Friday, July 8, 2016

Winter in Africa

I wanted to cry when we left Cape Town.  Through all of my travels I don't think I ever felt this way leaving another destination.  What was it about that place that brought tears to my eyes and left a hole in my overwhelmed heart?  I have been grappling with this question ever since we returned.  I thought I should not write about the trip until I sorted out my feelings.  I may never sort them out, so I'll write anyway.  It is one of the most interesting and beautiful places I've been.  Maybe the reason I was sad to leave was chances are I will never visit again and there is so much more I would have liked to seen and done.

I always thought of Africa as a warm continent.  Silly me!  Arriving the week of the winter solstice in the southern hemisphere proved me wrong!  I had planned for chilly and possibly wet weather but not cold weather.  We arrived to pouring rain and 5C/40F temperatures.  As if the weather weren't enough of a challenge, after 28 hours of travel we/TJ was challenged with driving on the left side of the road!  We carefully navigated our way out of the airport through the driving rain to our Airbnb apartment.
The view at lunch was breathtaking
The apartment was lovely aside from a few missing amenities.  I don't consider myself "high maintenance", I can tough it out most times but toughing it out on the vacation of a lifetime was not on my agenda.  We found out our apartment did not have heat, Internet or a hair dryer (maybe I am high maintenance).  I was still not feeling the love for Africa.  The temperature inside was only slightly warmer and less windy than outside!  No exaggeration!  I am sure it would have been lovely in the summer but it wasn't summer...not even close.  We quickly realized we had not packed enough fleece!  We both wrapped up in our warm clothes and the available blankets and took a little nap.

Just warming up!
After our frigid nap we just had to get out of the apartment to someplace warm.  What better place than a winery!  Through rain and wind and driving on the left we found the closest winery for a little tasting.  Delicious!  Scenic, probably....if we could have seen higher than mid mountain.  The main thing was it was heated!  Dinner later that night was lovely and even interesting thanks to the sommelier who gave us tons of recommendations for our wine country visit later in the week.  OK...I'm warming up to this place.  We slept in all of our clothes, under all of the blankets in the apartment, while watching our exhausted breath float into the air above us.

The next morning my very perceptive husband made reservations at a hotel with heat, Internet and a hairdryer!  We chipped the ice off our suitcases and moved on to warmer accommodations.

The itinerary for day was the Cape of Good Hope and Chapman's Peak!  Luckily, we woke up to sunshine!  I just knew things would look so much better in the sun and I was right.  The view was lovely and there was hope and anticipation in my heart.  We headed south and with every turn my eyes opened wider and wider with awe.  What a beautiful country!

Boulders Beach
Penguin beach
The day continued to get nicer and nicer and I got happier and happier!  I made TJ stop for scenic overlooks and photo taking.  I made him climb to the top of rocky cliffs and lighthouses.  He was always accommodating, even though he really does not like heights.  It was one of the best travel days ever!  We saw things I had only read about and dreamt of seeing.  We drove Chapman's Peak, one of the most beautiful drives in the world and arrived just in time for a beautiful sunset.  I was falling in love with each turn in the road.

Photo stop!

Let's hike up there!
The view at the top is always the best!

Obligatory tourist photo!
Traveling during the off season proved to be a good thing.  There were enough other tourists to make things interesting but not so many that we had to wait in a line for anything.  Unlike last year when we went to Croatia in the off season!  Off season = cold weather.  We are going to have to try to travel in the shoulder seasons sometime and experience moderate weather and crowds.

Chapman's Peak deserves it's own blog if you ask me but I'll spare both of us.  If you are Canadian, think Cabot Trail only shorter.  I can't thank my husband enough for doing all of the driving and missing out on every view because he was so focused on staying in between the lines and on the correct side of the road.  I think the reason he was always willing to pull over for a photo op or just to gawk at the scenery was to get a break from driving, which suited me just fine.
Definitely worth pulling over
We caught the golden hour

The next few days were just as perfect.  We went to the top of Table Mountain, went on a safari...and froze, drove through mountains, valleys and vineyards, and passed poor townships on the outskirts of the city framed by the ever present mountains on the horizon.  We visited lush wineries and tasted many delicious wines.  We ate tasty meals which cost us very little with the US dollar worth so much in this country.  Every day left me wanting more.
Isn't he handsome?!
I could post about 100 pictures of amazing scenery, it was just that beautiful!  If you want to see them click here!  We met many kind people along the way.  Every night we used Uber as our transportation to dinner, because really how much driving on the left can one man be expected to do?!  All of our drivers were fantastic!  We were also a curiosity as Americans, they all said they wanted to come to America.  This was different than most other countries I've visited.  Usually we are not looked on so favorably.  I admit, most of the people I talked to were in service roles... waiters, drivers, shop keepers, caddies, the people at the wineries and the occasional random traveler.  People were sincere,  helpful, smiling and happy to chat.

I found myself wishing I had not been warned about the dangers of the cities we visited.  I wanted so much to not be on my guard.  I tried to walk with trust and confidence and just enjoy taking in the sights.  It was difficult because TJ was on high alert most of the time which bled into my psyche.  I want to visit this country again someday and be safe and free to explore.  We were perfectly safe traveling through the national parks or hiking or visiting wineries,  I just wanted to be able to walk the city streets in the evening after dinner and that just could not happen, which is very sad.  There was so much more to see.

There is obvious disparity between the haves and have nots in South Africa.  Such a beautiful country on the outside but if you look closer there is crime, poverty, and struggle.  The people live surrounded by rich natural resources and beautiful landscapes and I wonder if they realize how fortunate they are to wake up in such an amazing place!  The townships at the foot of some of the most majestic mountains in the world are incongruent.  The country is evolving and still has a long way to go before things are right.  One thing that is indisputable, they live in one of the most breathtaking places I've have been blessed to visit.
Unedited panoramic view,
how could I not fall in love?

1 comment:

Carol said...

What a gift you were given, which you so much appreciated. I loved this Chronicle. I loved how you conveyed what you saw and experienced, with your words. I totally felt your misery at the airbnb - but, since it was written after the fact, you retold it in a lighthearted yet telling manner. I patiently awaited how you would handle the disparity. You touched on it well. As a rather regular traveler to Johannesburg, I see the challenges, limitations, vast disparity, danger,and fear, as well as the (hotel) workers who is anxious to please and dedicated employee. This is my limitation of my visits.
A country of contrasts - but aren't we all? I truly believe the African continent and North American continent offer some of the most amazing vistas, wonders, and beauty this world offers. IMHO.

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