South Africa – Climbing, Big 5, Paragliding, Drives, and Sandboarding

By Teresa,

Day 1

Table Mountain – India Venster

Table Mountain is a huge, level plateau that is approximately 2 miles long. To the east of the plateau is Devil’s Peak and to the west is Lion’s Head, and Signal Hill. Together these impressive cliffs form a spectacular backdrop to Cape Town. The peak of the hike is 3,501 feet above sea level.   The kids and I joined a group of faculty and students and climbed up to the top of Table Mountain. Initially, the hike was a bit of a slog. We climbed up a steep set of steps carved out of the natural rock on the mountain side. These steps soon gave way to a steeper more technical climb, which was both exhilarating and significantly less tiring than the stairs. The route we took was called India Venster, which is one of the most beautiful and exciting routes up the mountain. The children had a fantastic time and we all ranked this adventure as one of the best things we have done so far on our trip. From the top, we could see the sprawling city and townships of Cape Town, in addition to the vast landscape of rugged oceanside, cliffs, and mountains. Our ears popped several times on the very quick ride down the mountain in the rotating cable car.

Camps Bay

Camps Bay, a rather affluent suburb of Cape Town, boasts beautiful beaches and a wide variety of restaurants. We hopped into the back of a pickup truck “South Africa style,” for a wild and bumpy ride down the mountain. Once we were at the beach we found ourselves some pizza for lunch – yes, pizza once more.

Kirshenbosch Botanical Gardens

Our next stop was at Kirstenbosch National Botanical Garden. The gardens are acclaimed one of the great botanic gardens of the world. The view of the gardens against the backdrop of Table Mountain was a stunning site. We meandered around the gardens on windy paths and above the treetops on a bridge, admiring the view of the green side of Table Mountain now shrouded in a cloud-white cowl, all while listening to the music from the concert pouring through the gardens. Here we met some fellow SAS-ers and enjoyed a small picnic which included cheese and crackers and some wine tasting.

Day 2:

Long Street – R Caffe

Long Street is a major street located in the City Bowl section of Cape Town, South Africa. Long street is lined with bohemian shops, book stores, and various ethnic restaurants and bars. It was here that we went to rent a car for the rest of the week. We found a nice smoothie shop and ate the best burgers at the R Caffe.

Zeitz MOCAA Contemporary Art Museum

The museum collects, preserves, researches, and exhibits twenty-first century art from Africa and its Diaspora. The building itself was very interesting, as it is a converted grain silo and is located at the Cape Town V&A Waterfront. We spent about 2 hours looking at the exhibits and experiencing this museum. See Caitlyn’s post for more details on this site.

Bo-Kaap

We happened upon this unique old and fascinating residential area quite by chance. Situated on the slopes of Signal Hill above the city center, it is characterized by brightly colored homes and romantic cobble stoned streets that date back to the 18th century. We ended up here after picking up our rental car, while we were scoping out a Cape-Malay restaurant for dinner, that had been recommended to us. What the kids will tell you is how I struggled with the car on the hill and stalled out while trying to turn around before I was used to switching gears with my left-hand. (What mom won’t tell you, is that we stalled out three times on that hill, and once was in the middle on an intersection. -Cameron) I have to admit, I was a bit concerned that I might not get the hang of changing the gears and driving on the wrong side (that is to say, left side) of the road. However, by the next day, all was fine.

Day 3

Inverdoorn Game Reserve & Safari

This early morning start proved to be very difficult for the kids. We were told to plan for a 5/2-hour drive to Inverdoorn, however it took us closer to 3 hours. The drive started off just like any other drive but had some very notable portions to it. The first was a 3 km tunnel through a mountain. It really was an amazing stretch of road.   We were going 60 km/h so it took us about 3 minutes to drive. It really is quite an engineering feat  . Just as we thought we were getting close to the reserve, the road changed to a washboard dirt road. Our poor little car felt like it might fall apart as we bumped and bounced down the road for what seemed like an eternity. Forty-five minutes later we arrived at the reserve.

The game reserve boasts that it has the “Big Five”—and that it does. We saw them all – Cape buffalo, elephant, rhinoceros, leopard and lions  up-close and personal.  We also saw cheetahs, springbok, kudu and giraffes. I decided that there were two ways we could view our experience. One, with a little disappointment as while the animals were free roaming, it was certainly not their natural habitat, so in that sense it felt like a zoo. Two, you could look at it as an amazing zoo, where the animals roam free, and you get to come to within 10’ of these wild animals, which might never otherwise happen.

Bains Kloof Pass, R301 – From Ceres to Wellington

On the way home from the reserve, we stopped in the small town of Ceres, which is the agricultural hub of South Africa. Ceres supplies most of the agricultural produce to the Cape. It was here that we had our first glimpse of a township and the economic disparity that exists here between the different neighborhoods. It had been suggested to us that we drive around the top of the mountain one way, and through the mountain the other. As we had already been through the tunnel, Cameron insisted we take the pass on the way back. We stopped in Ceres to inquire and confirm directions to take us along our intended route. At the information center, the gall said, “if you are not afraid of heights, and are comfortable driving on a very narrow windy road, with no guardrails, the drive is beautiful and worth the effort.” I was not so sure, but thanks to Cameron’s insistence that the route would be way more exciting than the tunnel, we decided to go for it. Everything we were told was true. It turns out that Bains Kloof Pass was originally built for horse-drawn traffic and was later paved. This fact certainly explains how narrow this passage was. It was hardly enough for two cars to pass anywhere; there were no shoulders to help, but it did have a few large boulders along the road to help cars from swerving over the edge if they slipped.   This scenery through this mountain pass proved to be a highlight of our time in South Africa. We will likely all remember the drive as much, if not more than the safari drive. (What safari drive? What are you talking about? You guys went on a safari drive without me? – Cameron)

Diemersfontien Winery (Fairview Bakery, Winery and Dairy)

When we got into Wellington, we made a quick stop at Diemersfontien Winery. Unfortunately, we just missed the tasting time, so instead we went to the local grocery store and bought their wine there instead. I had already had the opportunity to taste the wine at our picnic and the botanical gardens and knew I really liked it. We also missed out on the Fairview Bakery, Winery, and Dairy. I mention it here so that if any of you make it to South Africa, you add it to your list of places to visit, as we heard spectacular things about the bread and cheese here.

Day 4

Two oceans, countless beaches, dramatic cliffs, windy roads, and the most magnificent views you can imagine, sums up our drive around the Cape peninsula. We got an early start and began our drive down the east side of the peninsula and made our way around the point and drove back up the west side. Our first stop was in Muizenberg where we learned about the shark spotters and how they work to keep the beach safe for swimmers and surfers. From there we went to Simonstown and Boulder’s beach to swim with the penguin colony and climb on the large boulders on the beach front. Moving on from there we decided to stop at the Cape Point Ostrich Farm and Restaurant, where we tried an Ostrich steak and were not disappointed. It was a true farm to table experience. (Actually, it was a false one. When asked, the restaurateurs said that they had no guarantee that the ostrich we were eating had come from their farm. They were just a hatchery. Now there’s irony, kids)

After lunch, we continued our drive and happened upon the very quaint town of Scarborough. We had no specific agenda, so I decided that it looked cute and turned down the road to have a look at the ocean. It was here that we discovered another highlight of our trip. A secluded, incredibly windy, and beautifully sanded  beach. Here the kids took off their shoes and ran around and did flips like crazy children that had been cooped up to long. We managed to get a video call in to their dad. It was too windy to hear him, but they enjoyed showing off to him over the video nonetheless.

From here, we drove north, up through the Misty Cliffs, and Chapman’s Peak on the western side of the peninsula. Chapman’s Peak Drive was quite remarkable. Imagine driving in the middle of a cliff with a roof built in, to prevent the rocks from crashing down around you. Straight down to the ocean on one side and straight up to the sky on the other. I would highly recommend this drive to everyone who visits Cape Town. This drive was another highlight of our trip, and words nor pictures could do it justice.

Day 5

Paragliding from Signal Hill to Camps Bay

Cape Town—and South Africa more generally—Is apparently the destination for thrill seekers. They have lots of EXTREME activities tailored to this pursuit: sky diving, safaris, shark cage diving, and more. The two activities that we decided to give a try were paragliding and sandboarding.

Initially, Morgan said she wanted to stay on the ship with a friend while we were paragliding. When one of the parents of the ship said that he had heard it was a lot like hot air ballooning, she quickly changed her mind; that was all she needed to hear. Having seen hot air balloons, every night, each summer glide over our lake, she has always wanted to give it a try. With that we booked our trip. The day got off to a rough start, as apparently it did not look like the winds were going to cooperate. Fortunately for us, we got a call about an hour later, telling us we should come on up to the hill. Caitlyn was off before I could finish the paperwork. Meanwhile the rest of us had to wait until the winds were just right. Caitlyn had apparently made it back to the top of Signal Hill, just as we were all taking off. Unfortunately, a forest fire started just as we were jumping, and as a result they closed the road. Had our guide not known the officers on duty at the road block, we would not have been allowed back up to rescue our car and Caitlyn. The flights themselves were very peaceful and the view was beautiful. Our only complaint was that the ride was too short.

After a very exciting and fun morning paragliding we finally headed to the V&A Waterfront. The waterfront is on the Atlantic side and is the heart of Cape Town. It is rich with landmarks, museums, shops and restaurants. Only a short walk from our port, it was the closest and easiest place to visit, and yet it took us until day 5 to get there. While there, we enjoyed watching traditional dance, eating gelato and pastries, shopping, and site seeing.

Day 6

Atlantis Sand Dunes – Sandboarding and Gymnastics

Can you imagine travelling the world and missing the ski season in the northwest? Listening to Matt’s stories of his recent ski and snowboarding trip was the inspiration for this adventure – sandboarding. The dunes are a short 30-minute drive northwest of Cape Town, and an important conservation area, protecting the Atlantis Aquifer which supplies water for the Atlantis area. We were fortunate enough to be the only ones on the tour, and so we not only had the dunes to ourselves, but also our guide. Besides riding our converted snowboards down the dunes, the girls did back flips and we all road our boards like toboggans down the dunes. It was another great adventure in South Africa.

[TM1]Try, something that combines these facts. Otherwise just pick one.

[TM2]

[TM3]

[TM4]Are you talking about the tunnel?

[TM5]yes

[TM6]Um…. are you for reel?

[TM7]Resolve disagreement with noun phrase:

“an engineering foot”

[TM8]Consider using factual language:

(dese’uns ain’t de big five, mommy)

[TM9]I was so proud the other day that at least I came from a lineage of mathematically, and logically minded people on my mom’s side. Where did that go?

[TM10]That’s cool

[TM11]Oh oh tell ‘er the joke!

[TM12]From “sandy” for pomp and posterity

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