The gay night life is small but fun, with all the bars conveniently located in the same area. And South African men are sexy as hell, which helps! (Thanks btw to the bartender… you know who you are.)

Getting around in the city is done exclusively by car, and if you don’t have one, by Uber. Uber works amazingly well, and it is extremely cheap. But, you will need a phone with data. Your best option is to get a South African sim card, and from what I hear, as a tourist you can only get them from the airport.

Self-Imposed Racial Segregation

South African Ice Tea

South African Ice Tea

I thought that South Africa had an ugly and recent past of racial segregation in the form of the Apartheid years, but that the country had gone through a miraculous transformation since then and that those issues were mostly dealt with. I was naïve.

Sure, there is no legal discrimination in place today, if you don’t count the affirmative action laws that try to force some kind of racial balance in the work place etc. But the ‘White Only’ benches are long gone. Yet, it is extremely rare that you see mixed groups of people hanging out or eating together in restaurants. This distinction was never clearer than on a Saturday night by Camps Bay. On the beach-side of the beach road, there were only black kids, partying. On the other side, there were only white people, eating dinner. This was also where I was served the Cape Town Iced Tea pictured on the right, perhaps as a social commentary.

Speaking to locals, the racial topic was never far away. The whites pointed out the crime rates of the black community and the corrupt government, while the blacks… I don’t know. I never really spoke to any black people to be honest. There were none in the board game community or amongst the circle of friends I made there, and that is my whole point. The ghost of Apartheid and colonialism still hangs over Cape Town.

And before I get angry emails telling me I’m being unfair — yes, I know it takes time to change a society. Perhaps things are going in the right direction; I don’t really know. I’m not saying anything about the ‘why’, just the ‘what is’, or rather ‘what I saw’.

Table Mountain

Table Mountain is ever-present in Cape Town, flanked on one side by Devil’s Peak and on the other by Lion’s Head and Signal Hill. A visit to the top is a must. Most people take the cable car to the top, but for those with time on their hands and good boots on their feet can walk up, or more likely down.

The flat top of Table Mountain is good for easy hiking, and offers spectacular views.

Lion’s Head

Climbing up the Lion

Climbing up the Lion

Cape Town is excellent for hiking. As a friendly cop told me, the mountains around the city are crisscrossed with hiking paths. (He also told me that where I was planning to hike was where he releases all the poisonous snakes he catches in the city, and then drove me to the Lion’s Head path.)

The very best of hiking I did was Lion’s Head, a two-hour hike up to the peak between the Signal Hill ridge and Table Mountain. The path climbs up and around the steep peak, and certain paths have to be climbed with ladders, chains and staples. Fun! (There are easier and longer paths, but the climb is fun!)

Since the path goes along the edge of this circular peak, your view is always changing, and always amazing. While the top of Table Mountain shows you the overview of the city, Lion’s Head is lower down and makes you feel connected to it. Well worth the effort! Probably my favourite thing in Cape Town.

During full moon, you can climb Lion’s Peak at night. I didn’t do this, but if you get the chance, do it!

Two Oceans Aquarium

Come dive with me

Come dive with me

The aquarium is a great place to see the local aquatic life. If you enjoy the beautiful, and often utter bizarre, world of the deep, the aquarium is a must. And, if you have a scuba license, you should definitely go diving in the shark tank. Seriously, you can go diving in the shark tank. No, there is no cage involved. Just you and the sharks.

Botanical Gardens

Everything is made better by a mountain backdrop, including botanical gardens. Cape Town’s botanical garden is large, well laid out and beautiful. If you like nature, this is something you should check out. It offers easy access to the vast variety of plants local to the Cape.

One thing to look out for is the snake-like canopy walk, letting you enjoy a different perspective.

Robben Island

Robben Island is where Nelson Mandela spent 18 of his 27 years in prison. Like Alcatraz, it is an island prison within view of the main city. Today, tourists may visit the prison where you are guided by an ex-prisoner. This direct connection to the history is touching, and it is an interesting piece of history. Yet… I didn’t feel I got much out of it. I it advertised as one of Cape Town’s must-see destination, but I disagree. It is worth it if you have time over.

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!

I am falling behind on my blogging. If you are one of my subscribers, then you will probably read this on or shortly after New Year’s Eve. I hope your Christmas was peaceful and that you spent it with people you love. And I wish you a good -no, great- new year in 2016. Thank you for following my journey. It means a lot to me. The road is sometimes lonely, and we all want to be heard. You hear me, and it makes me happy. And I would be even happier if I heard from you back. Feel free to comment on anything I write, privately in an email, or publicly right here in the comments section.


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  1. Kimera says:

    I’m so jelly that you got to South Africa before me. Reading your experience and pouring over your pictures makes me want it even more. One day…..
    Here’s wishing you a busy 2016!! Happy new year!

    1. Happy New Year to you too Kimera! And tell your husband to show you his country!

      1. Rich says:

        I’m working on it! Have a great new year Gustav!

  2. Craig Brown says:

    It’s 170 years after the end of the Civil War in the US and we still have racial segregation despite much affirmative action and now even a mixed race President. Blacks are disproportionately shot and killed by police and a new movement, “Black Lives Matter,” has arisen as a result. Once racism has been institutionalized into a culture, like through slavery or Apartheid, it’s a long and harrowing journey back to equality. Unfortunately, the lesser angels of man’s nature are lazy enough to want to judge a person by something shallow and easy like how much melanin is a person’s skin.

  3. J says:

    Wishing you Peace, Love and many roads ahead in the coming year.

  4. Crys Klier-Hoffman says:

    I echo Craig’s comments. The more we change the more we remain the same. 2015 has been a year of great unrest and immense anger and frustration in the United States. It is difficult to remain optimistic regarding any real equality in this country if we base it only on the color of one’s skin. What a sickening burden we carry into 2016. We have a history which seems to only repeat itself even as we claim to be more civilized. I am not a patient person and I see no reason to be at this point in time.
    With all that, I thank you for sharing your blog, for the beautiful pictures of places I will never see other than through your eyes; for the smiles and laughs I have enjoyed watching you live life to the fullest and for your writing which never bores but always informs and acknowledges the differences in the world.
    Happy New Year, Gustav. Thanks for the memories.

    1. Aww, thank you very much Crys! I’m glad you are enjoying my posts. I wish you the very best of years in 2016. Let’s hope it brings more understanding and humanity than 2015.

  5. Carl says:

    Spot-on with your comments about the current state of race relations in Capetown.

  6. sam says:

    Lion looks a bit scarry. it must be quite difficult to climb there. My girlfriend and i went cape town once but next month we will go again. Hope to discover mountains this time.

  7. Jeremy says:

    Baie!! Is jy Afrikaans leer? Ek spreek nie baie goed Afrikaans nie…
    Awesome!! (Are)Did you learn (some) Afrikaans? I don’t speak Afrikaans very well…

    But it’s related to Dutch, which I do speak! I’ve met some Afrikaans people here in The Netherlands; a few at school who’d moved here and a few that I met randomly who came here to work as nomadic au pairs 🙂 All really nice, and with lovely accents xD

    Aaand since you only posted this on New Year’s eve, (Even though I’m commenting closer to Valentine’s day…)

    Voorspoedig nuwe jaar! (Eventful/Prosperous/Happy) New Year! 😀

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