When we got to Cape Town it was a bit of a shock in many different ways. Some of the culture shock I experienced was kind of predictable. Coming from a fairly privileged area of the States, I’d never seen anything like the seemingly endless tin roofs of the townships and I’d never lived in a place that I couldn’t go walk by myself after dark (while not smart in some places I’ve been, even the locals won’t do it in even the safest neighborhoods here, and the streets are nearly empty after 7:30 pm except for a few well lit and crowded ones).
The warmth and hospitality of the people here was such a culture shock too though! I usually fight the whole “Seattle Freeze” stereotype that we Seattleites aren’t very friendly. If you’re visiting Seattle from a place like this, however, I could see where you might feel a bit of a chill.
Here, every Uber driver has some advice for you or a friendly smile. Every casual acquaintance will insist you come over for a braai (so any casual acquaintances quickly turn into friends). By the way, braai is not the same as a BBQ and you will be corrected every time you mistake the two.
Of course as a visitor you’re always somewhat of an outsider, but here you’re never treated as such. And while your new South African friends may keep the best rocky beaches to collect shell fish or the recipe to their special braai sauce somewhat of a secret, they’re always happy to share with you when it hits the table.
I’d seen pictures of Table Mountain and what not, but assumed it was probably an hour outside the city, similar to Mount Rainier in Seattle. Nope. The different neighborhoods of Cape Town literally wrap around the mountain, making it the most scenic city I’ve ever been to. And if hiking isn’t your thing, you’ve got surfing in Muizenberg just south of Cape Town, and many other wonderful surf towns an hour or so outside the city (I’m in Kommetjie right now and it’s stunningly beautiful here).
And much of what I love in Seattle I’m finding more and more of here in Cape Town. There’s amazing weekend markets with tons of local vendors (they even had a live band, step it up Seattle). Quirky, cozy bars and restaurants that are actually affordable. I haven’t seen a $15 cocktail here yet thank God. Local breweries galore (shout out to Flat Rock Brewery! You guys are kings!) And with a history as unique and complex as South Africa’s, there’s museums and historical neighborhoods all over the city, and of course Robben Island. You could easily burn through a week just spending time learning about the history and heritage of Cape Town, let alone visiting all the amazing parks, wineries, and beaches located just outside the city.
But just like many cities worth their cultural weight in salt, things here are…complicated. Depending on who you talk to, the aftermath of the Apartheid and the problems that need to be addressed seem to differ greatly from one person to another. And I’m not saying that either side is wrong, because I think there are very valid arguments to be made with almost all of the concerns that I’ve heard. But it is a deep, complicated issue that as a visitor you’ll probably never really fully understand. I try to remember that, no matter where I go in the world, different eyes see different things.
So I decided instead of bombarding you with a cramped, 5,000 word detailed post about everything I’ve done since I’ve been here I’ll probably do a few more specific posts about some of my favorite experiences so far in Cape Town later on (we did some awesome night fishing that I can’t wait to write about and that I’ll need a separate post for). But I figured I’d better warm my typing fingers back up after such a long hiatus from the blog. Sorry, Mama had to go pull some tap handles and pour some shots this summer (What? You thought these trips paid for themselves?) Anyways, I’m makin’ tracks again, I’m in Cape Town, and I’m having a blast!
PS: We added a new member to our little two person vagrant family. Meaning Cape Town is just the beginning of what I think will be a truly epic African adventure