When I last left you, we had just finished in Oudtshoorn and were headed towards Cape Town. We returned our rental car in George and opted to have a tour guide drive us (mainly because we did not even vaguely want to attempt driving in Cape Town). Marius took us down the scenic route rather than straight down the N2, so we got to see Mossel Bay, Hermanus, the Southernmost point in Africa (because side note, the Cape of Good Hope is the Southwestern most point in Africa). The drive took the entire day and we were more than ready to crash at our lovely Air BnB in Camps Bay, Western Cape. Turns out we also arrived in time for a jazz festival and an Ed Sheeran concert, so we got to experience Cape Town traffic at its prime.
Our first full day was another driving tour, this time around the peninsula. We drove roughly 160km (about a hundred miles) down through Hout Bay, Kommetjie, all the way down to Cape of Good Hope, and then up to Simon’s Town. The drive was absolutely stunning and boasted some seriously impressive panoramic vistas. If you go to Cape of Good Hope, I recommend the earlier the better. We managed to beat the mega tour buses by about fifteen minutes, and we pretty much had the point to ourselves. We climbed all over the rocks, got to see some seals basking in the sun, and had tea and coffee while watching the waves before the first wave of tourists showed up (and we buggered off to beat them to the next site). There’s a beautiful lighthouse at the Cape as well (a short climb to the top; nothing too strenuous) where we got to see a whale in the bay and take some fabulous Instagram-worthy selfies (hey, we’re 23 and 18, respectively. Don’t judge us). There are walkways running all over the cliffside, so it’s a nice stretch for your legs after such a long time in the car. From the Cape we drove North to Simon’s Town, which is a quaint tourist trap with some excellent cafes for lunch (if you’re veggies like us, then the Lighthouse Cafe is for you). But Simon’s Town is home to a very special attraction: the Boulders Penguin Colony. It’s a very small stretch of beach with a boardwalk for tourists (sometimes the penguins as well) and is home to a few dozen nesting pairs of African Penguins. First, let me tell you, you can smell them before you can see them. If you’ve ever been to a zoo and wondered if penguins smelled like that in the wild: yes, yes they do. Second, there are few things in this world cuter than a penguin waddling their way down to the surf. They look very determined and they kind of hold their flippers out to the side as they go, and when they reach the water they just fall over face-first into the surf and then start swimming. It’s enrapturing and you don’t even mind the smell after a while (unless you’re Emma, in which case you sneeze uncontrollably and have to leave after ten minutes).
Our final day in Cape Town was a niche experience. We made lunch reservations at a restaurant called La Colombe, which is a fine dining experience in the vineyards of Constantia. The restaurant offers an eleven course menu with wine pairings, and it takes four hours from start to finish. Holy everything, it was insanely cool. I am a HUGE fan of the Netflix show Chef’s Table, so finally getting to experience it for myself was something magical and wonderful and mind-blowing (fun fact: did you know Michelin refuses to recognize restaurants in Africa or consider them for Michelin Stars? Screwed up, right?). We spent the entire afternoon eating some mind-blowing food, looking out over a vineyard, and laughing at our absolutely pedestrian knowledge of fine wines. I think we managed to find a new level of full, somewhere beyond “food coma”. After a serious siesta, we took a brief walk down the waterfront in Camps Bay to watch our final sunset in South Africa. And that’s that, gentle readers. The gap year has come to an end, the vacation is over and it’s time to go home and begin the next part of life. I’ll say this in farewell: take the gap year. You’ll have moments of hesitation and doubt; there will be days when you question why on Earth you decided to make this choice. But in the end, the people you meet and the experiences you have will make every moment worth it. Trust me.