We had such an unforgettable trip to Cape Town South Africa last week that our one-year Paris anniversary came and went without so much as a simple cheers with some good wine one night a few days after the fact. And while the time has certainly passed so quickly, it’s great vacations and memories like these that puts the past far back into the distance and makes me think everyday, how lucky am I? are we!?
With so much that we saw and did in Cape Town, I’ll have to slowly dribble out the posts over the next week. That way while Paris winter has made its reprieve I can re-live the sun, sand, sea and sharks! After 8 years since David’s first visit and his countless we-have-to-go-one-day’s, we finally made it happen.
We landed in Capetown Sunday morning and hopped into our rental after a long and bumpy 11-hr direct flight on Saturday night (learning about the devastating MH370 news prior to leaving certainly didn’t make the time move any quicker). David eased right into driving on the left side of the road. It was weird being a passenger and sitting to his left. We both carefully kept our eyes on the road and I kept reminding him: tight lefts, wide rights. Driving went smoothly despite crazy, risk-taking South African drivers and driving into oncoming traffic one or two times.
We headed to our AirBnB place in Bloubergstrand. Our incredibly spacious and well equipped apartment overlooked the bay to Table Mountain. After freshening up and settling in, we went to a local grocery chain to stock up on the next few meals. I was shocked and thoroughly impressed by how affordable, fresh and healthy the food was there. The quality seems outstanding with free-range chicken and beef labels on most things plus an assortment of lamb and ostrich. Ready made meals and snacks are bar-none the best I’ve seen in all my travels. Being deprived of BBQ, the one requirement of our accommodations was that it came with a grill. In our case, we had a charcoal Weber grill so, chicken piri-piri was on the menu for our first dinner.
We spent the rest of the afternoon strolling in the sunshine through V&A waterfront. It was lively and offered great views of the harbour and neatly back-dropped by table mountain. We enjoyed our first generous glasses of white wine as the sun tempted to scorch our white skin.
By then I was already in love with this city. I love the waterfront. I love the ocean spray. The love the affordability. It’s uniqueness. The good service. The charming accent.
But one thing we didn’t enjoy… We had discovered one problem earlier in the day: alcohol is not sold on a Sunday! How could we spent our first day and especially have a fabulous BBQ dinner without some fabulous wine. Our ‘raison d’être’ for being here. Luckily, our gracious hosts gave us bottle, some 2004 Hartenberg Shiraz Cabernet Sauvignon. And it was simply amazing.
We went to bed early since I rarely got any sleep on the plane and we had a 4am wake call to consider.
So why would you get up THAT early on a vacation… Well to go shark cage diving … Obviously.
Still groggy and after some egg and lamb sausage breakfast we hit the road to Gansbaai for our 7:30am meet, 220km away. While most of the drive was in the dark we had some splendid views of a moonlit harbour and a misty sunrise through the hills.
After the safety briefing and the waiving of our potential death or injury, we were in the boat just 15 minutes offshore. Right away we saw the slow graceful movement of a fin in the water. David and I quickly threw on our wet suits (having so much practice lasts weekend came in handy) and we were in the first group in the cage. The water was cold, about 11C we were told. And we waited as the boat crew threw chum, blood and a large fish head on a floating rope just above our heads. At first we saw faint, quick flashes of the sharks silvery white skin through the murky water. It was really too bad the visibility was so poor. As the following groups got their turns, we got some good shows full of thrashing and big jaws. When it was our second shot in the cage… We got quite the show of a lifetime. The funny thing is we didn’t fully see it until later when reviewing the video. You just have to see it to believe it! (And you’ll have to wait why I’m surprised no one literally crapped their wet suits once David’s video making skills fire up).
***EDIT – Here it is:
In the end, I learned sharks are pretty f**kin’ scary. They can appear and disappear in a flash; without you even having the slightest clue. Many times they just came out of nowhere. On the other hand, they didn’t seem all that interested in the fish head. They’d come within inches of it and not even chow down. They often bit it and realized they weren’t interested. It’s the same in relation with humans… They’ll bite but not exactly stalk and eat us like we’ve been led to believe. Biting is how they figure out if we’re worth the effort. They certainly didn’t circle around the boat stalking us humans. I now have new found respect and awe for these strange and awfully ugly creatures but still wouldn’t want to be the one on a surfboard looking like a turtle, looking like lunch.
The rest of the afternoon we spent leisurely driving back along the shore to Cape Town. We stopped in Hermanus, Pringel Bay and Betty’s Bay to see the penguins. The penguins were so cute (but smelly). They just happily went along their days as observers snapped photos. They might be thinking what’s so interesting about grooming, swimming, standing or copulating.
We made countless stops along the ocean road to capture all the breathtaking views and to take a stroll on a deserted beach. It was simply magical.
We returned to our apartment sea salted and sandy but not before catching the sun go down over Sunset Beach. We had a quick and amazing dinner at Col’cacchio. Two pizzas, three large glasses of wine and two coffees for under the equivalent of 25 euros. Unreal! The most ingenious part was that my ‘under 500 cal’ pizza had a hole in the middle which was piled high with a fresh garden salad. The food here so far had been incredible.