Tuesday, October 13, 2015

Cape Town

After a few weeks of camping, I was super excited to be heading to a proper big city:  Cape Town!  Regarded as the most cosmopolitan city in Africa, parts of Cape Town felt like they were plucked straight out of Australia:  the touristy waterfront, the gorgeous coastal scenery, the delicious cafe culture, etc.  I absolutely loved it.  Of course, Cape Town is still in South Africa, and with that also comes a more unpleasant side as well:  townships and informal settlements around the city, high crime rates (though not nearly as bad as in the other big cities in South Africa), lots of homelessness, power outages, and more.  As a tourist, I tried my best to see the nice part of the city, and I did a pretty good job of it.  Cape Town is where my first camping tour ended and where my second camping tour began and I had a week between the two to fully explore the city.  It proved to not be enough time!  This is also where I had to say goodbye to Jemma (who will sing Taylor Swift with me in the tent?!?) and hello to my next travel buddy, Jarrod – one of the gay Jews of Melbourne.  Finally I have someone to speak gay with!

A few highlights of my time in Cape Town:

Table Mountain:
A highlight for all visitors to Cape Town, Table Mountain towers over the city at a height of over 1,000 metres.  A cable car runs to the top but it was closed for servicing during our stay so we were forced to hike to the top and then back down again.  It was a steep and strenuous climb up a path called Platteklip Gorge, but the views from the top were stunning.  You could see the whole city, the beautiful coastline, Robben Island in the distance, and more.  I definitely earned a big slice of chocolate cake for that workout.

Cape Peninsula:
We took a day trip south to Cape Point and Cape of Good Hope – the southwestern-most points in Africa.  It is here where the Indian and Atlantic Oceans meet… sometimes.  Unfortunately, this was not one of those times so we couldn’t see the crazy division between the warm Indian water and the cold Atlantic water, but the views and hiking were great nonetheless.  The cape was home to tons of little rock dassies (aka rock hyraxes) – small mammals that – in my twisted mind – sort of resemble what would come out if you crossed a wombat with a guinea pig.  These cute little darlings which could fit in your backpack with ease are somehow, in some way, the closest living relative to the elephant.  It’s so fucking weird.  I want one as a pet.  Except they shit everywhere so maybe not.

Speaking of cute wildlife, we stopped at Boulders Beach on the way back to see the penguin colony there.  The African penguins were as cute as any other penguins and they still reign at or near the top of my favourite animals list.

With a whole week to explore, I definitely had time to check out quite a few of Cape Town’s museums.  The most somber of them was Robben Island – a prison off the coast of the city where many important anti-apartheid activists were imprisoned, including Robert Sobukwe and Nelson Mandela.  There we learned about apartheid and were shown around by a past inmate.  Our guide was imprisoned there for six years for suspected sabotage.  He was released as the apartheid era came to a close.  The District 6 Museum told the story of apartheid through the eyes of the residents of District 6 – a community that was relocated against their will to make more space for white people.  The Iziko Slave Lodge gave the history of slavery in the Cape region.  This was particularly interesting.  Apartheid is well-known and taught in schools, but I didn’t really know anything about the slavery in Africa which existed well before apartheid.  It wasn’t the local tribes that the whites held captive, but rather slaves imported from Malaysia, India, Madagascar, and elsewhere.  It is because of this that Cape Town has such a multicultural feel to it.

Because I’m the most-Jewish least-Jewish person ever, I stopped by the South African Jewish Museum.  And as happens at all Jewish museums all over the world, I spent way more time there than expected because all of the old Jewish volunteers were super keen to talk my ear off.  They’re cute, so it’s ok.  It reminds me of Florida.  There I learned about Jewish history in South Africa and the part that the Jews played in the white resistance to apartheid.  Given my extended stay with the Jews, I was a bit stressed that I wouldn’t have enough time to fully explore the South African National Gallery down the road, but after about fifteen minutes of walking around the galleries, I had to ask the front desk where the rest of it was.  That was it.  The moral of the story:  if you want art, go to Europe.

V&A Waterfront:
The touristy hub of the city, the Victoria & Alfred Waterfront has heaps of shops and restaurants for tourists to peruse.  It’s also home to the Two Oceans Aquarium.  I paid the equivalent of A$13 to get in and it was absolutely lovely.  There weren’t any mammals, but they had some great fish exhibits and the informational placards were short and sweet.  They also had two types of penguins and I got to watch a penguin feeding!  The aquarium in Sydney costs 3x that price and sucks balls.  I was super pleased with this one.

Other activities:
My friends and I also took a free guided walking tour of the city where we strolled past various important sights and learned more about the history of the city and the present day situation.  Most importantly, we visited Beefcakes one night – a gay bar and restaurant with burgers, a nightly drag show, and ultra hunky topless waiters.  The best part:  nearly everyone from our group came – 15 out of 19 people – even the straight men!  They all earned their fag stag badges.

Put it in my mouth:
Obviously, I was super excited to be in a city just for the food.  I’ve mentioned bobotie and malva pudding in my previously blogs, and I had way more than my fair share of those during my week in Cape Town.  I had yet to try any ostrich while in Africa so I made sure that my first meal in Cape Town was an ostrich burger.  Jarrod and I went to Mama Africa – a well-known tourist restaurant featuring a wide array of African dishes – and of course, I had to have my Mexican food (woohoo!)  When it comes to drinking, Cape Town is known for its wine scene.  While I wasn’t able to get to any local wineries or the famous wineries in nearby Stellenbosch, our tour group did camp at a winery and do a wine-tasting north of Cape Town the night before our arrival.  Coffee was another key drink, and the coffee culture very much resembled the coffee culture in Australia.  Delicious cafes dotted the streets of Cape Town and we made a point to sample one per day to ensure maximum brunchage.

The two best food experiences, however, were at the V&A Food Hall and the Neighbourgoods Market at the Old Biscuit Mill.  The Food Hall at the V&A Waterfront was basically a fancy food court filled with delicious cuisine options from all over the world.  I opted for a Hungarian-style flatbread topped with chicken and springbok.  I also got a coffee from Truth which I had heard was the best in Cape Town.  I obviously got a brownie to go with it.

The Neighbourgoods Market was so fucking fantastic that I almost jizzed when I arrived.  Various shops and stalls sold all sorts of cute crafts, and there was a great coffee roaster and artisan bean-to-bar chocolatier as well.  The best part was the massive area of food stalls.  Vendors of all sorts come on Saturday to sell their delicacies.  I opted for latkes (I know, they had a latke stand!!) from a super-Jewy looking fella.  I assumed it was legit, and it was.  If I lived in Cape Town, I’d be here every Saturday until I tried every single place.

One week in Cape Town proved to not be enough time to fully explore this vibrant city.  I’ll have to go back one day and see the rest.  For now, there’s a lot more of South Africa to explore.  But first, let me take a selfie.

To see more photos of my time in Cape Town, follow this link:

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