Cape Crusaders

by Johnny

We’re in Africa! I can’t believe it. Truth be told, South Africa wasn’t on our original itinerary. It was definitely a place we always wanted to visit one day, but it was just so far away from anywhere else we were traveling to on this trip. I suppose it’s far away from anything else, period. I figured it would be a hectic, expensive detour to get down there and wrote it off for another time. But then once we started telling people about our trip a month or so before we took off, anyone who had been there said emphatically, “You HAVE to go to South Africa.” OK then. We did some more research (errr, re-watched Brad Womack’s second go-round on The Bachelor), found some surprisingly cheap flights in and out of the country and decided to take the plunge.

We flew from Istanbul to Cape Town (never thought I’d say that in my life) and made it to Poplar Tree Lodge in the suburb of Hout Bay, our base to explore Cape Town and the surrounding region for the next week. Apologies if it sounds like we keep plugging our accommodation, but we’ve been having great luck lately…especially with this one. The setting is stunning, the garden is beautiful and full of life, and the owners are super friendly. Vivienne made Anna a beaded necklace so that she would always remember her time in South Africa, and Marshall makes fun artwork out of driftwood and plastic bottle tops he finds on the beach. It definitely has a homey feel to it, and we love coming back here for some wine on the deck after a day out.

View from the deck at Poplar Tree Lodge
Mountains behind Poplar Tree Lodge Our Hout Bay digs
Marshall’s creations…The Herd Dusk on the deck

I most definitely needed some practice driving on the left side of the road, so rather than venturing into the traffic-filled city on our first day we set out to explore the Cape Peninsula. We headed towards the towns on False Bay on the eastern side of the peninsula, stopping first to see the colorful bathing house at the beach in St. James. According to our coffee barista, we were now crossing the “lentil curtain” that separates cosmopolitan, ritzy Cape Town from Bohemian, hippie Cape Town. Good to know. We wanted to stop in Kalk Bay to check out some of its boutique shops and galleries, but some road construction made this new-to-the-left-side driver panic and we drove right through. Oops. We continued on through the scenic Fish Hoek Bay and Simon’s Town until we reached Boulders Beach, famous for being home to a colony of 3,000 African penguins. Neither of us could say we’d seen a penguin in the wild before, so this was pretty cool. I dare you not to smile watching them walk around.

Colored bathing houses at St. James St. James
Presumably talking about fish and fantasy football
Boulders Beach…not just a clever name Standing guard

We continued south into the Cape of Good Hope Nature Reserve. Wow! I expected the Cape Peninsula to be beautiful, but not this beautiful. Wildflowers, deserted white sand beaches, windswept coastlines, red and green mountains sloping into a tropical sea…it’s incredible. We stopped at the Cape of Good Hope, the southwestern most point of all of Africa, and at Cape Point to see its famous lighthouse. As if we needed to be reminded we were in Africa, we saw some wild ostriches and baboons as we were leaving the park.  There must have been 20 baboons, including a handful of babies.  I wanted to get some better pictures, but one of the big ones stared directly into my eyes and my soul so I sped away. We made our way back to our apartment in Hout Bay slowly but surely along the Atlantic side of the peninsula. The last few kilometers of this drive are known as Chapman’s Peak Drive, and it makes driving along the coast in Big Sur seem like a walk in the park. We would stop every couple of minutes for some pictures and for me to change my pants.

Flora in the Cape of Good Hope Nature Reserve
2016 Olympic hopeful at Buffels Bay
Cape of Good Hope A little windy out on the Cape of Good Hope
Cape Point lighthouse View from Cape Point
Wild ostriches…are we in Jurassic Park? Baboon crossing
Chapman’s Peak Drive View towards Hout Bay from Chapman’s Peak

We’re pumped to finally have our own wheels, and for the next month we’ll be making our way from Cape Town in the west to Kruger National Park in the east, with pit stops along the Winelands, the Garden Route, the Wild Coast and the Drakensberg mountains. If the rest of our time in South Africa is anything like our first day, we’re in for an amazing month. However, we’re also in for a very eye-opening experience. South Africa has one of the largest gaps between rich and poor out of any country in the world, and it’s evident immediately. In our 30-minute drive to our apartment from the airport, we saw enormous mansions and wine estates but also several townships where the poverty stricken masses live in a sprawl of tin shacks. Anna and I read up on the history of South Africa and especially the apartheid era before coming, and it’s definitely heartbreaking. It should be an interesting month, that’s for sure.


4 Responses to “Cape Crusaders”

  1. I can’t tell you how much I am enjoying reading your blog! I love travel, photography, history and FOOD so it satisfies many of my desires! I was amazed at your Turkey posts – I’ve never been interested in visiting there, but now I really want to go. Cape Town looks like somewhere I would also enjoy-I never would have known much about it until seeing it through your eyes and words.
    Carry on!
    Auntie Critter


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