Monday, 23 May 2016

Diary entry #1 - Arriving in Cape Town

Arriving in Cape Town on Wednesday lunch time was surreal. After months of build up, weeks of counting down the days, and hours of planning, the time had come to set off on a year of travelling, and until that moment, when the plane’s wheels touched down on South African soil, it really had not sunk in that this was it. It had begun.

After a rather uneventful first night of sleeping, eating pizza, and then sleeping again thanks to a long 18 hour flight, Thursday was our first proper day and it’s safe to say, we were the most touristy tourists you could have ever seen. Hopping on a ‘Cape Town Red Bus’, we took some of the main sights of the city, visiting Table Mountain, Camps Bay and the V&A Waterfront, with the realisation that this place was absolutely nothing like we expected it to be.

Firstly, it’s absolutely huge, and not just a few main streets, the beach and Table Mountain like previous perceptions envisaged it to be. It’s also completely and utterly stunning, and with our hostel balcony looking out onto Table Mountain, the city’s views are something that just never get old, ever.

There is so much to do and so much to see, which makes the next 5 weeks here very exciting, even more so that we are able to take our time doing everything, whilst being able to experience the city as a local (although our accents may give the game away a tad, apparently my attempt at a South African accent is significantly below par).

One of the main places you hear about, aside from Table Mountain, is the V&A Waterfront, and this is where we spent our first Friday evening - alongside a gigantic platter of sushi. Whilst the South Africans we have met so far, have jokingly jibed us about the strength of the pound here, I mean, there really is no comeback because, the pound is so strong and this is fortunately allowing us to live the high life (for a while), and who are we to say no. It would almost be rude not too…

With wine around £1.50 a glass in most bars and restaurants, and bottles of wine around £5, our livers are already condemning this (fabulous) pricing however there is devastating news. So far, we have not been in any place that offer prosecco on the menu (!!), which we’re really struggling to come to terms with at the moment, but of course, we are on a dedicated hunt to track it down, which is obviously what every tourist, and backpacker, does in the Mother City.. Ahem.

Aside from tracking prosecco down, we’ve really hammered Cape Town’s Red Bus this week, with Saturday’s activities centred around their ‘blue tour’. The first stop was Kirstenbosch Botanical Gardens and oh boy, this place is really something. After hearing so much about it before arriving here, it was one of the main things I wanted to do and it’s a place that no photo or video can do justice. Every way you look, there is a breathtaking view for your eyes to feast on.

In contrast to this peaceful serenity, was our next stop, which was named ‘World of Birds’. Personally, I can take or leave birds, I mean, it’s not something I’ve particularly thought about before, but having spent time at this reserve, which has over 3000 types of the things, I can safely confirm that I can officially leave birds. In walk through enclosures, you follow the path through caged areas, with all types of birds flying about everywhere and I’m telling you, it wasn’t relaxing. With quotes caught on camera including ‘this is like being in a terrible bush trucker trial’ and ‘oh my god, those ones look like Satan’s pets’, it’s not a place we’ll probably be going back too… But if you’re a bird fan, go for it, you’ll be in your absolute element.

Also at this place, was a ‘Monkey Jungle’ and this is where I really thought about booking my ticket back to England. In an enclosure with marmoset monkeys free to roam, the staff member places a treat on either your head, shoulder or knees to attract the monkeys to you and man are they attracted. I think at one point, I had 3 sat on my head and 2 on my lap and whilst at first I wanted to leave the country, they soon (almost) began to be rather cute, and I mean, it’s another thing to tick off the list isn't it. Been pounced on by 5 monkeys at a time - tick. 

Sunday was the clearest, and warmest day of the week, and with this in mind, we decided it would be the day we hiked up Table Mountain. It’s safe to say, myself and exercise don't particularly go hand in hand, I mean I walk to the fridge or whatever, but actual exercise? Not so much. So, as you can imagine, this hike was… interesting. Apparently, we decided that pacing yourself was not necessary, bombing up the first part of the hike, which was supposed to talk around an hour, in the space of 30 minutes. This concluded in 1) almost vomitting 2) almost wanting to die and 3) almost quitting, particularly after an absolute joker of a local told us we had another hour and a half to go. He was a little fibber though, and with the encouragement of a few others, who said we were only 20-30 minutes from the top, we steadily made our way up. We actually did it! The last 10 minutes were practically sprinted, with champagne to toast a successful morning hike, the goal in sight… Well, that and this view…

Before arriving in Cape Town, I was told to be very careful, very wary and extremely cautious, and whilst you do need to be all of those things here, you do in any city across the world. For the most part, both myself and my friend have felt safe so far, and as long as you take the necessary precautions, including travelling around in taxis after dark, specifically using the Uber service, not walking alone at night and keeping all valuables securely in your closed bag, I don’t feel that it is something that should put people off coming here.

The first week in Cape Town has been one of the best weeks I could have wished for - here’s to the next one!

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