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Day Tripping Around Cape Town, South Africa

It had been over three weeks since I left my phone in the airport in Amman, Jordan. Fortunately, A good samaritan found it and turned it in, but we had gone through acrobatic bureaucratic maneuvers to get it back. We had arranged for DHL to pick it up and deliver it to us in Cape Town. Ol received a message from the Encounters Tour office that DHL had picked up the package and it was on its way. We got a tracking number and could follow the progress. The package was scheduled to arrive in seven days. It was on its way to Cape Town! Even though I was getting quite used to not having it, Ol was going crazy, because I was constantly borrowing his.

During the meantime, we had plenty of time to take short day day trips out of Cape Town to visit the many fun and interesting things located outside the city.

First on our agenda was to purchase a “Wild Card” membership. This is South Africa’s National Park membership card and it which allows card holders to visit all of South Africa’s National Parks and Reserves for one full year.

For us, the card would easily pay for itself after just a couple of park visits. So, with card in hand it was off to Table Mountain National Park. I felt as though I had won the lottery the first time we were driving along and came across our first wild game.

I screamed “Bontebok!” and scared Ol half to death. A bontebok is a large African deer like animal. Next, it was  “ostrich!”, “zebra!”, “baboon!”, “penguin!”, and the list went on and on. This was why we came to Africa! 

Over the next few weeks, we saw lots of wildlife and I never failed to shout, point, and scare Ol who was driving. 

On one of our day trips we drove to the Cape of Good Hope, the south western most point on the continent. We hiked up to the lighthouse atop a large mountain on the cape. At the top we could see land further south across False Bay. We learned that we still had to visit the southernmost point in Africa which was located across the bay. The southern most point was on our schedule in a few weeks on our Garden Route road trip.

We took one of the most stunning coastal scenic drives in the world back to Cape Town. Chapman’s Peak Scenic Highway is so beautiful that we had to continually stop along the way to take pictures. The views of the Atlantic Ocean, beaches and mountains were breathtaking. The road is a major feat of engineering as it wound its way up, over and along the edge of sheer cliffs. Beautiful bridges spanned sections that could not otherwise be traversed.

Another magical place that we were able to visit was Boulders Beach. This is a beach that is inhabited by African penguins who are the stars of the show. We waded in and sat on boulders next to the penguins. The little guys seemed content posing for pictures and sharing our company. It was a little too chilly for me to swim, but plenty of people were snorkeling and swimming with these adorable little creatures. 

One thing that every serious visitor to Cape Town must do is to visit Robben Island. This is the notorious island prison where Nelson Mandela and other political prisoners were held for many years and forced to perform heavy manual labor. 

We booked tickets online for a Sunday visit and took the ferry to Robben Island. We boarded the ferry in the early afternoon for the thirty minute boat ride to the island. A museum at the departure terminal provides educational information for visitors to prepare them for the visit.

Upon arriving on the island we walked along the path of the inmates who were imprisoned there. It is difficult to think of prisoners and those afflicted with leprosy arriving on the island and looking across the bay to Cape Town, not knowing their fates. Would they ever see their families again? Would they die on this island like so many before them?

It was a solemn, but an important tour. The island’s motto is: A symbol of triumph of the human spirit over adversity. 

The tour was very emotional as one of our guides was actually a political prisoner who had served time with Nelson Mandela on the island. We sat in the old bunk room where he was confined and he told us what daily life was like in the prison. He also discussed the torture he endured. When he shared his story I could hear his pain, but his story was also a testament to his personal strength. He was living the Museum’s motto.

He then led us to Nelson Mandela’s cell and told us the story of how the notes for Mandela’s book were smuggled out of the prison. He shared photos with us and told us stories about some of the lesser known political prisoners and the joy they all experienced when they were released. 

Though we were only on the island a few hours, we were exhausted both mentally and emotionally. I can’t imagine how prisoners and their families survived decades with such pain and isolation.

The next day, I was ecstatic to find that a hike that we were interested in had availability after someone had canceled. The Otter’s Trail is one of South Africa’s oldest and most exclusive hikes. It usually books up a year in advance, because only twelve hikers a day are allowed on the trail.  For weeks I had checked on availability, and it just so happened that two spots had opened up at the time we were planning on being in the area.

When I told Ol that I had booked the hike, I think he wanted to go back to Robben Island!

So we now needed to purchase some things in Cape Town for our upcoming road trip and our five day hike. We purchased a small insulated cooler, water purifying drops, a knife, a water filter, and maps for the countries that we are planning to visit on our road trip and our next adventure along South Africa’s Garden Route. 

Our next trip out of the city was to explore some of South Africa’s oldest and most distinguished vineyards.  We drove a few hours out of Cape Town to the town of Franschhoek .

The drive was a scenic one through mountains and valleys. The town was quaint and charming with lots of shops, galleries, and restaurants. I immediately regretted not packing an overnight bag to stay in one of the boutique guest houses. 

We decided to take the Franschhoek Wine Tram and give Ol a break from driving as we wanted to visit a few wineries. We had our choice of dozens of vineyards to visit and five different routes. It was difficult to decide on just one route!

It was a wonderful way to spend the day. All of the wineries were beautiful and the landscape was stunning. We drank great wine and made a few new friends. We ate incredible food prepared by world class chefs and left with enough wine to fill our trunk for our two month road trip!

After more than a week in Cape Town, Ol decided to check on the status of my phone. It was supposed to arrive in seven days. On the tenth day Ol decided to go back to the DHL office and see if he could find out the cause of the delay. The office tracked down our package and found that it was at customs in Cape Town.

They explained that in order to release the package from customs we would need the personal identification number of a South African resident. Ol explained that we were not South African residents and would never have a South African ID number. The customer service representative suggested that we ask someone that we knew in South Africa for their number. The problem was that we didn’t know anyone in South Africa!  The customs official simply said that if we could call back with a South African resident’s personal identification number we would have the package in a day or two. 

The only person that we knew was the homeless “parking attendant” that Ol paid each night to “watch” our car! We debated on asking him for his number. I decided to send a request to the owner of our apartment and I reached a management company. Another dead end. We decided to wait until morning and go back to the DHL office. If that failed, we would ask our homeless “parking attendant.” 

The next morning we drove to the DHL office. The DHL office woman remembered us and kindly offered to help after we explained our situation. She located someone willing to let us use their number and Ol “tipped” her handsomely.  She called customs and provided them with the needed information. 

The next day day, while we were visiting a museum, we got a call from the DHL driver who told us that he was delivering our package! The day before we were scheduled to leave Cape Town. We met the driver at the apartment and ran up to our apartment to charge the phone.  All was good! My phone was in perfect working order. 

We were now ready for the adventure portion of our journey. On our agenda is a two month road trip, visiting five different African countries. We will be traveling by car, small planes, and boats. We will be crossing deserts, savanna’s, and mountains. We will be immersed in new cultures and surrounded by wild animals. For us, this truly is the adventure of a lifetime.

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