A month or so ago, I decided I needed to get a quick trip in before I leave Malawi. The two destinations that I chose between in the end was Zanzibar and Cape Town. I had heard amazing things about both, but it is difficult to compare them side by side, as they are different styles of destinations. In the end, I chose Cape Town. If I had been in the States, I likely would have gone with Zanzibar, as it would have provided the biggest contrast to my current location. I'm in rural Malawi. Plus, I was in Indonesia this spring, and while obviously not identical, they are both island destinations with a heavy Islamic culture, although Zanzibar more so. But in the end, what really made my decision for me, was beer. Most people know about the wine industry in Cape Town. What I didn't know until researching this trip was that they have a growing microbrewery industry. Sold! Count me in! After months of Carlsburg, I couldn't say no to being able to drink beer packed with flavor.

I left Neno on Wednesday morning, flew to JoBurg, and then on the Cape Town. By the time I arrived at my hostel, it was 6pm.

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It was my first time on a true solo vacation, so it was a bit of a new experience. I finalized a booking for a wine tour the next day, settled into my dorm, and went to the hostel bar to make some friends. I ended up chatting with Conrad, who had just finished leading an overland tour of a group staying at the hostel. They sounded like a fun group, Aussies and Kiwi, and he invited me to join them for dinner and drinks. He was just waiting for them to return from a beer tour. From the mood they were in when they returned, it was clear the tour was quite a hit. From there a fun night of margaritas, fajitas, craft beer, a great city view, and making new friends ensued.


Four hours later, I was up and heading to a tour of the winelands, with plenty of tasting along the way. Maybe I was out late, maybe the tour started really early, I'm sure you can figure out which it was. Booking a single ticket on a wine tour seemed like a bit of a gamble to me. Wine has a reputation of attracting an older, more "mature" crowd. I could have handled that crowd, but the group dynamic we had fit me much better. Besides myself, everyone was 27-31 and it included couples, a few solo travelers, and a group of Irishmen. Oh, and one of the couples is from the PNW, and he went to WSU. Clearly a sign for a good day ahead. Go Cougs! Our first stop was at Fairview, a large winery that also produces their own cheese. We sampled a range of both. The wines were good, but the sweet chili cream cheese stole the show for me. The next stop discussed the whole wine process, from vine to drinking, and the sampling focused on their Methode Cap Classique, their version of Champagne. Our next stop was for lunch and sampling straight from the barrels. It was interesting to taste the wines before they are fully matured, and just a cool experience to pour a glass from the barrel. Stop number four was wine and chocolate. The last wine we tasted was extremely sweet, made at the request of uni students for a cheap easy drinking bottle. The fascinating thing was when consumed after eating salted chocolate, it was much more palatable. The last stop was at the vineyard of a famous player for the Springboks, the SA national rugby team. All of his wine matures in the barrel for 8 years, and is quite delicious. From there it was back to town. The ride back may or may not have included some tasting of one of South's favorite drinks, Brandy. It was a great day learning about the wine industry in the region and sampling a large variety of the products. Unfortunately I wasn't able to check a bag on my way back to Malawi because bottles there were very reasonably priced. The prices on this list are per bottle, not glass, with the exchange rate from ZAR to USD at 11 to 1. Since the group got along so well all day, we decided to keep the good times rolling and spent dinner and much of the night together.

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Friday was a slow and easy morning. After booking a tour of the Cape Peninsula for the following day, I set off to see the city with my feet as transportation. First stop, breakfast and coffee. Real, delicious, espresso. That was a welcome taste. From there is was down to the city center for a free walking tour and history lesson. We made a nice loop, learning about the history of the colonization and apartheid along the way. St.George's Cathedral, Houses of Parliament, Company Gardens, City Hall, and the Slave Lodge were all stops along the way.

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After the tour, I decided to continue my tour and head through the Waterkant district to the V&A Waterfront. From there I wandered along the water and around the stadium to Green's Point where I made a much needed stop to quench my thirst. After a cold beer, I started the walk back towards my hostel on a road overlooking the city. I then walked through the cultural BoKapp district, full of colorful homes. As I was getting close to the hostel, I walked by a bar I had heard about, called the Orphanage, known for unique and quality cocktails. The Old Fashioned I had included port and Grand Marnier.

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After a quick stop back at the Hostel, I walked a few blocks down to a festival that was going on. My tour guide from earlier in the day had recommended stopping by for a show by local Jeremy Loops. The venue was packed, the sign of a good show to come. He uses a loop pedal, harmonica, beat-boxing, guitar, and vocals to make some awesome music. For a couple songs he had drums, bass, and sax. For a couple more there was a rapper on stage with him. Overall just a really sweet vibe. All in all, my walking for the day was somewhere around 11 miles. The night started out planned for being out on the town. And then someone bought another round at the hostel. And then someone else. And then they decided they were leaving. Me, I was going to bed. Already having one short night before a tour, I didn't want another one.

Saturday was another day of exploration. I headed off on a tour to do, well, touristy things. Our first stop were the seals in Hout Bay. Maybe I'm jaded from the number of seals I've seen in my day, but they weren't overly exciting. We then drove Chapman's Peak, one of the most beautiful drives on the planet. Although it did seem to be a bit short, especially when compared with Big Sur or the Oregon Coast. The drive took us to Boulder Bay, home of penguins! I'll admit, I wasn't overly excited to see them, but they were pretty neat.

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We continued down the peninsula to the Cape Point Nature Reserve and Cape of Good Hope, the most southwestern point of Africa. After lunch at the visitor's center, we drove to Cape of Good Hope and then walked on to Cape Point. From there we cycled back to the entrance of the park. It was a beautiful day and the views were breathtaking.

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Once I was back at the hostel, I originally planned to run up to Lion's Head for sunset. But after the amount of walking from the past 36 hours, my legs told me not to. I walked down to Long Street to find a bite to eat. I ended up with a burger with chorizo and chilis blended into the patty and jalapenos and guac on top. I then set off to complete my final mission of my trip. I walked into Beerhouse, the location I found to have the most local brews on tap, waltzed over to the bartender and told him, "I'm from Seattle, where we do good beer well. Which one of these will send me back home confident in saying Cape Town does, too?" The Woodstock Californicator did just that folks. An American Pale Ale, it was flavorful without overwhelming, with just enough bitterness. I closed the evening with a round with new friends back at the hostel before packing up.

At 6:45 Sunday morning I was out of the hostel and head to the bus station. I took one last opportunity to walk the city on my way, and made a quick stop at MickyD's for breakfast. It's odd how much more I eat there abroad then I do in the States. Part of it is simply the curiosity of seeing how the menu changes from place to place. They almost always seemed classed up some as well, with this location's McCafe having pastries and paninis and doughnuts. I went with the Mega McMuffin. Judge me all you want, with two sausage patties and bacon, for $2, it was superb. I caught the bus, convinced the ticket agent not to make me check my bag at the airport (Whoops! a bit big), and began flying. After a rainy, but quick, layover in JoBurg, it was back to the hot weather in Malawi. Two hours in the car and I was back home. 11 hours door to door.

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Overall, it was a great trip. It was obviously too short and there are things I wish I could have done, but I have no complaints. To start with, the weather was amazing. It was low to mid twenties the entire time I was there with clear, sunny skies. While I never made it up either Table Mountain or Lion's Head, I was busy soaking in the history and the culture of the region. I had really wanted to do Lion's Head at sunrise, but sometimes things don't work out. Due to colonization and slavery, Cape Town has influences from all over the world. Dutch, British, French, East African, and Malay, all combined with the cultures from the neighboring countries. The city itself blends century old churches with modern towers, all on the same block. I was able to see City Hall, where Mandela gave his first speech as a free man. I prayed in St. George's Cathedral where all people were allowed to worship, even during apartheid, and where Desmond Tutu preached. I walked the V&A Waterfront where modern shops and attractions make it one of the most visited locations on the continent. I tasted great wine, that I could actually afford to buy, took in beautiful nature scenes and wild penguins, and enjoyed the selection of locally made beer and great food. If there was snow nearby, I might consider living there.


Back in the real world of Neno, I've continued to experiment in the kitchen, while Marco and I continue to push the project forward as efficiently as possible. Last week, I finally decided to make tortillas. They ended up as a blend of flour and maize, and by the last few were thin enough to not be flat bread. They were Africa-good. Meaning they weren't the best things in the world, but when you haven't had a tortilla in months, they do the trick. The next morning I fried a couple of the leftovers and topped them with mangoes, homemade peach/mango ice cream, honey and cinnamon. Talk about a nutritious start to the day! When I returned from CPT, I discovered a package from my good friend Amanda that included Peanut M&Ms. They immediately went into the freezer, where I eat them slightly more slowly. The next day I remember that there were some overripe bananas I had put in the freezer before I left. By the end of Tuesday, I had created chocolate peanut butter banana bread using homemade chocolate ice cream, Reese's, and M&M's. It is a small wonder that I haven't noticeably gained weight with the amount of baking I've done.

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Project-wise we are THIS close to starting the roof. The first section of rafters have been fixed in place, so all we need now are the metal sheets. All of the ring beam is now complete and we should have the walls complete by the beginning of next week. Exterior finishes continue to move along and once the roof starts going on, we will begin interior finished and electrical work. It is definitely a race against the clock to get as much progress made as possible before heading back to Seattle. I've known for awhile that the work won't be where I want it to be by the time we leave and it is really sinking in this week that I will have to leave an unfinished project when I go. There will be people here in January that will help oversee the completion, but I still hate the feeling.

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This featured blog entry was written by tylerwein from the blog Backpacks Are For Travel, Not School.
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Are you looking for somewhere to stay in Cape Town? Our map of cheap accommodation can help you find the perfect place. For ideas on things to see and do, consult the travel guide

By tylerwein

Posted Wed, Nov 26, 2014 | South Africa | Comments