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mistybleu Cape Town - A travel report by Amanda
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Cape Town,  South Africa - flag South Africa
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mistybleu's travel reports

... Pleasure!

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On my list of 'must do' cities, Cape Town is an oddity. Even with its chequered past ever so fresh and race (at least on the surface) no longer seeming an issue, it is truly beautiful city.

Table Mountain from the V&A Waterfront
Table Mountain from the V&A Waterfront
The first glimpse of Cape Town is from the air, as the sun rises above the clouds.

Then heading southward as the clouds part we crossed Table Mountain; I can hardly contain my joy of reaching this part of the world. From up there everything seemed so perfect.

On the ground, the drive from the airport I saw the township of Langa and thought a tour would be an incredible experience. I used Inkululeko Tours which is owned by Andile a local resident. He provided a wonderful insight into the community, the hardship they faced and view of a brighter future.

The tour started with a visit to the District Six Museum; the area was known as the sixth Municipal District of Cape Town and designated (1867) as mixed community for ex-slaves, artisans, immigrants etc. By 1982 residents were forcibly removed from their homes as it was now designated a white area.

The museum was created to remember; it gives a feel for what life was like for many blacks and coloureds in CT during the apartheid years. As you enter the building you see a floor plan of how the area looked, example of people's homes, old street signs and possessions which were destroyed.

I then moved on to Langa, the oldest township in CT; as you drive through the streets the realization that apartheid might be over but poverty still exists, is so evident. I was taken into their homes to get a feel for their existence and was so moved when I saw home that 2 families shared. It had two single beds which husband and wife would share and the children would sleep on the floor between the beds.

They told me how foreign benefactors would help them financially by paying for their tuition just to make a difference.

One of the nicer experiences was going to the locally renowned Mzoli's Restaurant - it is known as the place to hang out in the township. They serve a wonderful local barbeque with pork, beef, sausages, chicken wings and salad; a very intriguing experience.

Favourite spots:
Onshore whale watching
Onshore whale watching
Not a great picture I know, but driving to Muizenberg just past Simon's Town I was caught up in the moment.

I saw a crowd of people just staring past the railway track out into the ocean and I had to see for myself what the fuss was about.

To my surprise (I expected one) six whales were just off shore frolicking around. Turning on their sides, flapping their fins, diving, blowing water out of their blowholes, really just doing what whales do. But this was an added bonus for me.

I'd seen whales before, but they were more docile, just sitting on the surface for a while, before diving back into the deep.

They say timing is everything; this was special; it was a week after the Whale Festival in Hermanus and the season was nearly over.

A girl commented that she had just paid $100 to go whale watching and had seen nothing, and just trying to get back to town - 6. I think that's the beauty of South Africa, you're never to far away from something special.

What's really great:
Cape Point
Cape Point
It’s easy to get around CT, but to go further afield the best thing is to rent a car. I don’t believe there is public transport that takes you to the Cape Peninsular.

The Cape Peninsular is known as the place where the Indian and Atlantic Oceans clash. Although this is not true, it’s a wonderful story; swimming on one side of the park in the Indian Ocean and the other in the Atlantic. (Sometimes we are so easily pleased).
NB: the South Atlantic Ocean can be quite rough/cold.

There is so much to see in this park, I would advise spending at least a day here (entrance fee is cheap - £3.2 pp), especially if the weather is good. There are many hikes with different intensities and durations; I chose to do the one to Cape Horn - it’s only 1 ½ hours walk and most of the path is a raised wooden walkway.

They have lots of animals in the park but no large animals that Africa is famous for, instead they suggest you get up high, maybe at Cape Point and do some whale watching.

For 27 years Nelson Mandela gazed from this window
For 27 years Nelson Mandela gazed from this window
Robben Island (or Seal Island) was synonymous with human suffering, back in the 1600s when it became a penal settlement; it is now more known as a prison for political prisoners including Nelson Mandela. It was very moving to hear former inmates tell of their time imprisoned here as they guide us around, some people were moved to tears.

Tickets can be purchased from the Tourist Office in the Waterfront. It costs 45 Rand pp and includes the 30-minute ferry ride. It is essential to book as places sell out quickly, or turn up for the first sailing for the day when spaces can be found.

Ten things to do in CT:

1. Visit Kirstrenbosch National Botanical gardens,
2. Shop at Greenmarket Square,
3. Climb Table Mountain,
4. Relax in V&A Waterfront,
5. Sail to Robben Island,
6. Experience township life,
7. Admire the art in Slave Lodge,
8. Swim with the Penguins on Boulders Beach,
9. Check out the African souvenirs,
10. Eat in a fabulous local restaurant.

The Cullinan Inn Hotel
The Cullinan Inn Hotel
Now this is the easy part, as accommodation was both basic and luxury.

The first few nights I stayed in the Back Pack on New Church Street. It is features in the Lonely Planet and is highly recommended. Its a little way out, but a perfect location as it is situated on the same road that takes you up to Table Mountain or down to the V&A Waterfront. The facilities are decent, with a small pool and a restaurant. I really like my room (Zebra) it had a true African feel and was a nice introduction to Africa.

Then on the way back to celebrate surviving 19 nights camping I check into the 4* premium Cullinan Hotel, just off the Waterfront and opposite the convention centre. I was thoroughly impressed with the hotel and the staff was so friendly.

They have underground parking at a mere 30 rand a day plus a spa and gym etc. My favourite part was going down for breakfast; the choice was immense, after that you only need dinner.

The Albert Wharf at night
The Albert Wharf at night
I found the Victoria & Albert Waterfront quite nice at night, even though this is not recommended by the Lonely Planet, it’s a bit of a laugh, doing a bit of shopping, or eating in one of the numerous restaurants and bars on the Basin.

Some of the shops are open late and there are always lots of people milling around.

In the amphitheatre groups’ offer up free concerts to passers-by and sell their CD, or there is the aquarium or Imax theatre.

Handing over the menu
Handing over the menu
So many wonderful experiences in Cape Town, it’s hard to narrow it down to describing just one; but by far the most memorable was a visit to Africa Café; located in a Georgian house, with each of its seven rooms depicting a different African country.

The experience started with the menu being presented and it was a jar placed in the middle of the table inscribed with different dishes available, followed by the hand washing ceremony - whereby my hands were washed in lavender scented water before the food.

They served dishes from all over Africa so I tried the communal summer menu that included: Tunisian Pumpkin Briouate, Congolese Spinach, Kenyan Coconut Fish, Cape Mosbolletjies, Moroccan Cous Cous, Sudanese Lentils and Algerian Carrot relish.

After dinner, the staff serenaded us to the sounds of the drums, chanting rhythmically; everything was perfect, I can't express how great this experience was.

Other recommendations:
Jackass Penguins at Bolders Bay
Jackass Penguins at Bolders Bay
I only cracked the surface of South Africa, there is so much more to explore. I have heard so many good things about what to see that in no particular order I would like to complete on my next trip:

Kruger National Park – where within an hour of entering the park you can see the big five – buffalo, rhino, elephant, lion, leopard.
Johannesburg- it might be dangerous but the culture here is meant to be great
Hermanus – on of the world’s best locations to whale watch on shore. The season is from June to November and numerous sightings can be had.
Garden Route – perfect coastal views
Stellenbosch – all the wine you could drink with stunning views.
Finally I would like to take the Blue Train to Pretoria and enjoy the luxury of rail travel.

Published on Friday November 3th, 2006

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Thu, Nov 09 2006 - 05:32 AM rating by terje

Hi Amanda! As I am going to Cape Town in march, I read this report with interest, and I got some new ideas what to do. If I missed anything, it would be more of the penguins at Boulders Beach... :-)

Mon, Nov 06 2006 - 09:36 AM rating by marianne


Another great report and excellent photos

Sat, Nov 04 2006 - 09:50 AM rating by rangutan

Great report with a lot of tips and info not in other reports of this diverse and ever-changing city. I feel this is part II of three reports, or a summary :-)

Sat, Nov 04 2006 - 05:12 AM rating by gloriajames

Great report full of details and i loved the 1st pic.

Fri, Nov 03 2006 - 11:28 PM rating by eirekay

Amanda, GREAT Report. I really enjoy the personal details - whale watching, District Six, Table Top Mt., etc. Terrific pics too!

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