lessons in adventure, aimlessness and alchemy

Hints and Inspiration for Wandering in Cape Town

Cape Town

Cape Town has such a wide breadth of sights and activities that it is bound to please any kind of traveler. From diving with great whites to wine tasting to antiquing to picturesque hikes and penguin-clad beaches, the question quickly goes from “what is there to do?” to “what isn’t there to do?”

My trip was tempered with research (much of which you will be able to read about here soon) but I did find time to sneak in some exploration.

I must have scoured hundreds of blogs and guides trying to find verdant wandering grounds…. I got bits and pieces but nothing was wholly geared towards my eclectic brand of travel. So, in the interest of future wanderers, I have painstakingly re-traced my steps.

Definitely Do Table Mountain Trekking

It’s a beautiful hike (moderately difficult) and if stumbling up the steep incline doesn’t leave you breathless, the views certainly will. A definite tourist destination but most people take the cableway to the top, leaving the trails unpopulated–you’ll feel like you have discovered your own piece of wilderness, at least until you summit.

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The summit has a mediocre restaurant but it is a nice enough place to order a cold drink and take in the view. The adrenaline-hunter in me couldn’t resist the option to abseil down the face of the mountain which was definitely worth the money for the new range of views alone. Advanced reservations are recommended but not required and the company is called Abseil Africa.

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Rent A Car and Explore

Cape Town is HUGE and while there are plenty of 1/2 day and full-day tour options, stagnant itineraries were never my forte. I used Roundabout Cars and I cannot recommend their service and integrity highly enough. Don’t be a whiny foreigner about driving on the other side of the road, balls to the walls and do it. It was intimidating for a hot second but I eased into it pretty quickly. (By eased into it, I mean I put ‘Irreplacable’ on repeat so that I was consistently reminded which side of the road I was supposed to be on. Thank you Bey-Bey. ‘To the left, to the left,’ shall be stuck in my head for eternity.)

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Chapman’s Peak–Dizzying Drive

This ranks in my top 5 drives of all time, it is literally carved into the side of the coastal mountains and provides you with SPECTACULAR views. There are plenty of little inlets to stop at where you can park, take pictures and take advantage of public picnic tables. Pack a lunch, drive slow (you’ll want to anyway because you’ll be terrified) and get ready to be blown away. (For serious, it’s super windy.)

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Kalk Bay Fishing

(Fishing for treasure, that is.) This tiny fishing village has a laid back, ‘no worries’ vibe that tells you it is under-discovered by Cape Town’s booming tourist population. There are no hotels on this stretch of beach though the town is blessed with a handful of charming Bed and Breakfasts. The tiny, local bakery has the best almond croissants I have ever tasted and the beachside antique shop doubles as a yummy creperie in the back. There is an excellent bookstore with a stellar selection, several antique shops overflowing with inventory and a smattering of cute boutiques. My favorite store was the Kalk Bay Co-Op which assembled art, clothes, jewelry, stationary, and a range of other products all hand-made by local designers and artists.

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The Woodstock NeighborGood

Woodstock is a ‘regenerating’ community on the comeback from a less than stellar reputation–once known for gangs and violence, the work of several community members has transformed this area into a mecca of creativity and innovation. An old biscuit mill was turned into a Saturday market that gets populated weekly with foodies and art-fiends buying produce, shopping for unique and one-of-a-kind items and sampling the scrumptious ‘work’ of uber-creative chefs… If you’re not here on a Saturday, fear not–Woodstock has lots on offer 7-days a week. The Old Biscuit Mill also has retail spaces hosting a variety of interesting shops, cafes and galleries. Outside of The Old Biscuit Mill, you’ll only find more great stumbling ground: vintage shops, used record stores, warehouses wielding reclaimed wood and even MORE galleries are just a small sample of what is on offer.

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Write A Message in The Sand At The Cape of Good Hope. 

My Aunt was back in the states getting chemo while I was traipsing across the world so I wanted to send her a big bunch of love from abroad. I spotted the perfect opportunity after walking the long stairs down to the beach at The Cape of Good Hope. I grabbed a stick and starting digging letters into the sand. In order to make them viewable from above, I made them 8 feet tall and 4 feet wide. This could very easily be replicated to spell out whatever message you want. Check out the results:

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P.S. Getting to this beach requires carefully trekking down some not-so-sturdy steps. Watch where you’re going and consider opting out if you are not in moderate to excellent health.

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Find Your BPP (Best Penguino Pal) past Boulder’s Beach.

Ditch the dumb-dumbs watching penguins nest from the elevated, observation deck and wander further down the coast. You’ll see another penguin sign directing you to turn towards the beach, this beach is a reserve so you have to pay for entrance but it is SO FREAKING WORTH IT. There is a tiny stretch of sand for sun-bathing but the real action is on the rocks on either side of the sand. Lay down your towel next to some penguins as you soak in the sun and discuss your shared loathing for sharks. After the penguins get used to you (or maybe just because I told them I was a vegetarian), they might even come chill on your beach towel. They’re used to humans so they’re not aggressive but don’t pet them because it insults them and because they will bite you–those cute little beaks are not made of plush. I came here once on the way to Cape Point and had no choice but to return when a research site visit brought me within close proximity–I could hang with this pack of penguinos for weeks and be totally cool with it. I miss them so.

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These are a few of my favorite things. 

Julep Cocktail and Tapas Bar has a seriously secret speak-easy style without any of the too-cool-for-school arrogance of similar establishments. The clientele is diverse enough but feels mostly local and with no signage, it is easy to understand why. You’ll find it opposite of The Edge Glass Gallery which is down Vredenburg Lane off of the party-hard Long Street strip. The pitch-perfect tunes, unique cocktails and vintage decor should make this understated joint a MUST on any thirsty visitor’s list.

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Second Time Around Vintage has an excellently curated collection of apparel and accessories spanning decades and decades of fashion’s finest designs. The store is warmly decorated and the selection is fantastic but what makes this a stand-out is the girls working at the store’s almost encyclopedic knowledge of all things vintage. They got a sense of what I liked and then went to work searching the racks along side of me trying to find MY perfect pieces. It was like having a non-pushy personal shopper and it was a ton of fun. I left with two wonderful dresses and all sorts of warm and fuzzy feelings.

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