Honestly, I don’t know how to begin this entry. I feel upset and a little guilty at the thought of never being able to fully capturing the beauty of Africa through my measly writing and pictures. After my virgin trip to Europe a year ago, I felt like I had hit the pinnacle of travels and was sad that I will never experience this wondrous feeling of being in Europe for the first time again.
Then the Africa trip came along. I knew it was going to be special, but Africa was just… so above and beyond my expectation that I fear my future travels won’t measure up to this trip. I spent ten days in Africa, from Nov 3 – 13. Out of those days, I spent six days in South Africa, three in Zimbabwe and one in Botswana. And it was, arguably the best ten days of my life.
So what brought me to Africa? I’ll be honest, not even eight months ago the thought of visiting Africa had never crossed my mind. And it would never have if it wasn’t for Serena and her temporary work assignment to Cape Town. As soon as she settled the dates of her stay in CPT, my tickets were booked. We arranged it so I arrive on her last day of work and we could then explore South Africa together, before flying out to Zimbabwe and Botswana for a real African Safari experience.
Day 1 – November 3, 2012
I booked my flight with Emirates again, the same airline I used to fly to Europe last year, so it was another 7-hour flight to Dubai followed by 3-hour transit at DXB before I was finally on my way for a 9-hour flight to CPT.
This is how South Africa looks like for the most part from above. Very mountainous with patches of desert and greeneries here and there, and very reminiscent of California right down to the dry weather.
I landed at 4pm, and was greeted at the gate by Serena who picked me up from the airport since she has a car there, which I’m super thankful for. While driving from the airport, I got my first culture shock: People in South Africa walk freely on the side of the highways! We referred to them as “walkers” and later on spotted plenty of them walking the highways on the way to Oudstshoorn, which isn’t exactly close to town so they must have walked a lot.
Also, South Africans called their traffic lights “robots”. I was told this is because when the traffic lights were first brought into South Africa, they replaced actual human policemen and was called “robot policemen” for awhile, and now shortened to just “robots”. The term stuck around and is now widely accepted throughout the country, even on road signs!
We then dropped off my luggage at her awesome apartment in Century City area and went right out the door again for my first taste of South Africa.
She took me to her favorite place in Cape Town, a beach called Camps Bay, to catch the sunset. It involved some driving through the mountain and away from the city – throughout which I just couldn’t stop making remarks about how amazing this place is. Cape Town is indeed very, very beautiful.
Across the street from the beach is a row of restaurants and lounges, with front seat view of the ocean.
While waiting for the sun to set, we settled down at one of the restaurants by the beach for a quick snack since Serena’s taking me somewhere else for dinner. I (of course) had to taste some South African wine and opted for a glass of rosé while Serena had some chocolate cake dessert.
I was pleasantly surprised that South Africans take cards as method of payment everywhere. I didn’t have to deal with cash throughout my visit here, and I was actually advised not to since they would rip you off with the exchange rate (I got a much better rate charging things on my card).
When you ask for the bill, the waiter would come to your table with the card machine and charge your card right in front of you. I was told this is because there was an issue with credit card fraud awhile back, so they had to make sure no one is copying your card info at the cashier. As for tipping, you normally tip 10% and add it to the bill yourself.
I have to say, my favorite thing about dining in South Africa has got to be how ridiculously easy to split bills, by just telling them exactly how much you want to charge to each card. Simple, right? I really think more countries need to adopt this payment method!
We sat around chatting and catching up for a little while. Once the sun started to set, we crossed the street back to the beach for some pictures and sightseeing.
Serena drove us back to the city and we went to walk around an area called Waterfront where we had dinner. This area is basically a promenade by the beach-type of area and is a great place to hang around at dinner time. It was jam-packed with plenty of restaurant options to choose from.
We settled on a Greek restaurant for dinner, which was great but they had weird red lighting at the restaurant so I didn’t take too many pics. We came back to Waterfront again later on, where I was able to snap some more pics.
After dinner we went straight back to Serena’s apartment since I was feeling tired from my flight. Also, we had a roadtrip planned bright and early the next day!