Africa 2017 Travel

Back to the Mother City

4 July 2018

At the end of 2011, I spent three magical months living in Cape Town. I lived with a wonderful host-family, worked at a human rights office (run by projects abroad) and spent many (MANY) hours just exploring the city, partying, surfing and just generally having the best time. As I sat on the airplane home, I cried. And I promised myself that I’d be back one day.

One day, has finally come (and by the time I am actually writing this, it’s actually gone again). We pack up our tents for the final time and start the drive to Cape Town. After a few hours, the iconic Table Mountain appears at the horizon. We inch closer, driving through landscapes reminiscent more of France than the rest of southern Africa, until all of a sudden we are in the city. The first thing I recognise is Strand Street, known for it’s many (touristy) bars and clubs. It doesn’t matter that this is what I recognise. I am back and for now that is enough.

We quickly settle into our final communal hotel and head out to explore the city and do some last-minute secret Santa shopping. Erik managed to buy his present in Swakupmond, but I still hadn’t found anything to give to my secret Santa person: Erik. So, we pop into some shops, find an awesome T-shirt (it has Find Muck written in such a way that your eyes register Mind Fuck) and keep on exploring Cape Town with Lucy, one of our Dragoman friends.

We make our way to the suburb of Bo-Kaap. The colourful houses wonderful and the myriad Instagrammers trying to find a house that fits their outfit mostly hilarious and only slightly annoying. I hadn’t been here before (I know, I know, I am awful!) and I am glad finally to be able to do it. Something I had done on my first full day in 2011, is head to the V&A Waterfront with my roommates. Now, I have the pleasure of taking Lucy and Erik there to marvel at the touristy port and amazing view of Table Mountain.

We do some more shopping (can’t let our amazing cook Kingston go without a present!) and make our way back to the hotel for some good old-fashioned girls-getting-ready-to-go-out-fun (Lucy, Maria and I that is, I just leave Erik at our room). That night, we celebrate pre-Christmas and Good-Bye-Dragoman trip by eating around the corner, giving each other presents (mine a perfectly found bit of stationary for doing what I love) and going out for a few drinks. By the end of it, we say our good-byes-just-in-case-we-miss-you-at-breakfast and the end of our trip has really begun.

But not yet! We still have some time in Cape Town. In the morning we say our good-byes to a few people again (some we won’t see anymore and fewer still we will be having Christmas-dinner with) and make our way to our next and final hotel. Once we arrive, I am in love. This is what I would want for a house one day. Inside and out, even though the decorated Christmas tree seems a tad ridiculous in 23° C weather. No time to linger though. We’ve got a mountain to climb!

Somehow, the taxi driver doesn’t know how to get us to the starting point of a very well-known route up Table Mountain. It’s the same route I did in 2011 and memories come flooding back in (to throw in that cliché, why not). I vividly remember how hard it was getting up and down the hill (because the cable cart was closed as we found out on the top). The girls I was with (shout-out to Emily and Lily!) were in much, MUCH, better shape than I was and really all I did was struggle and pant my way up, hoping I would make it, but not really believing I would. As a result, I barely took in my surroundings.

This time, it’s a bit easier. I ran a half-marathon not 2 months ago! And now I do get to take in my surroundings. It’s funny to notice that I remember more and more the higher up we go. As if my brain did log all the rocks and tiny rock flowers and views and sounds and smells, but buried them under self-pity. And so today I not only have the joy of climbing up Table Mountain way more easy than I had last time, but of retracing my own memories in the process.

We climb up up up. Sometimes quit steep, sometimes steeper and every once in a while really fucking steep. But ever on we press and all of a sudden, we’ve made it to the top. We walk across the table, enjoying the view. I ask Erik to take a picture of me in the same place that a picture was taken six years ago. It’s great to remember and it is great to now share a memory with Erik in the exact same spot.

That night, we have another Christmas dinner with a few of the leftover Dragomanners. Nothing fancy, just good fun. And after that, all we’ve got left, is two (and a bit) more days where it’s just us, exploring the city and ending our magical trip.

The first “free” day is actually Christmas day, but it doesn’t feel very Christmassy. Everything I associate with the season: cold, darkness, warm sweaters and jackets, the hustle of visiting each family when everyone else is there… Here we are, just the two of us, in bright hot summer weather, near the ocean with nothing to do but explore this wonderful city. Awful as it may sound, I kinda like this version!

So, we pick up our rental car (I do pity the people working on Christmas day) and make our way south down the peninsula. First stop: Simon’s Town, otherwise known as Bourlder’s beach, otherwise known as the penguin place.

Yes, there are penguins outside of Antarctica! Who knew! Well me, because I’ve been here before. But it’s still strange to see these birds on a sandy beach during summer just because the freezing cold Atlantic Ocean flows straight from the Antarctic to Cape Town (where it is joined by the warmer Indian Ocean). The place itself is a bit of a let-down – just a board walk past a few beaches where you can look at the penguins. But the penguins themselves are hilarious. Hardly able to walk, they waddle to the ocean, appear to simply fall over, face first, into the water and suddenly swim like they were born to do. Some penguins are shedding their feathers, so they can’t swim. Their grumpy little faces tell us they don’t like this at all, but we enjoy seeing them in this funny way.

Next up: Cape Point. We figure there won’t be to many people there, seeing it’s Christmas and all, but we are gravely mistaken. We get into a little traffic-jam right before the gate and as we leave, it’s turned into a big jam! Glad we got here early!

We drive through the park, take a wrong exit (the only exit off the main road that is) and finally get to the start of the end of the earth. We walk around the peninsula and make our way up. Again, I can’t help but remember last time I was here. I didn’t even really know where I was going, I just tagged along with some friends.

But now I know what I am in for. I know we are looking at the place where the two oceans meet and to go to what is known is the most south-western point of South Africa: Cape of Good Hope. I remember the climb up, that was harder back than it is now, I suddenly remember the little restaurant as we are sitting, eating our ice-cream and enjoy looking at brave little birds.

I also remember the way down to the point with the sign that everyone (EVERYONE) who comes here takes a picture of. I just didn’t remember in time there was no way back up, and that we don’t have a drive with us this time. So we climb back up, take the car to the picture point, take a picture and flee the other tourists doing the exact same thing. Yep, sometimes we simply are those annoying tourists.

By now, Christmas day is nearly over and all that is left to do, is find a place to have our Christmas dinner. Most of the recommended places are either closed or booked. So we simply make our way to the V&A Waterfront again, hoping some restaurant will seat us. And we find one. We’re able to sit outside (getting more and more chilly as the hours pass us by) and have our Christmas dinner with a view of the harbour overlooked by Table Mountain and Lion’s head! I could do this every year, it’s so lovely.

Boxing day. And what do you do on boxing day? Usually, we have dinner with the family we haven’t seen on Christmas day. We lounge most of the day, prepare food that we’ll bring and make our way to another big dinner. Not this year. This year we head to the Atlantic Ocean at Camps Bay.

In the poshest area I know in Cape Town (Camps Bay) we walk past the villas onto a pearly white beach. The sky is so blue you can almost touch it and the sun is just beginning to show it’s heat. A lovely day for a little dip.

Except, I won’t go in for a dip, far too cold! Erik doesn’t quite believe me and goes to dip in his toes. I snap a picture of his face and body language as he comes out. The water feels like it’s freezing and is actually hurting his feet. I remember this all too well. The water comes straight from the Antarctic and hasn’t really had a chance to heat up yet. So we play around for a bit. Walk in and out of the ocean and laugh at our ridiculous faces. I even go so far as to film the end of the travel movie Erik is making, standing in the water and freezing my legs off!

After that, we make our way to Stellenbosch: the wine region north of Cape Town. We drive to [invullen]: the very first vineyard I visited six years ago. Really, this part of the trip is turning in to me dragging Erik along down memory-lane. I just hope he is enjoying the new views as much as I am enjoying the old views.

We taste some wine (Erik less than I as he’s driving), enjoy the rather French looking scenery, drive to another vineyard, look around and finally head back to our hotel and another great dinner with Table Mountain as our witness.

And then, the day has arrived. The final day. The day we have to fly back home. But also the day I get to have lunch with my host mum of six years ago!

We start the day at Muizenberg. Because we’ve already had to pack our bags, we’ve decided not to go surfing (unfortunately), but we do get to experience the somewhat warmer water of the Indian Ocean (the difference is more than the distance merits, but I guess that’s what happens when the water comes from a world away). And of course we visit the colourful huts lining the beach. It’s all bright green, red, yellow and blue and with the white sand it really is no wonder we see loads of people taking pictures.


Lovely as it is, it’s also a bit chilly due to the inland wind. Relatively speaking of course, back home I’d be glad to enjoy this weather in the summer! So, we decide to head back to the city and have a drink before my reunion.

And what a reunion it is. I am apprehensive about meeting Nawaal again, but there is no need. Just like the first time I met here, she embraces me in the ultimate motherly embrace. We laugh and we chat away and it’s like no time has passed at all!

But time does pass. And before too long, lunch is over and we have a plane to catch. We have to fly back. Our trip has ended.

I can’t believe it’s already been six months since we got back home. That half a year has passed since our amazing magical African trip. Looking back, it’s almost hard to believe we’ve seen and done all of this. And I can’t wait to do it all again someday!


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