South Africa. For this part of our trip we had little concept of what to expect. Sometime I think that is best. With no expectations I am usually pleasantly surprised instead of disappointed, and this definitely proved to be the case for this portion of our trip. Actually, let me just say that if you could take any international trip this year, MAKE IT SOUTH AFRICA. It was AMAZING and I don’t think many Americans think to go here. We have already posted about our time volunteering at the game reserve, and our time working on an organic farm in the little Karoo, but actually our first stop was Cape Town, where we were just regular old tourists.

 

Cape Town is known for beauty and it definitely lived up to its reputation. Charming suburbs, wine county and striking mountains surrounded a bright port town, which, in some ways reminded us of San Francisco, back home.

 
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And there was tons to do! Big attractions for travelers included climbing or taking a cable car up Table Mountain to get 360 degree postcard views, heading to Camps Bay beach to rent a lounge chair and people watch, shopping and eating at V&A Waterfront, touring wine country, taking a ferry to Robben Island where Mandela was imprisoned, Kirstenbosh botanical gardens, swimming with adorable penguins at Boulders Beach, and even cage diving with great white sharks!! It is also supposed to be a great area for scuba diving, although, like San Francisco, the water stays cold all year round.

 

We tried to do it all in four short days (minus Robben Island since it was booked for weeks in advance, and shark diving cause I just couldn’t convince Mo on that one…). Here are some pics of our first day:

 
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View of Lion’s Head Rock and Rodin Island

 
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Hanging out above it all on Table Mountain

 
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Table mountain is named as such because, well, has a flat top like a table

 
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Views of Cape Town from above

 
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Peeking over the edge of the mountain to see the city and coastline below…..

 
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Famous Victoria and Alfred Waterfront

 
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Camps Bay Beach

 
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Camps Bay with a view of Lion’s Head

 

So, if these pictures were enough to convince you to jump on a plane, here is a little South African vacation tip: start in Cape Town and then take the Baz Bus all the way up the Garden Route to Johannesburg.

 
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Along the Garden Route

 

The Garden Route is beautiful and fun, with lots of little towns (and some major surf spots!) along the way. The Baz Bus has a very nice system which we found out about a little too late to take full advantage, but still got to experience for a few days on our way to Port Elizabeth. If you have the time though, you can buy a ticket that is good one-way for a month. This means you can jump on and off wherever you want without having to have a schedule. The route was full of hostels and the bus had to drop us off at any one we wanted. There were free booklets along the way that gave descriptions of the hostels so you could choose where to stay as you rode along.

 
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The bus was great: safe and full of young travelers. The first day we took it a few stops up the route and stayed over at a hostel in Jeffry’s Bay. After one night though, watching gap year backpackers play beer pong and get wasted (Maybe we just picked the wrong hostel…) we realized we were not 21 anymore and, although the bus was still a great means of transport, we forwent the “full experience” and stayed our next few nights on the route at regular guest houses…..much better :)

 
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Windy day in Jeffrey’s Bay

 

 
More on South Africa to come!