When we eventually arrived at Cape Town we were absolutely shattered and in desperate need of a shower. Our body clocks were all over the place and we had no idea what time it was! We knew we'd be shattered so booked a double room in a nice hotel knowing we'd need a good nights sleep and it would be quieter than a hostel. A nice hotel room in South Africa was cheaper than 2 dorm beds in Japan anyway!!
After a long nights sleep we checked out and moved to a 'party' hostel down the road. I was immediately impressed with the quality of the hostel, it was massive with good facilities and its own bar. It was much funkier than anywhere we'd stayed in Asia. We checked in and went for a wander around Long Street, a popular street in Cape Town and just down the road from where we were. The first thing that struck me was there were bars on all of the shop windows and doors and in most of the shops you had to ring a buzzer to get in! I had heard South Africa wasn't a particularly safe place and I was expecting to need to be on my guard, but I wasn't expecting it to be so obviously guarded. There were even security officers standing about on most street corners (well more like local people with orange vests on with Security written on it that actual guards) and I wasn't sure if they made me feel more protected or less! I guess it was good if they were increasing public safety but most of them looked like they wouldn't be much help if there was an issue, and the fact they were needed at all made it feel more unsafe than anything else! It was a far cry from the safe haven of Japan!
Once we'd bought some bits that we needed and still pretty shattered from the flight, we walked back to the hostel just in time for the heavens to open and it start pissing it down. We took this as a sign that it was going to be a chilling out day and spent the rest of the day reading, writing blogs and sitting in the warm - sort of, it was winter in South Africa and Cape Town was coooold... made worse by the fact that apparently South Africans don't believe in, or maybe in some cases can't afford, heating!
We thought we should do something productive with our next day and as the weather was still pretty crap we booked to go on a wine tour, something lots of people had recommended doing while in SA. When we got picked up we were pleasantly surprised to find that most of the other people on the tour were also from our hostel and it was nice chatting to people and hearing their stories about what they had been doing / had planned.
The wine tour picked us up early and took us to Stellenbosch and to 5 different wine tastings. The first one was Fairview and we all got stuck in with 6 different wine's, realising that it was still being 9am at this point and it was set to be a good day! :-) With the wines you also got to try a selection of cheeses, all of which were delicious and better still actually affordable now we were in South Africa, I was pretty much in heaven!!
A couple of more wineries down and we were all pretty merry, all chatting and getting on really well. It was quite refreshing chatting to people where English was either their first language, or they were pretty much fluent, it made flowing conversation much easier and it was a real laugh, something I had missed when being in Asia.
At lunch time we were taken to a family owned winery on a farm and had a lovely lunch to soak up some of the wine before heading to another 2 wineries to complete the tour. The last winery was owned by some ex Springbok rugby player (no idea who he was) and although it was the most expensive, most of the girls on the tour bought bottles of wine as presents for family and got him to sign them (very clever, get us drunk then take us to the most expensive winery at the end where everyone thinks its a good idea to get more wine!) and afterwards we sat around for a while chatting and eating rabbit sausages that the Springbok guy was cooking on the fire. It was a lovely day and one we carried on when we got back to hostel by all going out for dinner together before admitting defeat after starting drinking at 9am and all passed out fairly early!
Being a party hostel, but also being a hostel that offered a lot of early morning tours, getting a decent nights sleep wasn't that easy, and managing to stay asleep until a decent time was even harder, so the next day we were up early to find the weather had cheered up and ee could go out for the day. The girls on the wine tour had told us about a food market on Hope Street so we ordered a cab and headed down there for breakfast. It wasn't exactly what we expected, and looked more like a cake sale in a church hall to start with but on further inspection the food was all pretty delicious and we struggled narrowing it down and not buying it all!! After a quick pit stop back at the hostel we got another cab (cape town has no public transport - That really surprised me!) to the V & A waterfront to wander around. The waterfront was completely different to the rest of Cape Town, it was obviously where the more affluent people hung out, as well as the majority of tourists. It felt completely safe and was a lot more relaxing to wander around. We walked round the shopping centre, found another bigger food market and managed to avoid buying more food (well mostly) and chilled out on the waterfront for a bit before grabbing another taxi back to our hostel to catch up with a girl from the wine tour and spent a nice evening in the kitchen (randomly) eating the cheese and wine that we'd collectively bought the day before and putting the world to rights.
The next day we moved hostel to one that was supposed to be quieter and in a slightly nicer part of town, hoping to get a good night's sleep! The hostel was lovely, it was more like a big guest house and was really cosy. The manager was a really nice guy and when we checked in told us we would have the dorm room to ourselves for the next couple of nights, happy days! It was a lovely clear day outside so we sorted out our stuff, got changed into our hiking gear and after picking up a few tips from the manager jumped in a taxi to Table Mountain ready to walk up it. I was totally up for walking up it, getting the cable car would have felt like cheating, but I don't think I was prepared for just how hard it would be! The path we had been recommended, which was the quickest, was actually rock steps up with the occasional path for 500 metres up to the top. I say rock steps what I actually mean is rocks of all different heights and sizes that you had to navigate your way over, something that I found particularly difficult only having little legs! It was fun, I actually really enjoyed it but it took a lot of effort and at one point I wasn't convinced I was going to make it! It was worth it tho, the cloud started coming in a bit when we were near the top and for a while we were actually walking in cloud! The view from the top was amazing, you could see the whole of Cape Town it was beautiful. We had picked the perfect day to do it, it was mostly sunny and lovely but the odd band of cloud kept coming over below making the view even more stunning. We sat on the rocks at the edge of the 'table' and ate a picnic lunch taking in the amazing view. Not wanting to be beat by the mountain we started our climb back down, again over the higgledy piggledy rocks. The walk down was in some ways harder than going up! It took a lot less energy and was less knackering, but was a lot harder on the legs and by the time we got to the bottom our legs were like jelly, literally shaking, and as we walked down the road to find a taxi we must have looked like a pair of spastics trying to put one foot in front of the other! It literally killed my legs for 3 days afterward and it was a struggle sitting down, and getting up again generally took more that 1 attempt, hilarious! Still it was a brilliant thing to do and great to feel like I'd actually done some exercise for once and not just sat around eating and drinking!!
That night we rewarded ourselves with a massive Mexican dinner from a restaurant around the corner :-) (OK so more eating and drinking!)
Realising that there was no public transport in Cape Town but wanting to see more than just our area, or spending a fortune on taxi's, the next day we rented car for a few days and drove round the Cape Peninsular (with our jelly legs we couldn't walk anywhere anyway!) to all the major sites. It was nice having a car for a few days and the freedom to do what we wanted. We went to Hout Bay to see seals in the port, Simon's Town to see a massive penguin colony, had lunch in a pub next to the sea in Kalk bay and drove to Cape Point national park and saw wild ostrich, baboons and steenbok. One thing that did strike me however was that you had to be careful with the security of your car, something I've never had to think about before! We were told to park with our glove box open and boot empty so people could see there was no point breaking in, and everywhere you parked local 'security' officers looked after your car (supposedly, I'm not convinced they did much) and you were supposed to tip them before you got back in the car. We got used to it, but the first few times of leaving the car I didn't want to be gone long.
We got back to the hostel just before dark and spent the evening chilling on a comfy sofa watching a DVD, I didn't realise how much I'd missed doing that! Sounds boring I know, I've done so many amazing things since I've been away but you can't beat a nice evening on the sofa with food, some wine and the telly!! :-)
The next day we were a bit stuck for ideas of what to do so decided to follow a popular tourist bus route which took us to Kirsteinboch Botanical gardens for a relaxing wander round, to Camps Bay for a lovely surf and turf lunch and then to Moulle point to watch the waves crash up against the sea wall. It was a pretty chilled day. We had a new guy English guy George in our dorm room so after a nice pizza dinner in Da Vinci's round the corner we all chilled in the front room watching another DVD :-)
In the morning it was time to drop the car off and to spend our last day in Cape Town walking round the town centre before heading to the waterfront to do a tour of Robben Island where Nelson Mandela was a political prisoner.
I found the tour really interesting, we were taken round the island in a bus and given the history of the prison and of the Apartheid time in general. It seems unbelievable that not that long ago so much blatant racism and colour separation was seen as justified! I'm sure it still happens in many places today, but to imprison people for trying to make a better life for themselves and for others seems criminal itself!
The best part of the tour I thought was when we were taken round the prison that Mandela was in by an ex prisoner of the island and he described his life while being locked up. It made it more real. It didn't sound like they were badly treated in the prison particularly, but he was there for no real justifiable reason and you could tell how sad he was about it. Although with all the unemployment in South Africa at least he has a guaranteed job now I guess!
For our last evening we wanted to see a bit of Cape Town at night. We had be cautious about going out too far at night as we had been warned it wasn't safe (mostly by people in England!) but after a week in SA we were getting used to how it was and had heard that Long Street at night was good to see. We got a few recommendations from the hostel manager and headed out for a few drinks. Long street is famous for its pubs and clubs, pretty much every shop has a pub above it, so we expected a lot of atmosphere. Overall tho we weren't that impressed. There were a lot of places to go, but if anything that just made it fairly empty everywhere! The last place we went tho was a recommendation from the hostel and did have a nice vibe so we chilled on a sofa and had some drinks for a few hours before grabbing a taxi home ready for our early start the next day and the bus to our next stop Hermanus.