3 lessons from wilderness camping at Cape Nature Reserve

Excited is an understatement.

I couldn’t wait for this trip.

When my cousins, Sebastian and Jane asked me to join them on a multi-day hike through Cape Nature Reserve, I didn’t think twice. I was all-in.

And let me tell you, it was am-a-zing.

I really just needed a getaway.

I didn’t anticipate how physically demanding it would be though. Especially since we’d had to pass through several river rapids on lilos, rock jump, and carry hefty backpacks from sunrise to sunset – for four days.

Every effort was worth it.

From the get-go:

We’d trekked from Porterville, about 155 km north east of Cape Town. I ran into the tour office with Jane, who thought that I was better at Afrikaans – but spoke to the receptionist anyway.

We got onto the back of a bakkie and Lisa (Jane’s friend), led us to the trail.

Rick, their American friend, was also with us. He’d come to South Africa for this first time and I guess that this trail offered him a true reflection of how beautiful our country is.

Little did he know that he was going to be bitten by horseflies and nibbled by freshwater fish.

I didn’t even know that horseflies existed before this trip. Their harmless bites left my legs itching for days after I’d returned home.

On our way to the entrance of the trail, we picked up a Swiss paraglider who said that he’d been travelling for two months. “Goals,” I thought. I repeated everything he’d said in my mind, trying to make sense of the words from his accent.

Nearing the entrance, I purposefully sat in the direction of the wind – it’d been a long time since I’d felt this at ease on a trip – not having to do much planning or stressing about  safety on my usual solo missions. I closed my eyes and let the wind catch my face.

Moments like those are are few and far between.

1st Night: camping under a tree near Die Hel rock pool

Jane cooked us supper in a pot, using a gas stove and some river jack stones. We had pasta, soy chicken, peppadews, onions, and some sweet and sour sauce that tasted really delicious. We drank straight from the river that supplies the city’s fresh water. I was skeptical of drinking the water at first but the rest of the gang were quite clued up on the surrounding resources. “As long as you’re drinking the water that flows, it’s okay to drink,” Lisa said.

camping in the western cape
A snack and a swim before heading to our camping spot. Photo/ Sebastian Wyngaard
Jane having a quick swim to cool down in the searing heat. Photo/ Sebastian Wyngaard
camping in the western cape
Find a levelled piece of land to make sure that you sleep comfortably. Photo/ Sebastian Wyngaard

2nd Night: sleeping in a valley, across from a waterfall

The gushing sound of the waterfall, though loud, was somewhat therapeutic. Jane, Rick, and Sebastian played cards with head lights on – after supper, while I journaled, and Lisa had her head buried in a book.

Swimming in a really deep rock pool; dodging tree branches as we sailed through the river on our lilos, and stopping at the nearest river bank for snack time and lunch, made me realize just how little I needed to enjoy myself. There were no TVs, not toilets, no WiFi… And it was fun.

Lisa and Sebastian floating on the river’s current. Photo/ Sebastian Wyngaard
Sailing through river rapids was an exhilarating experience. Photo/ Sebastian Wyngaard
camping in the western cape
I woke up to this view. Photo/ Sebastian Wyngaard

3rd Night: a sandy campsite by the river bank

Have you ever had instant mash potato? It’s dehydrated  and mashed potato powder that returns to it’s fluffy, white texture when you add hot water. Camping food hacks were really on point here. I, of course brought tins of beans, that added to the weight of my bag and I couldn’t discard because it’s not bio-degradable. Try not to pack tins if you don’t need to.

This campsite was a little difficult to sleep on. The river bank formed a slight slope and kept slipping off my lilo. The sun had set at around 8 pm and we could clearly see the orange and red tints disappear behind the mountains. It was beautiful.

camping in the western cape
Rick and I trekking through some rocklands. Photos/ Sebastian Wyngaard
camping in the western cape
Supper time at our sandy campsite:) Photo/ Robyn Ruth Thomas

3 life lessons from camping:

How to appreciate nature

Following the entire trail gave me an opportunity to spot so many natural elements that I was oblivious to. From monstrous insects, fearless fish, and the sounds of baboons barking in the distance, I finally got to experience a minimalist excursion, which I will be doing more of.

You don’t need a lot to be happy

Overall, I’d spent about R 1000 on this trip, including food, travelling to and fro, reserve permit, and minor gear. As travel writer, Robin Esrock says, ” people you meet, create the paradise you find.” And I think that it’s important to make sure that you’re in good company on any trip, otherwise you won’t enjoy it, no matter where you are.

The most difficult moments arise before the end

I was the last person to complete the trail and just as I was nearing the final hilly stretch of land that leads to the road, someone screamed, “watch out for the hole!” Reeds and sticks had covered what seemed to be a deep dip and the only way to get across was to hang onto a tree branch and swing my way to the other side. I thought, “really? I’m metres away from reaching the road and now I still have to swing my weight to dodge a hole?” But I did. And I’m more capable because of it.

camping in the western cape
“Cheese!” Photo/ Sebastian Wyngaard

What are some of the things that you’ve learned while travelling? Leave me a comment in the space (right down) below, or connect with me on Instagram, Twitter, and Facebook. I’d love to connect with you. 

Road trip through the world’s longest Wine Route: Route 62

montagu springs trip

Grab some snacks, your camera, a buddy, and take a drive through Route 62.

You won’t be sorry.

If you’re looking for a cosy, affordable destination to escape to – not too far from Cape Town, stopover in the quaint town of Montagu.

The town is absolutely peaceful.

Shops are closed on a Sunday, there’s no rush to go anywhere – the people are friendly, and you can find  some genuinely mouthwatering healthy snacks at the markets.

Nothing beats catching wind on the back of a bakkie; getting to drive through messy puddles, sifting through heaps of vintage treasures, and taking home the bulk of the town’s specialties. Home baked biscuits, nuts, biltong, dried fruit and wine, wine, wine – is what you’ll find lots of at low cost, along Route 62.

One disappointment; I curse Cape Town’s coffee shops and restaurants for treating me to variety – unless you’re planning a sit-down at a restaurant for coffee, the most exotic option you’ll find is a Cappuccino with full cream milk. No Chai Lattes, no soy milk or honey substitutes, not even a decaf Cappuccino to go (to be found), anywhere from the N1 to Ashton. I packed my almond milk for the weekend, in case I wanted to have some Oats for breakfast at Montagu Springs Resort.

The self-catered experience

Who doesn’t love waking up to a rich breakfast in the morning. Staying over at a place that doesn’t offer breakfast can sometimes be inconvenient, especially if you’re trekking to the middle of nowhere. I love traveling light so I usually ensure that wherever I go, there’s a place to grab breakfast nearby. This is why staying at Montagu Springs Resort was perfect. While the resort is a fully self-catering venue, we could walk (but chose to drive) to Main Road, where restaurants and grocery stores lined the streets. There is also a superette just outside the resort where you  can find the essentials like tea, bread, milk, and biscuits.

At the resort, there are three swimming pools, one heated – it’s like getting into a bath, except that it’s outside, surrounded by greenery and mountains. There’s also three tennis courts, lots of space to braai, a huge playground where kids can jungle gym, swing, and run around, and bicycles for hire (at about R30 per hour). Avalon Springs is right next door with a restauarant, two bars, a spa, and the natural mineral springs. We popped into Avalon Springs but didn’t use any of the facilities so I’m not too sure whether it’s any good.

Our chalet was spacious and cosy. We checked into a Josmont Heights Chalet, which had a private deck with a braai place, a walk-in bathroom, a fully self-catering kitchen with cutlery and crockery, and a glass door in the main bedroom, leading out onto the deck. Waking up to the sound of birds, spotting the greenery and towering mountains, is definitely worth the experience. This is not a luxury resort so don’t expect percale linen or fancy furniture. Check out the resort pricing and chalet specials on their website for more information and photos.

accommodation along route 62accommodation along route 62accommodation along route 62

The drive Through Route 62 and using GPS

You don’t really need GPS for this road trip, it’s pretty straight forward. The road is long and scenic, something a writer like me finds inspiring. The towns you’ll pass through, if you’re travelling from Cape Town, and let’s stay, stopover in Montagu, are Paarl, Worcester, Nuy, Robertson, and Ashton. There’s more than enough to explore on the way there and back.

We’d planned to go hiking in the mountains, a few steps from our chalet at Montagu Springs; we wanted to cycle through the town, enjoy a Saturday lunch at one of the restaurants but we just didn’t have enough time. At leas three to four full days to absorb the atmosphere – to really explore all that Route 62 has to offer, would have sufficed. If not more.

Here’s how to get to Montagu from Cape Town

Roadtrip essentials

  • Water
  • Cash or credit card for e-toll gate
  • Sunnies
  • Warm clothes or blanky
  • Padkos (road trip snacks)
  • GPS or road map (if you must)

Montagu is just over 2 hours drive from Cape Town and there are quite a few pitstops along the way where you can refuel, refresh, and take lots of photos.

What has been your best road trip yet? I’d love to hear from you. Pop me a comment in the space below or email me directly to robyn@bewhole.co.za

 

 

 

5 Instagram quotes that prove how travel benefits you

motivation for body confidence

 

There’s a traveller in all of us. We’re all born with curiosity for  the unknown. Whether we’re stepping out onto our front lawn, or hopping onto to a plane to a foreign destination, we’re travelling, discovering, learning and changing to adapt to our surroundings.

Do you want to see the world but feel that you have too many limitations? Read through these 20 Instagram quotes that will lead you straight into action:

It broadens your understanding of other people

You will never understand the true meaning of your life until you travel and experience how others are living theirs – anonymous

A photo posted by Jeremy Webb (@jww_25) on

You become less critical and intolerant

Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry, and narrow-mindedness.  – Mark Twain

You create memories that will last a lifetime.

Jobs fill your pocket. Adventures fill your soul – Jaime Lyn Beatty

A photo posted by ? (@nicciturtle) on

 

You develop self-confidence and begin to love yourself

Travel brings power and love back into your life – Rumi

A photo posted by Wanderers Hub (@wanderershub) on

You realize the true meaning of wealth

Travel is the only thing you buy that makes you richer – Anonymous

A photo posted by @backpackchecklist on

You relieve yourself of past judgements that have been hold you back

When you are traveling, you are who you are right there and then, people don’t have your past to hold against you. No yesterdays on the road. – The Wanderlust Addict

It boosts your character

Travelling – it leaves you speechless and turns you into a storyteller – Ibn Battuta

 

What are some of your favourite travel quotes? I’d love to hear from you. Leave me a comment in the section below and connect with me on Instagram

Abu Dhabi fast becoming luxe travellers’ hub

When I think of exploring the world, my first inclination is for uncovering scenic landscapes where there are often few people and local hangouts –  I want to see islands, safaris, national parks, try foreign foods and visit rural communities. Forget high-end shopping sprees or short stays in five-star hotels that charge R100 for a simple sandwich; I search for street markets, sometimes architecture, and usually scout to see which types of animals can be found in the area. But if there is one ultra-luxe destination that could convert me, explicitly described as luxurious and wealthy – it’s the variant and beautiful Abu Dhabi.

I chatted to Verushka Ramasami of the Spice Goddess, who recalls her first visit to Abu Dhabi as nothing short of memorable.

Abu Dhabi is a paradise for any foodie
Breakfast in Abu Dhabi. (Photo/ Verushka Ramasani)
Breakfast in Abu Dhabi. (Photo/ Verushka Ramasami)

If you’re the kind of traveller who enjoys treating your taste buds to foreign cuisine, you’re in for a hell of a time in the UAE. Verushka was fortunate enough to eat at two Michelin Star eateries and when she’d arrived, the breakfast menus were fit for royalty.  Among the fresh and hearty dishes was baked salmon, Dim Sum, waffles and roasted leg of lamb. Imagine waking up to a buffet of those kinds of dishes. I wouldn’t second guess the opportunity. She also mentioned that at one of the venues – the ultra-luxe Emirates Palace – chefs mark their desserts and even drinks with a gold leaf – the signature element of their brand.

The city is more diverse than you can imagine

In a 2010 article published by Emirates 24/7, annual statistics showed that over 1.2 million of the city’s population are expats – that sure says a lot about what kind of place it must be to live in if foreigners are flocking to the city, hey? Fast forward to 2016, where the population analytics have likely exceeded, rest assured that you will arrive at a diversity of activities, suited to your preference. “Unlike Dubai, Abu Dhabi still has the charm of the old Emirati way of living. There is something for everyone to do so you will never be bored in this bustling city.”

Must-see attractions:

  • Yas Island – home of the F1 track and Ferrari World Abu Dhabi.
  • Arabian Nights Village for desert adventures like camel riding, dune bashing, and watching belly dancers under the night sky.

 

A glimpse of Abu Dhabi. (Photo/ Verushka Ramasani)
A glimpse of Abu Dhabi. (Photo/ Verushka Ramasami)

“The Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque will blow you away – the architecture and attention to detail is impeccable, not forgetting the stunning crystal chandeliers. I could not stop taking pictures of this mosque. Luckily, the hotel that I stayed at, the Shangri-La was literally across the river, offering amazing evening views of the Mosque at night,” Verushka recalls.

Travel enthusiast and founder of the SpiceGoddess - lifestyle blog, taking a selfie in luxurious Abu Dhabi. Photo/ Verushka Ramasani
Travel enthusiast and founder of the SpiceGoddess – lifestyle blog, taking a selfie in luxurious Abu Dhabi. (Photo/ Verushka Ramasami)

Verushka Ramasami is a 30-something mistress of words from Durban in sunny South Africa. A lifestyle blogger who loves Vanilla, travel, books and gadgets. Read more about her at the SpiceGoddess or follow her on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

Thailand: the go-to for any group holiday

You don’t need to enhance any photos you take in Thailand. It’s just stunning. – Nikita Hadskins

I can’t think of anything more exhilarating than going on a trip with a bunch of my best friends for a few days – island hopping, sipping cocktails, going elephant-back riding and spending all day in my bikini. Sound dreamy? That’s just the short of how Nikita Hadskins and her friends spent their time in Thailand. Take a look at why Thailand should be your go-to for a group holiday:

Nikita Hadskins and Byron Fester snapping a photo with a Thai elephant. Photo/ NIkita Hadskins
Nikita Hadskins and Byron Fester snapping a photo with a Thai elephant. Photo/ Nikita Hadskins
It’s really affordable

South Africans who love to travel can all tell you a tale about the time they were in Thailand, or at least that they’re thinking of going. It’s one of the most beautiful destinations in the world, and also one of the few places on the planet where South African currency is actually worth more than the local currency – the Thai Baht.

Related: 7 worldwide destinations every traveller should see

The scenery is heavenly

Remembering her most memorable moments, Nikita recalls travelling by speedboat to four of the six islands that make up Phi Phi Islands. She recalls having a pretty bumpy ride en route to the islands but that it was well worth it. “My favourite beach to have visited on that day was Maya beach. It was absolutely beautiful. I honestly wouldn’t be able to think of any words that would justly describe how incredible it all was. The sand was warm; the water was clear, fading into different shades of blue and the surrounding scenery set the stage for a movie. In this new age, where social media has taken over, you don’t need to enhance any photos you take in Thailand. It’s just stunning.”

Perfect weather for a selfie. Nikita Hadskins snaps a selfie in Thailand. Photo/ Nikita Hadskins
Perfect weather for a selfie. Nikita Hadskins snaps a selfie in Thailand. Photo/ Nikita Hadskins
There’s so much to do and see

Nikita goes on to highlight how Thailand is the perfect holiday destination due to its variety for diverse travellers. “If you are planning to lounge about, soaking up the sun, there are beautiful beaches with clear, warm waters to unwind. For a wild shopping spree and bargains, explore the day and night markets and huge shopping malls that have up to 10 floors and sell everything that you could possibly imagine. If however, you’re feeling a bit adventurous and want to explore the beautiful islands, take a day trip to see the islands; swim and go canoeing or snorkelling. Thai people are extremely humble and very friendly which adds to the whole experience.”

Related: Why travelling to Mauritius should be on your bucket list

Bye Felicia, we're in Thailand! Nikita Hadskins shares a photo of herself and friends on holiday in Thailand. Photo/ Nikita hadskins
Bye Felicia, we’re in Thailand! Nikita Hadskins shares a photo of herself and friends on holiday in Thailand. Photo/ Nikita hadskins
The food’s not bad at all

“Before going to Thailand, a few people warned that we could get sick from eating local foods. We were extremely lucky as none of us had any bad experiences with the food – in fact, the food was quite tasty and often came in large portions. Most of the dishes that we tried were different curries or stir fry made from pork, chicken or shrimp and served with either egg-fried rice or noodles.”

Discover: The best route to hike up Table Mountain

3 Major Thailand Survival hacks
Protect your skin

Pack lots of insect repellent to avoid pesky mosquitoes and sunscreen to shield from the sun.

Don’t be afraid to negotiate buying prices at the markets.

“Most of the time, their first price is already double of what they are expecting to settle at,” says Nikita.

Watch out for scams

While exploring the nightlife, she recalls coming into contact with people who tried to trick her and her friends into buying club tickets to clubs that didn’t charge an entry fee.

Do you have a travel story worth telling? I’d love to hear from you. Connect with me on Instagram, Twitter, and Facebook or simply drop me a line in the comment section below.

Follow Nikita on Instagram to view more photos of her experience in Thailand.

7 worldwide destinations every traveller should see

“You don’t have to be rich to travel well.” – Eugene Fodor

It’s becoming increasingly difficult for South Africans to travel abroad. Even super wealthy South Africans are cutting down on luxe costs overseas while tourism to our country sees an even greater increase.

Thanks to the value of the Rand.

Hands up if you’re a travel enthusiast who has never been to Cape Town? You could live luxuriously for next-to-nothing and still have enough for gifts to take back home. There’s a global community of adventure-hungry explorers planning their next trip as you read this.

The truth is, as Eugene Fodor so plainly put it, you don’t have to be rich to travel well. There are ways and means to get to your desired destinations, you just need to know how.

Take a look at these 7 worldwide destinations worth exploring:

New York

New York

Leana Van Rooyen embarks on a Solo mission to the World’s most famous City. From free walking tours, tips on how to use the Subway, a mini review on American (New Yorker) food, and insight on must-see attractions; learn more about how to make the most of your visit to New York, here.

London
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London Bridge selfie. Photo/ Robyn Thomas

#Takemeback. I have never been so cold and happy at the same time. London was better than I’d imagined it. If you’d asked me to hop on a plane to just walk the streets and listen to buskers all day, I would gladly take the trip. London is quite diverse. There’s so much to do and see, from admiring creative works in Camden Town (where Amy Winehouse lived), to luxe dining on the 40th floor of the Heron Tower – at Duck and Waffle. Take a look at these tips before traveling to the UK:  I toured London in 10 days and this is the short of it.

Cape Town
The view from the top of Table Mountain. Photo/ Megan Isaacs
The view from the top of Table Mountain. Photo/ Megan Isaacs

There is no match for the Mother City – the Cape of Good Hope – the home of Table Mountain. Cape Town is vibrant, it’s cosmopolitan; there are beaches and tall buildings, mountains, artisan coffee shops, boutiques, and so much more. People come to Cape Town for many reasons, and one of them is to hike Table Mountain. Discover the best route to Table Mountain’s summit below:

The route to hike up Table Mountain

Mauritius
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Casually cruising in Mauritius. Photo/ Staci Jacobs

Not much needs to be said about Mauritius. Even those who’ve never seen the island have heard stories echoing its magic. Ideal for a ‘girls getaway’ or even a soul-searching solo mission, Mauritius – honeymoon central, is nothing short of an earthly paradise. Take a look at Staci Jacobs’ experience with friends on the island. Staci shares memories like swimming with dolphins, and tips for an enjoyable yet cost-effective trip.

Why travelling to Mauritius should be on your bucket list

Mozambique
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Watching the sunset in Mozambique. Photo/ Callan Blount

Exotic culture. Sunshine. Turquoise beaches. Palm trees. Surfing. Spices. Fresh seafood. And that’s just the short of it. On his trip to the south of Mozambique, Callan Blount recalls Mozambique as an aquarium; tranquil, natural, and humbling. Read the poetic details of his experience, from sipping rum with the locals, to exploring shipwrecks in the ocean:

Finding solace in Mozambique

The South of France
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A bird’s eye view of Grenoble, France. Photo/ Lynn Cupido

Is it just me or does everyone secretly dreams of settling down in the South of France. I truly hope that that will be the way my life turns out (at least now). For Lynn Cupido, moving to Grenoble for a job venture gave her an insider experience into French Culture. Teaching English and blogging in between, Lynn explains how her decision to drop everything and pursue her ambition changed her life forever. Read more via the link below:

From Bellville to Grenoble

India
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The original Holi Festival. Photo/ Simone Franks

“India is awe-inspiring and life-changing… It offers an equal dosage of old and new, traditional and modern, adventurous and serene. There is something for everyone… Keep an open mind… Do your research… Pack light…”… Just some of the tips shared by Simone in 3 reasons to love India.

Do you have a travel story worth sharing? I’d love to hear from you. Leave me a comment in the section below or email me directly to robyn@bewhole.co.za to feature your story.

 

 

 

 

 

Why travelling to Mauritius should be on your bucket list

“It’s the epitome of a tropical island paradise.”

Dubbed heaven on earth by famed author and traveller, Ernest Hemingway, Mauritius offers every traveller a haven for peace and relaxation.

With a few effortless answers covering her latest girls’ getaway, Staci Jacobs validates why Mauritius should be the destination for your next holiday.

From left, Staci Jacobs, Yusrah Ehrenreich and Isabella Kentridge. Photo/ Staci Jacobs
From left, Staci Jacobs, Yusrah Ehrenreich and Isabella Kentridge in Mauritius. Photo/ Staci Jacobs

Vibrant, tropical and utopian are the words that first came to mind when asking how she would describe the island. “The white sand, palm trees and the warm Indian Ocean make it the perfect beach destination. There are museums, waterfalls, botanical gardens, and a number of shopping markets further inland. It’s the epitome of a tropical island paradise.”

She recalls that the highlight of her trip was swimming with dolphins. “The tour guides took us into the ocean on a speed boat to look for wild dolphins. As we drew close enough to the dolphins, we were able to jump into the ocean and swim among them. We were close enough to touch them but none of us were brave enough to do so. The ocean was very deep but spectacularly clear. Closer to the coast, as we snorkelled, we encountered plenty of other beautiful sea creatures.”

Photo/ Staci Jacobs
A typical day in Mauritius. Photo/ Staci Jacobs

Explaining that the Island is richly diverse, she recalls how the food on the island resembled much of what we eat in South Africa, with the exception that venison is  quite popular due to a density of deer on the island and no real predators.

Top tips before arriving in Mauritius
  • Learn basic French phrases as French is widely spoken among the locals, even though English is also spoken.
  • Pack lots of sunblock as the Mauritian sun can be very unforgiving.
  • Try to book an all-inclusive package (including flights, accommodation, activities and all meals and drinks) as the cost of living is very high in Mauritius.
Frequently asked questions:
  1. When’s the best time to visit Mauritius: All year round! The climate varies from approximately 20 degrees in winter, to around 35 degrees in summer.
  2. Do I need a visa? Not if you’re South African. Hallelujah!
  3. Do you require any vaccinations? Only if you’re travelling from a country where yellow fever cases have been reported. (Not applicable to South Africa, hoorah!)
  4. What’s the time in Mauritius? GMT+4 – two hours ahead of South African time
  5. What’s the currency in Mauritius? The Mauritian Rupee (1 ZAR = 0,44 MUR – 14/03/2016)

Must-see attractions: The Grand Bassin  and the Pamplemousses Botanical Garden.

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A casual cruise under the Mauritian sun. Photo: Instagram/ @stacikim14

To view more photos of Staci’s trip to Mauritius, Follow her on Instagram.

The best route to hike up Table Mountain

Wow! What an amazing workout. For a minute, I didn’t think that I was going to make it. But I did. I finally hiked to Table Mountain’s summit – a natural New 7 wonder of the world *(wipes sweat off forehead). It was such an adventure – a must-do activity for any hiking enthusiast.

A tired but relieved photo moment of me resting on the top of Table Mountain. Photo/ Oupa Mollo
A tired but relieved photo moment of me resting at the top of Table Mountain. Photo/ Oupa Mollo
Where to hike from

There are quite a few hiking trails to follow in Table Mountain National Park but not all of them lead to Table Mountain’s summit.  Take a look at the 5 most popular hiking routes, here. Reaching the summit is, of course, the show-stopper off all trails.  Whether you’re hiking up Table Mountain, Lion’s head, Kilimanjaro or wherever else, it’s not really as exciting to hike a path that doesn’t peak or is that just me?

We hiked from Platteklip Gorge, situated to the right of the lower aerial cableway on Tafelberg Road. We drove ahead of the lower cable way entrance to reach a Wendy house where there are public toilets. This is quite close to the entrance of the trail. There’s a big green sign that reads: Platteklip Gorge.

The level of difficulty: Hard. It really depends on your level of fitness and how well you pace yourself.

Distance: More or less 3km. It’s only 1.2km according to Google Maps but please don’t believe that. Google maps also say that it will take 19minutes to reach the summit.  They’ve got jokes.  I reached the summit in just under 2 hours while my boyfriend, who speed walked, reached the summit in just over an hour.

The scenery is spectacular. I regret not taking more photos. Cape Town spoils us (locals) with such beautiful scenery. There’s so much of the city that I have yet to explore.

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The sign indicating the entrance to Platteklip Gorge
A lovely view of Platteklip Gorge as we near Table Mountain's summit. Photo/ Oupa Mollo
A lovely downhill view of Platteklip Gorge as we near Table Mountain’s summit. Photo/ Oupa Mollo
The pathway is quite clear and safe as it's set by rocks - hence the name, 'Platteklip' (flat rock).
The pathway is quite clear and safe as it’s set by rocks – hence the name, ‘Platteklip’ (flat rock).
What to bring

LOTS OF WATER – there aren’t any outlets for drinking water along the hiking trail so it’s essential that you carry water with you. I met the sweetest French nurse along the trail who was carrying a water bladder with a pump in a backpack – it’s such a cool gadget for the serious hiker or even nomad traveller.

Sun protection – this is important.  I missed a few spots when applying sunblock on my back and now I am bearing the brunt. If you’re not super fit, your body will be a bit sore after the long uphill walk and the last thing you want to endure with that is sunburn. Also, ensure that you have a sunhat- unless you’re sporting a thick Afro like I do – then you’re safe.

Activewear – ensure that you are wearing clothing that allows optimal flexibility, as well as shoes with rubber grip soles. You’d think that it would be a silly thing to tell people what type of clothing they should wear on a hike, but it’s actually a reasonable tip. As I was walking uphill, a girl was walking in the opposite direction, wearing a ¾ shirt and Tomy takkies. Maybe she wasn’t planning to hike initially or she’s never hiked before but she was evidentially uncomfortable having to lift her legs knee-high to climb rocks.

Related: Finding solace in Mozambique

Who to go with

The number one rule of mountain safety for hikers is that you don’t hike alone. The recommended number of hikers per group is four people.  Some people prefer to hike alone because there aren’t many people who match their fitness level, or sometimes it’s just because they enjoy time on their own. However, don’t chance hiking up or down Table Mountain alone as it’s not safe to do so.

Hiking buddies: From left, Oupa Mollo, me, Imraan Toffar, Tshegofatso Matseba, right, Megan Isaacs.
The best time to hike

*(singing) Oh, what a beautiful morning! Oh, what a beautiful day! The best hikes that I have been on were morning hikes – most of them early enough to catch the sunrise and with cool enough weather to avoid sunburn.

You can nearly get away with hiking at any climate season in Cape Town. Mother Nature spoils us with great weather all the time even though our summers are dry and hot, and our winters are cold and wet. Consider checking the weather forecast a few days ahead of your intended hike. Avoid hiking on windy and cloudy days, especially when hiking Table Mountain because it can be dangerous – and if you’re planning to up to  Table Mountain’s summit and take the cable car down, it’s important to note that the cableway is out of service on windy days.

The view from the top of Table Mountain. Photo/ Megan Isaacs
The view from the top of Table Mountain. Photo/ Megan Isaacs
Tips for SA hikers
  • Upon presentation of your student card, All South African students only pay half-price for cable car tickets on Fridays.
  • If you’re a South African citizen and it’s your birthday, Table Mountain Aerial Cableway will offer you a free (return) cable car ticket! How cool are they!

 

I love hiking and would love to explore other hiking trails in Cape Town and surrounds. Have you hiked a scenic spot worth writing about? I’d love to hear from you.

Connect with me on Instagram, Twitter, and Facebook.

You may also want to read: Solo mission to New York

Solo mission to New York

About Robyn (2)

 

For many travellers, visiting the Big Apple, as New York is affectionately known, can be the defining moment of feeling like you’ve made it. New York is the famed city where small town people go to build their big dreams, the city sung about in countless songs, and idolised by celebrities. It’s a popular name to cross off travel bucket lists, and hardly a name unrecognised. For those of us who’ve never seen the city, we’d love to know the fuss, while others like Capetonian, Leana Van Rooyen lives to tell the adventurous tale.

Read Leana’s five essential tips for survival in New York, below:

  1. Research activities that may interest you before you go.

There is so much to do in New York it can be overwhelming if you don’t have a game plan. The idea of seizing the big city alone definitely left me feeling slightly anxious. I turned to Google and began planning activities before arriving in the city. I researched which tours I thought would interest me, as well as for maps that I could save to use offline. I researched activities, attractions and restaurants, the fares of the train, and the Subway prices.

Related: From Bellville to Grenoble

  1. Learn how to use the Subway

New York City Subway (photo/ Leana Van Rooyen)
New York City Subway (photo/ Leana Van Rooyen)

I stayed in Stamford Connecticut and took the train into the city. Living with a friend helped me save greatly on accommodation. Also, knowing someone who is willing to show you around makes things easier. I explored the city on my own most days. My friend was able to travel into the city with me on the first day to show me how to use the Subway.

Subway survival hacks:

  • Learn how to read the subway map.
  • Identify which line you would be using the most and try to use that as a starting point.
  • A week pass (as opposed to a daily pass) will save you money and you can use it as much as possible.
  • If you accidently miss your stop, get off at the next stop and get back on a train going in the opposite direction.
  • You may encounter one or two strange characters but it’s pretty safe.
  1. There’s no need to splurge on tours of the city

LR2There are many city passes to choose from. When deciding what pass to buy, bigger is not always better. I found an amazing website called Free Tours on Foot. Here, you can take guided tours for free and tip the guide at the end of the tour with what you are able to afford. I also planned my own walking food tour.

Related: Finding peace in Mozambique

  1. Make copies of all your important documents

I bought a New York 10-day pass as it seemed to be the best option at the time (even though it didn’t come cheap). I used the card for a walking tour of Greenwich Village but on Day 2, in my rush to catch the subway train to Chelsea Market, I lost the pass in Grand Central. I was absolutely devastated, thinking about how much money I had just flushed down the drain. Thereafter, I bought certain sightseeing activities on the New York Explorer Pass. This pass allows you to choose activities that you would like to do and is not limited by an expiry date. Also, the pass is sent directly to your phone so you won’t lose it!

Note:  If you buy a New York pass, take a photo of it and write down the number of the card. This way if you lose it, you can cancel the card and will be issued with another.

  1. The food portions are huge

LR4I loved tasting different types of food in New York. I had the good stuff: corn dogs, hot dogs and food from food carts. I’d planned a self-made walking food tour starting in Soho.

A friend from Cape Town had said that I should try the Dominique Ansel Bakery for cronuts. Unfortunately, by the time I’d arrived, all the cronuts were sold out. So I had their second most popular item: DKA (Dominique’s Kouign Amann).

After Soho, I headed to Little Italy to try a thin slice of Sicilian pizza. The pizza slices were as big as my head. Then off to Chinatown for strange and interesting foods on display. I visited the Chinatown Ice cream Factory and tried litchi-flavoured ice cream.

 

Must-see Attractions:

Brooklyn Bridge

The bridge was buzzing with tourists, cyclists, pedestrians and people going about their daily routines. The architecture of the bridge was impressive, and so was the view of the Hudson River below it. I could see the Statue of Liberty in the distance. I walked over the bridge and then walked around the park, also spotting the Seaglass carousel.LR5

Central Park

I had to see all the sights that we usually see in movies. I walked to Belvedere Castle and went up the tower. Central Park was a lot bigger than I’d imagined. There were people everywhere (like anywhere else in NYC). The Museum of Natural History is situated next to Central Park so I took a break from my stroll to the museum in search of Dum Dum( a the statue I’d seen in the film, Night at the Museum).

I saw Bethesda Fountain and the famous statue of Alice in Wonderland.

There were artists everywhere painting landscapes. If I were to return, I would definitely want to take a white row boat onto the lake. Ironically, the activities that I’d enjoyed the most, were the ones outdoors.

What’s your take on New York? Do you have a local or International travel story to share?

I’d love to hear from you. Connect with me on Instagram, Twitter, and Facebook.

You may also want to read:

 

3 reasons to love India

 

About Robyn (1)

India is awe-inspiring and life-changing. We planned our entire trip specifically to include Holi – The Festival of Colour. That was definitely a highlight. The country is nothing like the stereotypes that are portrayed by the media. We expected to arrive to so much poverty and disparity, only to be welcomed by its unrivalled beauty and diverse attractions that largely outweighed any negative depictions.

India offers an equal dosage of old and new, traditional and modern, adventurous and serene. There is something for everyone.

The original Holi Fest can’t be beaten

The entire country takes a break from their daily lives to partake in the tradition of throwing coloured flour. Days before the event, every city is beautifully decorated with ribbons and colourful mosaics which are painted onto buildings. We were lucky to celebrate Holi with some local children who lived near to our hotel. The joy and look of enthusiasm on the children’s’ faces, during the event, made the experience all the more spectacular.

Related: Finding Solace in Mozambique

holi
Nothing like the makeshift Holi festivals that have been popping up all over the world; experience the original Indian colour festival. (Photo/ Simone Franks)

Must-see attractions

The Taj Mahal’s architectural beauty is breath-taking. It’s without a doubt, a must-see attraction. I will never forget sitting in the gardens just staring at it, not even realising that hours had passed by.
Also great to see is the Amber Fort in Jaipur. The fort was built on top of a large hill and overlooks structured floating gardens (which were designed to look like a carpet). We trekked to the fort on elephant back!

Related: From Bellville to Grenoble

The food will steal your heart

Indian food is incredible. It took a while, adjusting to having curry for breakfast but the variety and range of dishes will entice even the fussiest of eaters.

There is always something new to try and experiment. Many of the restaurants we ate at had an open-plan kitchen so we were able to watch the chef prepare our food, and get a whiff of spices and other ingredients –  always fresh and usually made with seasonal vegetables.

Indian cuisine is not just about simply eating a curry; emphasis is placed on the preparation of the food, the presentation, and the etiquette involved with eating certain dishes. One restaurant used underground fire pits to cook dishes wrapped in banana leaves. The dish would arrive at your table as a steaming hot, banana leaf parcel, and the chef would stand next to you while you’re eating to discern if you enjoyed it or not. The food is also quite affordable – we were able to have a three-course meal for two  at a hotel for about R120.

ELEPHANT
Oh nothing, just travelling via elephant. Something spectacular to experience in India. (Photo/ Simone Franks)

3 Tips for travellers visiting India:

Keep an open mind

Travelling in India can be quite a culture shock, especially if you’re travelling to rural parts of the country. Hawkers may pester tourists and sometimes this can be quite invasive but it helps to understand that these people are desperately trying to make a living.

 Do your research

It helps to research cultural practices and customs but don’t let the research govern your opinion of what to expect in India. A lot of the travel blogs I read before my trip warned about various sordid elements prevalent in India and yet I experienced none of these on my trip.

Pack light

Shopping in India is extremely addictive so you’ll need to pack light to make space for all your new purchases. We had fun shopping at street bazaars.

You may also want to read: I toured London in 10 days and this is the short of it

Did you enjoy this story compilation of India? Find more photos of Simone’s trip on her Instagram feed via this link.

I’d love to hear from you. Connect with me on Instagram, Twitter, and Facebook.

Photos by Simone Franks