Time in South Africa is moving very fast. It is autumn here and it is already dark in the evening around 18 o’clock, partly because of this time flies by and there is so much to do. Nevertheless, 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!
Our second week in South Africa
Discovering wine region
South Africa is known worldwide for its excellent wine. And that’s not surprising. They even have their own grape here, the Pinotage,created by combining the best of both worlds, namely Pinot Noir and Hermitage. Only here you can find vineyards of this grape, and consequently the wine produced from it. South Africans are quite proud of that and that is quite right. The wine is delicious.
We went with a private tour of several vineyards in the region around Stellenbosch, Franschhoek and Paarl. Here you can see endless vast vineyards and wine tastings. Wine is one of the most important export products and that’s why you see countless vineyards here. The Pinotage wine can only be tasted and bought here, this wine is not exported abroad. For wine lovers so definitely a good reason to go to South Africa!
A little too much wine
Although the tour was hugely fun and interesting, we found that there was too many tastings stopped. We are lovers of wine, but absolutely no connoisseurs or experts. For us, one or two tastings is enough. We visited no less than four where we could taste three to five glasses of wine each time. A little too much of a good thing for us. Our favorite was wine tasting Marianne Wine Estate. This is a smaller vineyard set up by a woman,which is not common here, and was a cozy place to walk around. You can stay here, too. If you like to do a round along a number of vineyards and tastings, you can also do that 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 erected 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 imprisoned for years. You can read this experience later in this post.
Cape Town’s most colourful 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 feel like you are exactly in Cuba. Here you can see brightly colored houses everywhere in the same style and architecture. Granted, it’s not big there and you’re definitely 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. Highly recommended!
Ready for action
After wandering around the city and doing sightseeing, it was time for us to take action. And that action and adrenaline rush we were looking for by booking a sailing trip. Quiet boat ride? Think again! The fierce waves and the strong winds at sea made it an adventurous boat trip. It’s been a long time since we laughed so hard and still had a bit of nerves every time the boat went completely crooked from the ferocious wind. But we survived and it was quite an experience. We even saw seals swimming! Highly recommended 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 arduous trip up on foot or with a cable lift that will take you over 1000 meters high. We chose the latter as we are not experienced hikers and climbers. Because you also have to be able to get to Table Mountain if you go on foot. Taking the cable car was in hindsight however as exciting as going on foot. Not only does this lift go up quickly and in style, the platform inside also runs, making you feel like you don’t have a grip on the ground. For someone with a fear of heights like Sigrid, not such a very nice experience. But once on, there’s no turning back.
Fortunately, the view of Table Mountain was well worth the effort and stress of before. You have spectacular views of the city with the sea along one side of the mountain and on the other side you look out over even more mountains and the sea. Both panoramas are stunningly beautiful. A view to remember. Undoubtedly the most enjoyable trip this week in South Africa.
We also tried our first real African dishes this week. Cape Town has so many good 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 to eat real African food. In a Food Market there was a stall called ‘Africa Bites’ and here they sold several typical African dishes. We tried the lentil curry dish with rice and bobotie-balls. The lentil curry was delicious, just maybe a little blandly seasoned. Herbs are of course an expensive product and therefore less often found in dishes which sometimes make them taste bland. The bobotie balls tasted a bit like meatballs but with a strange aftertaste. This was less our thing. African food is relatively healthy and tasty but sometimes a bit bland in our opinion. You can also eat vegetarian here.
Afterwards we had another African evening at the beautiful Gold Restaurant. Here they organize djembé sessions and after that you can typically make African dining 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 pomp and circumstance of Cape Town we felt we had to see the other side of Cape Town as well. Because you can’t get around it: most of the population here lives in slums outside the city, also called townships. It is mainly the white population that lives like a king in the city in the most beautiful houses and apartments. Between the 1950s and 1990s, the black population was brutally exiled to the townships outside the city. And unfortunately, that’s where the majority of the black population still lives.
Week in South Africa – Visiting Langa
To better understand this history, we went to a township called Langathis week in South Africa with a local guide. 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 here 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 there to make donations and help langa make known, which the population hopes will change their situation soon. And we believe that this must be done urgently, because it is not human how they should (over)live here.
The townships are even divided into classes. You have ordinary brick houses owned by the doctors and lawyers here, 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 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 will come to them quickly. Unfortunately, this can only be done if there are investments in these kinds of neighbourhoods.
In Langa we also visited a school where the smallest children go to school, similar to the kindergarten in Belgium. The kids sang songs for us that they had learned and then we were allowed to play together. It was noticeable how many children there were for only one teacher. Nevertheless, the children learn a lot, because some of them could already learn some words of English (which in the townships is not the mother tongue). The great thing is that this school is fully founded through donations and donations. If you would also like to contribute to this charity, you can always send us a message for the right details. The children, parents and teachers will be immensely grateful to you. Something is really achieved 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 locked up. About a 20-minute boat ride from Cape Town, this tiny island is located in the Atlantic Ocean. When you get here you immediately see that this is not an idyllic place, although the water of the sea turns bright blue.
After a chaotically organised arrival by boat, we finally found the guide who would guide us through the prison. The man’s name meant‘gift’in Xhosa (language that the locals speak)and that is written on his body. Our guide is an ex-prisoner of Robben Island and was convicted and imprisoned on Robben Island at the age of 21 during Apartheid. He’d be stuck there for five 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 captivity,he himself feels that those 5 years were not that long. He compares his situation to others who were sometimes 20 or 30 years old or even given life sentences. Nevertheless, 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 70’s that changed and they got metal bunk beds. They had to work during the day on Robben Island and were constantly belittled and challenged. If you behaved well, you would have more privileges such as more visits or more letters that were allowed.
Some of the prisoners were in isolation. These cells are about two by two meters ‘large’ and have only a mat lying around and a bucket. Prisoners had to do their need and they were allowed to wash it out once a day. Outside of these 10 minutes out of the cell to clean their bucket, they sat in their cells day and night. Nelson Mandela stayed in a cell like that. That seems so unreal and terribleto us – especially when you know 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 tour with the guide, has definitely hit us this was not a highlight for us. The history of Robben Island is very fascinating and you can’t get around 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 anyway. This was once again a “real tourist trip“. So the least fun trip this week in South Africa.
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 another week in South Africa and there are still very nice and adventurous excursions planned, including a long-awaited safari, where we look for big five ! Are you curious how that will go? You can read it here next week! Until then! In the meantime, you can read our first week in South Africa again.