Trip to South Africa - February 1999


Nikki with a view to Lion's
 Head (68kb)

 
At Robben Island. Cape Town
 can be seen in the background.
 (40kb)
 
At the waterfront area (63kb)
 
Gard with a view to Table 
Mountain (from the waterfront)
 (57kb)
 
Walking in the VOC gardens
(66kb)
 
Nikki on the way to the top on
Lion's Head (94kb)
   

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I landed in Johannesburg (also know as Jo’burg) on the 31st of January 1999. The first few days were a bit amputated due to the fact that KLM, together with the Norwegian airline company Braathens, managed to send my luggage to Aberdeen, in Scotland, instead of sending it to Johannesburg. It took them 4 days to locate it and deliver it to me.

I don’t think that Johannesburg has that much to offer to tourists.  The Kruger Park is not that far from the city and many use this city as a starting point for safaris. I have to admit that I didn’t go on a safari during my stay in South Africa. I only stayed in Joburg for two days before moving on to Cape Town. Cape Town is in my opinion a much nicer city compared to Jo’burg. There are many ways to get to Cape Town of course. You can drive but it is about 1400 km each way – so it’s quite a lengthy trip. There is a train service between the two cities but again the train takes about 24 hours so it also takes a long time. We chose to fly to Cape Town and that took us about two hours. There was a special deal at the time so we paid about 1000 Rands for two people (for a round-trip).

I think that Cape Town is a wonderful city. The city itself is located in front of the magnificent Table Mountain. There are also other ”mountains” in the “City Bowl” – the middle of the city: Lion’s head (about 670 meter) and Signal Hill (about 350 meter). I think that this scenery makes the city to the most stunning city that I have ever been to.

We decided to stay at Green Point. I found quite a lot of information about Cape Town accommodation by using the internet. We decided to stay at a place called Claridges hotel. The rate was about 230 Rand pr night. The location was great but I think that the hotel was old and not very well maintained. So after one night we moved out and into a guesthouse called Dale Court which is located just a few meters away. The rate here was 290 Rand for a big room and 245 Rand for a small room. We were very pleased with a big room here and the location is great. It was located on Main Road so it was easy to walk to the Waterfront (about 5-10 minutes) and there were Golden Arrow buses and minibuses going along this road so it was easy to get into the downtown area or to Sea Point.

So what is there to do in Cape Town?

Bus tour
I think the first thing you should do is to take a bus tour around the city. Buses leave from the train station (right outside the tourist information) and it cost about 35-40 Rand. The bus has a guide that will tell you about the city, the buildings that you pass, about the areas that the bus are in and so on. The bus tour takes you around in the downtown area, district six, Signal Hill, Camps Bay, Sea Point and then back into the downtown area.

Table mountain
If you have been on the bus tour then you will know where to go to take the cable way to the top of table mountain. The line to get into the cable car can be pretty long so you have to get there early. The cableway is often closed if it is too windy. The view from the top is spectacular and it is well worth the money. You can walk up there but I haven’t tried it. For the adventurous type, one can also go abseling along the mountain.

Lion’s head
Start your walk to the 669 meter high peak on the way up to Signal Hill. The trail takes you around Lion’s head so that you get a 360-degree view of the city and the surrounding area. It gets a bit steep towards the end but apart from that there is a nice trail. It took us about 1h 15 minutes to walk up to the top and we walked at comfortable pace.

Signal Hill
You can drive more or less all the way up to Signal Hill. The bus tour drops the passengers of here for a few minutes. The view towards Sea Point, Green Point and the downtown area is great. Capetonians sing endless praises of the spectacular night view from Signal Hill (and Table Mountain).

Robben Island
As you probably know this is where Nelson Mandela and other political prisoners were kept for such a long time. There are boattrips out to the island from the waterfront area. The fast boat takes you out to the island in 10-15 minutes and on the way out they show some information about Robben Island on the TVs on board. The trip to the island cost 100 Rand per person but it includes a walk around the prison with a guide and a bus tour around the island (with a guide). Our guide in the prison was a former political prisoner at Robben Island and that gave the guide another dimension. I think we went out there at noon and came back at 3 pm.

The Cape point
Take a drive to the Cape point. It is a great drive out there and when you get to the point you can take a ”trolly” up to the lighthouse. Even if this isn’t the most southern point of Africa you still get the feeling of being on the tip of Africa. Don’t forget to take a wind breaker or jersey with you – it can get pretty windy down there.

Stellenbosch
The Cape area is famous for the wine production. We took a trip to Stellenbosch and one of the wineries in this area. It is about 1-hour drive to Stellenbosh and many of the wineries have tours that you can join in on. And you can get to taste the wine and to buy win of course.

Ratanga Junction
Time to have some fun :-). This amusement park opened recently and it has a few good rides. There is a free bus out there from the train station (outside the tourist information). Check out their website at http://www.ratanga.co.za/

The Company Gardens
The remains of the historical buildings of the Dutch East India Company (VOC) are located in the middle of town. It is great to walk around in the park and relax. The South African museum is also located here. The museum has more information about the origin of people in Africa, about whales and about other animals. There is also a planetarium connected to the museum and I enjoy that show a lot.

Beaches
There are lots of nice beaches around in the Cape Town area. We took a minibus to Camps Bay one day. Camps Bay is located about 3 to4 km from Sea Point (moving away from the city). The beaches on this side of town have freezing water. I’m from Norway so I’m used to cold water but this water was absolutely freezing. If you move to the False Bay area the water is a bit warmer.

IMAX theater
There is an IMAX theater at the BMW pavilion near the waterfront. It has several shows during the day and during the evening and if you have to wait you can always take a look at the BMWs.

The waterfront area
The waterfront area is nice. It is a nice mixture between shopping malls, restaurants, bars and a working dock. This is where you will find Planet Hollywood, Hard Rock Cafe and the Two Ocean aquarium. The Cantina Tequila can prove to be quite a hot spot on Friday and Saturday evenings.

The Garden route
Parts of the road to Port Elisabeth are also known as the Garden Route. There are many nice small towns on the way here. Most of them have stunning beaches and great waves. Make stops at Wilderness, Knysna, Plettenberg Bay and Mossel Bay. Read more about this beautiful area at http://www.gardenroute.co.za/

If you want more info about South Africa and Cape Town you can buy the lonely planet guides that has been released. There is also a lot of information on the net and most hotels have lots of folders where you can read more about things to do in the city.