Sunday, October 11, 2009

Road Trip to Cape Town

Finally, a peek at South Africa outside of the Eastern Cape. Twenty-one of us in total; including two tour guides, two daughters of one of the tour guides, and a girl from the International Office; took a road trip with Cape Town as the destination and turning around point. The group was mostly American girls, with the exception of two Norwegians and two guys.

We left Port Elizabeth early Sunday morning. After five hours of driving, our first stop was Cango Caves and an ostrich farm in Outshoorn. I could have gone without the tour of the caves and would have enjoyed just looking around more without someone telling me the names of the chunks of rock. The information provided at the ostrich farm was more interesting, though. Have you ever thought about an ostrich being a chick or any age besides full grown? I hadn't, but I saw ostriches working their way out of their shells, as well as chicks just hours old. They are almost as hideous and terrifying as they are when they're older.

We stayed overnight in Outshoorn at Backpacker's Paradise. All of our accomodations for the week was in backpackers. I highly recommend traveling this way. First of all, they're so cheap, especially in the dorm style we were sleeping in, which is about 3-6 bunkbeds in a big room. You could stay at a backpackers in a dorm style room for a couple weeks at the price you could stay one night at a decent hotel. If you're traveling to learn about the place you're in and interested in talking to other people about the place or other places, backpackers are the way to go. The type of people that stay in them are just like that, interested in talking about where they're from and their travels and asking you the same. They also have single, double, triple, etc. rooms and suites to sleep in. Also, backpackers have some kind of common room and a kitchen for self-catering, as well as a kitchen (or the same kitchen) for the hired help that can cook you meals for a price. Some backpackers have yards, pools, and bars.

For breakfast we had scrambled ostrich eggs in addition to the usual spread of toast, jams, cereals, muesli, and yogurt. We left after this for Montagu, a quiet town in the mountains. Actually, we were in the mountains for much of the trip. Great scenery for a road trip. Monday's main event was brandy tasting at Klipdrift in Robertson. I did not enjoy it! We stayed overnight at Mystic Tin Backpackers and Tuesday morning moved on to the wine country. Of what I've seen of South Africa, this might be the area I could live in. Rolling hills of vineyards with mountains as the backdrop. We did wine tasting at Plaisir Demerle winery. This I enjoyed. We stopped at a market in Stellenbosch and then we were off to Cape Town. (At some point this day I had my first Red Sox apparel sighting! Unfortunatly, we were just driving by so I couldn't talk to or kiss him.)

First stop was the backpackers, the Sunflower Stop. We walked around the area a little and later all went to V&A Waterfront. It's new and modern and pretty European or American. All of Cape Town was. It's like a mini, South African version of New York City. Key words, though, are mini and South African version. The Waterfront, especially. We were dressed comfortably and felt out of place. There were many fine restaurants and people eating at them in suits. There was a great mall with Gucci, Mac, Jimmy Choo, Ed Hardy, etc on the top floor. We had dinner here, found Haagen-Dazs ice cream, and listened to the street performers play marimba music.

We saw more of Cape Town on Wednesday. We went to the gardens (I saw two squirrels! -- The only squirrels I've seen in SA), the Holocaust museum, and took a tour of a castle. Later, we took a long drive around the peninsula and stopped at Cape of Good Hope and Cape Point. Cape Point is where the Atlantic Ocean and Indian Ocean meet. On the way back to Cape Town we stopped in a few port towns (another place I could see myself living). Oh, and we saw penguins! This night was the closest us Americans were getting to Cuba. Cape to Cuba is a Cuban restaurant and bar fully decorated in imports from Cuba. The atmosphere was unique, the food was delicious, and they had two-for-one mojitos. As a matter of fact, the first mojito served in South Africa was at this 2000!

On Thursday, I wandered around another part of the Waterfront and harbor and watched seals float around lazily. And then I ate Subway! (You can miss anything when you're away from home for this long--like Subway sandwiches, Red Sox hoodies, and even squirrels.) Later, five of us climbed Table Mountain. It's not an exceptionally tall mountain, but I felt like I was climbing Everest. The trails have been modified to accomodate the number of visitors and their safety. It has been "cut up" so it's like climbing steps the whole way. When we started complaining and saying we didn't think we could make it to the top, the watch claimed we had been walking for five minutes. These were not little steps, OK? And it got steeper as we got higher. The wind didn't help any, either. As we climbed, it got colder and wetter. I was hot from climbing, but you needed to bundle up because the outside felt like a New England winter. You could see all the mist spinning in the gorge at the top, so heavy it was coming down in rain drops. The top was worth it, though...well, worth the climb, maybe not the three days of limping around afterwards. That night we went out on the town.

Friday was our lazy day. The week was catching up to us. We left Cape Town and drove to Mossel Bay where we would stay our final night. Some people napped, some hung out at the backpackers, I walked around town a bit. We didn't even feel like going out for dinner and ordered in pizza instead. By dinnertime, it had turned into maybe my favorite night of the trip. We sat around the fire and played the African drums. It felt more authentic-Africa, which is what I'm looking for here, and was a ton of fun learning how to drum. We were anxious to get home the next day and just made a couple stops in Wildernis and Knysna before getting back to Annie's Cove.

Spring Break '09 II was a success. I've been home a week and have been busy with school work. The second term has turned out to be a lot more demanding than the first. I have tests and assignments overlapping until November 21st, the day of my last final. Six more weeks of school! I've altered my plans a bit for the month before I come home. I think I'll go to Coffee Bay, about seven hours up the coast, instead of Mozambique. It will just be cheaper and easier and I've been told Coffee Bay is just as good as Tofo and without the thirty hour bus ride and visa requirement. I would like to make at least one other stop on the way there though. Well that's the plan as of now!

And now back to work.

Much love from Africa. XOXO