part 1 | part 2 | part 3 | part 4
DAY 1 - Wednesday 4-4-18 - Depart for South Africa
DAY 2 - Thursday 4-5-18 - Arrive in Cape Town
Arrive in Cape Town, undeniably one of the most beautiful cities in the world. As you transfer to your hotel, you’ll see the towering symbol of the city - Table Mountain. The rest of the day is at leisure in this magnificent seaside city.
Overnight: Cape Town
another trip to a place at the end of the earth. i paid extra for a seattle departure, having learned that it's worth the extra cost to check my bag straight through & not have to pick it up in new york or LAX & transfer terminals before heading home. luke was kind enough to take me to the airport on top of his accepted reptile maintenance duties. the guy who checked in my bag at seatac was from cape town originally - what a huge coincidence. i had two ten-hour flights & they were pretty basic. i napped on both planes a bit - i had one quick transfer in amsterdam (smoking permitted in restaurants IN THE AIRPORT - doubly weird) - & customs was a breeze in the beautiful cape town airport. (also hey, delta's new baggage tracker is fucking awesome, especially considering the scare i had in ecuador.) adjusting to the time difference was pretty easy, as i was in a decent state to sleep when i got to the hotel at about eleven pm.
south africa is nine hours ahead of seattle. it took about 28 hours from my door to my hotel door in cape town, but i always figure i'm doing okay if i don't break my 37-hours-&-6-airport record from when i came home from antarctica.
DAY 3 - Friday 4-6-18 - Cape Peninsula Tour
Depart on a full day Cape Peninsula Tour with lunch along the way. Drive to Cape Point at the southwestern tip of the Cape Peninsula, passing steep mountains, secluded coves, and sweeping beaches en route. After a stop at the fishing village of Hout Bay, one of Cape Town's best-kept secrets, continue to the Cape of Good Hope Nature Reserve, comprising over 17,300 acres of indigenous flora and fauna, where you may see baboons by the roadside, rheboks, cape mountain zebras, bonteboks and the elusive eland. The native plant life, known as fynbos, forms one of only six floral kingdoms in the world. Following the coastline along False Bay, return to Cape Town after lunch by way of Simon's Town. Here, visit the penguin colonies at Boulders Beach, and continue with a scenic drive over Muizenberg Mountain. Lastly, visit the Kirstenbosch National Botanical Gardens, resting at the foot of Table Mountain, for a short walking tour of the beautiful gardens before arriving at Cape Town. This evening enjoy a Welcome Dinner at the hotel.
breakfast was kind of random, but had a lot of fruit & some coddled eggs i enjoyed. we had our rules meeting & met our tour guide, ahmet. cape town was voted most beautiful city by some UK magazine five years in a row, & it sure was pretty out there. oddly for someone from the states, the atlantic ocean is on both sides. there's a ton of eucalyptus, brought in ages ago to help with erosion, but ahmet explained that they take too much water - everyone is on high alert because south africa is in a severe drought. (i was warned of this repeatedly before the trip by the travel company, but i have a "do as the locals do" mindset when i travel, & i wasn't scared off by a request to take modified 2-minute showers.) ahmet let us know they say "colored people" here, & it's not seen as a racist term. (i got the idea later that "black" is used for black people but "colored" is used for anyone with mixed heritage? i stayed the hell away from it. (later still: confirmed.)) the minimum salary here is about $13k USD per year.
we went down chapman's peak drive, the "horse capital of the capetown area". we learned a lot about the baboon problem - they get aggressive due to tourists feeding them, & it resulted in the town employing people who, as a full-time gig, follow troops of baboons with slingshots & airguns. they're not trying to kill the baboons, just to keep them from, uh, rising up. baboons have pulled babies from cars & "torn them apart", said ahmet.
we saw a wild cape mountain zebra, which is apparently pretty rare, on the way to table mountain national park. (they're easy to identify since they don't have belly stripes.) at the park, i paid the 70R (10 south african rands are ~85 cents USD) to take the funicular ride up the mountain instead of walking. the view was nice, but i more enjoyed finding small african ants & a tiny spider. leaving, we spotted a wild eland cropping grass by his lonesome.
we went to the southwesternmost point of africa, but i took a pass on posing with the sign due to the fifteen minute queue. a wooden sign isn't that important. lunch was at the seaforth restaurant - sea bass with veggies & some kind of very flavorful yellow rice. it came with a dessert of malva pudding, the national dish - it was like an african sticky date pudding, but lighter.
next was a visit to an african penguin colony. i have no special love for penguins, but somehow keep winding up on tours with them, & this made six species i've seen live. they were cute, i guess. penguins. then the kirstenbosch botanical gardens gave us the largest flower on earth & some wild guinea fowl to look at, among other things (like more fucking comic sans. WHY).
i had a few hours alone, then we had our "welcome dinner" buffet at the hotel. the hake was nice, a fish i first tried in argentina.
music: fountains of wayne, "trains and boats and planes"
DAY 4 - Saturday 4-7-18 - Cape Town City Tour & Robben Island
After a leisurely breakfast depart on a half day Cape Town city and Table Mountain tour. Driving to the city center, pass famous landmarks such as the Castle of Good Hope built in 1666 by the Dutch East India Company and City Hall, a splendid baroque building, and of course the Grand Parade. See St. George's Cathedral, the Anglican Diocese of Nobel Peace Laureate Archbishop Desmond Tutu. The route then leads to Kloof Nek and the magnificent Table Mountain. Ascend to the top (weather permitting) by means of a cable car. At the summit, see wildflowers, the famous silver tree, and marvel at a birds-eye view of the city and its beaches. On a clear day, it is even possible to see Robben Island*, where Nelson Mandela was imprisoned, on one side, and Cape Point on the other. Descend from the upper cableway station and proceed to the Milnerton Lighthouse. Continue to Cape Town's famous V & A Waterfront for a time at leisure and lunch on your own. Afterward, take a ferry across the Bay to Robben Island, declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site. A tour of historic Robben Island today, reveals the poignant struggles, hopes, and dreams of freedom made famous by Nelson Mandela's imprisonment here. This notorious prison, located on an island off the coast of Cape Town in Table Bay is where South Africa’s political prisoners were kept during the colonial and apartheid years of the country. Tour the island and the infamous prison before returning to Cape Town in the late afternoon for time at leisure. Tonight, experience local culture in a relaxed and comfortable environment at the optional Home Hosted Dinner. *The operation of the Robben Island ferry is dependent on weather and sea conditions. If the ferry is canceled, the visit to Robben Island will be replaced with a visit to the District Six Museum and a walking tour of the Bo-Kaap district of Cape Town.
breakfast was the same, then we rolled out to table mountain. i liked the cable car ride - the whole thing rotated so everyone had a chance at each vantage. we were told we may see some hyrax, but i didn't. table moutain is one of the "new seven wonders of nature", & is two-thirds of a mile up - that's most of the way to space. the top looked a lot like the galápagos to me, but the view was preempted by killer fog - ahmet told us that's table mountain's "table cloth" since the mountain's height is just perfect to not be above or below that level of atmosphere. it started drizzling & no one could see shit, so i spent our alloted half hour in the wifi lounge.
we had some time around town here & there - i enjoyed lagoon beach, & giggled like an idiot at the "to let" rental sign that i reliably misread for the rest of the trip. we saw the super colorful houses of what used to be district 6. i ended up having a local smoothie for lunch & found a locally made lychee ("litchi") drink that was quite good for a buck. i also bought a kinder egg, since they're illegal in the states & i rarely resist when i see one. the robben island ferry was a go all the way until five minutes before boarding, when they canceled it for rough seas - it was a katamaran, not a vehicle-mover ferry or anything, & this one company has a monopoly on trips to the island, so that was that. we went to the district 6 museum instead, which was properly upsetting. the tour guide had lived through apartheid personally, & kept saying "they were SICK, SICK IN THE HEAD!" every other sentence, like he was trying to convince us. but we definitely all knew. towards the end, my back was hurting, & i accidentally sat on a bench that was available for sitting, but had a big ol' sign on the backrest that it was only for white butts to use. i pretty much leapt off it when the guide pointed that out. cripes.
i went back to the hotel after the museum, had a nap, then took the hotel shuttle to the waterfront to have dinner by myself at a fancy place with new animals to try. i had invited a bunch of other people from the tour, but no takers; s'ok, i'm used to being alone. ahmet had suggested a place called karibu, but the reviews were underwhelming & i had a bad time trying to make a reservation, so i went to their competition who had far more game options on the menu.
over at belthazar, i asked what game meats were on offer, as the whole list was marked "seasonal", & was told four. so i was preparing for a tough choice... but when i went to order, i didn't have to decide between them at all! i didn't see it on the menu, but the waitstaff suggested a mixed skewer of four 2-3oz portions, each flame grilled in simple olive oil & salt so the flavors could be easily discerned. that moment was the first best part of the trip & i said i'd very much like to order that.
i had a springbok carpaccio to start - it was such delicate meat that i could cut it with a fork, & had a lovely, gentle flavor. the mixed skewer was: kudu, the gamiest of the four; gemsbok, subtle while still tasting of the wild; impala, which was the most tender by double & my favorite; & wildebeest, which i can only express as tasting like it runs on a savanna. each was medium rare & delicious. i'd do okay as a lion.
after dinner, i cruised the mall a bit since i was there, but didn't buy anything - just photographed a couple great ties & some specific stuffed animals, & called it a day.
DAY 5 - Sunday 4-8-18 - Full Day in Cape Town
Enjoy the day at leisure in Cape Town. Perhaps join the optional Winelands Tour* which takes you along the country's principal wine route to the scenic towns of Paarl, Franschhoek, and Stellenbosch with tastings along the way. Alternatively, thrill seekers will not want to miss the optional excursion to "Shark Alley" to experience great white shark cage diving **Please Note: The Full Day Winelands Tour and Full Day Great White Shark Cage Diving operate simultaneously. Passengers may opt to participate in only one of these tours.
Optional: Full Day Private Winelands Tour
Optional: Full Day Great White Shark Cage Diving
i went on the cage dive. it was a 2.5hr drive each way. i badly sprained my finger but made it into the cage & was just a few feet away from several 3-5 meter great whites & a copper shark & an enormous manta ray. i'm not going to sanitize the day for this travelogue - it wasn't a good experience (in NO part due to the lovely staff), & this marked the last time i'm ever getting into the water above my knees - i just never enjoy it. beyond that i don't want to talk about it or think about it OR hear your sympathy, which is fine as this will probably go unnoticed anyway since most people only bother to look at these travelogues for the pictures (i said MOST - hi luke, hi carla, hi james... eventually). so, here you go. i didn't take a fucking one of the shark pics as literally nothing i recorded came out, but these are indeed the photos from the day. (i left the photographer credit but smudged their website, because they don't get free advertising for 600x400. you can easily find it if you like.)
an absolutely gorgeous sunset happened on the way back, but it wasn't on my side of the van. i handed my camera to someone who apparently didn't know how to use a camera OR how to ask how to use a camera, so he took no photos & handed it back after the peak had passed. thanks bruh. i only caught the tail end of the sunset as we rounded a corner. well, whatever, here it is.