|| Cape Town
It is official, Cape Town is one of the most beautiful
places on earth! Truly, it is magnificent. I want to live here.
Oh and you are right, its not part of Southeast Asia,
but when a place is a magnificent as Cape Town, it deserves
to be known to the rest of the world.
I had previously been to Johannesburg and Pretoria, which was
interesting but not somewhere I wanted to come and live. Cape
Town is just like Australia, it feels like a combination of
Melbourne and Sydney. Amazing place.
Quick History: Early Dutch and Portuguese explorers
stopped at and recorded the existence of Cape Town area as early
as 1486. However no permanent settlement was made until 1652
when the Dutch East Indies Company set Cape Town up as a replenishment
station for their ships heading to Indonesia and other parts
of the Far East. Many of the early settlers were probably slaves
brought in from Indonesia and other parts of Africa or India,
their descendants are still known as Cape Coloureds and indeed
there is ample evidence of the legacy of Indonesian, Portuguese,
African and Indian culture here.
In 1795 the British in their usual fashion decided they wanted
the Cape and so fought a short but bloody battle with the under-equipped
and poorly trained soldiers of the Dutch East Indies Company.
The Cape underwent a few changes of ownership with the Dutch
being given it back by the Brits for a couple of years from
1803 to 1806 and then from 1814 until 1961 it remained under
British control after a few other wars and skirmishes.
Apart from being a port for shipping, Cape Town was also near
some of the earlier diamond discoveries in South Africa in the
late 1800’s. Gold was also discovered and this brought
all sorts of migrants to the region in search of instant wealth.
And as usual there was plenty of tension when there was something
of value to be had for nothing but hard work. So the Boer Wars
commenced. The Boers were essentially the descendants of Dutch
farmers who settled around the Cape area over the years and
who resisted the rule of the British, well the Dutch and the
Brits have never really been comfortable bed fellows have they.
The Boer War had a number of notable events, some very bloody
and some celebrated in other nations, such as Australia. Indeed
the Boer War was the first foreign conflict that saw Australian
soldiers under the guise of the AIF (Australian Imperial Forces)
come together and fight a common enemy. The Boer War is also
famous, or perhaps infamous for the story, trial and execution
of Breaker Morant. Just another reason to hate the Brits really.
So finally in 1910 the Union of South Africa was formed and
self rule was proclaimed, but it was not until 1961 that the
Republic of South Africa was formed and the Brits finally left.
This however was not the end of the struggle of South Africa.
The darkest days of the Republic were the Apartheid days from
1948 until 1994 when the first true democratic elections were
held leading to the election of the African National Congress
and Nelson Mandela. If you don’t know about Apartheid
look it up on Wikipedia.
Today South Africa is a true democracy and the genuine affection
with which the races now interact is a wonderful thing to see.
The economy of the Cape is booming and while unemployment is
still extremely high the government and the people are making
huge strides to remedy this. It is truly amazing to come here
and experience it all. I am particularly joyed by this as I
was an active and regular participant in the Anti Apartheid
rallies in Australia in the early 1970’s, they were exciting,
dangerous but worthwhile for the pressure it put on our government
and the rest of the world to end that most invidious and disgusting
law and practice.
Cape Town is not the easiest place in the world to get to, it
really is a very long way from anywhere. 12 hours from Singapore,
16 hours from Sydney, 11 hours from London, 20+ hours from New
York and other places, and a whole lot further from Tokyo and
There are many flights via Joberg and then connecting to Cape
Town, there just are not that many flights between the cities
and if your inbound flight is late you may well have to stay
in Joberg overnight until a seat becomes available for you.
So if possible get a direct flight even if it means doing a
transfer in another city, like Singapore or one of the other
South Africa has an almost open borders policy, very few countries
require a visa to enter. You will however need to show that
you have a return ticket, so if you are traveling on an e-ticket
make sure you have a printed copy of it, or like me you will
spend an hour in the pen waiting for the airline to print it
out for you.
Not sure why, but there are not a lot of International brands
here in Cape Town. There is a Sheraton, which is ok but not
great. The local 4 and 5 star hotel look wonderful so do your
research (Google) for hotels and pick from the range that are
on offer. Try the boutiques or others out in the suburbs or
along the beach. Nothing is really very far away and unless
here on business there is no reason to be downtown, its boring
and dangerous at night and on weekends.
There are lots of accommodation choices here and in the Cape
region generally. My friend Rupert even has a place you can
go and have a look, its just a most beautiful place.
There are many taxis in Cape Town, and that is just as well
as its dangerous to walk around on your own at any time of the
day and especially after hours, even 100 metres can see you
being in a dangerous situation very quickly. The taxis don’t
mind taking you even the shortest of distance, indeed I would
have to say that the cab drivers here are the friendliest and
happiest I have ever encountered. So don’t walk.
South Arica is rightly proud of its food. The traditional South
African cuisine is really interesting, lots of beef and fish
and always with wonderful fresh vegetables. South African beef
is unbelievable and very lean. Its tempting to eat it all the
time. The local fish is also wonderful, the most commonly ordered
fish is called Line Fish, not sure why, but its lovely, white,
soft and easy to cook and eat. The vegetables are always fresh
and slightly provincial in their servings. Very nice and very
Cape Town also has a very diverse ethnic mix and so here you
will also get Indian, Malay, Cajun and Chinese and all of outstanding
quality. The servings are also quite large so only order an
appetiser if you are starving.
One of the things that South Africans love is a BBQ, except
here its called a Brai (pronounced Br-eye). They love it and
will stop pretty much anything except a good rugby game if there
is a Brai on. They also like to go to their Brai in their ‘Buckies’.
Now a Buckie is what an Australian would call a ‘Ute’
or Utility vehicle and Americans might call an SUV half cab.
But here it’s a Buckie and they love them as much as we
do. The Brai however consists of a ton of meat in various forms,
sausages a long as an Elephants small intestine, steaks as big
as Texas and chops that would slay Conan with a good slap, to
date I am yet to see any vegetables that did not involve potato
Cape Town has so many wonderful restaurants that its hard to
pick them out. We managed to get to quite a few so here are
my recommendations, and a couple from some friends who come
Andiamo - This is in the Cape Centre on de Waterkant.
Cape Centre has a little courtyard with many café and
restaurants. All look great but this one was recommended by
someone with exquisite taste, and he was spot on. Definitely
a lunch spot on the weekend, menu was different enough to be
interesting but not pretentious. Wine list was all South African
but the house white was an outstanding Sauvignon Blanc, well
recommended by the waiter who immediately recognised my accent
and knew what I would probably like. Cannot complain about that
sort of service. The meal itself was really interesting. It
was called Fettini, which I thought would be Italian but it
turns out to be a traditional South African dish of thinly sliced
beef with polenta (yummy), sautéed mushrooms and rough
hewn seasonal vegetables. It was just an outstanding meal. The
ambience was perfect and there was no pressure to move on once
the meal was finished, highly recommended.
Moyo - Located within the Spier winery (or wine farm
as they call them here) Moyo is an African themed indoor/outdoor
restaurant. It was a truly magical experience. More than 500
of us descended on the place and were entertained by a variety
of musical events with African themes, really great stuff. The
food is African buffet, a bit of Brai feel about it but more
food than you could eat and a lot of it quite different. I had
among other things the Roast Ox Tail, oh my it was so tender
and so sweet that I had to stop myself going back for more.
The steak was tender and lean, the chicken came in many guises
and was soft and tender. The vegetables were of many kinds and
far too many to eat them all. Moyo is a place that needs at
least three visits to do it justice. The ambience is wonderful
and I will certainly be back for more.
Yes its good, not always great but good. The locals are very
proud of their wines and they have been at it for probably 300
years now. The Sauvignon Blanc is really very very good, the
Riesling is also wonderful. The Chardonnay is too wooded as
a rule and the flavour is lost to the oak. The reds are interesting.
Generally I found that the Shiraz was far too acid and the tendency
is to make them BIG. The Cabernet/Sauvignon is generally very
good but the outstanding local wine is the Pinotage. We are
told this was created many years ago by combining vines of the
Pinot and Hermitage grapes. It is a very special wine and one
that has to be tasted to be appreciated. Its great.
Beer is not always beer, but in South Africa it is generally
very good. The mainstay is Castle and its good, no doubt about
it, we certainly drank a lot of it so it must have been good.
to do: Cape Town has a few things to do that are fantastic,
but not a whole lot so plan your stay to make sure you fit it
all in. I think one week is going to be enough, once you get
over the jet lag.
Basically the touring choices include:
Go early in the day. It opens at 0830 so get there around that
time because the crowds grow quickly.
Cable car ride takes 2 minutes and is fantastic
The view from the top is unbelievable. Plan to stay for a couple
of hours and if fit enough take the walking tracks, they are
easy walking. Take water and a jacket or sweater, its colder
There is a great little café that makes good coffee,
take the time and sit and enjoy (they do a BIG breakfast too)
Sunset is apparently fantastic, but you can find yourself in
trouble if the cloud comes in (see photos) or if the wind picks
up as the cable car will be closed.
There are hundreds of them so book a B&B and don’t
drive too far
The scenery out here is awe inspiring, more mountains, acres
of vines and green green green
One place you have to visit in Stellenbosch is Spier. I am told
that some Dutch billionaire purchased Spier some years ago in
a fire sale and has spent millions on it, and he did a great
job too. The wine is what it is, but it also has a mini game
park, a leopard recovery centre, picnic area, horse-riding and
Moyo restaurant (see separate section on this). Probably could
spend most of one day here without too much trouble and only
45 minutes from the city.
By all reports at least a one day trip to see whales, penguins
and other animals.
Blouberg (kite surfing, families, lazing around)
Boulders Beach (boulders – go figure, and penguins)
Camps Bay (cafes and restaurants, white sand)
Clifton Beach (paragliding, sunbathing, popular with all)
Fish Hoek (safest swimming beach at the cape)
Hout Bay (beautiful scenery and easy access to seals)
Muizenberg (gentle surf and good for families)
Noorhoek (white sand, wide beach, great for dogs and horses)
Sandy Bay (nudists).
This is where Nelson Mandela was incarcerated for 27 years during
the Apartheid period. I didn’t have time to go over there
but my local friends tell me that it is a truly humbling experience
to go over there and experience the environment that this great
man endured in for almost 3 decades.
The island can be seen from Table Mountain in the middle of
the bay off Cape Town (see photo to right). Its incredible to
think the Mandela was so close all those years.
Tours leave from the Waterfront area.
There are some good and not so good places here. The Waterfront
area is quite large and includes the marina, condominiums, restaurants,
shopping mall, art shops and interesting maritime features.
The V&A mall is pretty basic, I did a bit of good shopping,
but its not Singapore, Hong Kong or Bangkok, so don’t
go there expecting too much. There are some nice African craftwork
places to poke around in and lots of good restaurants, but not
too much else.
Oh there are plenty of places to drink beer!
The locals and the taxi drivers tell me the golf courses here
are world class, will bring my clubs next time.
South Africa drives on the CORRECT side of the road, the LEFT
that is. So for us Aussies and Brits its very comfortable. The
roads are extremely good and very clearly sign posted, it would
be hard to get lost here even without a map. If you are coming
here I would recommend getting a car for a few days, it will
be easier to get around and back to where you are staying. Most
of the tourist sights are within a 1 to 2 hour drive of the
city and so taking a taxi is going to be very expensive.
I asked a couple of taxi drivers how much it would be to get
my friends place at Arniston and generally it was R1500, which
is about US$220, so quite expensive.
There are lots of tour groups here but if you want to do the
self drive don’t be concerned about getting around, its
The weather here is great, as I said its like combining Melbourne
and Sydney. Summer is very hot and can easily reach 40c+ in
February. The winter is more like Sydney, not really cold except
at night. Spring and Autumn seem to be the best seasons. Its
spring as I write this. Each day has been 26 to 28’c and
the wind is warm, shorts and a shirt are very comfortable for
daytime and a light jacket or cotton sweater at night is more
than enough cover. Its also a dry climate so rain is not usually
a consideration. The wettest months are June and July which
is also winter here, so if you don’t want the cold and
wet, come in August or September, its October now and its close
to perfect. I am told March and April are also close to perfect.
South Africans are generally very hospitable people, regardless
of race or background. Questions are answered in a concerned
and considered manner. Nothing seems to be too much bother for
anyone here, nice change from some places we go I can tell you.
Having said that I again warn you that it is not safe to walk
around the city alone at day or night. Take a taxi.
Final Comment: If I could live anywhere in
the world apart from Australia, this would be it. So come and
have a look for yourself.
More Cape Town Images