Phew, we made it out of the Jungle alive and are now relaxing in our fancy hotel in Cape Town. I had mixed feelings about Cape Town before we arrived. “Come to the most beautiful city in the world, and then you’ll die”…
That’s right. Cape Town is beautiful – but it’s also fraught with crime. There’s warnings of driving through Cape Town and its provinces because at first you’ll be driving alone, then next thing, someone is next to you inside your car, and you’re being car-jacked.
Also, we’d heard from our Safari friends that if you try to get an Uber from the airport, the taxi drivers will accost the Uber driver and batter them so they don’t steal their business. Not to mention the advice that it was safer to get shot through resisting kidnap, than get kidnapped – and I’m only little (so I’m easy to grab)
Taking the warnings on board, we booked a fancy hotel residence (Radisson Blu) close to Long Street (a really long street). This was a blessing in disguise because not only were we close to some bars on Long Street, the hotel also had a free shuttle to the V&A waterfront (a souped up Spinningfields of Cape Town for those back home) which meant we didn’t really need to walk around much.
Hop On, Hop Off Bus
Or, as the locals joked, the Hop On, Stay On bus… when you see these busses in other cities in the world, they’re usually super expensive and limited in what you can do – not in Cape Town. We plumped for the iVenture travel pass, which gave us access to a myriad of attractions, plus 5 consecutive days of travel on the bus.
The iVenture pass lets you do as many things as you can squeeze in, but the catch is you have to do them within 5 days of triggering your first activity. What did we do first?
Penguin Tour (Boulders Beach)
Course we did. The first thing we were going to do (without question, or objection) was go and visit the Boulders Beach where Penguins naturally inhabit. This was different than I expected for a few reasons
- The smell, oh my the smell. These cute little birds don’t half stink when in a group.
- The inactivity. Penguins don’t really do much, they sit around sunning themselves. One did do a little jump down from a rock though, after making us wait about 10 minutes for it to take the leap.
- The beach is massively “tourist” modified. You can’t just walk amongst the penguins on the beach, you need to stay on a wooden raised walkway. This is one way the beach has been ruined by tourists. Before this walkway, there were stories of people trying to steal penguins, or even take home one of their eggs. A fatal mistake since if a penguin egg is touched by a human, the mother abandons it and it won’t hatch #poorpenguinbaby.
But, these points aside, seeing these creatures in their natural habit was great although we’d never have them as a pet (too smelly). One thing we learned was that when penguins were first discovered in the region, they were eaten by the locals (both egg, and the meat) which made Wendy 😡😡😡
Before the tour, I was also promised one gift from the gift shop. I chose my gift but then got denied! 😭 #lies
On the same day as the Penguins, our second stop was at Cape Point where you can “hike” the short hike up to the lighthouse to “breathe in the cleanest air in all of South Africa”, what our guide didn’t allude to was the fact that in that super clean air, is millions of tiny midges, so if you take in a deep breathe, you take in a nice snack of 50 flies.
Not to mention it was hot on the hike, and Mike was glistening with sweat, as soon as we went around the light house, his forehead turned into a catchers mitt for the flies and a small family of them were stuck in the moisture of Mike’s brow.
After our brief stay at the lighthouse, we trudged back down and back to the restaurants where we could choose to eat-in (slow) or go to the take-away sandwich and salad shop (quick) – we chose the quickest option – of course. Mike had a Chicken and Avocado baguette and Wendy had a Chicken and Avocado salad – which was, by her own words “the best salad she’s ever had” – containing about 5 chicken breasts and 3 avocados plus a lot of greens. #youdon’tmakefriendswithsalad.
On the drive up from Boulders Beach, just prior to getting to Cape Point, our guide was warning us about the Baboons in South Africa. They’re a big problem for residents. They’re mean, incredibly dangerous and also super smart. To reduce insurance costs, residents protect their houses against a Baboon invasion by fitting electric fences around the perimeter. If you don’t have this security measure, Baboons will come down, and get into your house. The larger Baboons will open a window, a baby Baboon will squeeze through, then proceed to open the front door for the rest of the Baboon family to Waltz in – and ransack your place. They’ll defecate everywhere and throw over your fridge to get at the contents. They’re attracted by food.
They’re CRAZY strong (stronger than 4 men combined) and have teeth longer than a Lion, so if you’re confronted by a Baboon, and it attacks, it’s not going to end well for you.
With these warnings heeded by these two intrepid travellers, what did Wendy do after eating 90% of her salad lunch? She got off the bus, and started ambling towards the bin to throw the remains of her salad away (she’s environmentally conscious like that). What she didn’t notice (but thankfully, our tour guide assistant did) was that above the shop was a Baboon who had spotted Wendy coming with what looked like a box of food and it started to slink it’s way down to intercept the bin drop. There was time though, Wendy had about 30 seconds to put the rubbish in the bin and scarper before she met Barry the Baboon close up.
So what did she do? Run quickly and put the rubbish in the bin? Hide the food from the Baboons watchful eye? Course not. ⛄ She froze.⛄ * The tour guide had to take the rubbish from her and go back to the bus with it to prevent an Epic Battle between Barry and Wendy for the remains of the salad pot.
The Baboon, came all the way down to the bin and started rooting through it, found a banana and was happy. He sat there munching on his banana while he was then surrounded by tourists taking photos and getting way too close (for our liking).
So, what do you do if you get attacked by a Baboon? First thing, they don’t usually just attack humans, they want your food, or your backpack. If you don’t have anything resembling food, or that may contain food they’ll leave you alone (carrying a bottle of water is fine). You’re best leaving any bags and the like on board your bus (or at your hotel).
If they get your bag, let them take it – they’ll then scurry into the bush and rummage through it – if they find no food, they’ll leave and your bag will be in the bush, with all the content strewn about. You may be inclined to go into the bush to get it, but in the bush are very dangerous snakes, so it’s best advised to just buy a new bag… or not take it at all, as we were advised.
*some of these events may/may not have happened….
Cape of Good Hope
This was directly below the Cape Point, there was an optional hike down the side of the mountain (from Cape Point, down to the Cape of Good Hope) but again, prior to our arrival at Cape Point we were warned that there’s Baboons on route, snakes and generally it’s not the safest underfoot.
We’d already hiked up to the lighthouse (vs taking the Funicular, a 70 Rand ticket) so those two didn’t feel like they needed anymore hiking. Wendy had also had her fill of seeing Baboons, so we took the bus down with about 50% of the tour group, to meet those who chose to walk.
Where we got out at the Cape of Good Hope, there’s a sign showing you that it’s the Western Most Southern Point, and you can take your photos and watch the waves crashing in against the rocks. Apart from this though, there’s nothing really interesting here and the bus only stopped for 10 minutes or so.
Cape Town “Eye” (Big Wheel)
After our full day adventure, we got back to the V&A Waterfront (more on this below), and used our iVenture pass on the Big Wheel. This gives you an aerial view of Cape Town for 4 revolutions of the big wheel (you can go VIP for 8 revolutions) but to be honest 4x was more than enough.
It wasn’t that high a wheel (compared to places like the London eye, or the big wheel in Vegas), but it was good to see things from above.
Champagne Sunset Cruise
We also took a lovely sunset cruise. It was a glorious evening, we had great views of Table Mountain as we left the harbour, but we froze! It was so cold being out in the open sea. Ladies were given blankets but it was still super cold. Remember to wrap up if you are going on one! Our cruise included ‘pink champagne’ which Wendy describes as ‘one of the worst drinks she has ever had.’ Mike, on the other hand, kept asking for more. There’s also a cash bar selling beer/wine/cider etc. The cruise lasts for about 1.5 hours and we did manage to see a very nice sunset.
Table Mountain Cable Car
Next up on our trip was Table Mountain. You can choose to hike up to the top of Table Mountain, but like most things in Cape Town, you can do this, but risk that you’ll get mugged or attacked along the quiet, secluded route up.
So, the majority of tourists take the cable car up, which we did too. Once up on the top, it’s not very mountain-like. It’s again, very commercialised and set up for tourists with lots of well paved walking paths. You can walk the full circumference of the mountaintop in about 45 minutes. We did the 30-minute circuit (it’s flat, and once you’ve seen each point of the compass, you don’t need to go further)
On the cable car up, we also randomly managed to bump into some of Wendy’s friends who she had met in Korea! #smallworld
All these excursions were part of our iVenture pass and Hop on and Hop Off Tour. The other thing we did was…
Cape Town Comedy Club
This was free entry for us on our ticket again. It started at 8pm and finished about 10.30pm (we left at 10.15pm though – the last comic sucked). It was a good change from our usual excursions but the humour was a little lost on us from the local comics, with us not being local.
As with most Comedy Clubs that give opportunities to wannabe comedians, the compere was the funniest of all the acts, but there were a couple of good ones in there (and a TERRIBLE final main act by an American, who just told American jokes, that none of the crowd got).
Wine Tasting Tour
We also got a free wine tasting tour as part of the ticket. This again was a full day tour (8am, returning 5pm) where we drove out to a wine tasting, then stopped for lunch, then onto a second wine tasting.
This was a bit of a let down. The wine wasn’t great and we got no cheese or no chocolates to taste it with. It was nice to hear the history of the wine farm and vineyard and how the wines are made. The weather was a bit of a stinker today, which put the downer on things and the wine wasn’t good enough quality to bring it back up.
We had a fantastic lunch here and used it as an opportunity to catch up some more with Drew and Maria, following our evening at Mama Africas where we met up with them for an evening meal.
Drew and Maria were on our two week Safari and happened to be also going to Cape Town after the safari – so we decided to meet up with them for drinks and dinner. They were an interesting couple, having met on a cruise about 5 years ago. Drew holds a Phd in Chemistry and taught in the Universities of America for 45 years – so it was nice for Mike to meet a fellow geek who could talk science :).
But, what about the food at lunch ? Mike had the fish and chips and Wendy had the fishcakes. Yummy. A great recommendation from our tour guide.
Everyone had the same idea though following the recommendation and our bus party all turned up at the same place (and topped up there first lot of wine with even more over lunch). Luckily we’d already got our orders in before the bigger party showed up so we weren’t left waiting long.
The second tasting was slightly better than the first. This one was paired with cheeses (only small squares of cheese) to match 3 of the 5 wines we’d taste. We had our first wine, with a cheese I can’t remember… but then it was time for…
THE DUCK PARADE!!!!!!!!
This was by far the funnest part of wine tasting for a primarily beer tasting Mike… 🙂 over 1,200 ducks were “let loose” and they paraded through a guided route for all to see. The ducks were rebels though and course they didn’t stay in the guide ropes. They broke free and ran around Mike (all heading in the same direction). It was great, but the weather had taken a turn for the worst and it was chucking it down (rain that Cape Town desperately needed). Aside from their little parade, the ducks actually have an important job. They are used as a natural pesticide as they eat the bugs and snails in the vineyards.
After the ducks, we went back into the wine tasting room to taste the remaining 4 wines. Nothing stood out here as great from a wine perspective, but what DID stand out was that somehow, the rest of our tour group had gotten quite drunk!
Our group was a mix of English, Americans, Brazilians and Portuguese. They formed a large breakaway at lunch and had shared another bottle (or two) between them – so by this point they were all very merry and loving the final quartet of wines.
This was one of our regular hangouts. It was only a stones throw (10 minutes) in our free shuttle bus from our hotel and it had lots of attractions and many restaurants.
The main shopping mall there really is quite large and inside there’s a seafood restaurant called Willoughby’s. This was our very first meal in Cape Town and we loved it. We ordered a full bottle of wine because it worked out cheaper to do it that way (vs glasses) – but the local law meant we weren’t able to take it home half drank – so it needed to be finished there and then – no problem.
Mike had a sushi and sashimi platter, and Wendy has 8 large grilled prawns. Mike’s arrived first, and upon seeing how good it looked, Wendy quickly switched her idea of a meal each to “lets share” and stole one of Mike’s salmon slices before he could even get a look in.
The rest of the food here was great too, which you can see below 🙂
Another place that you should try for more African inspired dishes is Mama Africa’s on long street. Wendy had the mixed grill game selection, which consisted of Warthog, Venison Sausage, Kudu, Ostrich, Springbok and Crocodile. Warthog is surprisingly lean, unlike it’s lazier cousin the pig! Alongside the local food, there’s also traditional music. It’s a lively restaurant with a good, relaxed vibe.
A hidden talent
What you may not be aware of, is wherever we go, Wendy goes into my hometown (the Lego Store) and we all know she loves Batman so has been treating herself to a lego mini-figure each time we find one in a lego store (they all become my friends).
These particular “Lego Batman” figures come in opaque tough plastic bags (un-rippable by hand) so you have to purchase one to then find out what lego figure is inside. A little like football sticker albums and the sticker packs you bought.
You couldn’t go through the pack first to see if you had the stickers already. This was the same with the lego mini figures. If you bought a pack, and got home to open it and you already had it. Tough. Better luck next time.
What we found in the V&A waterfront “Toy Kingdom” was these same figures, but also a worker who had a very valuable talent for Wendy. She was able to detect by feel, which figure was inside the bag (something we tried, and failed many times).
Not only did this save us money, it saved us countless hours of trying to fumble our way into feeling what was in the bags. It was a talent that many would pay for. A talent lost working behind the counter at a toy store. Introducing below, the fruits of her labour and my three new best friends…
Going to Cape Town and NOT going to see Robben Island is a sin. This is the place where Nelson Mandela was imprisoned for 18 years during the Apartheid. The name means “Many Seals” and there used to be loads of seals on the Island (and a Prison, and not much else).
To get to Robben Island took about 30 minutes on the way out on a nice fancy boat, where we watch promotional videos about South Africa. It was one rocky ride though and these two turned green (I stayed yellow, I’m a lego man after all).
Once we got to the Island, it was a guided tour, but all the buses were full so our group did the prison tour first, then the Island Tour afterwards.
Our tour guide was an ex-prisoner who had been locked away in the very cell he was touring us through for 15 years. He talked about how life was during the years he was there. For many years, prisoners had to sleep on mats before beds were introduced. Not all prisoners were equal and were allocated meals according to their race. Letters between prisoners and loved ones were all scanned and certain parts were omitted. There are still a number of prisoners who are still missing, who were taken in the middle of the night and never seen again.
Many asked him how he could return to work at the site of his incarceration, he sort of skirted around the question and said that when they converted the prison to a museum, ex-inmates were asked if they wanted to work there.
Of course, with an unemployment rate of around 27% in Cape Town, and a “criminal” record. It’s not surprising he may have jumped at the opportunity to get work. “Criminal” refers to the fact that for a lot of these inmates, they actually didn’t do anything criminal to end up there.
We saw Nelson Mandela’s cell and the yard where they used to be sent to either make leather bags, or break up smaller stones.
The tour of Robben Island itself was swift and we drove around and heard stories and saw the locations of where Nelson Mandela and other inmates would do hard manual labour. They would spend all day in the blazing sun, digging up limestone from the quarry which would then be used as an ingredient to paint the houses.Even when demand for limestone ceased, they would still be sent to mine it as punishment. If anyone walked away from the site, they would get shot, no questions asked. It’s here where, due to the blinding sun on the light rocks, that Nelson damaged his eyesight and didn’t have the ability to shed tears, which was a direct result of his treatment at the prison.
As well as the prison, the island was also used to house people with leprosy. As people did not want to be infected, those with leper were taken to the island to die. As you drive around, you can see the mass graveyard of those who had died from the disease.
Nowadays, people stilll live on the island including ex-inmates and old guards. There’s one shop, one school, one post office and one church.
Now, it wouldn’t be a visit to Cape Town, without going to the Wine Estates. This was another benefit of the Hop On, Stay On bus. We took it all the way to the Wine Estate and then changed to the same bus company’s “Purple route” to take us to another wine tasting.
This particular place was recommended by Drew and Maria while we were on the first wine tour full day out, and we’d also heard other recommendations about it too. We weren’t disappointed.
Not only was this much better wine (by Wendy’s admission) it also came with chocolates paired with each wine. These chocolates were individually wrapped with the name of the wine you were supposed to eat them with. Each one brought out different flavours of the wine. We shared the pack and brought a pack with us (minus 1) to take home – but we now cannot bring ourselves to eat them without “pairing” them with a wine.
Following our 5x wine tasted wines, we went to “Simons Kitchen” which was meant to do Picnics and we decided we’d get a Picnic with a nice bottle of Red for Wendy, but unfortunately (and not mentioned ANYWHERE on their website) you can only pre-order picnics a day before – you can’t have one made up on the day. Damn it.
So instead we went Ala-Carte, and ordered quite possibly the best “picnic replacement” you’ll find. We went for the mixed platter of cheeses and meats, with a side of Calamari rings to top it off. The Calamari especially was delightful and the rest wasn’t half bad. Of course, following a meal that good, it would be rude not to have a dessert. So we did. It didn’t disappoint either – check out the photos
Following our brief nap after polishing off a bottle of wine (and 5x tasting glasses on top) we had arranged to meet a couple of Wendy’s friends from South Korea who were visiting Cape Town the same time as us (from Dubai).
They were there with a group of 20+ people, so it turned into quite the night out and even a stint in a local “80s music” nightclub. Which was empty (well, now it had 20+ people and a small lego man!)
We’ll see them again at our next stop, Dubai… all aboard 🙂 see you all there.