Carry on in Cape Town

Cape Town's Twelve Apostles
Although I had loved roughing it on the tour, words cannot describe how nice it was to reach civilisation. I wondered how long it would take before I took cleanliness and comfort for granted again. I was especially lucky - for some reason the hostel had temporarily changed their pricey penthouse room to a shared dormitory and I was allocated a bed in it. It was definitely the best hostel room I can ever hope to stay in. The plush bathroom and power shower were pure luxury; fluffy towels awaited on the comfy beds; and as I excitedly swung the skylight window open above my bed, I found myself gazing upwards at the towering and spectacularly close Table Mountain! Five star hotels couldn’t have asked for a better view.

View from half way up Table
The weather was beautiful and Table Mountain could wait no longer. I decided to give the cable car a miss in favour of climbing up the mountain, so myself plus Dan from Acacia and Renska from my dorm embarked on the ascent in the scorching afternoon sun. We hiked up Platteklip Gorge, the most popular trail, and after much puffing, sweating and cursing our recent lack of exercise, we reached the top in just under an hour and a half.

It was very hard work but we enjoyed a fabulous perspective of the mountain during the climb that we wouldn’t have got from the cable car. The world famous views from the top are not in the least exaggerated – stunning panoramas abound in every direction, with the city of Cape Town nestling between mountains, the Atlantic and Indian oceans.We took the cable car back down, and then jumped into a tourist bus back to our hostel. All went smoothly, although the following day I heard that

Lion's Head
tourists on one of the buses from Table Mountain had been held up at knife point. Such stories are rife, and we were warned not to walk into town in the evenings or on Sundays when there aren’t many people about. Personally I felt safe walking around the city centre on my own, especially with the heavy security presence and plethora of ‘armed response’ vehicles patrolling the streets.

Strangely, I have a particular penchant for City Sightseeing bus tours! (I went on the Windsor one twice when I lived there – you learn such a lot!!) The Cape Town route didn’t disappoint, giving a great impression of the lie of the land and key landmarks. We looped round the city’s bays, past swish residential areas, the shiny Victoria & Albert waterfront development and also saw the World Cup stadium under construction. Somebody asked me where the city reminded me of, but I couldn’t think of many coastal cities I’d been to before, let alone any with Cape Town’s unique features. Some of the properties and the sea views put me in mind of the Caribbean, but I had a feeling that the rest of my travels might provide better points of comparison, especially Australia (I imagined the housing to be similar to Cape Town, for some reason) and South America (perhaps Rio de Janeiro’s setting).

My initial excitement at having found a large Specsavers in the centre of Cape Town faded rapidly as they took an age to deliver my new glasses. However, I did a good job of finding some distractions in the meantime (doing my bit for Anglo-Afrikaans relations!) and took a trip up the coast to Hermanus for the annual ‘whale watching’ festival. I can’t say many whales made an appearance, but the local street festival was good fun. A group of us also went for a day trip to Stellenbosch, a pretty, upmarket university town. We had been advised not to catch local trains outside of rush hour, but ignored that advice for some reason, and although we had no problems we indeed found the trains out of Cape Town to be chaotic and intimidating by their emptiness.

Finally, on the joyous morning that my glasses turned up, I waved goodbye to Cape Town was ready for my first taste of proper independent travel.

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