After I officially finished my Peace Corps service, I decided to take a short trip to South Africa before heading back to the States. One of my good friends (and fellow RPCV – Zambia) is currently attending the University of Cape Town (UCT), so I decided to take advantage of a place to stay and a local guide and visit Cape Town. My friend Julia started at UCT in February; so she knows the city pretty well but hadn’t had a chance to visit some of the major tourist attractions yet.
On the first day, I arrived from Zambia around noon and we immediately set off for the Victoria and Albert Waterfront. The V&A Waterfront is located on the historic Cape Town harbor, and it is still a working harbor with lots of boats docking there at any time. It also hosts a large number of restaurants, a shopping mall and other commercial enterprises. We had a great lunch at one of the restaurants there before heading off to wander along the shoreline towards the Green Point Area. We saw the Cape Town Stadium, where several of the World Cup 2010 matches were held. We explored Green Point Park, which had a really interesting display of ethnobotany plants. When then continued up the coastline, past several rocky beaches to Sea Point. In the evening, we headed to another part of town called Observatory to watch some of the Euro Cup matches.
On the second day, we headed into downtown Cape Town and wandered around for the day. We walked through the Company’s Gardens, which is the site of the original gardens of the Dutch East India Company. These gardens are the main reason that Cape Town was founded, since they provided fresh fruit and vegetables to the ships passing from the Netherlands to their holdings in the East. Now the gardens are purely ornamental and located in the middle of a bustling city. In the evening, we met up with two other Peace Corps Volunteers from Zambia and had dinner and a few drinks on Long Street, which is Cape Town’s main drag for bars and restaurants.
The third day we climbed to the top of Table Mountain. We started from Kirstenbosch Botanical Garden and took the “Skeleton Gorge” route. While not quite as intense as the name suggests, it was pretty tough in parts. We climbed up the side of the mountain for about two hours, before heading across the mountain (which was also decidedly uphill). Table Mountain is called that since it looks flat across the top, but I believe me, it is NOT flat. It did even out once we reached Maclear’s Beacon, the highest point on the mountain (at 1,085m). From here, you can look over all of Cape Town, including out to Robben Island (where Neslon Mandela was imprisoned). After eating lunch at the top, we took the cable car down. It took almost five hours to reach the top, but only five minutes to get back to the bottom. The next day my legs were pretty sore, but the view from the top and the sense of accomplishment that came with making it from the top were well worth it.
For our adventure on the fourth day, we travelled down along the Cape Peninsula to Cape Point and back around. Our first stop on the tour was Muizenberg Beach, which is a top spot for surfers. We then headed down to Simons Town, which is home to a colony of African penguins (formerly known as jackass penguins). It was cool to see these penguins in real life, including seeing some young and babies. From Simons Town, we went to Cape Point and the Cape of Good Hope. The Cape of Good Hope is the most southwestern point of the African continent. We then drove along the coast of the Atlantic Ocean and stopped at Camps Bay, which is one of the ritzier areas of Cape Town before heading home.