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An unforgettable holiday in Cape Town

It has been a week since my in-laws returned to India after their 3 week stay in SA. We wanted to cover as much as possible during their stay, so I did not want to miss the number one highlight – Cape Town.

I originally planned for a trip over Easter weekend which is always a big one here. But when I had a look at the flight fares, I got the shock of my life! They were about 3 times more expensive than off-peak rates. Add to that, it was going to be a very busy time at work due to the nature of our business. Hence I decided to push the trip by a week. Off-peak season (anytime but Christmas and Easter) is really the best time to go on holiday over here.

We left Joburg on a Thursday afternoon. The brightly coloured low cost airline, Mango landed rather bumpily at Cape Town International Airport from where we had to take a rental car to our B&B. It was a lovely little bed & breakfast run by a French guy and his Indian wife right near the centre of town in the Bo-Kaap district (formerly known as the Malay Quarter). They were really friendly and helpful throughout our stay. They even made a special potato and beans curry for our Indian parents and it turned out to be a hit with the other guests as well. So, the breakfast was fabulous and we got a little peek of what was to come, from their open terrace – Table Mountain in all its glory sitting neatly right next to the town.

While we planned out our 4 days of sightseeing, our hosts advised us that we could take the open-top hop-on/hop-off bus tour for the first 2 days and then perhaps explore the peninsula on our own for the remaining 2 days. It made sense to us and that is what we did. After finishing breakfast, I went online and got the City Sightseeing bus tickets for 2 days. Not only was there a discount for purchasing tickets online, the 2 day tour let us interchange between the red bus which tours only the inner city and the blue bus which tours parts of the peninsula. So without wasting any time, we headed to the nearest bus stop. This was great. We could actually walk the streets here, as opposed to Joburg inner city where I wouldn’t even go by car unless I absolutely have to. First stop on the bus was Table Mountain.

We lined up for the cable way going up the mountain and paid the entrance fees, which to me seemed on the high side.  Anyway I said to myself that this was Cape Town after all and that it was worth it. As we went up we got stunning views, which kept getting better and better the higher we were. I thought that the rotating platform in the round cable car was a nice touch. It gave everyone 360 degree views of Lion’s head, the entire town and the Atlantic Ocean.

On top of the mountain was a wonderfully built-up stone park with lots of hiking trails, wooden bridges and lookout points, a souvenir shop (of course!) and a restaurant. When the sun is out and the sky is clear except for a few fluffy white clouds, this place looks like a dream! One could keep gazing at the subtly varying shades of blue of the ocean as it fades into the sky. After walking around as much as we could and taking tons of photos, we headed back down to get back on the bus.

Next stop was Camps Bay where we had lunch at The Raj restaurant. We had spent a lot of time at Table Mountain and so had worked up a good appetite. The food was delicious but a little pricey, which is understandable. Camps Bay beach had a posh look about it with a variety of fine dining options. I just wish we could have spent more time at the beach walking along the never-ending coastline. But with a 4 day trip, that was not possible. Anyway, then we headed over to Burg street near the centre of town. There was a market place there with several shops and restaurants. The whole place looked very interesting, once again… a far cry from shady downtown Johannesburg! Ended the day at Victoria & Alfred (V&A) Waterfront, which doesn’t offer all that much for sightseeing per se. But it does have a nice harbour with cool looking boats, shops, restaurants and a giant wheel.

The next day we decided to take advantage of the blue bus which tours the peninsula. We had heard about Kirstenbosch Botanical Gardens being a must-see and also wanted to do a tour of a vineyard. So, first we headed to Kirstenbosch and then to Groot Constantia wine estate. The botanical garden was quite nice but overall, both my wife and I felt that the Nelspruit one was more interesting with a huge waterfall inside the premises. This one had many cobblestone paths, artsy looking statues and interesting flora. All in all we enjoyed it. When we got to Groot Constantia, it had started raining quite heavily. So as soon as we got off the bus, we hurried into a restaurant and had a lovely Italian lunch along with some home-grown white wine. After the rain subsided, we went on the wine-making tour. They walked us through the whole process, showing us the machines where the grapes are processed, the cellars where the fermentation takes place and finally the wooden barrels where the wine is stored and aged. We even got to do a little wine tasting at the end of the tour. So that was fun.

The following day our bus ticket had expired. It was time to use our rental car. We decided to cover Chapman’s Peak, Cape Point/Cape of Good Hope and Boulders ‘penguin’ beach. When we got to Chapman’s Peak, as luck would have it, it started raining heavily. Though the place did look misty and nice with rainy weather, I was somewhat disappointed. I had seen this place before in bright summer weather and this just wasn’t the same. Anyway, we did not stop and simply headed on to Cape Point. As we drove further down the peninsula, the rain stopped and the sky cleared. The sun came out again. I said a little prayer.

Cape Point, with its winding walking path up to the historic lighthouse and views of nothing but ocean beyond, was absolutely magnificent! It is probably my favourite place in the whole peninsula with Table Mountain giving it a serious run for its money.

Then, there is Cape of Good Hope which if I remember my history right, was discovered by Bartolomeu Dias and navigated around by Vasco Da Gama in the 15th century. There is a sign there which says that it is the most south western point of Africa, so of course we had to pose for photos there. There was also a busload of tourists there who seemed to be hogging the sign and not giving anybody else a chance, which was quite pathetic.

Thrilled about the good weather we had at Cape Point, we started towards Boulders beach to see some penguins. The weather pattern really is unique in this part of the country. It can change in a second and be unpredictable as heck but when it is good it is really good! When we got to Boulders beach I was surprised to see an entrance fee being charged. I mean, who charges an entrance fee to an open beach?? I’m sure they just decided to capitalize on the fact that there were penguins here. Anyway, the place looks pretty enough and there is a long enclosure near the beach with a boardwalk and plenty of penguins. After walking about a bit, staring at the bored-looking penguins and taking some photos, we headed back towards Cape Town through Simon’s Town.

Then it suddenly struck me that we had not really seen Chapman’s Peak due to the bad weather there. The weather was gorgeous right now and there were still a couple of hours before sunset. So I decided to take the long way back through Chapman’s Peak. We made it well on time and were able to catch the gorgeous evening sun slowly sinking into the ocean. It was like a perfect book-ending to an amazing 3 days of sightseeing.

The next day, we only had enough time to see one nearby place before catching out flight. So we had breakfast, checked out of our rooms, thanked the hosts profusely for their warm hospitality and headed for Bloubergstrand or Blouberg Beach. This was located in the northern suburbs in the Table View area and provided an amazing view of the beach with a backdrop of the entire Table Mountain in the horizon. Spent roughly an hour there before leaving for the airport.

Overall, it had been a thoroughly enjoyable trip but considering that it was only 3 and a half days really, we managed to see almost all the must-see attractions.

Hectic Vacation

Market Crowd

Just got back from a month-long vacation in India but it did not feel much like a vacation at all. The main reason for that being my sister’s wedding and all the preparations it involved. I don’t think I have run around this much for any event in our family like I did for her wedding! Not that I am complaining… it was my own sis’s big day after all! But let me start from the beginning, so you get the full picture on why this trip was so nuts.

I first arrived in Delhi a week after my wife did and spent about 5 days at her parents’ new place. By the time that I arrived, she had already gone on a mini trip to Bhopal to attend a close friend’s wedding. Anyway, I was glad to be back in Delhi for the second time in a span of 2 years. I enjoyed travelling by Delhi Metro just like I did last year. I also enjoyed the fast food (chaat) at a well-known place in Karol Bagh just like I did last year. Only difference was, this time I fell violently sick with unstoppable diarrhoea. Call it a case of Delhi Belly I guess. So that put a little damper on our already short Delhi stay. Then we had to leave for Chennai just as my stomach was beginning to act normal again. Immediately the following day, we started on a trip with family down south to a village near Tirunelveli, Tamilnadu where our family’s roots reside. This south trip itself was quite chill generally despite the continuous push from elders in the family to try to cover a gazillion temples and religious places in a span of 3 days.

After we got back to Chennai, my stomach went for a toss yet again. Part 2 of non-stop LMs! The bloody bug or whatever had not really left the first time I suppose. From there onwards it was just a continuous rush towards the family wedding. There were 2 functions/prayer ceremonies at home with lots of visiting relatives and my system once again slowly recovered with help from plenty of antibiotics and other meds. The wedding itself went fine but I had completely worn myself out by the end of it. The very next day after the wedding, I had to drop my wife off at the airport. She had to go to Mumbai to give an exam. As I returned home, I think my body had had enough and I felt extreme tiredness all of a sudden. Spent pretty much the whole day sleeping and found out later in the afternoon that I had contracted viral fever. On top of all that, in a few days we had to attend yet another wedding of a close family member. I barely recovered from the fever and somehow attended just about half of this other family wedding. By this time, both wife and I were thoroughly exhausted and wondering how a vacation had become so overwhelming.

Eventually I had to postpone our flights to SA by about 3 days because I really did not want to be weak and sickly while carrying luggage to the airport and sitting on an inter-continental flight for 8 hours. Funnily enough, those last 3 days were the most relaxing of the whole trip! My body thankfully recovered fast enough from the fever and we actually managed to catch a movie with the family and relax a bit towards the end. So although the whole trip now seems like a blur, it was totally worth it. Now that I’m back in my regular routine, daily grind… whatever you want to call it, I can finally relax.