Cape Town: Mountains, Beaches and Vineyards

Cape Town is one of the most amazing cities in the world.  It has all of the best to offer including craggy mountains overlooking a blue ocean, incredible wineries, delicious restaurants with fresh local foods, and outdoor activities galore.  It would be easy to confuse this place with a Western city on the coast of Europe or California if it weren’t for the pockets of staggering poverty and unemployment that are present around every corner.We spent the last two weeks in Cape Town following two safaris that led us from Kenya to South Africa.  This is the final stop of our Africa portion, and the end of the second continent we will visit on our round the world trip.  Make sure you check out the first two posts on Africa, our East Africa Camping Safari and our South African Safari, which preceded Cape Town.  Our next stop is Nepal, where we will be doing several weeks of trekking through the Himalayan Mountains.  Following this country, we will be moving to India, Australia, Bali, Singapore and Malaysia along with most of South East Asia.  We are still traveling with our original packing list, with only minor changes from its original form.  We have been able to carry our backpacks on all flights so far, easing the burden of air travel.img_5145-2From our first stop in Iceland, we have traveled 7,125 miles / 11,467 kilometers as the crow flies to get to this point, visiting 14 countries on two continents on the way.  The trip to date in our mid-comfort travel style has cost $24,686.34, or $251.17 a day per couple.  We fully expect that the costs in Nepal, India and Southeast Asia will significantly reduce the daily average as we move forward.  The USD is currently strong against the South African Rand, making travel in the country relatively cheap.  During our visit, the USD was trading around $1:13 Rand.  Our nice private two story loft in downtown cost us around $40 per day.  A meal at a high end restaurant including appetizers, wine and dessert averages around $20 per person.  You can get easily around the city by Uber for $1.50 to $4.00 per trip.img_4861Cape Town has been a much needed break in our trip, marking the first lengthy stay in one location since we started traveling over 100 days ago.  We had been looking forward to this portion of our trip which allowed us the luxury to live in one area for a period of time.  We have caught up on all of the important next steps like visa applications, flight and accommodation bookings for Nepal, India and Australia.  A nice perk was our ability to refill the malaria meds needed for upcoming countries.  Doxycycline was available without a prescription from the pharmacist for a fraction of what we paid in the US (~$10/150 Rand for 180 tablets).img_4906

Areas to visit

While in Cape, we hit all kinds of amazing highlights from coast to mountains, gardens, wineries and wildlife.  It was easy to spend two weeks here without getting bored.  Most drivers and tour guides offer a typical route around town which gets to most or all of the following areas.  Our trip started by driving past Hout Bay where the fur seals are found, and then driving around the cliffs by Chapman’s Peak.img_4898img_4885
We stopped by Boulders Penguin Colony to see the endangered African penguins.  The birds awkwardly squabble with each other around the wooden walkways by the shore.img_5013img_5002We then visited the Cape of Good Hope and Cape Point, which represent the most Southwestern part of the African continent.  On the drive in you can see violent waves crashing and wild ostriches roaming along the beach.  There is a nice hike along the rocky cliffs between the two Capes which provides some incredible views.img_4929img_4953img_4921img_4945We also visited Kirstenbosch National Botanical Gardens, which is said to be the most beautiful in Africa and one of the greatest gardens in the world.  It is set at the foot of Table Mountain National Park creating an impressive backdrop.  The area is filled with indigenous plants and trees, including many remarkable varieties of protea. img_5028img_5052img_5029The most famous site in Cape Town is certainly Table Mountain.  The cliffs jut from the earth in the center of town, and are surrounded by ocean in three directions.  The table can be reached by cable car or on foot via a number of steep hiking routes (discussed below under Hiking).  We visited the top on three occasions and never got tired of the views.  The line for the car can get pretty lengthy at times, especially in high summer season or following a period of poor weather.  It tends to get shut down fairly often when winds are strong.  img_5253img_5306img_5321

Hiking

We spent one morning hiking around Jonkershoek Nature Reserve which is located near the Stellenbosch wine region.  There are a number trails of various length in the mountains, but all with nice inclines and views.  This was a great way to start our day on the way to the wineries around that area.img_5078img_5093
The first hike we tackled in Cape Town was Lion’s Head, which is a rocky bald peak next to Table Mountain and part of the National Park area.  There are astounding 360 degree views of Table Mountain, the city and the ocean as you climb the trail which wraps the mountain.  The trail becomes quite a rock scramble towards the top, with some ladders and chains to assist in the climb.  This is not a trail for the faint of height.img_5155img_5154-1img_5163
We also took on a Table Mountain ascent twice.  Our first summit was via the Contour Path, which starts behind the cable car, and then up Platteklip Gorge.  This is the most direct and popular route, which includes a non-stop climb up a gorge to the top.  We picked a particularly windy day, which made the hike more difficult than it may otherwise be.  It got progressively colder and windier as we climbed, eventually putting us into a cloud which covered the top.  We did it as a round trip, which took less than 1:40 in each direction. img_5338img_5344img_5365img_5370
Our favorite hike to the top and of our trip was on the Pipe Track to Kasteelspoort.  This route starts at the intersection of Kloof Nek Road and Tafelberg Road.  The Pipe Track follows the base of the mountain by the ocean for an hour before it meets Kasteelspoort.  This trail climbs the mountain in intervals, allowing sweeping views in various directions as your climb.  It passes the Old Cableway and the Molteno Dam reservoir before summiting from the back side of Table Mountain.  We did this hike in around 4 hours, and took the cable car down from the top.img_5228img_5385img_5391img_5412

Wine

One of the best parts of Western Cape is the quality vineyards and wineries.  There are several wine regions close by, but we spent our time in Stellenbosch which is said to be one of the best.  Before our first visit, we made friends with the owners of a really nice wine shop in Cape Town, the Queen & Peasant, who gave us a list of some of their favorite spots.  Our first day tour in the area was part of our two week safari.  For our second visit, we befriended an Uber driver who agreed to drive us for the day at a set price of 1,200 Rand, or roughly $18 per person for our group of five.  Most of the dozens of wineries in this area are set below rugged mountains creating very picturesque atmospheres.img_5460It is standard for wine tasting to cost anywhere between 50 and 150 Rand depending on the wines chosen, but this cost is typically waived if you make a wine purchase.  The tastings generally include sizable pours, so sharing is possible (and probably a good idea if you intend to last the whole day).  While not always the case, we found that the wineries with the better views typically had less enjoyable and more expensive wines.  Of the nine total wineries which we visited, the following four really stood out.  There were a number of spots with incredible views, but their wine did not match the quality of those listed below, so they have not been mentioned.

  • Remhoogte – Small winery with a full range of top notch wine.  While the view is not as nice as some, the quality more than makes up the difference.
  • Asara – Larger winery with really good sparkling, whites and late harvest varietals.
  • Simonsig – Also a larger winery with many high quality wines at a very reasonable price.  We particularly enjoyed their range of Methode Cap Classique (MCC) champagne style brut and rosé.
  • J.C Le Roux – This is the largest producer of sparkling and MCC wine in the area.  We had a nice MCC flight with olive pairing and a complementary sparkling wine popsicle.

Accommodations

During our visit, we stayed at three different accommodations in the area.  Our first few days were at the beautiful Underberg Guesthouse, with porch views of the rocky slopes on Table Mountain.  This is an upscale B&B with beautiful decor and delicious breakfast.img_4865We spent one night at Spier Wine Estate after our first day of wine tasting.  This is a large winery which ships internationally, but has a really amazing guesthouse and top notch restaurant.  The grounds are impeccably decorated with art and sculptures, and bicycles are available for use on the property.  img_5116Our longest stay was in an Airbnb in the City Bowl, “Central Art Deco Building“.  We had a private loft style apartment for nine days, which was complete with a kitchen, laundry, gym, pool, great wifi and Netflix (yes!), where we had a chance to feel at home.  It was hosted by an amazing couple who went far out of their way to make us comfortable.  They had agreed to receive a package for us at their private residence, and then delivered it to us when it finally arrived.  They also let us stay very late on our day of check out so we were comfortable while waiting to catch a late flight to Nepal.

Food

Cape Town is home to a wonderful array of restaurant and a nice foodie culture.  We enjoyed almost everywhere we ate, but a handful really stood out.

Cape Town has undoubtedly been one of our favorite places to visit.  We could easily have stayed here for weeks without ever getting tired of the hiking, food and wine.  Although, it can get uncomfortable walking on the streets due to the constant hassle from people wanting money or items.  At times you can feel like an intruder in a country so divided with tensions following the not too distant laws of apartheid.  As with every country we visit, we consider ourselves representatives of our culture and country, and do our best to leave a positive impression.img_4918Make sure you stay tuned for our upcoming posts from the Nepali Himalayas!  We expect to have some unbelievable pictures following several weeks of backpacking one of the top trekking routes in the world, the Annapurna Circuit.  Also make sure you check out former posts from Europe including Hungary and Austria, along with our pre-trip planning timeline and comparison of the best travel insurances.img_4971

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