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South Africa

South Africa

Joy-Rides in the Mother City

August 20, 2018

One of my favorite things to do in Cape Town might actually be one of the simplest things to do. I love to go for drives. I’ve always enjoyed spending time in the car with friends, looking a the scenery and just killing time. It’s something I did a lot of in high school- in a small town there’s sometimes not much else to do. But Cape Town isn’t a small town, its big, vibrant and diverse. Driving for 15 minutes you can pass through, like, 6 totally different ecosystems – with different plants, different cultural neighborhoods, different views…

Not only this, but the mountains  surrounding Cape Town are imperial and stunning. They leap frog with soft coastlines and fresh Southern Atlantic seascapes. Rolling vineyards are sprinkled below mountain gorges, between vast glowing beaches. It’s hard to put into words. You have to see it for yourself. 

One of Cape town’s most popular drives is Chapman’s Peak. It’s not really a “peak” in the sense of it being the tip of a mountain, but it’s a climb to a summit of the road, looping around the Cape Peninsula, and one of the most breath taking drives I’ve ever been on. 

I go on Chapman’s Peak now and again, and often when I’m headed to wineries or beaches around Table Mountain. The best part is a little local’s secret that I’ll let you in on: The Cave. 

Hidden from sight of the road, is a perfect little cave on the cliffside overlooking the ocean between Hout Bay and Noordhoek. It’s wide and great for sitting, overall a phenomenal sunset spot, especially when enhanced by a glass of bubbly or some fresh fruit! 

On one of my sunset ventures, I actually had the pleasure of viewing a professional photoshoot by local fashion photographer Winston Kletter. Chapman’s Peak never disappoints- it’s full of surprises.

But even if you don’t go up Chapman’s Peak, the Cape Town area is a spectacular place to be if you like long drives, with vibes courtesy of dramatic landscape features, late afternoon rays of golden sunshine and a good soundtrack.

South Africa

Penguins.

August 20, 2018

You might be in for a surprise to find out that Penguins don’t just live in the Arctics… in fact, the Western Cape has a quite robust African Penguin population living just outside of Cape Town. The Penguins mostly just waddle around eating fish, looking cute for tourists to take photos of them on their private beach in Simon’s Town.

The first time I went to visit the penguins was with my good friend Heidi, who was a fellow student on my study program. We were a bit disappointed, as us humans were penned in on a boardwalk over the beach, and could not actually walk among the penguins. We stopped for some ice cream while walked and spotted more penguins in the bushes. It was to my dismay when a penguin, whose diet solely consists of fish I might add, bent over and projectile shat just feet away from us. Safe to say I was done with the ice cream.

The next time I’d visit the penguins was almost 8 months later, when I was living in Cape Town again for an internship.

This time, showing my boyfriend and his cousin around the Cape Peninsula, we got a bit more adventurous. We found a secret little path through some beach boulders to another section of the beach where you were actually on the beach with the birds ♥

That’s where the fun began.

They’re kind of docile creatures so they just chilled, and posed with us. I don’t think they get very scared of people because their natural predators lurk beneath the water (sharks and seals), and they’re observed and gawked at by hundreds of humans every day.

I only got chased off once when I got too comfortable trying to get close to one for a photo, I overstepped his territory, probably deserved it. 

Overall, penguins are wonderful friends. They’re like this foreign creature we only see in documentaries and hear about in stories, but in Cape Town, they’re right there! Real little guys, so darn cute, and only a little smelly (I remind you, their diet consists solely of fish). It’s a pretty unique experience, and just one of the many reasons that Cape Town is, in my opinion, the best city in the world.

I’d say it’s penguin-ing to look like you need to visit Cape Town!

South Africa

Dream in Africa

June 29, 2018

Having grown up in the United States, I found Africa to often be framed as a continent with far less to offer than is reality. The stereotype in a nutshell, to be blunt, seems to be a bunch of poor people running around in the dirt, hungry, all living the same kind of basic life. Not only does it completely undermine the fact that Africa is the most genetically diverse continent on the globe, it also ignores all of the different climates, resources, languages, traditions and histories that define millions of unique lives.

South Africa alone holds 11 official languages, which are just 11 of over 30 spoken. Each language reflects a heritage that’s branched from their roots into millions of directions, embodied in millions of people. It’s actually hard for me to find words to describe the diversity.

I guess I should to take a step back and introduce myself. I’m Madi. I’m from a small town in Colorado, USA. I didn’t travel far beyond the typical vacation spots surrounding the United States (Mexico, Bahamas, etc.) until I was well into my University career. The summer between my junior and senior years of college, I decided to embark on a sutdy abroad program in South Africa. Below is my class:

I was an anthropology major, incredibly interested in culture and development, and I saw an epic opportunity to make an adventure of an educational excursion. I’d never been to the African continent before, so it was exciting and new, and Google images pretty much convinced me to go to Cape Town- one of the most beautiful cities in the World.

I grew up in a nuclear upper-middle class household, and my parents definitely spilled the occasional “There are starving children in Africa!” when I didn’t finish enough of my dinner. What American child can say they haven’t heard that one before? I’d taken some classes that had bits and pieces of Africa, mainly focused on refugees and humanitarian issues, but I was hungry to see what Africa had to say for itself.

The mountains surrounding Cape Town as you fly in speak a thousand words. It’s the kind of nature that makes us feel human. The kind of beauty that brings peace to your heart- the kind that makes people happy. This city is different because, unlike the typical grey, urban jungle that characterizes a city, Cape Town doesn’t lose it’s edge. It hasn’t been turned on itself and made to fit people, the people fit themselves in the space that the mountains left for us. I have seen underdeveloped places, in different corners of the world, and the biggest distinguishment between suffering and struggling that I’ve seen comes down to people’s access to natural beauty. People with nothing can find reason to smile, because they see the green empirical mountains, and smell the sea spray and they laugh because they are so small and so lucky to be alive. It can be easy to forget this in a place where the buildings create a wall between your eyes and the sky- a problem that Cape Town does not have.

To get down and dirty, South Africa has a huge wealth and development gap. Cape Town specifically, has a beautiful metropolitan downtown, modern restaurants, infrastructure, world-class services and accessibilty to the outside world. But just beyond the city’s edge, lay miles of shack slums, where yes, some people are hungry, running around in the dirt.

But don’t be so quick to think that these people are unhappy. In my experiences I’ve met some of the kindest people here. I’ve seen the most charming smiles, and I’ve seen children happy as clams, just making something special of what little they may have.

South Africa has an aggressively unclean history when it comes to human rights, and real growth out of that dark era is still in its early stages. The impact that Apartheid made on the country is deep, and some people have been pushed to the margins. But South Africa now has one of the best constitutions in the world, coming to be known as the “Rainbow Nation”, where all kinds of people and cultures live together and grow together. There’s more opportunity than ever and people are eager for it. Rich or poor, black, brown or white, South Africans are moving forward. And I think it’s such a magical place to be.

I left behind my life in America because I want to diversify my perspectives, exprience more ways of life, and just be a human in a big world. I want to participate in finding a balance between the up and coming and the traditional.

I found my dream in Africa. Come dream with me.

With love, Madi.