Landed in Cape Town
on a Sunday morning flying over huge townships. Got in a typical conference
hotel in downtown & went out for a walk.
The first impression of Cape Town is disconcerting. Somehow, the conference
has been placed in a huge hotel in downtown, which turns out to be an
unpleasant place to walk around. Got out of the hotel at 3pm on Sunday
afternoon (most businesses are closed) & got stopped three times in one
minute (people asking for money, selling sex, selling pot). Big avenues
with hardly anybody on the sidewalk, and the few that linger over there
are not exactly encouraging faces. Feels really unsafe.
After a while you get to a touristy shopping mall-like area called Waterfront
where things get better. Once again, I move from place to place on foot,
which is probably not the best if you are on your own.
If you follow the shoreline, the top part starts when the coast bend and
from an internal gulf you face now the Atlantic. Looks like a completely
different city here, a La Jolla / South Beach / Santa Monica kind-of-thing.
Stunning views of the ocean, of the Cape & of the Table Mountain in the
Going back I walk inland, following Signal Hill, which means that you
are way above sea level. Gorgeous views.
Hiked up Table Mountain.
We actually meant to get the cable car up to the top but the service gets
discontinued at any time because of the wind.
Hike up is ~2 hours. Steep start, very hot. Then the trail goes round
one side of the mountain & climbs up a gorge. The upper part of the
gorge is often surrounded by clouds, so hiking can be tough because of
the chill and of the strong wind. Once on top, you have to keep going
on the right hand side. Even if the trailhead is foggy because of the
mist, the side that looks over the ocean generally enjoys much better
visibility. From the trailhead to the upper cable car station is 10-15
more minutes. View is great, totally worth the hike.
Giuliano drives us
South to Cape Point. The road to Chapman's Bay has been reopened recently
and the scenery is stunning. Cape Point & Cape of Good Hope are the
two promontories. Diaz Beach is the stretch of land in between. Very windy,
touristy & somewhat charming. Can see a lot of wildlife (baboons,
ostriches, whales if you are lucky).
Stopped to see African penguins on the way back.Stopped further north
at the Kirstenbosch Garden, an out-of-time British affair, where to hang
out lazily & have your 5 o'clock tea.
Sunset at Signal Hill. We walk down on foot, 20-30 minutes to downtown
rushing in the dusk.
Said some goodbyes
& got some sunscreen in exchange.
Flew to Jo'burg & went to the youth hostel at the airport, a cozy
place managed by friendly UK-born Rob. Met Matt,
our companion in the overland tour. Matt, from L.A., is at the end of
his 5-month round-the-world tour.
In the evening, picked up David Goodman's "Fault Lines" from
Rob's library & read the scary and enticing chapter on the legendary
H.F. Verwoerd, who goes on the record as apartheid's main ideologue.
We hit the road today
at 6.30 am. Our guides are Trevor & Gary. Trevor is an experienced
fellow who speaks with short and to-the-point sentences and drives &
walks barefoot. Gary is a guide-in-training, taking notes from what Trevor
Lots of driving today. We stop for a break in Lyndenburg, a quite village
where to walk around quietly. We cross the Klein Drakensberg at Robber's
Pass (2000m). Lunch in Pilgrim's Rest, a village of the gold rush era
turned tourist trap.
Two rivers, the Blyde and the Treur, mark this area. Stopped at Bourke's
Luck Potholes, a steep and narrow canyon, which has carved bizarre rock
Last stop at Blyde River Canyon, a majestic opening of the earth which
rivals the Grand Canyon. A highlight of the canyon are the Three Rondavels,
colossal "columns" shaped by wind. Unfortunately no time to
hike the Canyon. Camped in the northern area of Blyde.
Drove south and stopped
at pretty Berlin Falls. Stopped also at God's Window, a spot where in
clear days you are supposed to see up to the ocean in Mozambique (350
kms). Unfortunately, God's Window is in the so-called "mist belt"
most of the time, so in these cases you can't really see anything at all.
Got to Kruger Park before lunchtime. Busy area, lots of people around.
Gone out in the truck looking for game.
Whole day driving
around in safaris. The park belongs to the animals: you cannot step out
of the vehicle unless you are in a fenced camp/rest area. Kruger Park
is huge: there's a whole village (Shukuza) within its borders, with homes,
a school, etc.
Very easy to see buffalos, zebras, guraffes, elephants. Need a bit more
luck to see hippos, rhinos and leos close-by. Very, very unlikely to see
cheetas and leopards.
The day is overcast, then is clears up & it is really hot. Very strong
light, which creates a thousand shades of green on the trees. Got to go
on a hill for the sunset, warm, slow and mellow.
Left Kruger Park.
At the southern gate, a car is picking Matt up. He is on his way to Jo'burg,
then Cape Town, then the U.S.A.
Quickly got at the South Africa - Swaziland border. The South Africa side
has computerized checks, etc. The Swazis, 200 m away, have no computer
and do everything by hand.
Got to the Mlalawini Reserve to camp. Swaziland is called "the mountain
kingdom" as most of its terrain is rugged. The campground is by a
lake and a couple of rivers, surrounded by colorful hills. Animals go
around freely. Zebras, warthogs, impalas grazing among our tents.
Went hiking in the afternoon. Lots of hiking trails. Can go for a 4-5
hour hike around the lake and to Nyonyane Peak. Description
Left Swaziland driving
through colorful villages & re-entered South Africa in KwaZulu-Natal.
Hilly area, getting less and less populated towards the Drakensberg, the
big mountain chain of South Africa. Getting close to the Drakensberg in
Idylliac campground, with the menacing skyline of the mountains in the
mist in the background. Went hiking a bit in the surroundings. Rain in
Went hiking in the
Tugela Gorge in Northern Drakensberg. Trail leaves 15 minutes of driving
distance from the campground.
First kms follow the canyon shaped by the Tugela on one side of the mountain.
Nice views of the Drankensberg peaks and of the valley. After 1 hr you
get to the river, which you then follow for ~30-40 minutes (the river
has to be crossed on foot a couple of times). A couple of small ladders
help in a few points. You are at the end of the gorge when you can't really
proceed further and when you see a bigger ladder climbing a rock on your
At that point you have two options to continue.Either you follow a new
trail starts on your left and go for the crest of the mountains: this
is not a day hike. Or you climb the ladder (simpler than it looks) and
you follow a 20-minute trail that leads to the Tugela waterfalls. This
trail has another tough portion where you have to climb another wall helping
with roots and some nails that have been placed in the rock (again, easier
than it sounds).
In summary, this is a ~ 2h 15min hike. To go back to the car park, you
have to trace back your steps.
Late afternoon chilling at camp. More rain in the evening. Rain season
Drove to Durban.
Bye Trevor & Gary (that was great, hope 2 c u soon).
Durban has a downtown that, like Cape Town, is not the place you want
to hang around. The action is at the boardwalk. Lots of surfers (Durban
is a prime surfing spot). Sky's gloomy. The Golden Mile of beaches does
not look as good as it should. More rain comes and we go to the aquarium.
Durban has the largest Indian community in the world outside of India.
For dinner, we go in a great & spicy Durban-Indian restaurant.
Quick morning visit
at The Bat Center, an complex for performing arts in Durban. Very cool.
Then we fly to Jo'burg. Stopover at Rob's hostel to pick up some luggage
& then fly home.
of Cape Town & Peninsula
Pictures from the "Jo'burg to Durban Overland"
Mlalawini Swaziland Hiking