Africa, our second continent on our world trip and another new continent for me. Well, I have been diving up in Egypt a few times but this doesn’t count really. Leaving São Paulo we knew we would be in for something completely different for the next few months, and we were all very much looking forward to it!
The long flight was ok, we had a quick stop in Luanda and then arrived in Cape Town. By now the kids are so used to travelling that they didn’t need the travel pills anymore, and it was a bumpy ride for most of the time. I was lucky and had a window seat flying down the coast from Angola to Cape Town and I got a first impression of the vast spaces we will get to know.
First impressions count and in the case of Africa, and South Africa in particular – they were excellent! Friendly people with a smile on their faces greet you and once we picked up the car and drove to our AirBnB in Hout Bay, it is just a beautiful part of the world. Renting a car in South Africa is cheap which is a bonus, and we finally could speak to people in English again. Don’t know how many times in the coming week we automatically said “gracias” instead of thank you or ordered “agua sin gas” (natural water), I guess we got used to it in the previous three months.
Our accommodation was absolutely perfect, we had a nice view in walking distance to the beach, and even a small garden. So good, that we extended our stay to 10 days shortly after we arrived. 10 days in one place, that’s a first for our trip! But nice to unpack the bags and just have the odd lazy day. On the other hand, there is so much to see and do in Cape Town that we only had 1 or 2 of these lazy days.
First things first, there are no hummingbirds in Africa but they have something nearly as cool – sunbirds. They don’t zoom around like hummingbirds but are otherwise equally as amazing little nectar eaters. And we had them in our garden!
Hout Bay is just a great little village nestled in one of the bays of the Cape Peninsula on the way to the Cape of Good Hope. You have everything you need there really, good supermarkets, a beautiful white beach, a small harbour and on the weekend an excellent market. We also saw our first dolphins of our trip in the bay, surprising really that it took so long. And there are lots of seals, like in everywhere. One massive one was tame and a guy was feeding it constantly asking tourists if they want to pet it, for a few Rands of course.
That brings me to a few other key differences we noticed. I mentioned the supermarkets. It was so nice to get some of the familiar stuff again, Marmite, good ham and cheese, real bread, yoghurt… very nice. Another thing reminding us of home are the beautiful beaches. Only problem, like at home, the water is freezing. Shame really.
Next to the rental cars being really cheap, South Africa overall is quite affordable. The only difference is that every tourist attraction costs a lot of money. Entry for everything, and with 5 people that adds up quickly. And then there is one more thing, power cuts. As we learned after a day or two, Cape Town went into a different category during our stay – meaning that we now had 2 x 2.5h power cuts per day. This has quite an impact and demonstrated the reliance on a steady power supply. Next to all the normal inconveniences of no light, hot water etc. all shops were cash only or closed completely. And worst of all, our alarm system went off at 2am in the morning.
I talked about security in South America and that but a few exceptions we didn’t feel unsafe at all. Same in South Africa really, but this is coming from me sitting behind a 2.5m high wall with electric fences, and being in a house in a guarded complex. I guess as a tourist we don’t see the other side of Cape Town really, just read about another armed robbery in a public bus the other day. At night, our land lady advised us to first close all doors and windows (all good so far), then additionally lock the steel metal gates in front of the veranda doors, to then close the steel metal gate blocking downstairs area from upstairs in case of home invasion, to then lastly turn on the alarm monitoring outside and downstairs. Jeez… when then in the middle of the night the alarm goes off – I tell you, you are awake in an instance and your primal instincts kick in. Fortunately it was a false alarm due to the mentioned power cuts and we all slowly tried to get back to sleep. That was the last time we turned on the alarm as the power cuts continued.
Anyway, after all that let’s get on with our trip. Our first stop was an office complex close to downtown. We had to pick up the birth certificates for the kids which had been sent to a friend of a friend via express courier. We need them to get in Namibia as our next stop. Great that it all worked out, we are ready to go – only for Corona Virus to potentially put a stop to all that. More to that later.
After we picked up the certificates, we headed straight to the V&A Waterfront. What an amazing waterfront area with lots of restaurants, museums, and a fantastic view to Table Mountain. Table Mountain is just stunning, such a weird looking flat top mountain dominating the city landscape. A few cities back home could learn a thing or two from Cape Town on how to create a beautiful waterfront area (Yes Christchurch and Dunedin, I am thinking of you). The harbour is also full of seal doing all sorts of crazy stuff, some look they do yoga, some are frolicking around in sometimes quite large groups and others are just sunbathing. We could sit there for hours and just watch them and all the other spectacles, and we did.
We decided to have a beer in one of the many restaurants straight at the waterfront with perfect views to Table Mountain. If you are in Cape Town, don’t go any further – you want to order a local Devil’s Peak The Kinds Blockhouse IPA. If you really have to, try to find a Devil’s Peak Juicy Lucy, a fantastic NEIPA. We might have had one or two more of them during our stay… Anyway, we decided to head back the long way along the coast to Hout Bay, and that was a good decision. We experienced our first African sunset, and boy – they are spectacular!
The next day it was time to explore Cape Peninsula a bit further, first stop Kalk Bay. According to Tripadvisor one of the best stops on the Peninsula. It is a beautiful little fishing town, and you know we love a good fish market. The fish market was unfortunately not even close to being as spectacular as hoped for but instead we found a small ocean swimming pool. Man, the water is freezing indeed but we all (but Jennifer of course) managed to get in for a few seconds. Very cool place where Shags are swimming with you in the pool. Then it was time to head to the quite famous African Penguin colony in Simon’s Town.
Turned out that we went there three times in total, every time we drove the spectacular Chapmans Peak drive (and paid for it). What a magical place! The penguins might not be as beautiful as our yellow eyed ones back home but they are cute and very inquisitive. They literally share a beach with you, they are over at the far side and all of us find a spot on the other side. A lose barrier protects them from us humans a bit and gives them some privacy. Later in the day they come over to you though, swim around you, have a look at you and at one point exit the water again and make their way up the beach, into the car park, bushes, any garden in the area, you name it. The town is full of them, it is so cool to see. You seriously have to check under your car before you leave as one or two could have decided to camp under it for the night. As you can imagine, we took quite a few pictures here.
The next morning, after a nice breakfast in our garden watching the Sunbirds, we headed into a small but well maintained nature park with several bird hides. Next to a few mousebirds, spoonbills, terns and a few pelicans, we also saw the Pied Kingfisher for the first time. A rather large, black and white king fisher – very cool. Later in the day we headed to our Hout Bay market which is only on weekends. It is small but lots of things on offer in a nice setting. Unfortunately that particular Sunday the market was closed due to a rather famous bike race in Cape Town. If you are into biking, this is certainly a good one. You drive from central Cape Town down all the way to the Cape of Good Hope and back through Hout Bay into town. It was very windy that day but we watched a bit of the race. Not sure how many participate in the race but it must be thousands.
Another morning, another breakfast in our beautiful garden, and this time we had new visitors next to the usual Sunbirds – helmeted Guineafowls, a whole family of them. The plan for this day was to head to Kirstenbosch Garden and I can now say that this must be one of the nicest gardens I have ever seen. Very well maintained, lots of Fynbosch, Proteas and other local plants, and of course lots of interesting new birds. A new absolutely stunning Sunbird, waxbills and the Cape Sugarbird with a very long tail putting on a show for us.
Ticking off the highlights of Cape Town, after Kirstenbosch we headed to Bo-Kaap near the Waterfront. This part of town has lots of houses painted in bright colours, very beautiful and part of the checkered history around Apartheid in South Africa. Later on we headed back to the waterfront and finally got Jannik some new sandals but also explored the rest of the area.
What else to do but to head out to the Penguins again the next day, exploring the peninsula a bit more and wrapping up the day with a picnic dinner along Chapmans Peak Drive enjoying the sunset. What an evening, a whole chicken with bread from the supermarket (and even some Sushi) and a nice beer watching the sun go down in front of you – just beautiful!
To mix things up (and because it was very windy), we drove to a different part the next day. First Stellenbosch and later Franschoek, two beautiful towns in one of South Africa’s premier wine growing country. One wine estate is more beautiful than the next one, and there are a lot of estates to choose from. Without much preparation we followed our nose, explored both towns (liked Franschoek more) and even found the odd brewery in the end. The first estate we turned in was fantastic. Beautiful gardens to wander around, settled along a small creek. Here we saw the beautiful coloured little Malachite Kingfisher and also the African Hoopoe. All in all a great part of the region for sure.
And then it was time to head to the famous Cape of Good Hope. After paying a steep entry fee once again, we joined the long car line towards the Cape. But in the end it was well worth paying for as we had a great day. First we visited Cape Point with the light house, much of the area was still covered in fog at that time of the day but slowly but surely the sun burned all the fog away and we had a clear view towards the Cape of Good Hope. We did a few small walks in the area and of course took the obligatory picture in front of the Cape of Good Hope sign, and then explored the National Park a bit more. You can see quite a few exotic (well for us at least) animals here – Ostriches, Antelopes and Baboons for example. And we kind of ticked off one after the other. First a group of Baboons walked along the street and took over the car of some fellow tourists. Very calm and quite cute but I understand they can get quite nasty and aggressive as well in combination with food (according to signs at every parking spot in the area). Then we saw our first large antelopes, I think they were Rock Oryx but we need to get a book or something to better identify them. Then we spotted a few Ostriches in the distance and quickly drove there. They were not scared whatsoever but came closer and closer, to the point that we decided to head back into the car. And last but not least we spotted a few Zebras in the distance. Could that day get any better? Well first we saw a new and very colourful Sunbird on the way out of the park, and then of course we stopped at the Penguins on the way back to Hout Bay. And the little fellas put on a show for us on our last visit. Quite a few were darting around us in the water, other large groups were already up in the car park and waddling down the street and more and more penguins were joining the action. Add to that a beautiful sunset as the backdrop – lost for words here. We even made it in time back to Chapmans Peak Drive for some stunning last pictures of just another amazing sunset and arrived late, exhausted but very happy back home.
Time for a rest day after that experience to let things sink in. Didn’t do much at all but using our pool in the gated community and also spending some time on our balcony enjoying the views. Unfortunately this was also our last day in Hout Bay. After a quick change of cars (we got exactly the same model and colour from the next rental company!) at the airport, we headed to our stop for the final few days – Melkbosstrand a bit further up North along the coast from Cape Town. We liked Cape Town so much that we extended our stay by a few days in Hout Bay first and then added a few days again. Actually we wanted to do the Garden Route but what can I say, we didn’t get to it.
Melkbosstrand is also a nice little village straight on the beach and with beautiful vistas towards Table Mountain and Cape Town. You can walk along the beach for kilometres (which we did a few times) and just relax. That’s what we did these last few days. We went into town once more to visit another nature reserve and had a few kingfisher pretty much posing for pictures for us but otherwise stayed out here and caught up on the blog and planned our next step of the journey – Namibia.
So, coming back to Coronavirus as mentioned before. Let’s start with the positives – we haven’t got sick with Coronavirus as of yet, and we want to be the last ones to spread it any further – especially not around family and friends.
As you will be all aware, this is a daily changing picture with new developments and more restrictions. Up to this point we didn’t travel through any of the hotspots (and we wash our hands with soap a lot!) and were not affected by the various measures/restrictions to control it, but this might change very quickly. Here is where we are as of today. Tomorrow we head to the airport to fly to Windhoek. Namibia cancelled all flights to and from Germany earlier in the week, so for a start we are not sure if we are allowed in, travelling on our German Passports. Now that we have the birth certificates for the kids, it might be all for nothing really. South Africa completely shut down the borders and public life as of yesterday – so will we be allowed back in if Namibia says no? Who knows. We always thought that “worst case” we will stay for another month in South Africa and explore the rest of the country like Garden Router, Kruger National Park etc. – not a bad option really! Maybe we need to get into 2 weeks isolation arriving in Namibia? Other countries are shutting down their national parks (Gesa is still in Argentina and the situation is complicated to say the least), will they do the same here and/or in Namibia so we can’t do any safari? The situation is really not clear for anyone. So that’s the immediate impact, quite a bit of uncertainty heading to the airport tomorrow.
The longer term plan of spending April/May/June in Southern Europe is gone, that’s not going to happen. Visiting family back in Germany and spending the summer there – is that a good idea at the moment (Germany is pretty much in lock down now)? Going back to NZ through Asia from September onwards – maybe? So yes, great year to pick as a gap year! Only good thing is that we book things as they come, so we haven’t buried a lot of money in flights etc. as of yet – we are very flexible, but options to be flexible are running thin. Watch this space…