Unfortunately, much of the last part of my time in Cape Town was somewhat of a blur because, as per usual, I got sick. I was not surprised given the fact that I ALWAYS get sick on vacation. On the plus side, since I knew to expect this, I was majorly stocked up on medical supplies of every sort. Even better, I was only struck by a really heinous strain of the flu–much better than having my adventurous eating habits be repaid by an attack of traveler’s stomach (like during my Morocco trip) or, worse yet, a wicked combination of traveler’s stomach and flu (picked up somewhere just before I boarded an overnight train between Xi’an and Shanghai during my travels in Asia–imagine frequent trips to a squat toilet in a dark, quickly-moving train; not pretty). Since I had the good luck to only have the flu this time around, with a combination of pseudoephedrine, locally-purchased cough drops, a healthy supply of tissues, and sheer determination, I was still able to enjoy my week in Cape Town.
First up was my Cape Point and Peninsula tour. It was a beautiful way to explore so much of much of the environs of Cape Town. Our first stop (well, our first stop after the supermarket where I bought my cough drops) was in Hout Bay where we hopped a ferry to Duiker Island. While trying not to get tossed about by the waves, I also struggled to get some good shots of the island’s famed Cape fur seals as well as the surrounding scenery. All the while, I was being careful to shield my camera with my rain jacket to protect my equipment from sea spray between shots. After returning to shore, we re-boarded our van and continued our trip, stopping at Chapman’s Peak to take in the view before heading to Boulders Beach in Simon’s Town. There, we got to get up close and personal with the local colony of jackass penguins. The poor dears were molting (during which time they do not eat), so they were not at their most lively and photogenic; on the plus side, the penguins did not seem overly concerned with our presence, so at least we seemed not to be adding to their discomfort.
Next up was a short, pre-lunch bike ride in the Cape Point Nature Reserve. For me, this was a comedy of errors. I have a sizeable head, so even the largest helmet was still a tight squeeze. In addition, although my bike’s seat was wide, it was nowhere near wide enough to fully support and insulate my, um, undercarriage from the bumps and jostles of the journey. Furthermore, since my childhood, it appears that I only deign to ride a bike once a decade or so, so I had no idea how to use the gears and could barely pedal in a straight line. All this, combined with my trying to balance my camera bag around my torso as I rode (as a pseudo-photojournalist, I wanted to get great shots of the park as I rode, so my lightweight point-and-shoot obviously would not do) while attempting to dodge the intermittent vehicle traffic that shared the road, meant that it was a miracle that I made it to our picnic spot without major incident.
Post-lunch was the day’s highlight–a multi-hour hike around Cape Point and the Cape of Good Hope. Despite the crush of people, the scenery was beautiful. I even “accidentally” broke away from my group to hustle down off the marked trail to Dias Beach. My feet sank into the deep sand as I ran to dip my hand in the water and then clamber onto the nearby rocks to watch the waves crash into them. After an all-too-short amount of time, I hurried back to the path and managed to meet up with my group just as we were supposed to head out. On the way back to Cape Town, we saw both a bontebok and some intrepid baboons–a fantastic end to a wonderful day.
The next day, I went on a wine tour in Stellenbosch, Franschhoek, and Paarl. Our tour guide Fern from African Story was so perky that it would have been annoying if she were not so adorable. She was also quite knowledgeable, teaching us little tidbits about the winemaking process as well as explaining the different ways in which the vineyard owners worked to give back to the community and take care of their employees (for example, by providing on-site daycare and giving workers ownership stakes in the vineyard where they work). Fern took us to a variety of wine estates, each with its own unique characteristics. One had incredible artwork, some of which included paintings made with wine. Another had resident goats that lived in a small stone tower in front of the entrance, complete with a surrounding lush green courtyard.
My favorite vineyard was the Solms-Delta Wine Estate. First, both inside and out, it was absolutely beautiful. Second, our group had the most delicious lunch there, one of the best meals I had during my trip. Third, and most important, I discovered the Holy Grail of wine: Cape Jazz Shiraz. This tasty confection is the best sparkling shiraz that I have ever tasted. It was also inexpensive (roughly USD8 per bottle if purchased in South Africa), so I ended up buying two bottles of it (along with a bottle of dessert wine that I had bought earlier in the day at another vineyard). I am only slightly embarrassed to say that just one bottle of the Cape Jazz Shiraz made it back to the U.S. with me–the other bottle was sacrificed to accompany a particularly boozy carry-out lunch that I had at my hostel one afternoon. Even today, I am still waiting for the weather to warm up enough for me to safely receive a shipment of the shiraz from one of Solms’s few U.S. distributors. In any event, the wine tour was a smashing success: I tasted almost 30 wines, experienced some beautiful views, noshed on some tasty nibbles (e.g., cheese, chocolate, olives), made friends, and found my beloved Cape Jazz Shiraz, all in one day, and all while managing to remain upright–solid.
The rest of the week was quite eventful. I went up to Table Mountain, forgoing the recommended two-hour hike in favor of the taking the very speedy cable car up to the peak. From there, I got a 360 degree view of Cape Town and ate my lunch in the sun and cool air while defending my food from some cheeky, marauding birds. The next day, much like I did in Johannesburg (where I visited Soweto), I took a tour of the townships near Cape Town, learning about the history that led to the creation of these communities as well as future plans to positively address the situation of the people living there. The following day, I spent walking around the city, checking out some of the smaller museums and snapping photos of the colorful Bo-Kaap neighborhood, home of Cape Town’s Cape Malay community.
The next day, my last day before returning to the States, I packed my bags, stored them at my hostel, and spent the morning and early afternoon soaking up the sun and getting a final overview of the Cape Town sights by taking both of the full loops of the city’s hop-on, hop-off bus tours. When I was done, I returned to my hostel, collected my bags, and headed to the airport. Hours later, as I was settling into my window seat for my long flight back to NYC via Dubai, I reflected on my epic vacation. The bad news was that this trip was over; the good news is that I already had tons of ideas for where my next adventure would take me….