Trip Report: South Africa (Week 2)

Tasting wine at our neighbors' vineyard!

The end of Stellenbosch

Stellenbosch is basically the Boulder of Cape Town. There is great dining, good mountain biking, and many, many wineries.  Courtney and I enjoyed walking to different wine estates for tastings, which normally cost less than $2.50 for five wines.  We've also loved the dining here, with restaurants that would rival the best in Boulder, for half the cost. We rented some high-end mountain bikes and road some singletrack in a nature preserve behind our house.

Mountain Biking in Jonkershoek.

Simonstown and Cape Point

The South-West tip of Africa

Our friends in South Africa graciously lent us their parents beach home in Simonstown, just a 30 minute drive from the cape of good hope (the south-western most tip of Africa).  From our house, we can watch the waves crash on the beach and penguins waddle along the shore.  While traveling with friends has been amazing, it is nice for Courtney and I to have our own retreat for a few days, warming ourselves by the fire as we watch the sunset across the bay.

We could watch the penguins swim from our house!

Simonstown is home to South Africa's (small) Navy.  Our neighbor, a retired submariner, directed us to where we could climb aboard a decommissioned sub and get a tour by one of his crew-mates.  It's pretty interesting hearing South African's describe their roll in WWII, the Angolan Civil war, and shepherding shipping routes during the cold war.  One fascinating aspect of the navy is many ships were built or outfitted with technology developed in South Africa during economic sanctions from the rest of the world during apartheid.

Some hi-lights of our trip were cage diving with great white sharks and our drive down to Cape Point.  It truly is a spectacular place, and we saw zebras, ostriches, and baboons. More on that presently...

Getting around in South Africa

Driving in South Africa is like no place on earth.  Example:

We get out of our car at the Cape of Good Hope: the most south-west tip of Africa. Within 15 seconds of our exit, before I've had a chance to put on my coat or lock our car, a baboon runs up, opens the driver's side door, crawls in, and closes the door. I then watch in amazement as he opens the glove compartment and center council to find an apple I had packed as a snack. Courtney opened the passenger side door and the baboon crawled out and proceeded to eat the apple.

Yes, getting around in Cape-town has been quite the adventure.

Due to the lack of jobs in South Africa, some entrepreneurial men buy neon-green safety vests and become self appointed parking attendants. They range from minimally useful, keeping an eye on a parking-lot and (hopefully) deterring theft, to outright unuseful: guiding you to illegal spots, demanding ridiculous rates for what should be free parking, and "helping" guide you into a spot: in my case guiding our rental car right into a telephone pole in my blind-spot.

However all things considered cape town isn't a horrible town to drive in. The roads were well signed and driving on the left isn't too bad...  I hear JoBurg is a different story, so more on that later.

Weather in South Africa

Many locals we've talked to ask us "why did you come now?!"  You can look at the average weather and see that winters here are warm compared to Colorado, but 50 degrees here feels much colder than 50 degrees in Colorado due to the clouds, wind, and high humidity.  Also, June is the rainiest month in South Africa, which has made for some wet bike rides.  In retrospect I packed too many shorts and not enough base-layers.

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