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Four alternative things to do in Cape Town.

“This cape is the most stately thing and the fairest cape we saw in the whole circumference of the earth.”
Sir Francis Drake, 1580

So said Sir Frances Drake, an Englishman, a captain, a politician and everything in between, when he first laid eyes on the Cape back in 1580.

Although I cannot, yet, claim to having seen the ‘whole circumference of the earth’, I do tend to agree with this esteemed fellow. Cape Town is truly a spectacular place, and I can see how Francis would have been moved to utter such sentiments.

Francis is not alone in his love of the Fairest Cape. In 2010 Cape Town made it onto the Forbes.com list of ‘World’s Most Beautiful Cities’  This year Cape Town was featured in TripAdvisor’s Top 25 Destinations. At position number 1, I might add.

So what’s the big deal about this Cape Town place? Well there’s Table Mountain, the V&A Waterfront and Robben Island, beautiful beaches from Cliffton all the way around to Kalk Bay, Cape Point, Champan’s Peak and a lot more in between. These things, time and again, make it onto lists of ‘Must Do’ things in the Cape, and for good reason. See here and here for some such lists.

But how about doing something a little different? Seeing something equally as beautiful, but just slightly off the beaten track? If you’re interested read on and you’ll find out 4 alternative things you may like to experience in “the fairest cape (you shall see) in the whole circumference of the earth”.

1.  Wake up on a Saturday morning and go and grab brunch in Woodstock at the Old Biscuit Mill‘s Neighbourhood Goods Market.

The market has gained enormous popularity in the last few years, and for good reason. What you can expect to find is a community of people who are passionate about food, clothes, jewelry, art and design.  The food will make your mouth water and leave you unsure of if you should choose to eat from the steaming pots of seafood paella, the wood fired pizza, the mouth- watering steak burgers, the endless array of dips, spreads and breads. Go to the market hungry, very hungry. See here for details.

2. Of course you simply have to go up Table Mountain, but why not try something a little different and go for a hike at Silvermine?

Hiking in Silvermine, taken by the folks over at Pepper Gap Year.

Silvermine is located in the Table Mountain National Park, on the way out to Cape Point. There are many hiking trails that you can choose from, ranging from easy to more strenuous, but they are all spectacular and offer great views of the peninsular. Here is a little more insider information.

3. On your way back to the city centre from your hike you could, or should, stop off in Newlands at one of Cape Town’s oldest pubs, The Foresters Arms, fondly known to all the locals as Forries.

Forries is a great place to sample endless draughts of South Africa’s finest beers in their tree-covered courtyard. You may also like to try out the crispy wood-fired pizza or a juicy hamburger while you are surrounded by hordes of die-hard rugby or cricket supporters. You’ll be in the festive spirit of national sport loving camaraderie in no time, I can guarantee it.

4. I bet ‘Signal Hill for a sunset’ is on your list? Well it should be! But if you want to watch the sun set from an even more magnificent place I suggest that you get on over to Ocean View Drive.

Ocean View Drive is all that its name suggests- a road that winds along the contours of Signal Hill that has a, well, view of the ocean. But go to the end of that road and you may wish to change that name to ‘Ocean- Mountain-Bay-Amazing-View Drive’. Just saying. Although you might need a map, or GPS, for this one it is worth it. Park at the end of the road, amongst the houses of the rich and famous (I’m assuming they are rich and/ or famous with houses like that!) and scramble through the bushes and out onto the rocks. It’s not dangerous, I promise. It is spectacular to see the rock face of the 12 Apostles bathed in the pink light and the twinkling lights of the houses down in Camps Bay. The other tourists will be supremely jealous when they see your photos.

And that’s it. Well not really, but I can’t give away all the secrets of the fairest Cape too quickly or too easily or I might take away all the fun that you’ll no doubt have discovering it for yourself.

Gumi

This is an article that I wrote for a writing course that I am currently doing.

There is no escaping the humidity, only perhaps the short relief from it when the breeze dances across my skin, teasing me. The promise of the possible relief is what draws me outside. Down from the 14th floor, with the view of the rooftops and restaurants, past the listless guard at the door and out onto the uneven pavement. The night is muggy, it sticks to my skin refusing to let go.

It is quiet out on the street. The humidity has muffled everything. This evening I don’t even hear the loud-speakers advertising from the navy-blue Kia mini-vans, in their amplified drone “setakkie, compoota, air con”. On and on. The tok-bokk-ie stand is engulfed in a haze of steam rising from the boiling red-sauce which covers the chewy rice tubes and processed fish bites.

I smile at the woman.

Annyanhaseyo” she responds. Always friendly.

The ice cream seller outside the local supermarket lures me towards her with a smile and a stream of foreign words. I understand them to be an offer of an ice-lolly to ease the oppression of the heat.

al-mey-ye-joh?” I ask her.

“500Won”, she gestures to the sign.

I suck on my ice-lolly. Breathe the thick air in.I watch my step as I cross over the higgledy-piggledy pavement in the fading dusk light. The turtles, Gumi’s mascot, mark the entrance to the park. It is an area of greenery and water among the paving blocks and high rises that surround it.

The cicadas electrify the heavy night air. Voices come to me in snippets. I understand the tone, the laugh. I recognize the body language. I hear the running feet and the high pitched scream of shock as a jet of cool water shoots out a pink plastic gun and hits a chest. I close my eyes, enjoying the chatter that fills my ears.

Life fills up all the spaces. Voices rise up through the pale yellow walk-way lights. Low and loud. Piercing and soothing. Shouting and laughing. Feet run. Bicycles ride. Water guns squirt.

Kee-dal-joh’ implores the smiling mother as her toddler impatiently waits for the water to rise up from under the bridge to spray her feet, pitter pattering in the cool puddles it leaves behind.

The water switches off, as if by magic, and before you know it silence starts to descend. In groups people head off into the muggy night air. I sit still under the soft glow of the park lights fending off the urge to scratch the vicious red bumps that have appeared on my bare legs, the marks of summer. Mosquitoes.

I walk home, alone. The voices of the stragglers in the park continue to fade from me with words that I don’t fully understand, yet long to be a part of. I dread going back to my 14th floor, single room apartment where the stifling air will be all that will greet me.