My top 10 to do in Cape Town

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Are you any good at 20 questions?

Is it in South Africa? Does it host one of the seven natural wonders? Does it have wild penguins? And a cable car? And beaches, hikes, museums, wine, food and entertainment? YES! Sounding like a pretty decent place to visit isn’t it. Well you are not the first to think that, as Cape Town (CT) is one of the most frequented tourist cities in South Africa.

I was blessed enough with the opportunity to spend a week in CT over Easter. This was split with the Easter weekend with my great aunt and uncle and the following weekdays with my sister.

Disclaimer: the weather was terrible two-thirds of the time, utterly terrible. I’m English so I’m used to it. There are great beaches but none of that for me this time!

Now time for my top 10…click the image below to get started

Further to my top 10 if you have time or particular interest try my extra top-ish 6.

Extra tit bits:

  1. You don’t need a guide to hike Platteklip Gorge, the route is obvious, well walked and there are plenty of other hikers too. If you plan on using the cableway down note the queues are hectic, it is not rare to wait for an hour so keep track of your time.
  2. There are 2 entrances – don’t miss going onto the beach with the penguins!
  3. If you visit Fairview have a go at cheese tasting along with the wine.
  4. Eat & drink EVERYTHING including Cape Malay curry, bobotie, seafood and homemade rooibos ice tea.
  5. Check out the temporary exhibits.
  6. Only visit if you have reasonable visibility or it is a lot of queuing for nothing…learn from me.
  7. If you want more history, do a free walking tour which meets in Greenmarket Square.
  8. Take a packed lunch and eat it with a view.
  9. If you stay here you are right in the action but you won’t get any sleep!
  10. Don’t fret about the time, it’s all very relaxed. Book directly through Abseil Africa for the best price.

Extra tit bits for those extra bits:

  1. Really great if you are into your plants – you’ll take a full day to walk around. If you’re not that bothered by nature you’ll probably not be too bothered about missing this spot.
  2. If you are into markets and curio shopping visit Greenpoint Square for a wide range of souvenirs.
  3. Careful of the weather – many sessions get cancelled due to rough seas – make a back up plan.
  4. Try and spot all the weird and sometimes wonderful “art” hidden around the gardens as well as the famous albino squirrel.
  5. Don’t pick your last day for this tour, you might want to revisit the spots that interested you the most.
  6. It is beautiful in rain or shine, just wrap up against the wind.

South Africa. Johannesburg to Cape Town.

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My 14 day Baz Bus adventure

The Baz Bus is a hop-on hop-off bus service which runs a single route to/from Johannesburg to Cape Town, in South Africa. The bus offers several options for travelling around the eastern coastline; you can choose between different packages such as, travel passes (time based) or route passes (distance based).

In this post I’m going to tell you about how I used the fourteen day travel pass to do the whole route top to bottom. I stuffed a lot into my fortnight managing to make 9 stops!! As a general rule I stayed 2 nights at every stop, mostly due to the bus schedule. This worked better than expected having one full day in almost every place.

Baz bus route

Starting point – Johannesburg

I am blessed enough to have visited South Africa on numerous occasions with my family roots being in Johannesburg. In 2016 my grandpa was celebrating his 80th birthday and the family decided to fly over together to celebrate with him. Though we spent a long weekend in Bela Bela, I also spent some time in Johannesburg staying with my uncle. So for me this wasn’t so much a tourist spot but a family spot. On my last night I stayed in a neat little backpackers in trendy downtown Joburg for a night to be able to catch the bus bright and early in the morning.

Stop 2 – Northern Drakensberg

What an awe inspiring place. Just beautiful. It is the only stop between Joburg and Durban but well worth spending the 2 nights here. There is only one backpackers, but it is fantastic! They have large grounds with nothing but country to see for miles, and the Drakensberg mountains sitting on the horizon like a postcard. Take the afternoon to walk the grounds (give it 2 hours to do the lot), take a dip in the pool and then settle on the balcony with a Savannah and watch the sunset.

Initially I made the stop in order to do some rock climbing in the Drakensburg but instead did a guided hike to Tugela Falls and the Amphitheatre. You walk. You scramble. You climb. You swim. The hostel offer the hike along with a day tour into Lesotho on an alternative basis. They are expensive by South African standards and if you have a car I would suggest doing a couple of hikes self guided instead. The hostel offers many other trips for groups, however the minimum number required is three/four people – this may scupper your plans if you are travelling alone so beware and make friends!

As with lots of places on this route it is rural and thus you do not have a town at your finger tips. If you want to self cater they have fantastic kitchens to do so but you will need to bring your food with you from Joburg. They offer food, though in the evenings this is a three course set menu with an above average SA price tag (though quite reasonable for tourists).

Drakensberg CollageStop 3 mandatory – Durban

Initially I was planning to stay one night, just an eat and sleep stop however once arrived I was persuaded to give the place a day! You’ll find plenty people on holiday, South Africans and foreigners alike, due to the vibrancy and variety this place has to offer. I will be writing a post dedicated to how I made the most of a 2 night stop in Durban – coming soon.

In summary…. Rooftop braai. Beautiful beach. Victoria Market. Bunny chow.

I found one day enough as I was eager to get onto more rural stops and I have visited Umhlanga (northern Durban) previously.

Durban

Stop 4 (shuttle) – Coffee Bay

Most regrettably I only had time to afford one stop in the Transkei. Either side of Coffee Bay are two places I am really disappointed to have missed out on; Umzumbe and Chintsa, alas I can’t see everything. Further to this the bus doesn’t run to the little stop points on the wild coast and you have to arrange a shuttle with the hostel. This is a pain and adds time/money to the trip. On average the shuttles cost around the R70 mark each way and takes a minimum an hour depending on the stop.

Our bus hit a very unlucky week. There were “protesters” who had taken control of the main highway and closed it off for traffic. Talking to the hostel workers I heard some horrible stories of tourist who had tried to use the road and had their hire car torched. Because of this we were forced to take a detour through the hills on the dirt roads. For the first hour the view was beautiful and it was very interesting going through the Xhosa villages. The next 2 hours bumping around was not so great.

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I stayed in Coffee Shack – a very laidback hostel, if you understand me. They do the cheapest surf lessons I’ve ever heard of!! The only catch is there are only 2 sessions a day with four slots so you’d better book them in early to avoid disappointment. I was lucky and got the last slot for the morning on my full day. After our session the four of us had so much fun we managed to hustle another lesson at noon. I was hoping to give it another go (on a hard board!) in the morning but was too slow to get a slot. It is also a great spot to enjoy the beach and meet some local people. If I had another day I would have done the hike to the hole in the wall. For the more adventurous; you can do multi day hikes from here to places such as Buccaneers.

Again if you’d like to self cater you need to do your shopping in Durban (or your previous city stop) as there are no supermarkets in Coffee Bay and only a small petrol station at Mthatha. All hostels I know of in the area do set dinners for R70-80. If you have a free evening I’ve heard Sugerloaf backpackers do the best food!

Coffee Bay

Stop 5 mandatory – Port Elizabeth

This became a sleep stop. There is so much hype about the garden route I was focused on spending as much time there as I possibly could. We arrived after 11pm and the bus left the next morning at 6.30am. Mostly people I arrived with also left the next morning however PE is a big place and I’m sure there is much to do.

Stop 6 – The Crags

I dare say my favourite place. I am a country bunny – so once again this is a place surrounded by nature and no city to be seen! Just on the border of Natures Valley it is fantastic for walking and the whole place has a real laid back vibe. Wild Spirit backpackers has a few small walks leading from the property, including a  freezing but very swimmable waterfall, a not so big big tree and a forest walk. This also links up to the end of the five day  Otter Trail.Crags sunrise

I can’t list all the things I loved about the place and would most definitely spend a few more than two nights there if possible. Took my full day as an opportunity to do a hike that leads through the forest down to a huge lagoon (swimming) and then onto a beach (no swimming) and a rather terrifying coastal route back into the forest and to the starting point. The coastal route is currently closed due to landslides however some of it is still passable for the brave in low tide.

Get up early and watch the beautiful sunrise over Natures Valley – from the dorm balcony with a cup of tea in hand if you’re like me. Grab a drum and join the Boma around the fire in the evening. As with all the beautiful places…bring your own food to self cater or pay R70/80 for their home grown and cooked meals.

The Crags

Stop 7 – Wilderness

This was a last minute stop choice. By last minute I mean about 10 minutes before the bus turned up I changed my mind. You cannot ignore your fellow travellers when they are all saying the same thing “you have to visit Wilderness!”. And look at the panorama below – they weren’t wrong.IMG_20160426_091029530I had a dilemma on how long to spend here due to the bus timetable but long story short I stuck to my two night rule. This worked out perfectly as there was plenty to keep one busy for the 2 days (and more)! The beach is serene. There are hikes and waterfalls – best thing to do is combine them and throw in a canoe for good measure. Make some friends and you can hire a canoe (2 people per boat) and paddle up the river, pull ashore, boardwalk to a waterfall for a picnic and some swimming. Reverse it all to get back and hitch a ride in a bakkie back into town for some grub.

The real gem of Wilderness itself is “the cave” and the abandoned railway which are unique to this place. From town you can walk along the railway for 20 minutes and go through the tunnel. There was a landside years ago which took out part of the line and instead of fixing the damage the railway went unused. Though you can walk the railway all the way to Victoria Beach do not. After the tunnel you can continue on over the bridge and then turn back. The area further on is notorious for muggings, even to groups. Do not listen to other travellers but the locals who will tell you to stay well clear. By the tunnel it is impossible to miss The Cave. Once a normal cave, since the railway closure it has become an interesting home for the homeless of the area. The cave is greatly decorated from shells to a sequined bikini. The residents love to show you around and you can give them a small donation for their time. If you visit Wilderness it is not to be missed!

Wilderness, though small, has a town centre with the usual buildings; post office, SPAR (food at last!), restaurants etc.

Wilderness

Stop 8 – George

Just one night here was cutting things very fine indeed! I was fast running out of days! Though there is not much going in George, just an average town, it is an accessible point to the Cango Caves and the ostrich farms of Oudshoorn. If I had more time I would have definitely gone straight through to Oudshoorn and made base there. If you are on the Baz bus it is possible to do the caves and a farm in the morning and get back in time for the afternoon bus. Most places will organise a type of tour/ride though the cost for transport is set so the more of you the cheaper. I didn’t have the flexibility of time so had to pay to do the trip alone however the caves are spectacular (especially do the adventure tour!) and ostriches are just plain hilarious. If I’d had the whole day I would have also made efforts to go to the Cango Wildlife Ranch and do the cheetah experience.

Oudtshoom

Final stop – Cape Town

We made good time on the bus and arrived an hour earlier than planned. I stayed centrally, right on Long Street – great for being in the action – not great for sleeping. Make your decision wisely. I had a rather windy wet week in Cape Town but check that out in my unmissable Top Ten Cape Town post going live next week.

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As with almost all holidays I could’ve done with another week or two to do the route justice however it was just enough time to get a glimpse of what wonderful things the coast of South Africa has to offer. Most people on the 14 day pass that I personally met were only doing a section of the available route such as the garden route (CT to PE) though a few of us were attempting the whole hog. It’s a perfect excuse to go back and go to all the places I skipped first time around!

Thanks for reading and the happiest of travels to you!