Before this trip, I’d heard tons about South Africa from friends, and from people who had done SAS before. I knew it was going to be an amazing port, but I had NO idea it would amount to all that it did. It was nice to get back to a more “Western” port, but at the same time, I didn’t necessarily feel like I was “at home.” I think it was definitely more modernized than some of the ports we’ve been at the past couple of weeks, but still very distinctly different than America. All in all, I’m obsessed with Cape Town.
Our first sight of Cape Town was early in the morning, since we all woke up for sunrise. We’ve been told every port that the sunrise is “the best of the voyage,” and obviously they said the same about this morning in Cape Town. I’ve woken up for a couple as we pull into ports, but I do think this is the best one we’ve seen yet. There were barely any clouds in the sky, and we had a perfect view of downtown Cape Town, as well as the famous Table Mountain. It was also new to us how cold is was in Cape Town right from the get go, since we’ve become accustomed to walking outside and immediately beginning to sweat. Cape Town was the perfect temperature, and after a little while watching our journey in (and even seeing some seals!), it was time to get ready for the day.
We were finally allowed to get off the ship around 11, and Casey and I had to be back at 1:30 to catch the bus for the day trip we were going on. We hadn’t really made any plans for the morning, since we didn’t know what time we’d be getting off or even if we’d have enough time to do anything. We jumped in a cab with some friends and headed off to “Long Street,” which would become a little more famous as our week went on in Cape Town. We stopped at a bank to exchange our money, which took a year basically, but finally it was time to wander around. The other girls we were with wanted to stop and have lunch, so Casey and I headed off on our own to see the street. We stumbled upon this huge “African Market,” and actually found some really cool stuff.
With only a little bit of time left, we walked down the street to a little convenience store to try and find a Sim card for my phone, and ended up cutting it a little too close. The line was long to check out, and it was like 1:10 as I finally got to the counter. After checking out, which took like five minutes, we were literally sprinting down the street to find a cab back to the port. We got one, and literally told the guy that if he sped, we would pay him extra, because we were pretty sure we were going to miss our trip. The whole cab ride over we were on the edge of our seats, since we knew they wouldn’t wait for us. Luckily, we pulled into the port at like 1:27, and sprinted across the terminal to board us bus. I’m pretty sure we couldn’t have cut it any more close, but thank goodness, we made it.
Our day trip was taking us to an orphanage and a township, both of which I was really excited to see. Our first stop was the Baumphelele Orphanage, and I absolutely loved the place. In 1989, Rosalia Mashale (better known as “Rosie”) moved to this area of Cape Town, and was distraught at the site of children rummaging in the dumps while their parents were at work or were away. She responded by taking this kids under her wing, and along with other women in the community, she looked after them while their parents were gone. After the first week, 36 children were in her care. She named this project “Baumphelele,” which is a Xhosa word meaning “you have progressed.” Out of this, the Baumphelele Educare Center was founded, and today, it cares for more than 230 children aged three months to six years.
Rosie also felt really connected to the orphaned children in the community, so she opened the Baumphelele Children’s Home in 2001. My pamphlet says, “Everyone at Baumphelele shares the common desire to instill a sense of love and peace in the lives of these children, enabling them to grow in independent and thoughtful members of their community.” Today, the home provides these kids with a stable, loving, and permanent home. Some have been in Rosies care for only a few weeks, and some have been there for years. Kids ages 0 to 18 are welcome here, and the government often brings siblings to Baumphelele that would otherwise be separated.
The first place we saw in Baumphelele was the Respite Center, where nurses take care of sick children for extended periods of time. Sometimes the children come in abused or sick, and are in need of a period of recuperation before they can be integrated into the home. We got to hear about the typical daily schedule of a kid under
supervision, which is very well thought out. As we walked from the children’s respite center to the adult’s respite center, we stumbled upon one of the kindergarten classes out for recess, which was adorable. They all ran up to us and posed for our cameras, and all fought for the spotlight. Obviously we all just wanted to stay and play with them, but we had to continue on our tour, and they had class to get back to. Baumphelele also is a place where sick adults in the community can come to receive treatment, whether that be for a common illness, or something as threatening as HIV/AIDS. It was cool to see how big Rosie’s heart really is, since she opened something like this to provide for the other members of her community that might not get treatment otherwise.
Next we headed to the school, and we came in at nap time. Literally, all the kids were just passed out, but it was really cute to see. There were tons of kids in every classroom, which really goes to show how many kids are getting an education because of this place. From there, we walked into the kitchen, and got to hear about how they feed the sheer amount of kids in their care. Every day, breakfast, lunch, and two snacks are served to the kids, and change every day of the week. Breakfast usually consists of some kind of porridge, sometimes with milk and sometimes with butter, and oats. The morning snack is usually bread or fruit with tea or juice. For lunch, they get some kind of rice, with vegetables or meats. After seeing the kitchen, we walked into the nursery, where a few toddlers were just waking up from their naps. It was sweet to see the one caregiver with two little kids on her lap, since you could really tell how much she cared for them.
Next, we headed to some of the Cluster Homes, which is where the orphaned children actually lived. The houses are cared for by a large team of women and men from the community who have been trained as child and youth care workers, and who are supported by volunteers. Social workers and auxiliary social workers also work with the care givers to ensure that the children have all the support they need during their stay. We first went into one of the girls home, which was really different than I thought it’d be. There was a huge living room, complete with a couch, teddy bears, blankets, a TV, stereo, and a big painting of Cinderella on the wall. On the left was also a kitchen, where the care givers prepare dinner for the members of their house daily. They all sleep in bunks beds in three different rooms, and the caregiver has a room to themselves as well. They also teach the kids how to do chores, like cooking, cleaning, etc., so that they grow up to be well-developed adults.
After the girls house, which was empty because all the girls were at school, we went to the boys house, where luckily, we ran into a few young boys. They obviously were dying to play with us, and we had so much fun playing with them. They were really infatuated with taking pictures of themselves on our cameras, and then looking at them afterwards and just laughing. It was cool to not have a huge language barrier for the first time, since most of them did speak English. We played with them for a little while, then headed to see the nursery. Unfortunately, it was still naptime so we didn’t get to play with any of the cute babies, but it was still really cool to see.
From there, we headed back to the buses, and were on our way to Langa township. For those not familiar, townships are the urban living areas on the outskirts of most of the major cities in South Africa. During the Apartheid Era, many blacks were evicted from areas designated as “white only,” and forced to move into these segregated townships. We visited Langa township, which is the oldest of the townships in Cape Town, and an area that used to show much resistance to apartheid. Since the township is so big, we actually rode on bikes for the whole tour, which was really cool.
First, we stumbled upon some older African ladies preparing food, and with a closer look, we noticed they were actually grilling heads of animals. Our guide let us know that they were actually sheeps head, and that the head is actually a delicacy in the village. These ladies go into town and purchase the heads, and come back and cook them in the middle of the township. Our guide was like, “If I buy one, who will try one?” Of course, a couple of people said yes, so he bought one, and Casey and I basically said we had to try it just to say that we did it. He literally cut the skin of the sheep off the sheeps face, dipped it in some seasoning, and handed it to us. Let me just tell you, it was not good. Granted, it probably wouldn’t have tasted as bad if I didn’t know it was sheeps face, but it was pretty bad. But hey, now I can say I’ve done it.
From here, the guide took us into the residential areas of the township. It’s interesting because there’s actually a low, middle, and high class within the township, and I definitely thought that it was going to be similar to the slums we saw in India, but it wasn’t at all. The low class homes were in pretty poor conditions, while the middle class homes were more like townhomes that we’re familiar with in America, and the high-class homes were actually nice houses. He told us that the people that lived in the high-class homes were often lawyers or doctors that commuted all the way to downtown Cape Town every day, but were unwilling to move out of the township. Often these families want their children to be raised in the culture of the township, and feel loyalty to where they grew up, so moving, even if they have the funds to, isn’t really in the picture. Someone asked if having these nice houses in the middle of the township made the lower-class people upset, to which he basically said absolutely not, because it gives everyone something to strive for. He himself lived in one of the middle class homes, and was basically “house-sitting” for his buddy for the next month, which he was really excited about. When we asked if he was sad that he’d get to live there for a month then have to go back to his home, he was like, no not at all, because now that I’ve gotten a taste of what it’s like to live in the “Beverly Hills” of Langa, I want to work even harder to be able to attain a house like that.
At the end of our township tour, we headed to a little outside stage, and were SWARMED by little kids. Almost instantly two little girls ran up to Casey and me and wanted to play with us, which was so cute. Obviously we wanted to play with them just as much! After a few minutes, our guide got on the stage and said that some of the kids would be doing a performance. He had actually started this
organization, called “Happy Feet Youth Project,” as an outlet for the kids of the township. This dance troupe is an after school activity for school aged kids, where they can come and in effect, it keeps them out of trouble. They all wear big rain boots, which makes a loud stomping noise, and chant and clap their hands together. Only the most well-behaved kids with the best grades in school get to travel with the group to do performances around South Africa, which is a big incentive for the kids to stay out of trouble and work hard in school. We got to watch the young kids dance first, and then the older boys danced. I think we also got yelled at a couple of times because the girls playing with us kept asking us questions or wanting to talk, and apparently our guide is anti making friends.
After the performances, we stayed around and played with the kids for a while. They were all soooo infatuated with our cameras, and I’m pretty sure at one point, not one of us was holding our cameras because the kids had taken them and were taking pictures of each other. Once our time was up, we were all really sad to leave because of how much fun we were having with all the kids, but we had to head out.
Once we got back to the ship, we all showered, grabbed our bags, and grabbed a bite to eat on the ship before heading out to where we’d be staying for the next four days. One of our friends had a friend who did SAS a few years ago, and recommended us renting a house in Camps Bay, so that’s what we did. Camps Bay was like a ten minute drive from downtown Cape Town, but it was basically like the nice residential area of Cape Town. Two of the kids I was with are from Laguna Beach, and said it was exactly like home. There was a main street, with restaurants and shops on one side, with the beach on the other. Then, houses ran all up the mountain, which probably contributed to the whole “Laguna” feel.
When we finally got to our house, we were all amazed. It was super modern, and I think it was also the Fort Knox of Camps Bay. There was a gate to get into, which you either had to have a key for or had to be buzzed in from the video camera from inside, and a little moat went around the whole house. That made for interesting stories when one night, there was no one home when our friends came home, and one of them actually swam under the moat to get into the house. There was also an elevator, but I’m pretty sure it was either out of order or we broke it…
The whole house was gorgeous, and perfect for our whole group. We had way too many people staying in it, but it was never really a problem. There was an infinity pool out back that overlooked all of Camps Bay and the ocean, and we spent countless sunsets and sunrises just in awe of where we were. It was nice to actually have a “home” in theory to go back to, since we’ve spent a lot of ports moving from city to city and hotel to hotel, and now we just got to stay in one place for a while. It was also within walking distance to all of downtown Camps Bay, which was convenient for us.
The first night, some people went out to dinner, but since we’d already eaten, we skipped on that. We went out to “Long Street” and met up with a bunch of people, and it was a fun night. It reminded me a lot of Bourbon Street in New Orleans, because the restaurants and bars all had the patios on the second and third floors with fun music. Unfortunately for us, we had to wake up super early the next morning!
Our morning started super early, but no one was too upset, since we were on our way to go shark diving! The bus picked us up at 7:30 AM from our house, and the twenty of us were actually ready to go. We headed out, and had a long two and a half hour drive ahead of us. Luckily, most of our drive was in between and over mountains, which gave us a really pretty drive. It’s hard to complain about being up early or it taking us almost three hours to get there when it was as pretty as it was!
Upon arrival, we went into the shark diving place we were dropped off, and the staff had no idea who we were. Obviously they were a little overwhelmed since that meant twenty kids walking into their shop expecting to shark dive, when they had no recollection of us. For maybe like ten minutes we were freaking out, before we finally realized we were in the wrong shop, and our driver directed us to the right place. We all got inside, and they even gave us a nice home-cooked breakfast! I was pretty glad I was eating yogurt, fruit, and granola, since all we eat on the ship is carbs! We had to sit through a little safety meeting, and then we were off to the boat.
Our boat was called “Nemo,” which was really cute, and the crew was all really cool. They drove us out to the infamous “Shark Alley,” and began to throw the bait into the water. After telling us what we should and shouldn’t do again, we were all put into our wetsuits, and sat to wait for the sharks to finally show up. And that’s exactly what we did. We waited. And waited. And waited. After about an hour, we were all getting kind of antsy, and the crew reassured us that it can take this long sometimes, so we weren’t discouraged yet. So we ate some sandwiches. And waited. We took some pictures in our wetsuits. And waited. Finally, at like the two and a half hour mark, we could tell the crew was getting nervous, and we were about to give up hope as well. They said they weren’t gonna make us go back in until we’d been out there without seeing anything for three hours, but didn’t sound very hopeful. We all moved to the front of the boat, all pretty upset and bummed out, and had started to fall asleep.
With maybe fifteen minutes left, out of nowhere, someone yells “SHARK!!” and without hesitation, all of us jump up. Not even five seconds later, Nick was in the water, without even zipping up his wetsuit, which goes to show how anxious we were. Seven people jumped in the tank, and we were literally all FREAKING out, because we had given up all hope. I went in the second group, and it was actually so insane. The water wasn’t that great of visibility, so you couldn’t see the shark until it was right in front of you, which was crazy. One of the crew guys had a tuna head on a rope, and would throw it into the water right in front of us, then pull it when the shark got close so it would get super close to the cage. It was sooo crazy, and we all were freaking out. The water was like, the coldest water I’ve ever been in, but after like a minute, you couldn’t even feel it over the adrenaline. After our turn was up, the last group got in, and it was cool to see the shark from the top too. We had all obviously seen the video of the shark getting into the cage that happened a few days before in South Africa, and learned then that it was actually in this same area, but no one flinched. We had all been so discouraged that we weren’t going to see one, and when we finally did, it made it that much better. Other SAS kids said they saw like four sharks during their dives, but I wouldn’t trade our experience for the world!
After getting back to shore and eating some lunch, we got back on the bus to go back to the house. We got back to the house right as the sun was setting, and I can honestly say it was the most beautiful sunset I’ve ever seen! There were barely any clouds in the sky, and we all sat on the balcony and on the edge of the pool just watching it for like forty-five minutes. It was definitely another one of those, “This is really my life” moments. Sadly, it only lasted a little while, and we were all off to dinner.
This night, we all walked from the house to downtown Camps Bay, and were all sooo hungry. There were literally twenty of us, so I knew it’d be a hassle to all eat at the same place, but somehow it ended up being only me, Elizabeth, and Spencer. We all got such yummy food, and obviously I couldn’t pass up eating a steak, which was amazing. We sat outside looking at the beach, and I really enjoyed the meal! After that, we headed to the restaurant that a bunch of our house was eating at. Lucky for us, there was a gelato place underneath, and I had Nutella gelato, which let me tell you, is phenomenal. Since we’d been up so early that morning and it was already pretty late, a group of us headed back to the house to get a good nights sleep.
Obviously our day started early again, which it always does in port. This morning, Jackie, Elizabeth, and I all headed out without a real plan. We knew we wanted to go see Boulders Beach and the Cape, but didn’t really know how to get there since it’s like an hour away. We decided to just walk down to the town area, get breakfast, and ask a local how to get there. We sat down and had some good breakfast burritos and smoothies, then walked around to try to find out how to get to Boulders beach. One lady in a store told us the easiest way to get there was to take the train, which would let us off in Simons Town, and then it’d be like a ten-minute walk to Boulders.
So without hesitation, we headed to the train station, got a ticket that cost us one dollar, and ran to the train to catch it before it left. We got into a relatively empty car, and it wasn’t until then that one of us spoke up and said, “this is kind of sketchy…” It was then we all remembered how they told us in pre-port that the train wasn’t really safe and not to take it, but by that time, we were on our way. About halfway through our ride, a whole group of school kids got on our car, which made us feel a little safer. Their teacher sat down next to Jackie, and we ended up talking to him for the rest of the ride to Simon’s Town. He’d lived in Boston for a while, and it was cool to hear about the differences he sees in South Africa and America, since he’s from the area. Their whole class was on an “Amazing Race” for the day, and he was the facilitator, and all the kids were awesome. They were all really interested in us, and found it fascinating that we were doing this “Semester at Sea” thing. It was great to get to pick his brain for a little while, and the whole train ride was along the coast, so we couldn’t complain about the scenery!
We finally made it to Simon’s Town, without being mugged or robbed or whatever we expected to happen, and headed off to Boulder’s Beach. The walk was nice since its not hot this time of year in Cape Town, and it was good to get some exercise, haha. After thinking we got lost and getting directions, we made it to Boulder’s Beach, which was pretty cool. Boulder’s Beach is famous for it’s colony of African penguins, an endangered animal. We had to pay a small entry fee to get in, but this is because this beach takes care of the animals to ensure they are protected. Unfortunately, we couldn’t really like swim with the penguins or anything, but we got to get pretty close, so that was cool. We also noticed there was an empty boardwalk across the way, and since ours was really crowded, we headed over to the other side. We sat over there for a little while and took pictures, and watched the extremely lazy penguins, but all-in-all, it was really cool.
From there, we were ready to grab lunch, and had heard this one restaurant was pretty good, so we headed there. We sat out on the deck, on the beach, and enjoyed a nice lunch. They were serving fresh fish, and I’m pretty sure we all become extremely full because we thought it was a great idea to order ice cream once we were stuffed. After lunch, we headed back to the top of the hill, and were going to try to find a cab to Cape Point.
This is where not having a plan bit us in the butt, because apparently cabs don’t run out this far unless they’re with someone. There were a ton of cabs there, waiting on people, and tour buses, but none that were able to take us. A few people offered to take us with their groups, so we waited around for a bit, and then one guy said he had room for us and that he had six SAS people with him already. We hoped it was someone cool, since that’d provide us with a ride, but unfortunately, out walks a group of RA’s that aren’t known for being very friendly. Obviously they didn’t want us to come with them, even though they had enough room, and said that “It’d be pretty unsafe for us to travel with them,” or something like that. Which is funny because that left us at Boulder’s Beach without a ride… aka more unsafe. Another guy told us his people wouldn’t care if we rode with them, so we sat around waiting for them to come out of Boulder’s Beach. Somewhere along the way, a cab with three SAS kids that we’re friends with pulled up, and went into Boulder’s. The cab driver told us that he could drive us to the Cape and back to sightsee if we paid him (a ridiculous amount of money, mind you) and if we did it in an hour. We’d been waiting for like an hour at this point and didn’t want to come this far and not see it, so we took him up on his offer. It was like a fifteen-minute drive, but it was definitely worth it. The cab driver was also nuts, and told us this was where the Atlantic and Pacific oceans met, which is clearly not true.
We finally made it to the Cape, which we didn’t think we ever would, and it was definitely worth our trip. Cape Point is actually not where the cold Benguela Current of the Atlantic Ocean and the warm Agulhas Current of the Indian Ocean meet, contrary to popular belief, but it is the most southwestern point of Africa. We took the funicular to the top of Cape Point, since we were short on time, but one day I’d love to come back and hike both Cape Point and the Cape of Good Hope. After running up some steps, we made it to the top, and got really stunning views of Africa and the ocean. From the top, we got a great view of the Cape of Good Hope, and got to see the famous old lighthouse. It was also extremely windy, which was really funny. Sadly, we only had a few minutes, but we ran back to the cab to get back to Boulders beach.
So this cab driver had basically taken us without asking the other kids, and when we came back, they had already started walking back towards town because they thought he’d left them. We caught up with them, and when we told the cab driver to drop us off at the train station, he liked freaked out and told us how unsafe it was and asked why we would ever take it. They offered to bring us back to Camps Bay, so we got a cab ride back, which probably saved us from being mugged (since we were already pushing our luck).
Once we made it back to the house, the boys were headed to the grocery store, since they’d planned on grilling and cooking dinner that night. We all got to relax for a bit, use the free WiFi (always a plus!), and have the boys cook for us. Obviously we’ve all been missing good home cooked food, or a grill for that matter, so having hamburgers and grilled chicken was a big plus. Although we failed at making French fries, the dinner was a success. That night we went out to Long Street again, which was fun, because we ran into all our friends from the ship.
Our day started early, again, and we headed back to downtown Camps Bay to grab breakfast. This morning, me, Jackie, Elizabeth, and Casey were all going to try to find something to do, but we didn’t really have a set plan. It was pretty cloudy, so even though we’d been wanting to hike Table Mountain, it wasn’t looking promising. We brought all our stuff to hike just in case, and hoped it’d clear up later in the day. After eating breakfast, we headed to the Waterfront in downtown Cape Town, and were going to try to go see Robben Island. Unfortunately, the tours were booked until the following Sunday, so that plan didn’t exactly pan out. Instead, we walked around the Waterfront are for a little while, and bought some cool souvenirs, which is always nice. We went into the actual mall because we were looking for headphones (can you believe my fake Beats from China broke?!! LOL.), and ended up wandering around there for a while. I bought a CD of a guy who’s apparently really famous in South Africa, and I actually really like it. I also bought a Rugby World Cup shirt supporting the Springboks (the national team), and I can’t tell you how many random people stopped and told me how cool it was. I didn’t even know what I was buying really…
Since Table Mountain and Robben Island didn’t really plan out, we decided to go to the District Six museum. The area is known for the forced removal of over 60,000 of it’s inhabitants during the 1970s apartheid regime, and the museum basically commemorates those events and the people affected by it. District Six was declared a whites-only area, while the displaced people were moved to the Cape Flats township some 25 km away. Everything that existed in District Six before they moved was bulldozed down, except for places of worship. Since the fall of the apartheid in 1994, the South African government has pledged to support rebuilding and recognizes former residents claims to the area.
The museum itself was really cool, and showed a lot of what the area was like before the people were displaced, as well. The whole floor is a map of the former area, where old residents have come and signed their names next to where they used to live. It was cool to see, and also relevant to us because we’ve spent the past three months sailing with Desmond Tutu, who’d told us stories about some of the same events.
After a little while at the museum, we were getting hungry, and remembered a Mexican restaurant we had seen on Long Street. Obviously, it was an amazing meal, and eating chips and guacamole will never get old. If it’s one thing I really miss from home, it’s definitely the Mexican food! Sadly, it started to rain while we were there, but we really wanted to go hike Table Mountain, so we headed that way anyway. By the time we got there, it had stopped raining, so we were being pretty optimistic. The lady operating the cable car, however, was not so optimistic. We were planning to hike up, then take the cable car down, so we wanted to see if it was running. She told us it was, but it was dangerous to hike up because it was so slippery. So we were like fine, we’ll just take the car up and back down, and then she was like, well, you should know its freezing up there and the visibility isn’t good. So basically, she talked us out of it, and we were left without anything to do.
From there, Elizabeth pulled out her handy dandy book on Cape Town, and said we should go see the Bo-Kaap area of town. The area looked just like it did in every picture we’d seen: cobblestone streets and bright colored houses. I’m not sure what the history is of the place, but it’s a big Muslim area of town, and it’s really awesome to walk around in. Apparently there’s also really good food there, but since we’d just eaten, we didn’t stop to try any.
Once we’d spent a little while in the neighborhood, we really were out of things to do on this rainy and cloudy day. So obviously, we did the most non-touristy and non-American thing we could’ve done… We went and saw a movie. Since it was only like 3:00, we didn’t want to go back to the house and sit there until dinner, and obviously it’s been three months since we’d seen a movie. We got a cab back to the Waterfront area, and spent a good ten minutes of the ride there trying to figure out what movies had come out while we were gone, with the Great Gatsby being the only one we could figure out. Upon arrival at the movie theater, we realized that a lot of the movies that are being advertised as new here, weren’t that new. We somehow decided on the movie “Oz” with James Franco and Mila Kunis, and our tickets, food, and drinks all cost us $7. So, no, I do not miss how expensive movies are in America. The movie was kind of weird, but overall it was pretty good.
It was nearing dinnertime at this point, so we decided to grab a quick bite to eat in the food court then head back to the house. And again, we ate the most American food we could find: Subway. We grabbed our sandwiches, headed to grab a cab, and made it back to the house. That night, one of Spencer’s friends who is studying abroad in Cape Town invited us all over to her place, since everyone she lived with was gone on spring break. Her house was like thirty minutes away, but it was cool to see how they were living while they were studying abroad. She lives in what’s basically a dorm, with 20 other people, but her bedroom is bigger than mine is at home. After showing us around that area, we went out with her friends to what was clearly where all the study abroad kids go out to, and it was a lot of fun. But obviously, the highlight of my night was the McDonald’s we got on the way back to the house.
Sadly, it was time for us to check out of the house, so our morning started early once again. The boys had headed out at like 4:30 AM to go bungee jumping, and we were getting picked up to go on our overnight safari at 10 from the ship. Since we never got to the top of Table Mountain the night before, Jackie, Elizabeth, and I decided to see if we could get up to the top by cable car at 8 AM, so we headed that way. But just our luck, it was the windiest day ever, and the cable car wasn’t running. We took some pictures from as far up as we got, but unfortunately, didn’t make it all the way to the top. That gives me an excuse to come back one day, right?
We got back to the ship, dropped off our bags, and headed to meet our guide for the next two days. Only seven of us girls were going around together those two days, which was fun, and our guide was awesome. The drive to the game reserve was like three hours, but we’d broken it up and decided to visit some of Cape Town’s famous wineries on the way. We also passed by where they’re apparently filming a new Pirates of the Caribbean movie, which was pretty cool.
Since it was Good Friday, a lot of the wineries Richard had planned to take us to were closed, but we did get to try a few. The wineries in Cape Town are in an area known as “Stellenbosch,” and it’s basically the Napa Valley of the country. The Dutch first settled in the area, so all of the architecture is really cool, as well. It’s said that the area produces one billion liters of wine annually. We drove through the whole small town, and even drove on the campus of Stellenbosch University. Sadly, the first winery we visited was open, but their wine tastings were closed. It was a really pretty place, with an amazing view, and luckily, Richard knows a ton about wine so he gave us a good explanation of everything that was going on.
Finally, we found an open winery, and got to taste some wine. The winery was Solms Delta, and it also had a really pretty view of the mountains and winery as a whole. Everyone sat on picnic tables on the lawn, and it was awesome. Now, as you can imagine, we’re all college students, and definitely don’t have a palate for wine. Even further, I don’t really like wine at all, but it was something we had to do. We tasted like six wines, and it was funny, because before hand, Richard was like, don’t ever say the wine is nasty! If you hate it, say it’s elegant. So we were throwing around the word elegant like it was no ones business, but we also tasted some that were pretty good. He taught us some words to make it sound like we knew we were talking about it, when really we didn’t, but by the end I kind of did get it. We all wanted to send some wine home to our family, but for some reason, the most expensive bottle of wine at the place was $20 USD, so we figured our parents would be able to see through that. It was nice to chill out and relax with friends for a little while, since we’d been going non-stop for the past week.
Next, we tried to go to another winery, but it was also closed, so we just decided to go to the hotel, and try them tomorrow on the way back. It was like an hour and a half drive to the game reserve/hotel, but it was sooo scenic, which was awesome. We saw tons of baboons on the side of the road too, so that was funny. After a good nap, we were finally at the hotel, and quite frankly, a little scared. From the outside, it looked really sketchy, and we were all pretty nervous. But like every hotel this semester, the inside was 10x better, and it was actually a pretty nice hotel.
We had some time to waste before dinner, and were all still pretty tired, so we basically made the place our home. We went into the lobby, shut all the door, moved all the chairs together to make a couch, pulled out a laptop, and right then and there, did another non-touristy American thing: watched the Katy Perry movie. Obviously the movie is good, so it was a given to watch, and it was a good break from the action.
That night, Richard had gotten us meat, and we all went outside around the pool for him to do a traditional South African barbecue for us. Also, Richard did something very cute for all of us. Since it was Easter and we were away from home, he had gone to the store and bought Easter eggs, then put on an Easter egg hunt for us in the courtyard of the hotel. I know we all really enjoyed that, and since the weather was so nice, it was great to get to sit outside and talk while he barbecued. For dinner, we ate barbecued meat. I say meat, because I’m still not really sure what I was eating. At first he said chicken, then he said lamb, and also said pork, so basically it was some kind of meat. Along with that, we had a salad, some mashed maize (their substitute for mashed potatoes), and a really yummy sauce over it. It was an altogether delicious meal!
After filling up, we all just sat around talking for a while. We had kind of taken over the outside pool bar since no one was there, and just sat around digesting what had been going on the past week. Once we got bored, we started playing a game that’s become really popular on the ship, but with our own spin. What you do is get a piece of paper, every person takes a little slip, and you write a person on it. It can be a real person, a movie character, even a cartoon, and then you switch with someone in the group. You lick it, stick it to your forehead, and the whole point of the game is to figure out who the person is on your head. The catch is, you can only ask yes or no questions, and if you ask a question and the answers no, the next person gets to ask, but if the answers yes, you get to keep asking questions until you get a no. The first person to guess who’s on their head wins. We played one round the normal way, and then we were like, how much better would it be if we only used people on the ship? So that’s what we did, and I’m pretty sure we played for like an hour. It was absolutely hilarious, and we had a great time. It sure beats some of the games we’ve come up with on the ship… AKA I can recall a time where we sat in Shooter and Trav’s room with our mouths full of water staring at each other until we laughed. We get desperate.
Once we got sick of that, we headed back inside to watch another movie. I’m pretty sure we got like five minutes into the movie before we all fell asleep, but we had another early morning, so off to bed we went.
On our final day in Cape Town, we were off to the Aquila Game Reserve to go on a safari. A lot of our friends had traveled pretty far to go to Kruger, the really big safari near Johannesburg, but it had taken up almost their whole trip. We all wanted to do a safari, so we had opted for this one instead since it was near. Upon arrival, they gave everyone champagne (yes, at like 8 AM), which was kind of funny. We all hopped on a jeep, and were off into the game reserve with Richard and our driver Collin to see the animals.
It was cool to see all the animals in a different setting, since I’ve seen a lot of them in zoos before. Instead, Aquila Game Reserve is basically a huge park, where the animals just get to roam free. I think there’s a difference in an actual safari and a game reserve, but I’m not sure the distinction. In Africa, the “big five” are the animals most difficult to hunt, but also the most dangerous. The big five are the lion, African elephant, Cape buffalo, leopard, and rhinoceros. Luckily, we were going to get to see all but one.
The first animal we saw was a springbok, yes, the animal representing the South African national rugby union team. A springbok is actually brown and white antelope, and our guide told us that it’s actually the national symbol of South Africa. Then, we came upon a bunch of zebras, which was cool to see. They had a lot more brown in them then I thought, but we saw like five together, with a baby, too. After that, we saw an ostrich, and found out that some SAS kids had actually raced/rode ostriches in Burma, which is hilarious. Next we saw big African elephants, so one check off the big five was done. We kept driving, and got a warning by Collin that we needed to keep our hands inside the car and be prepared to grab on to something if we had to speed away, since we were coming up on two buffalo that are known to charge. Sadly, they didn’t charge us, which would’ve made for a better story, but they instead just sat there. But, we got our second big five animal!
From there, we got to go to the coolest part of the safari: the lions den (#3 of the big five!). The whole thing was surrounded by electric barbwire fences, for known reason, and in our car drove. We got the same lecture: don’t put your hands out, be prepared to speed away, whisper, etc. We drove through a big area and didn’t see any lions, but then we pulled into another gated area, and there they were. There was one male, with the big mane, and like six female, just all laying around. We got soooooo close to the females lying down, it was crazy. We got to just sit there and watch them for a while, which was super cool. As we were driving away, we also caught a rare sight… two lions doing the dirty. Yes, two lions mating right in front of us. Apparently that like never happens, so good for us to get to see.
Next, we got to see a huge giraffe, but we actually found out it was a baby, so I guess it wasn’t that huge in the scheme of things. I think he said there’s only one giraffe on the whole property, which is kinda sad, since it’s probably lonely. At this point, probably the most humorous part of our safari took place. You see, we were out in the middle of nowhere, and had drank a little too much coffee at breakfast. So yes, we had to go to the bathroom, and frankly, four of us couldn’t really hold it anymore. Collin stops the car right past the giraffe, and we got to use the bathroom next to it in the African brush. Pretty sweet story if you ask me.
After seeing a couple more small animals, we headed to where they keep the “hurt” animals. They say they keep them in the cages because they’re injured or need to learn how to be incorporated into the reserve. We first saw the leopard (#4 of the big five!), which was really cool. It basically just ran around in its cage, but it was still cool to see. We also got to see some cheetahs, but they were kind of shy. Lastly, we saw a few more lions, which apparently couldn’t be let into the reserve because the lions in the reserve don’t accept lions outside their “pride.”
All in all, the reserve was a really cool place, and I’m glad we decided to do it. We only had to drive like two hours to see almost all the same animals that everyone saw at Kruger! However, I do want to come back to South Africa one day, and going to Kruger is definitely on my list. I’m not a huge animal person, but the safari was a really different experience than like, going to the zoo.
On our way back to the ship, we stopped at one last winery, which I liked better than the first one. We tasted like six wines, most of which were pretty good, but again, were all sooo cheap! We couldn’t figure out why these wines were so cheap, and we never sent any home, so I guess we’ll never know. However, the best part of this winery wasn’t the wine… instead, it was the CHEESE. We got to do a cheese tasting, and tried sooo many good cheese. Then, we all bought a different kind, bought our own loaves of ciabatta bread for a dollar, and stuffed our faces on the bus.
Richard was nice enough to stop by a grocery store for us, so we could stock up on snacks and bars to bring to Ghana, but unfortunately, our time ran out. We said goodbye to our driver, and to Richard, and made the trek down the gangway. As we were getting back on the ship, the wind was INSANE, and it was hard to even stand. My ID card was in my hand, and flew out of my hand and was gone before I knew it, but luckily, we found it. Because of those winds, we were stuck in the port in Cape Town an extra day, unable to get off the ship.
Overall, Cape Town was incredible, and although I don’t want to call any port my “favorite” since I’ve loved them all, Cape Town is definitely a stand out. I can’t wait to come back again one day!