For our first three nights in Capetown we stayed in a beautiful flat that we found on AirBnB in Kalk Bay. The owners were an extremely friendly couple who greeted us with wine and an amazing view of the ocean.
Kalk Bay is a very quaint town about a 30-40 minute drive south of central Cape Town, right in the middle of False Bay. It was historically a fishing town and is basically just one strip of shops and restaurants right along the ocean. We decided to go out and see what the town has to offer our first night here and it turned out to be a very interesting evening. The night’s occurrences included becoming friends with the bartender, an in depth-conversation with the village idiot/drunk/character, and subsequently getting kicked out of a bar for our association with said idiot. Seeing as Kalk Bay only has two bars this would be our first and last night out in ‘the kalk’ as we affectional called it.
The following morning we went looking for waves. Our hosts could tell by all of the gear that we were unloading that we’re surfers and offered to connect us with their son, Jayson, who surfs regularly in the area. We went along with him to surf in Kommetjie, a beach town just across the peninsula on the Atlantic coast. The swell was really big and it was super windy, not the best conditions for this spot, but still managed to get a couple of fun waves. The water was freezing and reminded me a lot of San Francisco. After 6 months in warm tropical waters I realized for the first time that I’m not overly excited to be back in the cold waters of Northern California.
After the surf we drove in to town to have lunch with Kat, a German girl who Artem met last year while traveling in Portugal. She’s been living part-time in Cape Town for several years so knows all of the goods spots and her local knowledge and help was invaluable. Lunch turned in to drinks, and then to dinner, and then more drinks. We had a great time with her and an awesome first night in Cape Town. It’s a city that definitely reminds me lot of California, it’s like a mix of LA and SF. It has the unpredictable weather, cold water, and wine country of San Francisco with the sprawl, laid-back vibe, and beautiful vista views of LA. We were both really excited to be spending the next few weeks here.
The next morning we woke up to discover that the window to our car had been smashed out. We’d been told to take everything out of the car for exactly this reason, but we’d failed to take out a plastic cooler with a half eaten jar of peanut butter and stale loaf of bread in it. The perpetrator smashed the window and the cooler was now down. Getting the car fixed was a pain but much cheaper than it would have been in the US. That night we went out on the town again and met some really cool people. We randomly sat down next to a guy who is also from SF and traveling around Africa alone for a month. We also met some more locals who showed us some more cool nightspots in Cape Town.
The following morning was Christmas Eve and we decided to take it easy and catch up on some sleep. Kady, who had been doing volunteer work in Cape Town for the last few weeks, came over and it was great to catch up with her. We had a nice dinner and an early night.
Christmas morning we checked out of our AirBnB and went for another surf in Kommetjie. It was extremely windy and neither of us caught any good waves but it was still a nice way to start off Christmas morning. After surfing we took a drive up the Atlantic coast towards Cape Town and stopped on the way to hike to the top of Lion’s Head. It was a fun climb up and had spectacular views from the top.
We didn’t have any accommodations booked for the next two nights so we got a last minute booking at a hostel in Cape Town for Christmas night. After checking in we went to see Star Wars with a Polish friend we made on the top of Lion’s Head. It was a very chill Christmas, but then again with a high in the mid 80’s it didn’t feel all that Christmasy anyway.
The following morning we had breakfast in the hostel and actually met a lot of other Americans. We’d met almost no Americans prior to arriving in Capetown, most international travelers had been from Germany and Holland. We exchanged contact details with a few of them and said that we’d maybe all hang out for New Year’s eve. After breakfast Artem and I went to trade in our luxurious SUV for a cheaper and more practical Chevy Spark. All of our stuff wouldn’t fit in this tiny little car but Kat generously let us store some stuff in apartment while she was away traveling. With the new car packed to the brim with our remaining stuff we headed up north to wine country.
After checking in to a hotel in Stellenbosch we went to a really beautiful called vineyard called Hidden Valley. The landscape and winery were both gorgeous, it felt almost exactly like we were in Napa, and the tastings were extremely affordable (around $3 for 5 wines).
After a healthy tasting we went to another winery called Ernie Els, owner by the famous golfer. It was just as nice as Hidden Valley but much busier, likely because of the famous name. It did have a chipping green just outside the tasting room which was a nice touch.
Next we went to a big wine and craft market. We’d had a lot of wine at this point and decided it was a good idea to purchase and wear kimonos.
After a quick nap and shower we went to dinner at Helena’s, which we’d heard is one of the best restaurants in Stellenbosch, and it didn’t disappoint. I had a Chalmar steak, which is some sort of name-brand South African beef, and it was the best steak I’ve ever eaten. Paired with a fantastic local cabernet it was the best meal so far in South Africa.
After dinner we checked out a couple bars but Stellenbosch is a college town, and it was still Christmas break, so everything was pretty quiet. We did make friends with a couple South Africans, one of whom was from the Khayelitsha, Cape Town’s biggest township. It was super interesting to learn more about life in the township (townships are the neighborhoods that blacks and coloreds were forcibly relocated to during apartheid) and we decided we’d visit one before we left. The next day, with a severe hangover, we drove back to Cape Town to check in to our next AirBnB flat.