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The Cape Peninsula

Table Mountain, looking southwest


There are a hundred reasons to visit the Rainbow nation. The wildlife watching, the dramatic landscapes, hiking and adventure: abseiling, surfing, safaris, paragliding, shark-cage diving (!), you name it! The country features some of the best National parks in Africa and the world (Kruger being the most famous), a garden route and a wine route.

What struck me most was the nature. It is as if God was angry when he made South Africa and left edges everywhere. Despite huge cultivated flat fields, land somehow always culminates abruptly in a steep slope, a rock or a vertical cliff (the Table Mountain is a typical example). Some drives in the vicinity of Cape Town (our base) count among the most dramatic in Africa and offer huge ocean views. Cape Point (Cape’s most southern point) and Cape of Good Hope (Africa's most south-western point) are the epitome of the Western Cape beauty. Looking at the ocean it feels awesome, in both senses of the word, knowing there is nothing between you and the Antarctica. And the drive to both capes, as well as to Cape Agulhas (Africa's most southern point) is splendid. Driving to Cape Point one could think of the Côte d´Azur, albeit with less people and bluer, colder water, while driving to Cape Agulhas from the eastern route one cannot help but feeling in awe of the hugeness of this land.

It was a strange time to visit South Africa. Zero day for drinking water was due to happen a few weeks after our arrival (see the first photos of the Hermanus and Cape Agulhas slideshow, the desolation at the Theewaterskloofdam, the main waterreservoir of the Cape, as we rode south on the R45 from Franschhoek to Hermanus). Even the Google Satellite view shows an advanced state of draught). The water reserves had been depleted after a three-year draught. The town had reached the point of no return, making it possibly the first town in the civilized world about to apply stringent measures for water distribution: on the 8th of April 2018 water distribution points were going to be established, guarded by police and military, and water consumption reduced to 50 litres per person and per day. Problems were expected to arise, and frankly it felt awkward being so close to one of the environmental disasters that is inevitably going to happen in other cities of the world too (NY, Beijing, to name but a few…).
Strict measures were already in place to postpone that date. No more car washing, no more swimming pool filling, liquid soap instead of running water. Messages and billboards had been put everywhere, some awkward ("No more showering  on Saturday"), others hilarious: ("If it's brown  let it drown, if it's yellow let it mellow"!..) A pail was provided at the hotel to collect used shower water for the WC and the water shortage seemed to weigh upon the city like a fatal disease, a common unspoken secret. A limit was set to the number of drinking water bottles one could buy, and although it was often cloudy nothing but a few drops came down.
In the end it DID rain, and the date was postponed, but unless a serious desalination plan is put in place, the Western Cape is soon going to be facing even more serious problems.


You drive on the wrong, left side of the road. Rules are applied in an American way, with strict speed limits and a heavy-armed police. Drivers (black and white) are more than keen to be shitty and remind you of the slightest mistake you make by flashing their lights or honking. But the roads are good and the cars in a good condition. The real danger one is facing, with a car and in general in South Africa, is safety. Armed robbery than can easily escalate to manslaughter, simple robbery or breaking in. Don't leave anything of value in the car, not even clothes. Do not open the trunk when you arrive at your destination, if things are inside it. Do this before you arrive at your destination. Keep your windows closed if possible, and be ready to accelerate, even at a traffic light, if something seems not normal. Do not resist if something happens. In case of car trouble on a highway, stay in the car and ask for help by phone.
Although we did not face direct danger, taxi drivers and police confirmed to me that crime, when it happens while you are in the car, can quickly turn violent. Stay vigilant.

You need an adapter. Good hotels provide at least some European plugs.

You can only exchange to local currency (Rand) in a bank. The currency fluctuates intensively. If possible, book ahead, check exchange rates and try to use the lower ones.
For every transaction with your credit card your credit card company will charge you a small extra amount.

Don't even THINK of using your mobile to call in SA! Count 8-9 euros per minute! Similar unbelievable rates are valid for 4G.

Very good connections that should allow you to call home for free.

A century of oppression and apartheid has created a safety situation that needs to be well taken into consideration before visiting South Africa. Mandela is gone, Zuma is gone, but nothing has really changed for the black population. I often felt in the look of black people a barely disguised dislike in me, even when in a client/customer situation. A day before we arrived the country elected a new President, and although feared problems did not occur, violence erupted with black people killing white farmers.
The V&A Waterfront in Cape Town is probably the only place in South Africa where you can wander freely, day or night. It is discreetly guarded, and although one needs to remain careful, it felt safe, even at night. This comes with a price of course. Hotels are much more expensive, restaurants too. The place has a Miami feel, with things going on, boats coming and going, museums, an aquarium, a mall, a huge choice of bars and restaurants…
For the rest of Cape Town, one needs to be extremely careful from the moment shops close down, around 18.00. The town transforms itself quickly and one gets this gut feeling it’s time to head back home. A taxi is your way out. Ubers work pretty good, but you need a WiFi: if you get stuck in the City Bowl, the offices of the Hop on Hop off red Sightseeing buses on Long Street (the main city artery) offer a free wifi hotspot: use it to call a Uber!.
In general, after hours you need a transport to and from for your evening outings. Ignore this and you are heading into problems. There is no spontaneity in South Africa, you need to plan ahead.