After a very rocky six days of sailing from Ghana, along the western coast of Africa and around the Cape of Good Hope, we arrived in Cape Town at the crack of dawn on a Friday morning. Of all the countries we’re calling on this Semester at Sea voyage, surprisingly the place I was most excited to visit was South Africa—surprisingly only because I spent nearly three weeks there just last year with my mom and there are many stops on our route where I’ve never been before.
Cape Town is one of the most beautiful cities in the world, there is no contest, and its splendor is further enhanced by a sunrise sea approach. Staff and students alike convened out on the deck at the chilly hour of 7am to watch as the captain did some fancy maneuvering to pull us into an airtight space and park at the V&A Waterfront.
This time, however, I didn’t stick around, but rather opted to get out of town as quickly as possible. I was working at the ship the last four days of our six days on land, so I wanted SVV, a South African first-timer, to get to see a little bit of the countryside before we were tethered to Cape Town. We roped in our pals Kristin and Brian, rented a car for just $40 a day and hit the open road.
Last year, my mom and I went eastward and drove the famed Garden Route, spending nights in Hermanus, Mossel Bay, Knysna and Plettenberg Bay. This time around, we drove in the complete opposite direction. Our very dear friends Alison and Scott, who now live in the Bay Area, are getting married in this area in the spring. We had planned to attend the wedding before we found out we’d be sailing around the world for four months, and if we couldn’t be there for the real deal, we at least wanted to check out the area that stole their hearts.
It took a little under two hours to reach our first pitstop: Yzerfontein. (I still haven’t the slightest clue how you pronounce that.) But it took far less time than that to figure out why Ali and Scott would want to get married here.
South Africa is ridiculously easy to get around by car. I chauffeured Mom and I about the country last year, but with SVV around this time, I had someone else to take over the driving. Good thing, too, as our rental car was a stick shift. I can’t drive a stick shift when it’s on the correct side of the car, let alone with my left hand, all the while driving on the “wrong side” of the road. Nevertheless, the highways are easy to navigate, the traffic isn’t bad, and the drivers are extremely polite—if someone wants to pass you, you move over into the shoulder to let them and they, in turn, flash their hazards as a “thank you.” South Africa is so massive and, thus, isn’t that well connected by public transit, so having a car is vital to exploring the country’s vastness. And after a few minutes easing into the feel of driving on the left hand side of the road, the whole ordeal is a piece of cake.
The four of us were unabashedly giddy for a quiet weekend at the coast, which I realize is the most ironic thing ever. We do “live” on an ocean after all, but do you know how absolutely taunting it is to be on the open sea every day and not be able to jump in? Painful, I tell you.
There’s so much to do and take in at any given time on the ship—not to mention, all of our roles within the community are quite demanding—so seeing wide expanses of nothing, with hardly any people in sight, having nothing we had to do and inhaling large gulps of salty air was exactly the way we wanted to spend our low-key weekend away.
For a similar coastal escape closer to home—if you reside in the US or Europe, that is—consider Northumberland cottages in the northernmost reaches of England.