There is a light across South Africa like you wouldn’t believe. It fans down through the lofty clouds and across the land in segmented rays, over sprawling flat fields of greens, rivers, corn-yellow plains spotted with trees, ostrich farms, and thin veins of highway. It casts itself upon helicopters and hang-gliders, flocks of flamingos who tow their gangly legs behind them with surprising grace. The further south we went, the prettier than land became. Eventually the mountains started jutting up from the earth and after a 19-hour Intercape bus ride (complete with a couple cockroach stowaways) we drove under the shadow of Table Mountain and arrived at Cape Town.
Cape Town. Cold and swanky. While it looks (and feels) like San Francisco in many ways, it’s definitely not the hippie-ville people told us it would be. Cape Town is absurdly clean for how big it is. And furnished with every modern and western amenity you could ask for. It felt like America or western Europe. In fact, I often forgot I was still in Africa. Sure people weren’t as friendly as they are in Botswana and Mozambique and the police in Cape Town actually took their jobs seriously (maybe too much), but the city was absolutely beautiful. The houses, squares, parks, coastline, and ocean were to die for. And it’s all nestled at the foot of Table Mountain, which stands regally above the city.
The list of things to do there is inexhaustible, which I found a little stressful after chilling on a beach for 3 days in Mozambique. Outdoor activities dominate: cage diving, swimming, biking, parasailing, skydiving, abseiling, hiking, running, wine & bike tours (which sounds like a terrible combination to me) but there’s plenty to do indoors as well. If I could have had my cake and eaten it to, I would have gone cage diving with great white sharks, explored Table Mountain, gone to all the markets possible, done a wine tour, worked up the nerve to go skydiving, and maybe bar hop on Long Street. But since my friends and I only had 3 days, we settled for Table Mountain, a trip to the Two Oceans Aquarium, bar hopping, hanging out with penguins at Boulder Beach, and eating all the cuisine the city offered. It was amazing. A full week would have been out of this world.
We stayed at Ashanti Greenpoint near the waterfront. The majority of the city’s hostels are concentrated on and around Long Street – the party zone, but we wanted something a little less rowdy. Ashanti was nice: small but clean bright, modern, and cheap. About 10 US dollars a night in a 8-person female dorm or mixed dorm. The staff was friendly, there was a pool out back (though it was way too cold to use it), and free pancake batter in the morning for those who didn’t mind a little quick cooking. I just wish the city hadn’t felt so formal. In Mozambique, I was at ease – even in the city. In Cape Town, I couldn’t just bum around in my bathing suit and woven rainbow pants.
We hit up Green Market Square near Long Street after settling into our hostel. The market offered many of the same goods I had seen in Mozambique and Botswana such as dresses, pants, sunglasses, beautiful scarves, pipes, banners, masks, art, sculptures, jewelry, bags, toys, and of course carvings and crafts. I would have liked to browse in peace, but the moment you show any vague inkling of interest in someone’s stall, they come up to you and all but push things into your arms to try to get you to buy them. Also, they will rip you off if you can, so haggle haggle haggle.
We found a café/hookah lounge that had what looked like an amazing selection of coffee and tea with Ethiopian coffee, but it turned out to be a bit disappointing. I ordered a springbok salad, which turned out to be much weirder than I thought it would be. But their baklava was amazing.
We spent the rest of the day planning for Saturday and exploring the city, wondering why nearly everything had closed by sundown! I thought Cape Town was a party city.