Gadabout's Corner

Bird of passage

Tag: hiking

Things to do during Winter in CAPE TOWN, South Africa

Cape Town is surely many people’s dream paradise, especially surfers, hikers, backpackers or lovers (a honeymoon, maybe). It offers a great variety of services, from budget hostels to beachfront luxury villas.

Visiting Cape Town or Kaapstad in Afrikaans during Winter is actually quite nice. It’s not that cold, except the sea that’s always a bit cold. You could still do everything that you should when in Cape Town, like surfing, shark cage diving, whale watching, sailing or visiting wineries. If you don’t mind a bit of light rain then we are good here. Plus, it’s a lot cheaper and also less packed. If you’re not sure what to do during the trip, then you might wanna keep reading. 😊

Firstly, getting around is really easy, you could just walk or use the MyCiti Bus. You’ll need a bus card for that, which you just add some credit into the card, tap and go. You could get the card from many places, like the Airport. I got mine at the Cape Town Tourism Office on Burg Street.

Actually, I wanna talk a little bit about their Tourism Office. They are really helpful. I went to Cape Town with no idea about what I should do and see. Fortunately, one of the staff introduced me to Baz Bus, which offers really cool tour services around South Africa for great prices. Tours are specifically designed for backpackers. These services were amazing and I also met loads of cool people as well.

Things you shouldn’t miss when in Cape Town:
  • District Six
    • Muir Street Mosque
    • District Six Museum
  • Bo-Kaap
  • Victoria & Alfred Waterfront
  • Signal Hill
  • Lion’s Head
  • Table Mountain
  • Chapman’s Peak

Firstly, I’m going to kick it off with things you can do around the City Bowl, which is the central business area of Cape Town. It’s packed with history, especially at District Six. The district is the result of discrimination, where only white residences were allowed to stay and the others were forced to leave. It left the district abandoned. Years later, Nelson Mandela returned the district to everyone but some areas are still visibly abandoned. You could just walk around the area, visit the District Six Museum and Muir Street Mosque to know more about the story.

Not far from District Six Museum, stands the Castle of Good Hope, which is the oldest building of South Africa. It’s a good place to relax as there is a small kiosk that you could grab some warm drinks. I had my breakfast there, with the view of the castle’s garden in front of me. Tea and food was warm, perfect for the winter morning.

A bit further from the castle, you’ll find the colorful neighborhood of Bo-Kaap. You’ll notice the cobble stoned streets once you’re in the area. It’s a good place to walk around, take pictures with them colorful doors and houses. Also, check out the Nurul Islam Mosque there as well.

The next stop is Victoria & Alfred Waterfront. There is so much to see in the area. So, if you wanna fill up your tummy first, definitely check out the V&A Food Market. It’s an international food complex that sometimes plays live music as well. Otherwise, have a walk around the harbour, get the bird-eye view of the town from the Cape Wheel, shop at the mall or book yourself a ticket to visit the Robben Island.

Robben Island was used for the isolation of political prisoners, including Nelson Mandela. Apart from history aspect, it’s the kingdom of African Penguins as well. On the island, you can take pictures, but for personal use only and tripods are not allowed.

Now for those who like mountains, camping and hiking, Cape Town is your place. There are many peaks and mountains for you to conquer. We’ll go from North to South and the first one is the Signal Hill (Lion’s Tail). You could just drive up the summit through Signal Hill Road. It’s great for the city’s view and the Atlantic. I also spot couple of campers there as well.

Otherwise, the one next to it is the Lion’s Head. The walk up to the top is only about an hour. So, it’s quite nice.

The next one, the landmark of Cape Town, Table Mountain is a must. It’s called Table Mountain simply because of its flatness. You could get up the top by either hiking or by using cableway. By hiking, there are many routes to choose, depending on how long you wanna spend and how fit you are. Though, a spot that you shouldn’t miss is the Devil’s Peak. The view is crazy! You just gotta see it by yourself.

Moving on to the Chapman’s Peak. This place gives you both the view of Hout Bay and Noordhoek Beach. To get here, you could simply take the Chapman’s Peak Drive and you’ll find many hiking trails up here as well.

Between Chapman’s Peak and the stunning Noorhoek Beach, there is a really cool place called Monkey Valley Resort. It offers a really sweet stay. Hidden among the trees of Milkwood Forest, with the view of the beach; each rooms are designed with massive windows for the infinite view, farmhouse kitchen and stone fireplace. It’s just really cool! 😎

Save on your hotel - www.hotelscombined.com

Cape Town’s shorelines, from North to South:
  • Sea Point Promenade
  • Clifton
    • First Beach
    • Second Beach
    • Third Beach
    • Fourth Beach
  • Camps Bay
    • Witsand
    • Glen Beach
  • Hout Bay
    • The Dungeons
    • Hout Bay Harbour
  • Noordhoek Beach
    • The Dunes
    • Wreck of Kakapo

About half an hour walk from Victoria & Alfred Waterfront, close to Green Point Lighthouse, you’ll see the start of Sea Point Promenade. It’s really nice to walk along the Promenade as there are many different beaches, some are smaller and some are rockier.

Though, if you are looking for a bigger scale beach, then definitely check out the Clifton area. Here, there are 4 beaches, from First Beach to the Fourth Beach. For surfers, the First Beach has the strongest and the Fourth Beach has weakest waves. The Third Beach is the smallest one but it’s a very busy beach. This place is awesome and beautiful!

For divers, you might wanna check out Camps Bay. Here, there is a famous dive site called Witsand. However, this bay is also good for surfers, especially for those who like a bit of challenge. At Glen Beach, it’s one of the harder beaches to surf as the take-off area is quite small.

The next stop is where I spent most of my time while in Cape Town. It’s Hout Bay! It’s the place for big wave surfers who wanna ride the 14-metres Dungeons. The place itself is beautiful and colorful, with cute fishing village and Hout Bay Harbour.

Lastly, it’s the one we’ve talked about for a bit, the Noordhoek Beach. If you want to relax, then this 8 kilometres of peacefulness is your place. You might wanna visit The Dunes, take a horse out and enjoy the ride by the beach or explore the Wreck of Kakapo.

What else?
  • Cape Winelands
  • Cape Peninsula
    • Simon’s Town
    • Boulders Beach
    • Cape of Good Hope

Apart from Cape Town itself, you could also explore the area around it as well. I’d recommend few places. Firstly, Cape Winelands is the region where many famous wines are made. Wines are sooooo cheap and sooooo tasty! By the time you’re having lunch, you’d already be tipsy. It’s a joy! 🍷

Apart from the beauty of wineries, you could also join the search of South African’s Big Five. If you are keen on spending a day with animals, you could book yourself a day trip and head to Worcester. I’d recommend horseback safari because it’s a lot more exciting. Otherwise, try any styles of Game Drives.

Most importantly, since you are in Cape Town, you have to visit the Cape Peninsula. To do so, you might wanna start at Simon’s Town, which is a Navy Base Town.

There is a cute history here too. It’s about Just Nuisance, which is the only dog enlisted in Royal Navy because he was a loyal dog that always travelled with seamen by train. He was enlisted as a Royal Navy so that he could travel freely on the train. He was somehow a moral booster for the town during the World War II. His statue is by the town’s main street.

Another cuteness here is the African Penguins at Boulders Beach. The place is so cute! What penguins live by the beach of blue water? This place is so heart-warming. 😍

Next, you should definitely visit the Cape of Good Hope. To explore the whole place, which is also a Nature Reserve, you could just drive around, hike or go around with bicycle. I did cycling and my companies were some ostriches, baboons and couples of deers.

You might wanna stop by the Cape Point first because it’s higher than the Cape of Good Hope so it offers a greater sight of all peaks and ocean. The view from the lighthouse is the best! You also don’t have to worry much about the weather, all the walking will heat you up but the wind won’t let you sweat.

The final most important stop is the Cape of Good Hope. It holds so much history and the area is stunning. The shore is great for taking pictures and to be there is just great!

 

 

 

 

 

Chilean Patagonia: Torres del Paine and the Southern Andes (part 3)

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This is the last part of our trip to the Tierra del Fuego. We are getting so close to the Antarctica that I hope if I stare good enough in the right direction, I will be able to see that white continent.

We just left Torres del Paine National Park and now we are moving to Puerto Natales, which is where we disembark from our ferry. I’ve already mentioned that it’s better to see things if we travel by sea and the one I’d recommend is Navimag Ferries. They provide several routes and choices depending on your preference. I departed from Puerto Montt, travelling down, seeing loads of stuff for 3 days and disembarked at Puerto Natales. The price was 550 USD per bed and that already includes food. The facilities are really convenience and clean. There are shared bathrooms and toilets as well as the kitchen and other common areas like bar and dance floor. You might experience some seasickness as we have to navigate pass the areas where the surface of the water is really naughty, but there are medication service that will help you. Staffs are really nice and the food is really good as well.

Puerto Natales
  • Last Hope Sound (Última Esperanza)
  • Eberhard Fjord
  • Milodon Cave (Cueva del Milodón)
  • Navimag and Navy pier

Puerto Natales is a small waterfront town, with piers that bring people from every corners. It’s very classic, with old and colorful houses along the lakeside. One of the signature of this port town is the Última Esperanza, which is a spot to watch the sunset, flamingos and take cool pictures with old, ruin piers that reaches into the body of the water. It’s suitable to bike there along the shore of the Eberhard Fjord or treat yourself with another boat ride, which will bring you closer to waterfalls and animals. On the way, you will be visited by fellow sea lions as well.

You should also visit a cave that triggers the giants mysterious of the Fire Land. I’d recommend spending time around and inside Milodon Cave until it opens you to the great green scenery.

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You could also spend time relaxing by the pier, either at Navimag pier or if you want a bit a beach then there is the Navy pier for you. Also, if you are looking for a nice place to stay and relax, then you might wanna check out Remota Patagonia Lodge.

Punta Arenas
  • Magdalena Island (Isla Magdalena)
    • Penguins
  • Rey Jorge Island Natural Sea Park
    • Whale watching
  • La Cruz Hill Viewpoint (Mirador Cero de la Cruz)
  • Nao Victoria Museum (Museo Nao Victoria)
  • Punta Arena cemetery

A bit below Puerto Natales, Punta Arenas is one of the biggest city in this area. It has an airport, which you can fly back to Santiago instead of travelling back by sea. It’s the base for Antarctica expeditions in which you can buy tours or cruise trips from town centre. There are many islands in this area and one of the most known one is the Magdalena Island. It’s where you can get close to the Magellanic penguin colony. The other one is not as known , but you can spend time observing wild mammals like whales. It’s the Rey Jorge Island National Sea Park.

You could also go to La Cruz Hill Viewpoint that will allow you to see the whole city and it’s a great picture opportunity. And if you are interested in navigation history, then you should check out Nao Victoria Museum. Inside, there is the replica version of the first ship that successfully circumnavigate the world. However, if you want to know more about the history of Punta Arenas then you’ll want to go to Punta Arenas Cemetery. This place is known for their trimmed cypress trees that decorated the whole place.

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Isla Grande de Tierra del Fuego
  • Porvenir
    • Cerro Mirador
  • White lake (Lago Blanco)
  • Camerón River
  • Navarino Island (Isla Navarino)
    • Puerto Williams
    • Los Dientes Circuit
  • Cape Horn (Cabo de Hornos)

Tierra del Fuego is a very remote island, again owned by both Chile and Argentina. It’s so remote that it’s only a boat ride away for the Antarctica. The main town of this Fire Land is Porvenir. There is not much of the scenery to see, but there are loads of history awaited to be discovered as well as many animals. To have the best look of this town, you will have to go to Cerro Mirador. It’s the viewpoint this town can offer.

There is a great spot on this island that will allow you to spend time relaxing or fishing. It’s at the Lago Blanco. Here, you can catch yourself some fish and cook them fresh on spot. However, another body of water that you shouldn’t miss is the Camerón River. Again, you can spend time here, catching wild fish. But that’s not all, you could also stay at the Estancia Cameron Lodge and experience the whole Tierra del Fuego culture. There are many activities provided for fellow travellers, such as fly fishing, trekking, kayaking and bird watching.

To get yourself even more down south, you might want to stop at the Navarino Island. The main port of this island is the Puerto Williams, which is the southernmost inhabited settlement of the world. It’s a beautiful port city, with lots of boats and ships passing by or stopping by. It’s also decorated with white mountain range. It’s really peaceful and cold. I have to mention the cold. However, the beauty and what’s await allows us to easily forget about the weather.

You can easily get here from Punta Arenas via Transbordadora Austral Broom. Apart from taking you to Puerto Williams, there are other services as well, such as trips to Magdalena Island.

Just outside the town, if you are experienced and you are prepared, you might as well get yourself into one of the hardest hiking trail in South America. To complete Los Dientes Circuit, you will have to spare around five days, but you will definitely love what you see. The trail of the circuit is over 50 kilometres, so get your blood pumping.

Further from the Navarino, there sits the end of America. Cape Horn is reachable by sea and plane, but I would suggest the sea, even though it takes longer to get there. When you arrive there, you will see the sign that marks this legendary spot. It says “Armada de Chile, Alcaldia de mar, Cabo de Hornos.”

And finally, we are here, the end of this continent. We can’t go any further without having to move to Antarctica, in which I’m sure all of us would love to and we will.

 

 

 

 

 

MENDOZA, Argentina: Los Andes and Grape Harvest Festival

Mendoza1

Before I went to Argentina, I didn’t know much about it. It’s so far away, I never thought I’d actually ended up there but I was really lucky. Things I heard of Argentina was probably only about the tango, barbecue and wine. I have heard of Buenos Aires, Santa Fé and Iguazú Falls but I wasn’t going to any of those. I was going to Mendoza.

Mendoza is a city in Cuyo region of Argentina, decorated with the Andes mountains. It’s amazingly beautiful in Winter, with long range of vineyards and white, snowy mountain valleys as the background. It’s a perfect city that allows you to explore Argentine beauty and culture.

City Centre
  • Street vendors
  • Live music
  • Barbecue (Asado)
  • Hot air balloon
  • Plaza San Martín
  • Calle Arístides Villanueva

In the centre of Mendoza, you can enjoy the culture by walking around and listening to live music from the street that has the tendency to lift your tango spirit and move those hips. It is perfect to admire the beautiful architectures by walking, while munching on some nuts and olives. Once you are tired of walking and feeling a bit hungry, you could just stop any where for some street foods or get yourself a full on Argentine barbecue or “asado.”

Not far from the city centre, there are many places that you can take a hot air balloon ride. It’s a nice way to get a handful of awesome pictures and footages. The height of those mountains as the backdrop never fail.

But if you are not a fan of height, you could also relax by Plaza San Martín. It’s a huge park with enormous monument. You could also see how earthquakes affected this place as well.

During summer nights, it is recommended to walk around the Calle Arístides Villanueva. It’s where the crowd is. There are some decent nightclubs for good parties. There are places where you can chill by the lounge on the pavement in which you can just order some wine, listen to some music and watch young people on their night out. It’s also a place where you can get your accommodation as there are many hotels on this street as well. These clearly explains why it can be quite busy and why you shouldn’t miss it.

Explore “Los Andes”
  • Ruta 7
    • leads into Chile
  • Mount Aconcagua
  • Cacheuta thermal baths
  • Artificial lake Potrerillas
    • hiking
    • paragliding
    • rafting
    • kitesurfing

Apart from exploring the city, Mendoza is also a great door to explore Los Andes. I would recommend horse riding around the base of the Andes. Why not? You are in Argentina, you should be riding horses.

However, horse riding might not takes you as far. You might want to take Ruta 7, which is a road that crosses Argentina horizontally. It is accompanied by the Andes mountain ranges. These mountains separate Argentina and Chile, but with Ruta 7, you can enter Chile and reaches Santiago.

One of the spectacular mountain tops in the Andes is Aconcagua, which is the highest mountain peak outside of Asia. If you are a climber and you have about 22 – 28 days to spend then definitely check out Climb Aconcagua for more information.

You should also check out the Cacheuta thermal baths. They are natural hot springs that bubble in the middle of the Andes. It could be a good stop after a bit of driving or to simply soak yourself during winter days.

Though, if you want to cool down a bit during summer, lake Potrerillas could be a nice option. It’s suitable for big group of people as there are many activities for everyone. It’s an artificial lake that you, your friends or family can enjoy hiking, paragliding, rafting, kite surfing or just swimming.

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Mendoza’s Agriculture
  • Olive oil
  • Vineyards (Viña)

Mendoza is well known for its olive oil and wine. It’s a great place to learn a bit more about the agriculture and get drunk. You could check out various Olivícolas around Mendoza to stay under the shadow, taste the golden olive oil and could possibly bring back some healthy souvenir.

However, you don’t want to miss checking out some vineyards or “viñas” to study wineries. Also, it’s a place to taste all sort of wines and buy some bottles to bring back to people at home.

Grape Harvest Festival
  • The Blessing of the Fruit
    • 1 day
  • The Queens’ White Way (Vía Blanca de las Reinas)
    • 1 day
    • in the streets of Mendoza
  • The Grape Harvest Carrousel
    • 1 day
    • in the streets of Mendoza
  • Main Act
    • 3 nights
    • at Frank Romero Day Greek Theatre
    • Queen’s election
    • Patron of the Vineyards (Virgen de la Carrodilla)

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Mendoza is known as the Wine Capital and for that reason it houses the most important festival in Argentina, the Grape Harvest Festival. It’s an opportunity to go really deep into wineries and learn Mendocinos culture by witnessing “Fiesta Nacional de la Vendimia.” It happens annually during the last week of February and first week of March.

The festival attracts many visitors including tourists from around the world, performers, media, politics, winegrowers and locals. They gather to witness performances, fireworks and the selection of the National Vendimia Queen. It’s a folklore in the street. It brings magic, superstition to the people’s love of wine.

The festival lasts several days and in each day, there are different things to see. The first thing that they do before visitors arrive is what they call “The Blessing of the Fruit.” It usually happens during the last week of February.

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During the first week of March in the main avenue of Mendoza, people would gather and wait to witness the march of the queens from all corners of Argentina. Queens will be dressed in winemaking tradition costumes, walking in the Queens’ White Way. The entertainment is also accompanied by the performers in glamorous costumes.

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The next day is the Grape Harvest Carrousel, in which the queens will be carried on the chariots by men in Guacho on horses. They are also surrounded by performers from around the world, mainly from Argentina and Latin countries. This also happens at the avenue of Mendoza.

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The last part of the festival is the main act. There are 3 nights and it happens at the Frank Romero Day Greek Theatre. The main act features the “Patron of the Vineyards,” queen’s election and it closes with fireworks.

If you have a chance, go to Mendoza during the festival as it’s a fun way to enjoy music and beauty, meanwhile surrounded by the great celebration. Plus, it’s also during summer.

 

 

 

 

 

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