Friday, February 26, 2010

Cape Town, South Africa

There was a Tuesday holiday in India for Republic Day, and so I decided to take Monday and the preceding Friday off as well, giving us a few days to travel to South Africa. What an amazing trip! Kerala is called God's Own Country, but the person giving the name most likely never visited Cape Town. The scenery is unmatched by any place I have ever visited, the people are friendly, the food is delicious, the area is filled with people from all over the world and the cost of things is reasonable. We stayed three nights in the wine lands of Stellenbosch, and two nights in the city of Cape Town. Honestly, we should have stayed all five nights in Stellenbosch, as driving into the city was not a hassle and the wine country was lovely.

Anjali and me, as far South and West as we could go in Africa

The South Africa Wine Lands

Franschhoek wine valley

The Wine Lands are less than an hour's drive from Cape Town. Once in the valley, you feel the weather change from the (almost) cold coastal wind, to the gentle, cool breezes of the country. The views are spectacular and the wine is inexpensive. We stayed at Devon Valley, just outside Stellenbosch.

Cool view from the tub to the outdoors
Amazing room at Devon Valley

Our room in Stellenbosch
Devon Valley room's view from the bathtub

Penguins of Betty's Bay

A pair of penguins

We got out for a drive that first day, but did not venture into Cape Town. Instead, we headed down to the other side of False Bay, driving the coastal roads of Pringle Bay and Betty's Bay. We saw a sign in Betty's Bay about viewing penguins and decided to check it out. The penguins were funny to watch and we enjoyed a break, drinking tea just outside the bird sanctuary.

Betty's Bay, South Africa
Betty's Bay

Old gas pump in Betty's Bay
Old gas pump wear we took a break in Betty's Bay

Wine Tastings

Wine tasting in Stellenbosch
Inspecting the color of the SyvlanVale wine

The Devon Valley hotel has its own wines, SylvanVale Vineyards. One of the staff barkeeps, Luvuyo (which means happy in Xhuso) let us sample some of the wines and went over the vineyard history.

Wine tasting in Franschhoek
Part of our wine tasting took place in Franschhoek, a neighboring town

More Penguins

The famous spot for penguin viewing is Boulders Bay, on the south-east side of Cape Town. If you have a car, I recommend skipping this spot and checking out Betty's Bay's penguins. This is more of a tourist trap and therefore the charm is absent. But, there are some places to get a bite to eat, whereas Betty's Bay is a bit barren.

African penguins on Boulder's Beach in Cape Town, South Africa
Penguins at Boulders Bay

Cape of Good Hope and Cape Point

The Cape of Good Hope is a rocky shoreline which has claimed many ships. Boats would come close to the shore to cut their shipping time, but many would run into the jagged boulders of the Atlantic. A lighthouse was erected atop Cape Point, 250 meters above the water, in 1860. Ships forty miles out could see the light, but the lighthouse was built too high, as it was usually covered by fog. When the Lusitania wrecked in 1911, it was decided to build a lighthouse at less than half the height.

Lighthouse at the tip of Africa
The original lighthouse of Cape Point

However, the rocks along the shore are not the only dangerous things in Cape Point. You have to keep an eye out for baboons!

Baboon begging for food
Baboons are not only dangerous, but hideous looking too

Seriously though, the scenery is beautiful. It was a perfect summer day to check out this site.

Looking down from the lighthouse at Cape Point
View from the old Cape Point lighthouse

Cape of Good Hope
The Cape of Good Hope

And, there is a signpost next to the lighthouse which points to major foreign cities, giving the distance to each of them. It was fun to see how far it was to some places we had traveled.

Many kilometers to anywhere
9,296 kilometers to Delhi, 12,541 kilometers to New York City

Long way back to India (9,296 kilometers to Delhi)
Anjali looking toward India

Cape Town

And, then there is the city of Cape Town. We had a great time at the V&A Waterfront, taking in a live show while enjoying libations. The market close to our hotel was fun to shop within and we ran into some interesting characters. I even got to talk to Nelson Mandela on a phone made of gold (see the colorful dude in the photo below). And, we took a sky tram up to the top of Table Mountain. That part I was less than enthusiastic about, since I do not like the method of transport. Table Mountain was windy and cold, but it provided some awesome views of the city.

Crazy guy in the market.  He let me talk to Mandela, using his golden phone.
Crazy guy in the market

At the V&A Waterfront, pointing at boats
V&A Waterfront, watching boats

Listening to live music at the V&A Waterfront, having a great time
Watching a band perform on the V&A Waterfront

The view from atop Table Mountain
View from the top of Table Mountain

Table Mountain was cold
Cold and windy on Table Mountain

A Short Trip

The only negative I can say about our vacation was the amount of time we had. Cape Town requires more attention than one week, and it was hard to enjoy all its offerings in four days. But, we were happy to have experienced what we did and we hope to return some time in the future.

Us in Camps Bay
Self portrait one afternoon in Camps Bay

Sunset from Camps Bay
Sunset over the Atlantic

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