Cape Town — City of Dreams
Bye, bye Namibia. After spending quite a while in this sweet AirBnB apartment in Windhoek while attending a conference and working for my company at home, it’s time to say goodbye. With an Intercape bus, I set off to South Africa. I booked a ticket to a town just across the border because I wanted to take some local transportation to find my own way down the coast. However, while being on the bus, I changed my mind, however. I heard a lot of good things about Cape Town and had big plans that I didn’t want to delay too far. After some rather dubious discussions with the bus drivers, I got my ticket “extended” and stayed on the bus for the full ~ 23 hours.
When alighting from the bus, I met Max, a German guy in his gap year. I have to admit that I’m terrible when it comes to remembering names/people/faces. This way it happened that I asked him if he already has a hostel booked because I thought he was the guy I talked to during a break. Of course, it wasn’t him. Anyways, we then searched for a hostel together. And this was harder than expected. As we learned later, there was a David Guetta concert and some other event going on in the city. After giving up to finding a place in a dorm we just booked a rather expensive two-bed room in one of the hostels.
We already did a good walk from the bus station to the hostel and were a bit tired after the long bus ride. But we were also eager to explore the city and decided to climb the Table Mountain, the most famous and astonishing sight of the city. It’s a flat mountain that the town is built around. The edges are rather steep, and it is surprisingly high for the small area it covers. So, we walked the whole way from the hostel to the parking lot of the cable car, took a shuttle to the lower station and started hiking up the path that starts next to it. It was late already, so we had to hurry a bit to get up before it got dark and before the cable car stopped operating. And of course, we took the more difficult and dangerous path. All in all, it was a bit risky, but the best we could have done.
It was a whole lot of fun to climb the steep paths, stairs, and steps and even pull us up some rocks. We reached the top a few minutes before sunset, and it was magical! The sunlight ignited the sea and the thin layer of fog on top of it started to burn. It was one of the most amazing moments in my six months of traveling. I just felt so happy, jumping around, taking photos and freezing like hell — I forgot to take a sweater and a jacket with me. The view was breathtaking. At one side, we looked at the open sea, to the left, the Table Mountain continued with canyons wrapped into fog, and to the right, the big city of Cape Town was lying between the mountain and the coast. Even though I’m trying very hard, I cannot sufficiently describe just how beautiful this moment was up there.
ALARM! The sirens were howling all over the plateau. The wind got stronger and stronger, and they needed to bring all people down before they couldn’t operate the cable car anymore. And yes, the wind was strong. Already while climbing, we sometimes were surprised by powerful wind which set out to blow us from the rim. We fled into the station and bought our tickets to get down (we just assumed we could buy tickets up there, some locals told us later that they didn’t know this is even possible). In the station, we happened to meet Jaques and Tomek. Max, with his unique style, just started talking to them as if he knew them already. They were quite confused, but it was the beginning of a fun time together. They explained to us that they are celebrating their sixth anniversary up here and we had a nice chat. However, when entering the cable car, we lost them.
While we waited in the station, it got fully dark. The view out of the cable car was stunning. The whole city was lightened up which was so beautiful; you cannot imagine. An endless carpet of light rolled out just in front of us. This whole afternoon was just unbelievable. A day before I was still in Namibia, a few hours before I still sat on the bus and now I was standing in this cable car flashed by all the light, the sunset and the fantastic views all around me. I felt euphoric. And the evening was still not about to end.
When we arrived at the bottom, Jaques and Tomek just entered an Uber (~ Taxi) and told us to get in as they spotted us. We found out, that our hostel was just around the corner of their home, and they invited us for a glass of wine. Jaques owns a sweet house with a lovely veranda and a pool up front. We sat there and chatted for a long time. Instead of one glass of wine, we drank the whole bottle. Then a second one. And the bottle of gin. It was such a fun time; all three are great guys. Late in the evening Max and I set off to find our hostel — it was not too complicated, but we were quite drunk as well. After Max had a chat with a security guard on the way, we finally found the way back to our beds.
A bit hangover we exchanged our two-bed-room with a dorm in the 91 Loop hostel the next morning. It was my home base in Cape Town from then on. It’s located right in the city center, the staff is helpful, they have cool events from time to time and reasonable fares. A good place to stay. After dropping our luggage, we strolled through the town and visited the Waterfront. It’s an area with lots of restaurants, bars, and shops right at the waterfront (you guessed it). They also have a food market with lots of delicious looking cuisines of which we tried some. Afterwards, we headed back to the place of Jaques and Tomek. They had invited us to relax at their pool, and we had a great time again. In the afternoon friends of the two guys and an AirBnB guest joined in and we went to a gay-burger-restaurant. The community in Cape Town seems to be quite vibrant with a whole district known for hosting lots of gay people. At least I can tell you that they serve good food and that I have the feeling that the city is generally open minded.
Time for some history. I joined a free (= pay what you want) walking tour that gave me an insight into the history and politics of Cape Town and whole South Africa. Of course, Apartheid was a big topic where the white leadership enforced segregation between the white and the discriminated black population. Even though the political system finally changed with the first black president Nelson Mandela in 1994, the effects are still visible. In the modern and wealthy center of Cape Town, for example, you mainly see white people. Get to the poor outskirts, and you will hardly spot any. They are actually quite dangerous for white guys like me — but we will get to that in the next blog post. On the other hand, I got told by two white South Africans that nowadays, in the struggle for equal opportunities, white South Africans have to face disadvantages they do not see in line with the move for equal rights. My opinion on this is that finding the right balance is hard and that the inequality is still way too big to complain about this.
At home, I ride my bike a lot. While traveling, I haven’t had the chance so far, so I decided to do a bike tour. Over the course of the last months, a plan emerged to cycle the 800 to 900 km from Cape Town to Port Elizabeth along the Garden Route. I got the initial idea for the route from a guy traveling in Malawi who organizes bike tours all over the world. In Namibia, I then met a guy from the Netherlands who was also about to do exactly this trip. Funnily enough, when we met, I managed to sell him a COBI. I had one leftover I didn’t want to carry around, and he was pretty interested in the smart biking system I build with my colleagues. Unfortunately, by now I got a message from him that he got mugged. A group of teenagers threatened him with a knife to get his bicycle. He, fortunately, got away. However, he had to leave half of his luggage and his phone behind. Let’s hope that I will have more luck. I’m now more than ever aware of the risk, but I still decided to carry on.
The biggest problem was to organize a bike. No one rents bicycles suited for such a long tour in Cape Town. At some point, I remembered that Andreas, the CEO of COBI, has a holiday apartment in South Africa. I just didn’t know where. I gave him a shout and got lucky. It was located in Cape Town, and he offered me to borrow his bike for the trip. So, I went there by bus to pick it up. Close to the apartment, there is an awesome white beach. Before leaving the hostel, I chatted with two girls during breakfast, and we met there at the beach and enjoyed the sun, the water and the time. Breakfast in hostels is, in general, an excellent time to meet new people. At least for me. Almost every morning I got to know more people. This is how it happened that this evening three or four groups of people approached me to party. I did the only reasonable thing and got them to join together into one big group and then we all went to one place.
With knowing all the people, it was difficult for me to start my bike tour. All the time I was asked to do all kinds of cool activities. But since I was quite flexible when to start, I didn’t push too hard and enjoyed the time. For example, I went up Lions head for sunset and visited the Botanical Garden. The latter activity I did with two Swiss girls. I made a mistake telling them that I understand Swiss German. Was a tough day for me since I always had to listen very carefully to get what they are talking about ;-) And instead of visiting the Botanical Garden we did a longer hike around the garden in the end. By accident, we went out of the park and at some point, decided to just walk on since it was so beautiful and peaceful.
All in all, I fell in love with this city. It has a great mixture of nature, modern technology and architecture, open minded and exciting people and a colorful lifestyle. I could imagine living here for a while. The chances are high …