Last Week in KaapstadCape Town, Spring 2012

My last week in Kaapstad (which is Afrikaans for Cape Town) was bittersweet. In a way, I was very happy to go home. I missed my family, friends, and the little things about home that I definitely took for granted before living overseas. I’m not going to lie, I missed unlimited Internet, texting, and being able to drive more than I originally thought I would. I took for granted being able to instantly communicate with the people I love and I found myself drifting further apart from people back home simply because it was difficult to keep in touch. Being abroad showed me how much I missed the US.

But on the other hand, I was really sad about leaving Cape Town. Being abroad showed me how much is out there other than the US. It’s crazy to think that I am now able to call a place that is 8,000 miles away “home.”  Oddly enough, in my last week I found myself missing Cape Town already, despite the fact that I hadn’t even left yet. I had the time of my life and I met some incredible people along the way; I was sad to think that I might never see them again. The thought of leaving Cape Town left me upset as well as excited; it was a strange mix of emotions.

So, to combat all of my weird emotions, I decided to leave ZA on a high note. My friends and I were on a mission to finish crossing off our bucket lists and to recreate some of our favorite moments from our semester abroad. I tried new things and I went back to all of the places that I knew I would miss most once I left Cape Town. My last week was incredible; here are some of the highlights.

 

Climbing Table Mountain:

Table Mountain is one of the most iconic sites to see when in South Africa. It is a must-hike for everyone who visits. And oddly enough, I did not do so until this last week. Being there all semester led me to use the excuse “I have so much time” when it came to climbing the Table. I assumed my time in Cape Town would go on forever; the end was nowhere in sight until this last week struck me.

So, we climbed Table. We did the five-hour hike from the Kirstenbosh Botanical Gardens and it was awesome to say the least. Altogether, the hike was about four hours up and one hour across Table Mountain. There are certainly other, shorter trails, but we wanted to go all out on our first and last time up.

The hike was tiring, but well worth it. It got a bit difficult at parts; we actually had to climb up a waterfall at one point. It was a lot of fun.

At another point we had to climb up ladders because the rocks were too steep.

The hike was long, but it felt good when we could finally look down and see what we had accomplished.

When we finally reached the “Table Cloth.” We were walking through the clouds…literally.

The views were incredible. I couldn’t believe it was June and it was my first time up Table, but it was well worth the wait. The fact that it was the South African winter also meant that it was cooler, which made the hiking a bit easier.

Looking out across Table Mountain!

Looking down on the city we called home for five whole months!

Being above the clouds was an incredible feeling. After about four hours we had reached the top of Table Mountain. However, climbing from Kirstenbosh meant that we had to climb all the way across the Table to reach the cable car that would take us down. We were exhausted, and there was no way we were hiking down ladders and waterfalls in the dark.

When we got to the top, Table Mountain was surprisingly… flat. While this probably should not have surprised me as much as it did, I guess I just hadn’t really thought about what it would look like up close.

The surprisingly flat top of Table Mountain.

We made it to the cable car spot just in time to sit down, eat something, and watch the sun set over our beloved city.

The sunset over Cape Town from the top of Table Mountain.

Feeling on top of the world.

And with that, we took the cable car down and said goodbye to Table Mountain. We had an amazing day, and we were ready for some well-deserved rest.

Taking the cable car down at sunset!

 

Camps Bay Shindig:

I would also like to highlight the American-style house party that we threw in Camps Bay during our last week. This was our final send-off and our way of saying goodbye to all of the wonderful people we met in Cape Town. We all pooled together our money to rent out a nice place and have a great night. The shindig was a success and there was fun to be had by all.

The amazing Camps Bay apartment we rented!

Camps Bay is known for its amazing beaches and views. That’s Lion’s Head right over there!

 

Shark Cage Diving:

During my last week in Cape Town I decided to face my fear of the ocean by going shark cage diving in Shark Alley, Gansbaai (where they film Shark Week). I’m not sure if this was a brave or just plain stupid decision, but it sure was fun.

(Note to anyone who might be considering doing this: take motion sickness medication if you tend to get seasick. It was well worth it. Trust me.)

The men in charge of the boat said that we had one of the best shark-seeing days that they had every witnessed. Apparently, sometimes they don’t see any sharks at all, which would have been a real bummer. (Also, the best time to go is in May and June!)

We saw about seven to eight different sharks, which was pretty great. The water was also really clear. We felt very lucky to have such optimal conditions. And so, the shark diving began!

They baited the sharks in using tuna heads. Don’t worry, I won’t be showing a picture of those.

All of the sharks we saw were great whites. We only saw one full-sized mommy shark the entire day. The rest we saw were all “teenage” sharks, as our guides liked to call them. And even then, they were still pretty gigantic.

The first shark of the day!

As the day went on they got more and more aggressive. The sharks were throwing themselves up against the cage to see if they could wiggle us loose from the boat and have at us. It was really scary, but I felt completely safe in the cage… even when that one shark bit the cage. I swear I will never forget the sound of its teeth on the metal cage. It was absolutely wild.

This was by far the craziest picture I snapped all day!

I was so surprised to see that they got so close to us.

This guy actually succeeded in stealing the bait off the line.

I think shark cage diving will go down as one of the cooler things I have done in my life. It was so much fun and I really had a great time. For someone who is not exactly a deep water kind of person, I had an incredible time.

My friend, Crystal, and I having a great time in the cage. (Though I do have to admit, the water was SO cold. But it was totally worth it).

 

Saying Goodbye:

These were just the crazier highlights from my last week in Cape Town. On top of the adventurous stuff I did, I went back to many of the places that I loved and knew I would miss when I left. We went back to Old Biscuit Mill for the last time and ate for the majority of the day. I also saw the sun rise from Jammie steps on the UCT campus. And most of all, I said my goodbyes to the awesome people I met in Cape Town.

Saying goodbye was probably the hardest part. There is no way to thank the amazing people I met enough; they all helped make my time in Cape Town incredible and unforgettable. I will miss you guys so much!

Some of the best people I know!

With that said, I had the perfect ending to my time in Cape Town. It was a bittersweet goodbye, but it was time. And I know I’ll be back. Mark my word…

- Rachael :)

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2 Comments

  1. Hello Rachael,

    wow, these pictures of your Shark Cage Dive are absolutely amazing! I want to go to Gansbaai to meet the sharks aswell and now I wonder which is a good company. I found this one, which looks quite good: http://www.sharkwatchsa.com/en/home/.
    Is it maybe the same company you choosed or can you recommend another?

    Thanks a lot!!
    Anne

  2. Hey Anne!

    Thanks so much for the comment! We went through White Shark Ecoventures. Here is their website: http://www.white-shark-diving.com/. Let me know if you have any other questions! I hope you have a great trip! :)

    All the best,
    Rachael

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