Sonntag, 30. September 2018

South Africa 2018 (Video)

This past February, I spent 15 days with my friends Sebastian and Julian in South Africa on a road trip. This is the follow-up video to my just announced article about the time I had been there.


Enjoy watching it! :)

- Dominic

Montag, 3. September 2018

South Africa 2018

Let me just explain to you right up front why I'm writing this blog post in english and not as usual in my mother language. So first and foremost I simply want to improve my language skills. Another reason for that is that I'm planning to move abroad from Germany someday, so I do need to practice a lot my writings and my vocabulary as well. Alright... let's get started!

Pretty early this year my good old travel fellows Julian, Sebastian and I came up with the idea of having a new adventure together. After a long time of searching the web for some cheap flights we came across a great deal for a flight to Cape Town from the 5th to the 20th of February.

On the day of departure we met each other in Hanover first. After a long ride with the train through 'Bienenbüttel' and 'Bad Bevensen', we've made it to Hamburg, from where our flight was leaving.

It all really started in Hamburg with some chocolate muffins and two dirty pretzels with cheese.

Pretzels and muffins (calorie counter: ~788)

Arrived at the airport our first flight to Madrid was delayed by 2 hours. We've received some vouchers for free food and beverages as compensation. Very generous Iberia! From that point on our mission was simple. How to get as much food for the value of the vouchers as possible!


McFlurry caramel (calorie counter: ~999)


McCafé Chocolate, cake of doom (calorie counter ~1439)

The counter was still ticking! After having these delicious desserts it was time for some French fries and orange juice. (calorie counter ~1955)

Somehow we managed to come almost too late for boarding, so we had to hurry quite a bit before we boarded the plane.

At around 5:30 PM finally the plane took off. Our first destination was Madrid, from where we flew to Johannesburg through the night.

It was dinner time! After I had eaten so much sugar over the day it was a pleasure to get something that was a little bit more healthy then McDonald's.

I could barely find some sleep the night in the plane even though I had two seats to manage this.

After an tiresome 10-hour flight we arrived at 11:00 AM in Johannesburg. Julian, Sebastian and I were really exhausted at this point of time but we had to catch up the next plane to Cape Town at 12:40 PM. So we were again a bit in a rush.

Apart from my tiredness I was really happy to be in South Africa. It was so nice and warm here in 'Jozy' (that's what most of the locals have called Johannesburg) and everyone at the airport has just worn mostly summer clothing. After coming from a country with sub-zero temperatures it was such a joy to experience that.

Just after two more hours of flight time we finally reached our final destination: Cape Town, one of the three capital cities of South Africa.

First of all, I bought a 1,5 GB LTE data plan in a MTN shop right at the airport. The data plan was called 'PayAsYouGo'. (highly recommended) All in all, I paid around 18€ for it, which was very cheap in my opinion.

Next up, it was time to get out of the airport to find a vehicle. There were plenty of companies for car hiring right at the airport but no one of it seemed to not have any more cars available. After several inquiries for getting a 'cheap' car we finally managed to get one by the company Tempest. At this point I should mention that it isn't very smart to rent your car in hindsight. We were really lucky that this worked out so well for us at the end.


The new car: Hyundai Accent

Julian was the only one of us three with an international drivers license. That's why he had to take over the drivers part on his own. He was a bit nervous about driving on the left hand side the first time, but he got used to it quickly and after a few kilometers he felt very confident behind the steering wheel.

Driving on the left side of the road, after you've been driving on the right all your life shouldn't scare you, but you shouldn't shrug it off either.

Alright, just after we did a little bit of grocery shopping we drove to the airbnb that I booked for us a couple days before.

We were totally blown away by the beauty of Cape Town. 


The clear and blue ocean at one side and the cloudy mountain chain at the other.

Then, after two hours of driving we arrived at our first airbnb, 'The Jungle Gym Dorm', located in Scarborough. Scarborough is a little town, situated at the Cape Peninsula to the south of Cape Town. At first, it was really hard to find the airbnb, because the house numbers were all mixed up in a way which was kinda odd. Sebastian, Julian and I had the permission to self check-in ourselves, but we were a bit scared entering the property, because of the dog warning sign in front of the fence...


Beware the dog!

...But who could have guessed that the loveliest dog in the world lived here!

May I introduce you to my new best friend, Ronald?

After we had looked around in our new home, Jacob, the host of the airbnb welcomed us. He also came from Germany. Jacob was very often down here in Cape Town to helping out the actual owner of the house.

He gave us a little room tour and explained to us, how the locals of Cape Town are battling it's water crisis. Residents and also tourists have been asked to use no more then 50 liters of water per day. (Take note: A typical shower uses 15 liters of water per minute on average!)

So we do had to cut down on some things like taking a short shower only once a day, or not having a functional swimming pool. But that was really not a big of a deal, because the ocean was very close to us.

Sebastian has cooked some curry with rice for us in the evening and after the meal we finally went to sleep. I remember, when I was laying in bed I was really excited about the upcoming day. :)

After having a breakfast at the beach in the next morning, we drove to the city of Cape Town. The first stop we made was at Long Street. The really best place in Cape if you going to need some nice souvenirs.


Then we explored the pier in all it's beauty. There were yachts and big boats all over the place. I felt like I was back in San Francisco. 

I think when you want to live in this neighborhood you need lots of money on your bank account.

In the evening we hiked to Signal Hill. A flat-topped mountain right next to Lion's Head and Table Mountain. The hike that we walked was very steep and cost us lots of strength power to get up. After about half an hour we made it to the top of Signal Hill. I was totally at the end of my tether, but at the end, the sunset was definitely worth the trip.


Sungazing


Great times on Signal Hill

At the next morning, after we ate the leftovers of the rice from the day before, we drove along the Cape Peninsula until we reached out to the Cape of Good Hope. There was a little entry fee of around 10€ per person.

The seagrass and the vultures at the beach looked at first like penguins to us


Good job driving us down here, Julian!

So many baboons around here, that crossed our way multiple times

It was really hot that day




Mission completed

Going all the way behind these cliffs...

... and *splish splash* getting soaked

Later on, we had a delicious meal in 'Camel Rock', a restaurant located really close to our airbnb.
The food was totally blow us away. As an appetizer, we were served some focaccia bread, followed by some delicious vegan burgers with wedges. And for dessert crème brûlée and a pumpkin cheese cake. Oh and as a drink, we had a milk shake which also was very delightful. All together we paid around 10€ each, which was a bargain to us! So we really had to give the friendly waitress a at least more generous tip, than usual. 


The culinary expertise of the Camel Rock restaurant

In the evening Julian and I watched the movie 'Fight Club' on my phone. He never watched it before... poor guy!

Drinking a home brewed ale and stout

I couldn't really sleep this night. There was a mosquito that got lost in our dorm and drove me crazy all the time. At some point I think I had managed to hit this tiny beast with my bed cover. I felt a bit sorry for the mosquito in the end but it was its own fault. 

The next morning I took my first shower of the trip and it felt so good.

After breakfast we drove to Sandy Bay, Ilandudno for accomplishing our mission of the day: Entering an abandoned shipwreck!

The drove there was overwhelmingly beautiful and the walk from the parking lot to the beach was a stunner. The beach itself, littered with the boulders, was amazing for some movement action.



Pretty cool, right?

The name of the hike to the shipwreck is also known as the 'Sandy Bay Shipwreck Hiking Trail'.

The way to the shipwreck was long and dirty...

...but beautiful indeed

Those moments when you're getting the makeup done

We were so excited when we saw the shipwreck the first time in the distance. What we didn't know at this point: We still had more then half the way to go.

Still a long way ahead of us

In the end it took us nearly 4 hours to get to the shipwreck itself.


When we arrived at the shipwreck the water level was too high to swim over. I was disappointed. There was no safe way that we could made it to the abandoned ship.

No comin' through

On the way back, we took a different route. This time we went directly along the sea, which was a harder thing than expected to be.


Sebastian, Julian and I had a lot of trouble getting over, under and through those boulders.

We also had to squeeze through this crack

Just before the trip has come to an end, I snapped my right shoulder, as I was trying to run down a sand dune. I lost control of my running speed and ended up in a thorn bush.

Ouch!

When we were back at the car and the adrenaline subsided, the shoulder started to hurt really bad. I got very tired on the drive back home and had a hard time to stay awake.

In the early evening we went to the Camel Rock restaurant, like the day before, to enjoy some tasty shakes and burgers again. Sebastian ordered a Thai curry instead.

He made the right choice. The curry looked delicious.

We got invited to watch a concert in the evening. Unfortunately, Julian and Sebastian had to watch the show without me. My shoulder still hurt a lot so I decided to went back to our airbnb to get some sleep.

The next morning I could barely put on and off my shirt to wash myself. The pain in the right shoulder was intense.

For breakfast, we had some delicious papayas and after we played a little bit of table tennis against Jacob it was time to say goodbye. Our next stay would be in Hermanus, around 150 kilometers away from here.


Before we went there, we checked out the African penguins at Boulders Beach.

There were a lot of penguins at the beach

We managed to touch one of these cute little penguins and we also got the chance to see some honey badger.


On the way back to our car we came across a group of street dancers, who performed on the street. I wanted to dance so bad but I couldn't overcome myself. Definitely next time then.

They killed it!

After we left Boulders Beach, we stopped by the 'Kogelberg Nature Reserve' on our way to Hermanus.

Isn't this amazing?

A 'Cape sugarbird'... the very long tail feathers present that it's a male

The best things in life are free

The environment of the Kogelberg reserve was absolutely breathtaking. I can't recommend it enough. The trail had some clearly marked hikes, ranging from 2 km to 8 km. The path we went for followed a river with beautiful scenery all around and took us around 3 hours to walk. It's not a very busy reserve so you feel like you are all alone. There were also a couple of spots where you could swim in the river, which we did nearby the turning point of the trail.



The temperature of the water was so pleasing. It was a bit of a struggle to swim with my injured shoulder but somehow it went well.

After this intense experience we drove the rest of the way to Hermanus.

It started to get late and after we had some food at a 'Simple Asia' restaurant, we tried to find a supermarket or gas station nearby but everything in little Hermanus was closed after 8:00 PM. In the end, we couldn't find anything so we decided to drive to the airbnb.

We had to check-in ourselves into the new home for the upcoming night.


Self check-in required


I didn't get much sleep the night. My shoulder still hurt a lot and the folding sofa on that I slept on, wasn't very pleasing as well. There were plenty of mosquitos the night in our bedroom that drove us nuts. Anyway, I was totally keen for the approaching day.

And it was a good one. The day started off with an amazing breakfast buffet at 'Lizettes'. For R100, what is around 6,50€, we had one of the best breakfasts of our life time. The buffet was full of  delicious, homemade food. Banana bread, fresh fruits, greek yogurt, muffins, whipped cream, giant coconut macaroons, fresh juices, guacamole, a variety of honey and so on. There was even an omelette station where you could order freshly fried omelettes with various ingredients.


Just pure enjoyment

Julian, Sebastian and I ate for straight an hour or so. When we were fully stuffed we went to the beach to get some rest.

Later on, we had some ice cream in Gansbaai and then we drove to the southernmost point of Africa, 'Cape Agulhas'.

A giant bronze map of Africa

The place where the Atlantic and Indian Ocean meet

A common misconception is that the Cape of Good Hope is the southern tip of South Africa, which is not the case. It's Cape Agulhas.

Then it was time to check-in to the next airbnb, in Struis Bay. Our charming new host Christiena welcomed us with her husband Nick right at the entrance of her house and showed us were we could park the car.


Her house was very cozy. We had so much living space for ourselves and the best thing was, that everyone had their own bed. The evening, we cooked some pasta with a tomato chutney and an apricot sauce and later on, Nick brought us some tasty home grown figs as dessert.

Look at this nice and comfy bed



Dinner time

We immortalized ourselves in the guestbook

This lovely dog was also very kind to us

Christie recommended us to drive to Swellendam the next morning. And so we did. We let Struis Bay behind us and drove all the way up to Swellendam. A small city located very close to the famous 'Garden Route'.

Swellendam is one of the oldest towns in the republic of South Africa. The people who lived in Swellendam were most likely from older generations too.

When Sebastian, Julian and I arrived with the car, we walked along the streets of Swellendam up and down and visited a big church right in the center of the town.

An iconic landmark in Swellendam

Clean streets all around the town

After two hours or so we drove to the next city on our list. Mossel Bay.

Trip Advisor highly recommended the 'Kaai 4 Restaurant' at the beach of Mossel Bay. So we went there first and had some amazing meals. The owner of the restaurant and his wife were from Scandinavia and spoke multiple languages. German was one of them. He explained us the whole menu in german, from top to bottom.


The hot grill

Julian took the meat basket which contained a variation of different sausages, spare rips, meatballs, steak and so on. After I lived meatless for a very long time, I choosed a fish dish. Sebastian had a kebab which also was really good looking. Unfortunately the wind started to blow heavily and it got colder.



Everything was very tasty

Next up we drove to the airbnb that we booked the day before. It was a bit early and our new host Leon wasn't at the office that early, so I decided to give him a call. Not even five minutes later he appeared in front of us and showed us our beautiful new bedroom.

Very spacious


In the evening we went for a little walk to buy some food. We totally underestimated the distance of the way to the supermarket. Then it started to drizzle really heavy. When we were back home, we got soaked to the bone.


On the next morning we set out towards Plettenberg Bay. It was a really long drive from Mossel Bay to Plettenberg Bay, but this was only half as bad as it could, because the landscape of the Garden Route was once again incredibly beautiful to look at.

We reached the airbnb in the afternoon. It was a little farm outside the city, in the middle of nowhere. Sebastian booked a skydive next day for us three.



This puppy was very playful

There was still plenty of time left before it got dark outside, so we decided to go to the beach. After a little meal at 'Moby Dick's Seafood Grill' and some souvenir shopping at a market nearby the ocean, we walked along the beautiful Central Beach.

There were amazingly colorful boulders at the north shore. Of course, we took advantage of the opportunity to climb a little bit on it.


When we got back at the airbnb in the evening, it started pouring rain outside. Because of the rainstorm, Julian let in the little dog in our room. Doggy decided to spend the night in my bed.

Poor guy... He would have had to sleep outside otherwise!

The next day we had a little conversation with a few locals at the kitchen table. At 10:00 AM we walked to a small airport, very close to the airbnb for our skydive adventure. Julian, Basti and I were totally stoked about jumping out of a plane this day.


Meeting our tandem instructor, Mike

Julian had to go first

The first 10 seconds of falling was simply mind blowing, but as Mike pulled the ripcord, I almost had to vomit. I could just hardly bear it to glide in circular motions the whole way down. That was a horrible feeling! The next time I will make sure that I take some medicine, before I jump out of a plane. After landing, my face was white as a sheet for the next half an hour or so.

At the end of my rope

A thunderstorm was incoming

Back at the ranch Julian and I built a little training spot out of a few tree stumps. The simpler the training, the better!


Magical sunset

At the 15th we decided to drive all the way back from Plettenberg Bay to Strand, the little resort, situated near to Cape Town. We took the fastest route over the N2 but it was still a very long ride ahead of us. The scenery was still amazingly beautiful. At the end of the Garden Route we saw a huge flock of ostriches running along the highway. In between, we stopped on our ride to Cape Town in Swellendam for lunch at a 'Wimpy's Restaurant'.

In the evening we finally arrived at the new airbnb, 'Chelaya's Country Lodge'. We had to give our new host Michelle a call, so she could let us in through the electronic front gate.

Our new home has been waiting for us

After we had passed the gate with the car, I immediately noticed the security guard, that was running around for safety reasons. But he probably was only on patrol.

At first glance the property was huge and looked very well maintained. Michelle wanted to show us our bedroom that we booked in the afternoon. She noticed that one of the three beds hadn't been prepared for us. We told her that this was totally fine for us, but she insisted on giving us another accommodation.

We had probably made a good impression to her so she upgraded us to a beautiful holiday home. Sebastian, Julian and I got totally stoked about our new living area.

A great place to be

Just a small part of the estate

The pool was made out of dreams

We had everything that we needed and more. A washing machine, an oven, big tv, dinning table, a very comfortable sofa, shower, bathtub, parking lot, a barbecue grill in our own garden and the best thing was that everyone had their own bedroom. Also the price hasn't changed at all. We just paid 14€ a night each.

After Sebastian and I bought some food for dinner in a grocery store nearby, we had an amazing little barbecue in the evening.

We spent the end of the day watching movies on TV. Later on, I boiled a few liters of water for taking a hot midnight bath.

The next morning Basti and I jumped into the pool for having a little swim. After a mobility workout we had breakfast.

Later that morning we went to an abandoned World War II Cannon, which was located near the Cape Peninsula for some parkour training.

Table Mountain's cloudy tablecloth

The last line of defense


In the afternoon Julian, Sebastian and I drove to Fish Hoek. As a coastal suburb of Cape Town, Fish Hoek was very popular by travelers for it's variety of souvenir shops and the antiquarians that were all over located along the main road. We also had made a terrible experience with a restaurant. We got some oily snoek and hake with greasy french fries. Something I will definitely not order again there.

Never eating there again

Then we walked a bit alongside the promenade until we drove back home.

Next morning, first things first, we went to the pool again and ate the leftovers from yesterday.

And then it was finally time to visit the world renowned 'Kirstenbosch National Botanical Garden' at the eastern foot of Table Mountain. The garden is one of the greatest botanical gardens in Africa. It covered five of South Africa's six different biomes. When Kirstenbosch was founded in 1913 to preserve the country's unique flora, it was the first botanical garden in the world with this kind of character.


Good vibes in Kirstenbosch


The garden includes a large greenhouse which was unfortunately closed when we was there. But there was still a lot of other things to discover at this peaceful place.

'African Agapanthus'


Kirstenbosch 'Tree Canopy Walkway'

From the gardens, several trails led off along and up the mountain slopes and these were much used by walkers and mountaineers. The trail we took to get up to Table Mountain, was called 'Skeleton Gorge', a very popular route that was led up a ravine. Skeleton Gorge was very steep, we had to work hard to get to the top.

Like a jungle in a forest

A Table Mountain classic

After we finished the difficult but fun trail and reached the top of the mountain, it was like, as  if we were at sea level. Most of the mountain was flat-topped and just if we walked right on the edge of Table Mountain we could see, that we were more than a thousand meters high.

Table top



Table Mountain has so much to offer


There's always time left for a bit of jumping


We got spoilt with uninterrupted 360 degree view all the time


This guy has eaten out of my hand

In the evening we took the 'Table Mountain Aerial Cableway', a cable car transportation system, which offered visitors a five minute ride to the top of Table Mountain and back to Cape Town. A one way ticket was around 10€ each.



And still can't get enough of this view

When Julian, Sebastian and I were down the mountain, we had to take a taxi back to our car because we were at the wrong side of Table Mountain.

The next problem we were faced was, that it was already after 7:00 PM and most of the grocery stores already had closed.

However, after a bit of research we found a small market near to a 'township'. A township is an area that was created for people of color to live in during the period of government-enforced apartheid last century. Anyway, the thing is... these townships still exist.

Imagine living in a township like that without running water and electricity

When we wanted to get out the car, some locals were circling around it and offered us to buy some marijuana, which we kindly refused.

The locals seemed to be very friendly and just a bit curious about what we gonna do here, but nevertheless Julian stayed by the car for safety reasons. In the meantime, Sebastian and I bought some very cheap rice and vegetable curry in the supermarket.

When we came out of the market Julian wasn't at the car anymore. One of the strangers told me that Julian was afraid of him and was hiding across the street. The stranger and I had to start to cringe and laugh about the whole situation. After Julian was back with us we said goodbye to our new friend and drove back to the airbnb.

The next day was the most relaxing day of all time. In the morning I made some avocado-carrot dip for breakfast.

Drawn a mandala while eating

Daydreamin'

After exploring the estate a little bit more with Sebastian together, I suddenly had met Michelle on my walk back to the guesthouse. We talked a little bit about Germany and she told me that we still had to pay the rent for the last three days. Which we really had to do and almost forgot about!

After breakfast we spent a whole lot of time at the pool.

In the afternoon we drove to Strand Beach so that I could get a new tattoo there.

It was Sunday, so not every tattoo studio was opened but I got lucky and found one right at the beach.
It was called 'Ink Inc Tattoo'.

My tattoo artist was a really cool guy. We did a lot of small talk while I got the new tattoo.


Be strong to be useful


After around 15 minutes the whole thing was done. I payed R800, which was around 45€ at the time when I was there.

Our next plan was to go to the restaurant that Michelle recommended us, 'San Francisco Spur'.

My first salad of the holiday

Nacho splatter supreme

I mean, the restaurant was okay but nothing special. The caramel milk shakes were really good though.

After getting home we kicked back and relaxed the rest of the day.

Of course, the first thing we did the next morning was jump into the pool. Then we payed our debts to Michelle. We really only had to pay R2400 (~130€) in total for all four nights together. Michelle told us that we were like sons to her, so she didn't want to have any more money. ❤

Sebastian, Julian and I decided to drive to 'Canal Walk', the biggest mall in Cape Town. Like Michelle told us, it really was an amazing place but very expensive as well. Actually we wanted to buy some more gifts for friends and family but we couldn't find anything in our price range.

If you're involved in architecture and design...

...then you may like this place

An antique lift

Where in the world are there no McDonald's

Then we drove to Long Street again and there we found some great traditional stores.

There was this awesome building where every room was a souvenir shop and at the highest floor was an art gallery.


Bits and bobs in every corner

Top floor: Visual art



Julian still wanted to go to a police station to swap some African Police Patches for his dad, so we did that next. We found a police station nearby to Long Street where Julian could exchange his badges with a police officer.

Next, we visited 'Bo-Kaap', formerly known as the 'Malay Quarter'. Bo-Kaap was a former township, situated on the slopes of Signal Hill above the city centre. The area was known for its brightly colored homes and cobble stoned streets.

The most colorful place I've ever been


Doing the tourist thing



There was that little store right next to the Bo-Kaap Quarter where we found some more amazing things for our people at home. Maureen, a jeweler, sold me some of her hand crafted jewelry. She was a very spiritual person and taught me a lot about gems and their healing powers and stuff like that. (Maureen's Website: http://lunarmoods.com)

In the evening, when we were back home, we jumped into the pool once more all together and finished our last evening in Africa with a nice dinner.

We went for a traditional African restaurant


It was more than delicious

On the 20th of February was our day of departure. We bought Michelle some flowers for being so nice to us before we left Chelaya's Country Lodge. She started to cry a little bit. (She never got flowers from a guest before!) We promised to stay in contact with her and maybe come back to Cape Town to visit her once again.

Until we meet again, Michelle

That's her contact, if you want to travel to Cape Town

The first thing that we did at the airport was to give back the rental car. It seemed everything to be okay, so that we didn't had to pay any additional fees.

On our flight from Cape Town to Johannesburg we enjoyed some delicious Couscous. Later in Jozy, I had an amazing green smoothie and an avocado sandwich, which both cost around 10€ but it was worth it!

After a couple hours of waiting we finally made our way back to Europe.

I watched some movies and tried to get some sleep done, which doesn't worked out so well. After a tiring 10-hour flight we arrived totally exhausted at 6:00 in the morning in Madrid.

Sunrise in Madrid

After Sebastian, Julian and I finished the check-in process for the flight to Germany, we immediately fell asleep on the cold floor in front of the boarding gate to Hamburg.

When we also had survived the last flight back to Hamburg with Iberia, I bought myself some pretzels with cheese again. I still was totally tired but the tasty food helped me out to feel a little better.

So tired

Arrived back in Hanover in the early evening our trip had come to an end and it was time to say goodbye to Julian and Sebastian. At home, I fell straight asleep and slept all the night through.
____

In conclusion, South Africa was one of my favorite travel destinations I've ever been. If you don't mind the crowd, Cape Town is the place to be. The city was just as exciting and the temperature was pleasant and mellow in springtime. If you like being in nature it will probably worth visiting the 'Drakensberg Mountains'. Unfortunately we haven't had that much time to drive all the way up there but we haven't regret it either. South Africa offered a variety of different activities and locations. It's up to you to decide what you are wanting and then come for a visit. It's definitely worth the time.

So long my friends! :)

 - Dominic