A trip of a lifetime

Archive for May, 2012

My Impressions about South Africa

The time had arrived for me to leave the beautiful South Africa. But I wasn’t leaving for good, I would return to stay for another month at the end of my trip.

Nowadays, South Africa is a really interesting country to live in. It has the baggage of the apartheid still present for its citizens, but it’s evolving into a more European way of thinking, although it’s still completely different. In a country like this, to act in the correct manner is a daily challenge. The way young people react to their parents’ and grandparents’ history is what is changing the future of the country. I’m fascinated by the idea of having that much power in the country’s path, like the one youngsters must have had after the segregation in the United States or after Franco’s death in Spain. But the end of the apartheid was more recent than those examples, and you can still feel it in the air when you visit South Africa.

 

South African flag in Jeffreys’ Bay

South African flag in Jeffreys’ Bay


My next stop was going to be Namibia. I had decided to travel through Namibia by car because everybody had told me that it was the only option, so I spoke with the Norwegian guy that I’d met on my trip from Hermanus, Dag, and since he was heading in the same direction, we decided to rent a car together. Despite my search for more companions to share the costs, no one answered my ads, so it was just the two of us.

Before leaving we paid a visit to Kalk Bay (actually, my third visit to this place), a tiny fishing village where you can eat tasty fish & chips.

When the fishermen arrive in the mornings with their catch from the night before, the townspeople go to the docks to buy fresh fish. The fishermen throw the fish onto the floor and everybody walks around looking for the best pieces.

 

 

The fishermen’s wives cut the fish before selling it, and then they throw the guts back into the sea where eager seals congregate waiting for food.

 

Two seals waiting for the fish guts

Two seals waiting for the fish guts

 

Apart from being a fishing village, Kalk Bay is full of natural jewels. Many hiking trails run along its beautiful hills, and on these hills we made an interesting discovery: Kalk Bay caves. We crawled into some of them, but the most impressive and the biggest one was Boomslang cave.

 

 

Boomslang cave is a dark long cave, with a chamber full of bats where you have to minimize the noise to avoid disturbing the bats. Its length is 506m, so imagine getting lost here! Fortunately we had a book with some hiking trails that my friends had lent me and it had directions about how to get out of the cave, and we had headlights. Crawling around the cave and discovering secret spots was an exciting experience, and listening to the silence inside a huge dark chamber with just the light of a candle we found there, was magical.

A couple of shots to show how dark it was:

After this last excursion, we were ready to face the next challenge: the unknown and difficult Namibia. It was going to be an adventure we would never forget.

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Climbing Table Mountain

The moment had arrived! After one entire week waiting for the perennial cloud on top of Table Mountain to go away, the wonderful and clear sky of Friday, the 21st of October, 2011 was challenging me to try to reach it!

Sunset from Table Mountain

Sunset from Table Mountain

Unfortunately before that, I had to spend half of the morning walking around Cape Town putting ads at the backpacker’s trying to find people to rent a car to Namibia, since everyone I’d met had told me that public transport in Namibia was inexistent and that the car was my only option. So against my first impulses of thinking that I could go across the country by hitchhiking, I surrendered to the idea that I was going to need a bit of commitment. And I’m glad I did it, because they were right! There was no public transport and in some places you can’t see any cars for an hour or more.

But back to the mountain story. After ‘working’ in the companions’ search, I met a capetownian couchsurfer and a German girl and travelled in the back of a pick-up truck (or bakkie as they call them in South Africa) on my way to the gorgeous mountain.

Lion’s Head from Table Mountain

Lion’s Head from Table Mountain

This capetownian mountain goat, Patrick, didn’t take us up the mountain by the normal route, but by the difficult climbing route, known as the India Venster (‘India window’ in Afrikaans and Dutch). The route passes along an area called the India Ravine, which has this name because it resembles the shape of India when it’s viewed from below.

So after passing some warning signs saying “extremely dangerous route with steep rock climbing and difficult navigation”, we started our way up and after a long and steep hill we got to the climbing part. And I enjoyed it a lot! I discovered that the more difficult it was the more fun I had, and I wasn’t bad at it! I was a goat too and I loved it!

Climbing the India Venster

Climbing the India Venster

We continued climbing up until half way, where Patrick told us that we could take a detour along the precipice to enter some cracks on the main mountain wall. The German girl didn’t like the idea of establishing October 21st 2011 as the date of her decease, so she waited on us and ate some snacks, much less risky (from her point of view, because she could have choked on an olive bone and nobody would have been there to save her).

One of the smallest cracks

One of the smallest cracks

Inside the cracks

Inside the cracks

And there we went, along the precipice with a wonderful view of Cape Town and on a beautiful, sunny day. The rocks that were falling down while we walked couldn’t cloud the happiness I was feeling. After a while we arrived to the crack in the wall and crawled inside. The sensation of being inside the mountain was amazing. Peace and quietness surrounded us, we could feel the breath of the mountain, and she was talking to us. I enjoyed every second of this experience. Then we went back to retrieve our hiking companion; she was still alive and happy! So we continued to alternate hiking with climbing, and eventually we arrived at the top of Table Mountain.

View from the top

View from the top

The summit welcomed us with astonishing views, which we enjoyed while devouring our sandwiches. We walked along the summit, and it definitely lives up to its name, because it’s an enormous and absolutely flat table. We had to share it with the high number of tourists that were coming up the cable car, because whether you like it or not, it’s one of the city’s tourist attractions.

Warning about the India Venster

Warning about the India Venster

Since we watched a bit of the sunset from the top, we went down when it was getting dark, and got to the bottom at night. Luckily our guide had a flashlight! But being lit by the city lights as we walked down was a great experience.

And that was the end of my love relationship with a mountain, but I’m sure someday I’ll hike it up again, and of course I’ll take the same route!!