countin' the days

Monday, April 02, 2007

Cape Town Rock(s)

So, Cape Town, in a nutshell, is my new favorite city. It's got a San Francisco feel, with a bit of New Orleans and New York thrown in, but with a very distinct flavor of its own. It's cosmopolitan, metropolitan, funky, artsy, and drop dead gorgeous. Picture this: an enormous mountain jutting out of the top of a peninsula on the tip of Africa. On one side are stunning beaches, huge cliffs, the Atlantic Ocean; on another side, a bay filled with quaint little villages and warm Atlantic waters; and down below the face of the mountain, the bustling city of Cape Town, complete with a waterfront, a fun strip of bars & restaurants that feels like Haight Ashbury, and phenomenal scenery all around. Amazing!

Our divine backpacker lodge, Ashanti (, is a hop & a skip away from Table Mountain, so one of the first things we did after properly exploring the local bars and supermarkets (tofu!) was hike up to the top. After a grueling vertical hike up a series of boulder stairs in the sweltering heat of the late morning, we managed to make it up top on one of the clearest, most perfect days yet. On top of Table Mountain is all sorts of fun: indigenous flora and fauna not found anywhere else in the world, little trails to take you all over the top, incredible dropoff cliffs, and oh yes, absolutely out-of-this world vistas. The following week or so, inspired by views from the top, we explored many of the surrounding areas.

After getting all over Cape Town proper, we headed out of town for a quick
overnighter to Simon's Town, a big navy port but otherwise cute little fishing village. But it wasn't the fresh fish, fishy smell, or quaintness I was after: it was the penguins. Right next to Simon's Town is home to a huge colony of African penguins. Yes, the same kind that live in Antarctica, but these ones never see snow... instead, they spend their days frolicking in the warm waters of pristine beaches covered with huge granite boulders. And they are damn cute! The trip was worth it just to watch these adorable little dudes waddle about, brey at each other (they used to be called Jackass Penguins), jump over logs, guard and build their nests, and be otherwise totally cuddly and darling -- except for their sharp beaks and, of course, the poo. Everywhere.

About 5 minutes after returning to Simon's Town we headed out yet again, this time to the rock climber's paradise of the Cederbergs. While in Coffee Bay, we met a
Canadian guy named Josh who said he was planning on going climbing in Cape Town, and invited us along. What I didn't realize is that Josh, in all of his 20 years, has become an exceptional climber. He has climbed in competitions with the best of 'em, and is even sponsored by Mad Rock. I went up a few boulders, but mostly spent the next 2 days in complete awe and admiration for this guy. He'd look at a rock that I had deemed more or less humanly impossible to climb, rocks that were seemingly devoid of anywhere to shove your fingers & toes, and he'd just effortlessly race up to the top. The mountains themselves were also fantastic to watch, particularly at sunset when they literally become a burnt cedar color. But in truth, I think the highlight of the trip for me was this little farm stand we stopped at on the way: a brightly colored little shack owned by a South African man who entertained us with stories of getting highjacked in a cab in New York City, all the while shoving perfectly delicious oranges & cantaloupes into our hands. He was probably the most friendly South African I've met yet, and that is a bold statement...

So now I'm planning the next move. I successfully changed my flight, and am now leaving South Africa for Thailand six weeks from now. Tomorrow we're headed to Stellenbosch, SA's wine country... ain't nothin' like a few days of lushing it up right in the vineyards to, uhh, nourish the soul and clear the mind. In any case, the clock is ticking for me to make a decision about which path to head down next... stay tuned...

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