One semester spent in South Africa

After five weeks of travelling in Europe and the Middle East I arrived the place where I was supposed to study in Cape Town, South Africa in September.

To study in Africa was a decision I had put a lot of thought into, as I wanted to experience something new, and get to know a a place very different from Norway. And South Africa has lived fully up to my expectations. It is a country full of contrasts and a rich variety, when it comes to nature, food, people and lots of other things.Ostrich Rodeo

Here we are 5 boys and 50 girls, who live in the Beverly Hills of Cape Town: Camps Bay. Where common sights are Ferraris and celebrities like Michael Schumacher, Captain Kirk from Star Trek and Draco Malfoy from Harry Potter, I share a villa with 13 other students and a local who work here full time as housekeeper and driver.
When we arrived the place where we would study for three and a half months, we were told a lot of things that we had to keep in mind, when it comes to risks and safety. Because yes: there is a lot of poverty and crime here. Very few walk by themselves when it is dark outside, and not all trains, buses and even taxi companies are safe in the evenings. But I have not yet been in situations where I have felt uncomfortable and felt unsafe in any way. Of course one have to be a bit more observant, and it is important to know which parts of the city is considered safe.
South Africa is an exiting country with a lot of new things to discover and experience. It has been nice to travel around in the country, to see what it has to offer. The nature is diverse, with long stretching beaches, high mountains and deep forests. There are a lot of possibilities for surfing, safaris, shopping and hiking.
Together with the other students I have gotten the chance to travel a lot. We had a 5 days paddling trip through the wilderness of Namibia, where we cooked all our meals on a bonfire and slept under the starlit open sky. We have been on safari where we have seen animals such as giraffe, elephant, lion, penguin and ostrich. Last animal mentioned, we also got to ride on. We have gone for bicycle rides through wine yards, where we tasted lots of excellent wines. I have also been invited to barbecues where food such as crocodile, ostrich, gnu and the national animal springbook have been on the menu. I have seen and experienced a lot which only South Africa could have shown me, and it has been worth every penny spent.
To sum up it has been great living here. Living is cheap, there is a lot to do, and people are very interested in who we are. They ask where we come from, which language we speak and why we are here. Many take initiatives to get in touch, and seem genuinely interested in us.
With a new gotten friend and travelpartner, Elise. I will soon leave for India. Even though I am really exited about this, I cannot help being a bit sad leaving this beautiful place. Because it is not hard, having a good time in the beautiful city of Cape Town.
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The view from our villa; Mount Manor, in Camps Bay

The Garden Route and Route 62

garden route

The Garden Route is probably the most internationally known driving route in South Africa, and that is with good reason. Within a few hundred kilometers there is a lot of variety when it comes to nature, wildlife, activities and sights. When planning to drive the Garden Route it is important to take time into consideration, and a week should do if you want to drive one way comfortably, and 11-12 days if you want a round trip, driving through Route 62 on the way back (see map). When it comes to accommodation there should was plenty of options for budget travelers/hostels along the way.port elisabeth

As we were on a tight schedule we did this trip in one week, covering the following places:

Hermanus was a place we had heard would be great for whale watching, but since we did not want to pay to do one of the organised boat tours we ended up sitting a few hours at the rocky beach without seeing a single whale.

Cape Agulhas is the most southern point of Africa (not Cape Point like most people think). It was a pretty long drive off the original route, but we were too curious to not drive the extra kilometres too see. All there was to see was a white lighthouse, restaurant and souvenir shop where they tried selling us water from both the Indian and the South Atlantic Ocean.
Mossel Bay was a bit disappointing to us, as we found the city a bit less lively than the other places we visited. It was a harbor town know for its whale catching and beach, but except for a lunch break we did not spend much time here.

Bloukrans Bridge used to be the worlds highest bungee jump and they tried to convince us that it still was. We felt like this was a compulsory stop, as we needed something to make our harts pump faster after spending hours packed in a small car. Even though the price was pretty stiff (something like 750Rands!).

Jeffreys Bay was probably the best part of the trip. Here there were heaps of possible activities such as horseback riding, surfing, skydiving etc etc. We decided to spend the time surfing and shopping in some of the many retail outlets and partied until late night at the hostel.

Port Elisabeth was another harbor town which I did not find that interesting. We took a trip up the old tower to get a view of the city and spend some time at an art park where one of the highlights was a split up taxis hanging on a stone wall. The street food we bought of the street was good though (Ethipoian food if I was to guess).
Cape point drive

Since we did not want to back-track we took another route on the way back (Route 62) which went through big wine regions such as Robertson Wine farms and Oudshorn which is a place known for its many ostrich farms. Some only let you see ostriches and play with the big eggs, but the one we stopped at actually let us ride the ostriches which was great fun!

All in all it was a great trip, but if I was to do it again I would have spent much more time at the places we visited.

boulders beach  ostrich rodeo  road trip

Driving to Cape Point from Cape Town

If you would like to get the most out of a day in Cape Town I would advise to rent a car and just drive south, passing places like Muizenberg, Fish Hoek and Simons Town along the way down to the Cape of Good Hope. 
With a group of fellow students we picked up our cars early and headed straight to Hout Bay, where you get an excellent view of Cape Town (see picture), and the roads here are in between the hillside and the water, which make this first part a beautiful ride.
From Hout Bay we decided to drive through Muizenberg and down to Fish Hoek which was an excellent place to have lunch Skjermbilde 2013-04-01 kl. 22.32.11at one of the many restaurants close to the beach. From there it was just a short ride over to Simons Town, which is the city nearest the famous Boulders Beach, where they have a Penguin Reserve. The penguins were interesting enough to watch, but after a while their smell catches a bit up with you and it is time to move on to the highlight of the day: Cape Point Nature Reserve. The first time I took this drive I was not aware of the nature reserve closing down at 5.30, so I had to return to Cape Town without getting to the goal of my journey, but having it all planned out we made it within the opening hours this time. Once we had entered the nature reserve there were wild ostriches, bamboos (that jumped on the roof of our car) and springboks (the national animal of South Africa) along the whole road to Cape Point. Having seen the viepoint from the top and taken a picture with the sign we returned satisfied back to Cape Town after the perfect day trip. 
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Day Trips from Cape Town

There are several day trips I would recommend from Cape Town, and with car rental in South Africa being both cheap and easy, there are many possibilities for exploring the surroundings of the city. The hardest part is usually getting used to driving on the wrong side of the road, but after the first few kilometers this usually isn’t a problem. If driving sounds scary, there is always also the option of taking the train/Metrorail or just jumping on one of the many share cabs/minivans which are used instead of local buses.
If you want to go to relax at the beach and are tired of touristy Camps Bay, or just want to catch some good waves for surfing, then Muizenberg is a good place to go. It can be reached in about a half an hour by car from Cape Town, or a bit less than an hour if you want to go by Metrorail/train. Here it is also possible to rent surf gear, plus you can buy some cheap and good ice cream by the beach. This is also where you can see the famous colorful beach houses.



If you are interested in hiking, Cape Town also offers some excellent trips that can be done in less than a day. Then I would recommend starting with Lions Head (easy/just a couple of hours), then go up table mountain and take the cable car or rappel down (medium/almost full day) or cross all the Twelve Apostles (hard/several days). You should be able to see all the way to Robben Island from all of these places and get a great view of Cape Town. 



Stellenbosch and Belleville are also places I would recommend as day trips by car or train, but as these places are known for good dining and wine tasting, it might be smart to take the train. It is then important to bear in mind that traveling by train at night is not advisable, so if you are planning on returning late it might be better to spend the night or order a taxi for the way back to taxi. We had to chose the latter when going back from Belleville, and the taxi bill grew pretty large compared to the few rands we had spent on going there by train! 

But the ultimate daytrip from Cape Town is to go south to Cape Point visiting places as Fish Hoek and Simons Town/ Boulder Beach along the way. I’ll write an own post about this coming up in  a few days..


Paddling down Orange River


Orange River is the longest river in South Africa, and together with classmates from Cape Town, I paddled through parts of it, having South Africa on one side, and Namibia on the other.

The trip started with 10 hours in a bus, without air condition. It became quite warm, but luckily the sun had started to set when we got there, so together with the hot humidity it created a comfortable temperature in the desert area. Just after we had crossed the border, we were allowed out of the bus, and sat down around a campfire with the group and the crew of guides that would take us 70kilometres down the river that we would paddle the following days.

All of the five days spent at the river started early (usually around 7AM) and were mostly spent paddling, with only short stops to catch the breath and gather the group, except for our lunch breaks which luckily were a bit longer. After the breaks we went on until the sun set and we could make a camp and have dinner while telling ghost stories and sing songs around the campfire.


The paddling trip was tough, and was by some people described as a fantastic hell. All the meals were prepared on bonfires, and all night were spent outside in the wilderness among spiders, scorpions and bigger animals. It was a trip where everyone got to show their true side, as some helped more, and encouraged others to paddle on, but it was an experience which made everyone grow closer to each other. I think that this, until now, is the best trip I have ever done in my life. Even though everyone agreed, when getting home, that they were glad the trip was over.