Our 2nd Week in South Africa – Adrenaline and Reality
Week in South Africa
Adrenaline and reality
Time in South Africa goes very fast. It is autumn here and it is already dark around 6 pm, partly because of that time flies by and there is so much to experience. We are still here for over a week, but more on that later. Now you can read here what we have been up to in South Africa this week and that has everything to do with adrenaline kicks, nature and also the harsh reality.
Discover wine region
South Africa is known worldwide for its excellent wine. And that’s not surprising. They have even created their own grape here, the Pinotage, by combining the best of both worlds, namely Pinot Noir and Hermitage. Only here can you find vineyards of this grape, and therefore the wine produced from it. South Africans are quite proud of that and rightly so. The wine is delicious.
We went on a private tour of several vineyards in the region around Stellenbosch, Franschhoek and Paarl. Here you will see endless vast vineyards and wine tastings. Wine is one of the most important export products and that is why you see countless vineyards here. The Pinotage wine can only be tasted and bought here, this wine is not exported abroad. Definitely a good reason for wine lovers to go to South Africa!
A little too much wine
Although the tour was fun and interesting, we felt that there were a little too many tastings. We are lovers of wine, but by no means connoisseurs or experts. One or two tastings is therefore sufficient for us. We have visited no fewer than four where we could taste three to five glasses of wine each time. So a bit too much for us. Our favorite wine tasting was at Marianne Wine Estate. This is a smaller vineyard set up by a woman, which is not common here, and is a pleasant place to walk around. You can also stay here. If you like to do a tour of a number of vineyards and tastings, you can also do it yourself by car. But then of course you can’t drink that much.
A piece of history
During our tour of the vineyards in Franschhoek, we also drove on the road where Nelson Mandela walked when he returned from captivity. A statue was also placed on this road to commemorate this Long Walk to Freedom . A fascinating place to stop during our tour. We also visited the prison where Nelson Mandela was locked up for years. You will read about this experience later in this post.
Cape Town's most colorful place
From the vineyards back to Cape Town . Bo-Kaap is a region in Cape Town and National Heritage. We can certainly understand why. In Bo-Kaap you imagine yourself exactly in Cuba . Here you see brightly colored houses in the same style and architecture everywhere. Admittedly, it is not big and you can certainly get around here in an hour. But it’s worth seeing and taking some nice pictures. You can also have a very tasty and healthy lunch at Harvest Café . Recommended!
Ready for action
After chatting around the city and doing some sightseeing, it was time for us to act. And we were looking for that action and adrenaline rush by booking a sailing trip. Sailing a quiet boat? Think again ! The wild waves and the strong wind at sea made it an adventurous boat trip. It has been a long time since we laughed so hard and also had a bit of nerves every time the boat was completely tilted by the fierce wind. But we survived and it was quite an experience. We even saw seals swimming! A must in Cape Town if you like action and adventure.
From one adrenaline rush to another. A visit to Cape Town is of course not complete without having stood at the top of Table Mountain. You can do this very tough hike up on foot or with a cable lift that takes you more than 1000 meters high. We chose the latter as we are not experienced hikers and climbers. Because you should also be able to do the latter to get to Table Mountain if you go on foot. In retrospect, taking the cable car was just as exciting as going on foot. Not only does this lift go up quickly and steeply, the platform inside also rotates, giving you the real feeling that you have no grip on the ground. Not a very nice experience for someone with a fear of heights like Sigrid.
Fortunately, the view of Table Mountain was more than worth all the effort and stress from before. You have a spectacular view of the city with the sea on one side of the mountain and on the other side you look out on even more mountains and the sea. Both panoramas are stunningly beautiful. A view you will never forget. Undoubtedly the best trip this week in South Africa.
Furthermore, this week we tried real African dishes for the first time. Cape Town has so many great restaurants and tasty dishes from all over the world. It was hard to resist all the restaurants that appealed to us, but now we wanted real African food. In a Food Market there was a stall called ‘Africa Bites’ and here they sold various typical African dishes. We tried the lentil curry dish with rice and bobotie balls. The lentil curry was delicious, just maybe a bit bland. Herbs are of course an expensive product and are therefore less often found in dishes, which means that they can sometimes be less tasty. The bobotie balls tasted a bit like meatballs but with a strange aftertaste. This was less our thing. African food is relatively healthy and delicious but sometimes tastes a bit tasteless in our opinion. You can also have excellent vegetarian food here.
Afterwards we had an African evening in the beautiful Gold Restaurant . Here they organize djembe sessions and afterwards you can enjoy a typical African dinner with about 15 different dishes, all served in small portions. During dinner there are dancers and singers who provide entertainment. A true immersion in African culture. One of our favorite nights so far!
After seeing the splendor of Cape Town, we thought we should see the other side of Cape Town. Because you can’t ignore it: the majority of the population here lives in slums outside the city, also called townships. It is mainly the white population who live like a king in the city in the most beautiful houses and apartments. The black population was brutally exiled to the townships outside the city between the 1950s and 1990s during Apartheid. And unfortunately the majority of the black population still lives there.
Week in South Africa – Visit Langa
To better understand this history, this week in South Africa we went with a local guide to a township called Langa. This is one of the smallest and safest townships in Cape Town. In many townships there is crime and it is therefore unsafe to walk around as a tourist without a guide.
In Langa they are open to tourists because this can mean that change is on the way for the population. Tourists often come to bring donations and help to make Langa known, which makes the population hope that something will change about their situation soon. And we believe that this must happen urgently, because it is not human how they should (survive) live here.
The townships are even divided into classes. You have ordinary brick houses owned by the doctors and lawyers, you have the hostels where different people share a room in harsh conditions and you have metal barracks where the poorest people have to live. The classes are very clear and unfortunately most of them live in the metal barracks. There are hundreds of thousands, maybe millions. This neighborhood really makes you feel powerless. We were ashamed, but at the same time the people are so friendly and cheerful that you can only wish that a solution would come for them quickly. Unfortunately, this is only possible if investments are made in these kinds of neighbourhoods.
In Langa we also visited a school where the smallest children go to school, comparable to kindergarten in Belgium . The children sang songs to us that they had learned and then we were allowed to play together. It was striking how many children there were for only 1 teacher. Nevertheless, the children learn a lot, because some of them already knew a few words of English (which is not the mother tongue in the townships). The great thing is that this school was founded entirely through donations and gifts. If you would also like to contribute to this charity, you can always send us a message for the correct information. The children, parents and teachers will be very grateful to you. Something is really being realized here with the money you donate.
Prison on Robben Island
From one confrontation to another: Robben Island. Better known as the prison where Nelson Mandela spent much of his life. This tiny island in the Atlantic Ocean is about 20 minutes by boat from Cape Town. When you come here you immediately see that this is not an idyllic place, although the water of the sea turns a clear blue.
After a chaotically organized arrival by boat, we finally found the guide who would lead us through the prison. The man’s name meant ‘gift’ in Xhosa (the language spoken by the locals) and it fits him perfectly. Our guide is an ex-prisoner of Robben Island and was convicted at the age of 21 and imprisoned on Robben Island during Apartheid. He would be stuck there for 5 years. He was only allowed to see his family twice a year and write a letter twice a year. Although he thought that was the worst thing about the captivity, he himself thinks that those 5 years were not that long. He compares his situation with others who were sometimes there for 20 or 30 years or even received a life sentence. Yet our guide had a hard time at the time. His release and reunion with family came as a gift.
The guide showed us how the prisoners, including him, were in one cell with 40 people. In the early years of Robben Island they had to sleep on mats on the floor, around the 1970s that changed and they were given metal bunk beds. They had to work on Robben Island during the day and were constantly belittled and challenged. If you behaved well, you were given more privileges such as more frequent visits or more letters being admitted.
Some inmates were in isolation. These cells are about two by two meters ‘large’ and only have a mat and a bucket. Prisoners had to do their needs in this and they were allowed to wash it once a day. Besides these 10 minutes out of the cell to clean their bucket, they were in their cell day and night. Nelson Mandela also lived in such a cell. That seems so inhumane and terrible to us, especially when you consider that the last political prisoners were only released in 1991 and the prison on Robben Island was only closed in 1996.
Although this visit, and especially the guided tour, certainly touched us, this was not a highlight for us. The history of Robben Island is very fascinating and you can’t ignore it, but you can actually see it very clearly in Cape Town itself. Sometimes it felt like we were on a school trip. A not so well organized school trip after all. This was once again a “real tourist trip”. The least fun trip of this week in South Africa for us.
Another week in South Africa
This was our second week in South Africa. What do you think is the best thing we’ve done? Let us know in the comments or on Facebook!
Next week we will be in South Africa for another week and there are still very nice and adventurous trips planned, including a long-awaited safari where we look for the big five! Are you also curious how that will go? You will read it here next week. See you then! In the meantime, you can read our first week in South Africa again.