I have had the travel bug for as long as I can remember. Between school, family, and work trips, I can check off every capital city in Australia barring Hobart. I have been blessed enough to travel to our neighbour New Zealand before and after the devastating South Island earthquakes. Eighteen years ago we hopped on a plane to Zimbabwe for a family reunion (where my brother proceeded to vomit the whole way due to excitement – he’s an odd one)… but, I digress.
After saying all this, it wasn’t until December 2012 when hubby and I were boarding a plane to take us to South Africa that I felt like I was really travelling. There is something incredible about going out of your own country – away from everything familiar – and venturing to see another part of the world.
When one of my cousins came to Australia for our wedding over 6 years ago, he mentioned that everything around Brisbane was ‘flat’. I didn’t understand what he meant until we unfolded our cramped legs after 27 hours and got to see the beauty that surrounds Cape Town, South Africa. Everywhere you looked there were mountain ranges and rugged coastline. We drove 5 hours away from the city and I could still see a rollercoaster of peaks and dips. Agapanthus littered the scape, and every now and then a baboon would peak out its head and remind you… this is Africa.
1. Table Mountain
I have to start with the obvious, after all, it has been voted as one of the New 7 Wonders of Nature. The city and suburbs surround this magnificent mountain, and so, on a clear sunny day, we braved the throngs of tourists and headed up. After queuing for some time and chiding ourselves for not bringing sunscreen, we moved forward with a surge into the revolving cable cart. Five minutes later we stepped out onto a maze of pathways, landscaped gardens, and picture-perfect views. We spent three hours basking in the sunshine and taking in the sights below us. Clouds started to creep across the mountain and fall softly over the edges like a misty waterfall. Being up so high simply felt magical!
2. Wine Country
A day out in the vineyards? Yes please! A group of six of us wound our way an hour east to Solms Delta Wine Estate in Stellenbosch. Our first impression = gorgeous! The restaurant has see-through flooring to the original foundations, and there is a tractor willing you to hop onboard with picnic basket in hand and secure a private spot within the vineyard. With a wine rep in our midst, we opted for wine tasting and a cheeseboard underneath a canopy of trees. I may not have ever liked red wine in Australia, but South African reds have converted me. A walk through the grapevines followed by a Chocolate Discovery Tour at Huguenot made this day one of the best I experienced on our holiday.
A week and a half into our trip, hubby and I set off by ourselves 4.5 hours east for safari. Granted, along the way we accidentally drove through a shanty town, but that’s a whole other story. We were booked in for a night’s stay in a luxury tented suite at Botlierskop Private Game Reserve and Safari Park along with two three-hour game drives. Our excitement saw us arrive much earlier than check-in time, so we forked over a very reasonable amount for an hour Cat Walk with three of the most beautiful one-year-old lions. Seriously, I was in love. I don’t know why they gave us sticks “in case they got too close” because there was no way I was using it when they came rubbing up against my legs. Those big kitties were my favourite and there truly wasn’t a trace of fear inside me… I just wanted to play! The rest of the stay was one of the most incredible experiences of my life – everything from pulling ourselves across the river on a platform to get to our mammoth mosquito-curtained bed, to a degustation dinner fit for a king, to driving around in safari vehicles with the anticipation of what’s around the corner. We could have stayed there forever…
4. Boulders Beach
I am SO glad that we decided to extend our trip before we left, otherwise we may have missed out on this gem of a place. Boulders Beach was ranked in the Top 10 Beaches in the World in 2012, and it definitely did not disappoint. For a small fee, you could enter Boulders and see African penguins at their finest. These little guys were everywhere and cameras were clicking in overdrive. Sure, they may not be the fastest on land, but they are torpedos once they hit the water. Although these furry creatures were a main attraction, I think I was impressed more by the crystal clear turquoise waters… and the warmth. Finally I had found a place to swim where I could still feel my toes! We snuck between crevices and tight-rope balanced over boulders to secure a patch of sand and enjoy a lazy afternoon with the odd hello from a penguin friend.
5. Cape of Good Hope
This was a tricky fifth choice. I dabbled between the Cango Caves, Biscuit Mill Markets, and an array of other places we visited. However, my judicial decision came down to the fact that this was the first time I felt like this was the Africa I had anticipated. We were surprised by many things during our time, but those trees fulfilled my expectations. They were wild and beautiful and the crisp air was refreshment in itself. We took a rail-cart to the top and saw a dassie nibbling flowers from a shrub (basically a giant guinea pig cross wombat). The views were again amazing – I don’t know if you could get tired of staring out into the elusiveness of the ocean. Even the drive was memorable with colourful pincushion trees dotting the landscape. Take me back!
Whilst in SA, I kept a travel diary so that I could relive our journey and not forget precious moments. Once we returned home, I started to recap the last few days with pen and paper. This made a wave of emotion wash over me – it was all very raw, all very real, that our holiday was over, our journey had ended, and tomorrow was back to normal as we started work again. I missed my overseas family then and there in that moment like nothing else.
I want to thank them for being such gracious hosts, such amazing people, and will now wrap up this post before these mixed tears of joy and longing spill over. Thank you x