The most beautiful place in the world?

After touching down in South Africa, and spending a night in Johannesburg, we caught the train towards Cape Town.  We had prepared for the 26 hour ride by stocking up with food and bottles of water.  The Kindle was fully loaded and our guidebooks were in the outside pockets of the packs.  This particular train was the most economical way to travel all the way across the country- just $42 for each of our 3rd class tickets.   3rd class meant that we would not have a bed to sleep on, just a seat that did not recline.  We are tough, this should be no problem, we thought.

You get what you pay for.

The 26 hour ride slowly evolved into a 33 hour stuffy, hot,and then icy cold and back to stuffy, hot epic journey across the desert and vineyards South Africa.   We left the train tired, dirty, and sooooo happy to be in Cape Town.

We were greeted in the station by Maarten- our amazing host that we met through Couch Surfing.  He took us to his charming house in Hout Bay, about 30 minutes South of the center of Cape Town.

Our first order of business in Cape Town was to spend a day doing nothing but planning.  On the long train ride, we had spent plenty of time reading through the guidebooks, but it was time to actually make decisions and come up with an itinerary for our stay in South Africa.  We spent the rainy day, sorting out the next 18 days or so, booking tours, hostels, and a rental car.  It felt so good to have a plan.

The next day we took the bus into the city to get acquainted with this gorgeous place.  The city center butts up against the icy waters of the Atlantic Ocean to the West, and the towering, 3000 foot tall Table Mountain to the East.  Table Mountain is a sheer, green, stunning mountain that makes for the most picturesque back drop.  The city is not short on beauty.

We wandered the city, first visiting the Castle of Good Hope (an old military fort) which is just across from the main bus station.  The tour guide did an incredible job showing us all around the fort- we wandered on the roof, in the dungeon, and in the torture chamber.  If you are ever in Cape Town, we’d highly recommend visiting this place.

The other notable place of the day was the Company’s Gardens.   This botanical garden type of place in the heart of the city is home to hundreds of different species of flowers, trees and birds.   It was once a plantation owned by the main Dutch trading company that once operated in Cape Town.

The next day we hiked up to the top of Table Mountain.  It was so nice to get out and hike again.   Really we hadn’t had the chance to get our heart rates up since Kilimanjaro (which was already 3 weeks ago!).  We had decent weather, which was nice, as it had been raining for the majority of our stay here.  The views from the top we fantastic!

After 3 nights at Maarten’s, we decided to move into the city to stay for a night on the (in)famous Long Street.  Cape Town has a rather active night life scene, and we needed to witness it first hand.   We came, we enjoyed, and Cape Town showed us a great time, and spit us out the next morning.

Early the next morning we were up for a tour out to Langa, one of the townships outside of Cape Town.  The excellent tour started at the District Six Museum.  It was fascinating, disturbing and shocking to learn more about the Apartheid.  Over 60,000 people were removed from their homes in Cape Town and told that they must move into townships 5-10 miles outside of the city.   These townships are places of atrocious poverty.

Visiting the township of Langa was an eye opening experience.  We met a few families and visited with them inside of their tiny apartments, which are in buildings called hostels- much different than the hostels we stay in.   In one room, a family of eight sleep.  The bathrooms and showers are shared amongst 4 apartments.  But the rent is low, and the tiny concrete rooms are better than the tin shacks seen elsewhere in the township.  The places are as dirty as you can imagine considering the number of residents.  Still though, their were smiles on faces.  Kids played outside.

We visited a local ‘pub’- nothing more than a shack where one woman makes some home brew beer.  We all crowded inside and gave it a try.  I think Ill stick with my Colorado microbrews.

Later in the day we took a ferry out to Robben Island, to visit the prison in which Nelson Mandela was housed during the Apartheid rule. While it was great to see this place, which has so much history and importance for country of South Africa, the tour was a little lackluster.

After our two tours, we ended up back out at Maarten’s house for another night.  He invited us to join him on a local 10k fun run called Chappies Challange.   We of course said yes- why not?


So bright eyed and bushy tailed we toed the line with about 700 other locals for a nice little run at 6 in the morning as the sun rose and woke up Hout Bay.  This place is magical.  Just magical.

After the run, showers and repacking our bags, Maarten took us around to see some of the locals-only haunts of Hout Bay.  He was a fantastic host, who really showed us what Couch Surfing should be about- just nice local people showing off what they like mosst about the cities they live in.

Next up: Penguins, Sharks, Ostriches.  In that order.   Check back soon!

Here’s the full gallery, click to enlarge the photos:

3 thoughts on “The most beautiful place in the world?

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