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Getting Out of Cape Town

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.

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Comments ( 29 )

  1. I So love South Africa and want to go back and explore some more. Glad you got a little get away. Hope you got out to the Cape of Good Hope, and maybe Table Mt while there.

  2. These pictures are so beautiful! I’ve heard mixed reviews about South Africa but you have me convinced!

    • Really? Because it is, hands down, my favorite country in the world. Everything possible you could want out of a travel destination–history, amazing food, authentic culture, wildlife, beaches, mountain, bush, the whole nine yards!

      • I agree! THE BEST. I studied abroad there (as Kristin may recall since I’ve written here before about my jealousy) and miss it with every inch of my being!

  3. I’ve always wanted to visit South Africa, but still haven’t had the chance. Good to know that renting a car is the way to go!

    • Now that you’re proficient in housesitting, you should make SA your next destination! It’s so cheap for Americans, too, in terms of food + going out + attractions.

  4. We love South Africa. We did not go near Yzerfontein, so I am curious to learn more about what you uncovered in that direction.

    Hope your getaway gave you all the peace and quiet you were seeking :)

    • Yes, more to come very soon! It’s an area I’d never heard of before and was very non-touristy, yet was some of the most beautiful South African scenery I’ve witnessed to date.

  5. Gorgeous. I have a friend who lived in Cape Town for a few years and he has ranted and raved about how gorgeous it is. Clearly, he was right.

    xox

  6. God, I miss South Africa SO much!!! I agree there is no contest with Cape Town’s beauty!

  7. Stunning! Keep the South Africa tidbits coming — I’m about 80% sure it is our next travel destination, and you may have very well just pushed that number closer to 90% with this post. :) I am loving following along on your adventure.

    • Yes, please do go there! I have a couple other posts in the pipeline–and of course can give you loads of tips from my three weeks there last year. It’s such a dreamy place!

  8. This is making me so exciiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiited for my upcoming trip! (Picture me singing that “excited” part, that’s why it’s all drawn out like that.) We’re renting a car for five days in Cape Town (driving to Hermanus and spending one night there too!), and renting another in Johannesburg to make the 5-hour drive to Kruger. So I’m glad to hear it’s easy, smooth driving!

    • It’s going to be a breeze for you (particularly with that whole British “we drive on the opposite side of the road just for fun” background). And Hermanus is one of the most beautiful parts of South Africa–you’ll absolutely love it!

  9. Wow, the photos take me immediately back to my so brief time in South Africa like a shot in the arm ! I just missed the return of the whales in the south, but what a botanical wonder there. The cities in the day could be a bit raucous (!), but it was so peaceful just miles away..Thanks for sharing.

    • We saw quite a few right whales–it was amazing! Last time I was there, it was March and April, so there were no whales. This time was a completely different situation.

  10. Looks so gorgeous! More importantly, it looks like a place that would be kind to budding world-travelers. You go so many places where I read about your adventures and am pretty sure that I’d get shot or loose all my money. But I read about South Africa and I’m like, “I could handle that.” Added to the travel list right…now.

    • The funny thing is that South Africa has a really bad rap as far as crime is concerned, and yet, I’ve felt perfectly safe traveling alone (or in a group of two or three) both times I’ve visited.

  11. So beautiful! We were “exploring” South Africa on Google the other day and noticed all the very, very long roads between expanses of nothing. Interesting to hear a car is the best way to get around!

  12. South Africa is on my list. I’ve wanted to visit since I discovered penguins lived there when one of my college roommates had a friend of hers, who was from South Africa, stay with us for a few weeks. The way he described it has had me dreaming of a visit for years.

  13. Sometimes I have to stop reading you in order to prevent myself from renting a paddle boat and trying to row my way across to your damn ship!! Anyway, I watched a BBC production of To the Ends of the Earth the other day that kind of reminded me of your blog. Apparently it’s based on a trilogy written by William Golding. Might be worth a watch when you guys get back home-it’s very much in the vein of the ship’s passage as a larger journey, which is what I get when I read your blogs. Great work as usual, Kristin.

  14. More fantastic pictures!

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  3. […] one of her very favorite places in the Western Cape—and Alison had definitely been right in recommending Langebaan—so we took her advice once […]

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