Without a doubt the most memorable trip of my life to this date was a journey through Cape Town and it’s local surroundings. It wasn’t necessarily a sports trip, but a great one regardless. A 12 day excursion through this wonderful country will never be forgotten. If anyone ever asks me what to do or where they should go on their next trip, I’d send them our itinerary from that trip. Here it is in detail.

Day 1 –                London Layover

Days 2-5 –           V&A Waterfront, Cape town

Day 6 –                Stellenbosch Wine Country

Day 7-8 –             Inverdoorn Safari Reserve

Days 9-12 –         Camps Bay, Cape Town

The flight cost $1,100 flying out of DCA which I had to get another ticket to for $120. The Virgin Air flight skipped through Heathrow and then on to Cape Town. Since our red eye flight landed around 6AM in London, we had 12 hours to fill in town. We checked out Big Ben and of course grabbed a pint with some fish and chips. A perfect send off into a brand new continent.

condoA 12-hour flight is not easy on your body. Which is why one of the girls set up massages as soon as we checked into our 3 bedroom penthouse at HarbourEdge Apartments near the V&A Waterfront. Split six ways ended up being less than $75/night per person. I had never got a real massage before so this was quite the treat. A beautiful balcony view while we all relaxed and got our bodies in check.

Something else I had never done before was up next. Hiking. Table Mountain is an iconic mountain right along the coastline that sits at 3,500ft. It took us about two hours to climb to the top. There is a cable car that goes up and down but what’s the fun in that? Well, it was perfect for the way down. But not before chowing down at the top of the mountain with some ostrich stew and a local brew. A gorgeous view from the top overlooking all of Cape Town, the beaches and World Cup Stadium.table mountain view

Created for the 2010 World Cup, Cape Town Stadium is gorgeous and still gets used to this day by Ajax Cape Town, a local club. They hosted a home game on our second night in town. To get tickets we visited a local grocery (Pick n’ Pay) and paid $150 rand ($10 US) each. There were only around 10,000 attendees but it was great to see the stadium inside and out. The vuvuzela made its presence known immediately and boy are those things annoying. My favorite take away was when I quickly learned the hard way what a chip sandwich was. Fries = chips. So yes, I had ordered a hot dog bun with French fries sandwiched between.cape town stadium concessions

On our third day we explored the V&A waterfront. A beautiful area filled with shops, restaurants, tourist activities and yachts. I sign us up for a trip to Gansbaii for a shark diving exploration $2,300rand ($150 US). That was my one duty to fulfill for the group. My task is complete. As we are ready to leave a man approaches us asking if we’d like to sail for a while with an open bar. The group that was supposed to be on board cancelled last second. Which meant a discount for us. Or so he said. $10US for free booze while sailing the Atlantic. I don’t care if it was discounted or not.

The sea was angry that day my friends! Another first for me in sailing. The boat tips to a 50 degree angle and nobody seems phased by it. Guess I’m the chicken. I’m trying to swig wine as quickly as possible to alleviate my worries but it is difficult to swallow at such a sharp angle. Still worth the $10 adventure.

Our last planned excursion was to Robben Island. Home to the jail that held Nelson Mandela for 27 years. We nelson mandela cell robben islandtook a tour of the island and the jail. Even saw the cell in which he called home for such a long time. It was inspiring to hear his story. He later went on to become President and passed away just one week after our visit at the age of 95.

The second leg of the trip was off to the country side. Destinations: Stellenbosch and Inverdoorn Safari. Wine country is about an hour and a half drive from Cape Town. We rented a little B&B and reserved a private car hire for just $30/pp to escort us around all day. Our tour guide was fantastic. He told us all the fun facts about each of the six vineyards we visited. All of which were set amongst beautiful scenic trees and mountains. The first one we arrived at around 10:30AM and they were not quite ready for us. But we were ready to drink! I mean.. taste. Maybe we should have stuck to four vineyards. I think three of us were gone by dinner.

vineyard wine tasting in stellenboschA three hour drive past Stellenbosch is the Inverdoorn Game Reserve.  There we would go on a 1 night, 2 day safari. Hundreds of acres of land with free roaming animals everywhere. When we arrived we had a quick lunch before journeying in a jeep to find as many of the “Big 5” as we could. Almost instantly we spotted ostrich, kudu, giraffes, zebras and wildebeest. You could get extremely close to these animals while riding in the jeep and it’s perfect for picture taking. A little later on the excursion we would find the more elusive animals like cheetahs and lions. The not so elusive, but scarce, were the elephants.  To see the cheetah in action, they placed some meat on a string attached to a truck. Crank the truck up to 70MPH and the cheetah came after it. I’ve never seen an animal keeping pace with a truck that should have been on the highway. It was incredible.

baby rhinos in inverdoorn safariAround the cottages where we were hosted for the night was a ‘playpen’ of sorts for newborn rhinos. These rhinos were enormous and looked like they were 10 years old. The only sign of their actual age was how playful they were with each other. In an attempt to get a picture in front of the fence with them, my hat flew inside and it was their latest chew toy. RIP to my favorite snap back.

It’s been 7 days on this trip and I’ve already had many new experiences. But that would not be the end of it. After returning to Cape Town we rented a hotel on the other side of the beach at Camps Bay. This part of town is more luxurious and where the rich locals or celebs would go out. I was told Leonardo DiCaprio ate at Paranga on the strip so naturally we had to go there. Other notable stops included Le Roi, Caprice & The Bay Hotel Pool. The food was great everywhere we went. Ostrich stew is one of my favorite local dishes. The kudu was also on every menu.

Remember that shark diving exploration we booked? Time to go! Rise and shine at 5am for a van to come take us to Gansbaii. A little spot 2 hours northeast right near where the Atlantic and Indian Ocean meet. Great white sharks are known to be dense in population here and we were going to get in the water with them in a safe environment (as safe as a steel cage can be). A group of 30 or so got on board a 30′ fishing boat with a cage affixed to the side. The cage can fit 4-5 people. Of course I have to be the first one in. I jump in my wetsuit and throw some snorkeling gear on with my GoPro. The captain throws chum in the water and the sharks start to appear. He drags the chum right in front of the cage to lure them right in your eye line. Because they have terrible vision, the sharks bump into the cage. They can only sense the fish and not this giant metal bar. It makes things all the more exciting to see an 18 foot monster crash up against your small cage.  shark diving in gansbaii Nobody ever believes me when I say this but, it’s not scary in the least bit. I felt safe even if I shouldn’t have. Your adrenaline keeps pumping and it’s more exhilarating than fearful.

Sharks are also surface predators. Meaning they will swim from below and jump out of the surface to catch their pray. We found that out not only through the chum thrown out but a sandal afloat on the water lost by another tourist.

chef After a long day on the water it was now Thanksgiving Day back in the states. To celebrate we hired a local private chef to cook us some of our home favorites mixed in with the local cuisine. Our wonderful chef made us lemon prawns and pumpkin soup as an appetizer. For dinner turkey with garlic, carrots and potatoes. For dessert a chestnut bread with bacon stuffing.

Throughout the trip we enjoyed exploring town. We saw a few markets on the waterfront and inland.  Hout Bay market was among the groups favorite. As we concluded our trip we wanted to make the most of our last day for which we had no plans. A Dave Matthews Band concert was the following day but unfortunately we could not change our itinerary around without a hefty change fee. Looking back I have to say I regret not paying the fees. How many people can say they saw DMB play in his home country?

rugby 7's match in camps bayEither way we saw a party going on just across from the beach. It was a collegiate rugby 7’s match. We walked in and got a free tank top to sport the home club. Rugby is what I would call a more painful American football. I did not bother trying to find out the rules. The announcer at halftime was promoting a contest for chugging beer. Our friend Katie was picked to chug a beer among 5 brute rugby players. She lost in heroic fashion in front of the home crowd but was a great sport about it. The back drop of the ocean just beyond the playing field was quite a sight, but even more spectacular was Table Mountain just behind us.

Almost two weeks later I can’t have pictured a more perfect trip. The weather was wonderful in the shoulder season of November and we had the perfect itinerary to see as much of South Africa as we could. A big thanks to everyone on the trip who researched to find the great hangouts that I’ll never forget.

 

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