Tag Archives: South Africa

Penguins and table cloth

Cape Town is surrounded by mountains on one side and by sea on the other side. Less known but well worth a visit is the hike up on Lion’s Head, a steep hill (669 m) west of the city. Some say that it got its name from a sphinx-like lion shape, which can be seen from Camp’s Bay, others say it used to be a place where some lions were living and hunting. Roland and I climbed it, starting at the hostel, almost at sea level. The climb was strenuous, but the view from the top was phantastic with paragliders soaring around our heads.

Making our way up on Lion’s Head
The last section has a few ladders and chains, but nothing too difficult

And of course we visited the most prominent landmark of Cape Town – Table Mountain. That morning Roland wasn’t fit for hiking, so I took an Uber to Kirstenbosch by myself. Kirstenbosch lies on the other side of the mountain and is home to the botanical garden. The reason for this location is the amount of rainfall that they get there compared to the city of Cape Town –  a result of the combination of the dominant wind direction (towards the south-east) and its location in the lee of Table Mountains highest point.

At Kirstenbosch Botanical Garden

In the botanical garden I took a big loop that passed by the Arboretum, which included a treetop walk with a maximum height of more than ten meters above ground at its highest point. From there I followed a steep trail through the skeleton gorge and across a swampy plain all the way up to the top of Maclears Beacon (1085 m), the highest point of Table Mountain. By that time the table was still covered with a thick white table cloth and there wasn’t much of a view.

Sure enough it did rain while I was visiting the treetop walk at the botanical garden
The clouds are covering Maclears Beacon like a white table cloth

However, it was only midday and I was determined to stay on top until Cape Town would come into view. About half way to the upper gondola station (on the other side of the plateau) the clouds lifted, giving way to a gorgeous panorama of the city and the Hout Bay area on the other side of the  mountain.

Once the clouds had moved we had a clear view of Cape Town

With the sunshine came hundreds of tourists, who boarded the gondola immediately after the clouds had cleared. One of them was Roland as we had agreed on a time to meet at the top. Together we hiked down through the Platteklip Gorge jumping from rock to rock like the mountain goat that we had seen on top.

Descending through the Platteklip Gorge

Another day we took an organized day trip to the Cape peninsula. After a quick look at Boo-Kap, the colorful neighborhood of Cape Town, we went all the way down to the Cape of Good Hope, which is still part of the Table Mountain National Park. We avoided long waiting times and hundreds of tourists by going there early in the day. We had a look at the lighthouse and took a short walk to the cape itself, which is the most south-westerly point of Africa, before having a delicious South African lunch, consisting of buns filled with grilled veggies, chicken and chakalaka sauce.

The lighthouse next to the Cape of Good Hope
The most South-western tip of Africa

As the day continued we drove over to Boulders Beach, which is home to a large population of African penguins. Back in 1982 two breeding couples were taken from another colony across the Hout Bay and introduced in this very spot. They liked it so much that nowadays there are about 3000 penguins living here. You can get really close to them on a series of boardwalks that were built here.

The penguins are breeding in the bushes close to the beach
Boulders Beach is home to a few thousand African penguins

On our way back to Cape Town we stopped for some wine tasting at a local vineyard. Due to the proximity to the ocean, this vineyard produces mostly white wines, whereas red wines require more heat and less moisture, a climate which can be found more inland.

Wine tasting at a local vineyard

The colors of Cape Town

From Windhoek I took another overnight bus to get me to Cape Town. After spending more or less five weeks on the road, I decided to stay in one place for the last week of my trip in Africa. The Cape Town area has a lot of things to offer and definitely more than what you can do in one week. The city had been recommended to me from many friends and people that I met along the way, so I was quite curious of how it would be.

Walking along the shore to Sea Point
Downtown Cape Town

However, at first it was quite a shock to me. Remember – I was coming from Namibia: Namibia has about 2.3 million inhabitants, about 400.000 of them living in Windhoek. Cape Town has a total population of about 3.5 million! So it is much more crowded, many more cars and high rise buildings than what I was used to over the last few weeks. Additionally, the weather on my first full day in the city was gray, cold and windy, nothing like the warmth and sunshine of Namibia (not counting Swakopmund).

At the V&A waterfront

But after one day the weather improved and I slowly got used to being back in a big city again. Meeting new people also helped: I met Günther (from Germany) on the bus to Cape Town, Vinicius (from Brazil) and Roland (from the UK) in the hostel. Roland checked in on the same day as me and was my roommate for the past week. It’s always nice to spend some more time with people and to get to know them better.

Tea and scones at Mount Nelson Hotel with Günther and Roland
The bar area at the Mount Nelson Hotel

Together we explored the city, most of the time on foot or using Uber. This is a taxi system, where you can call a taxi with an app on your smartphone. It’s much cheaper than a regular taxi and works quite well in Cape Town. We talked to different drivers, all of whom were quite happy with their job because they can make more money than with their regular job. However, it only seems to be possible with lots of extra hours – working 6-7 days a week, 12 hours or more per day (up to 20 sometimes). Luckily all of our drivers seemed to be fit and awake when they picked us up.

Local artists presenting their artwork at Green Market Square

We decided to get an overview of the city by joining a free walking tour, where we got to know more about the history of Cape Town, including the period of Apartheid. During this time the white government implemented different laws to separate whites and non-whites. Everyone was assigned to one of six different races based on a series of “scientific” tests, such as the pen test: A pen was stuck into the hair and if it fell out while bending over it was a better score (more white), because the hair was obviously not as thick as that of native African people (black).

Joining the free walking tour

If you didn’t agree with government and still wanted to talk to people with a different skin color than yours, you would go to the hotel in district 6, which was the one of the only public places where it was possible. District 6 itself was a very multi cultural neighborhood up to the 1960s when the government decided to step in, relocated 60.000 people (without giving them proper reimbursement) and tore down the whole area. Their plan was to sell the land to private investors, but nobody wanted to have it after the clearance.

Hotel in District 6, where black and white people were still able to interact during apartheid
A mosque surrounded by smoke of violent student protests for free education

Another part of town is called Boo-Kap, which is where the former slaves used to live. After slavery was abolished, they were given a house for themselves and they painted the houses in different colors just because they could. Nowadays it’s one of the main tourist attractions, because it looks really nice with all the colors. 

Colorful houses in Boo-Kap
Fashion photo shooting in Boo-Kap