We started our hike at about 0800 this morning. Today’s hike was definitely flatter and thus made the trek much quicker. We were told that this hike would take 10 hours. However, we ended up doing it in a little over 6 hours.
The trek started with a 6 km walk along the beach. We walked in the sand and watched the sites on the beach.
The trail then turned in toward the mountains. Just before it turned away from the ocean, we came across a family of baboons. They usually don’t mess with humans unless they smell food. Then they can become aggressive. Well, we had food on us, so I was a little nervous. But, we passed a few of them without issue and then turned up toward the mountains before encountering the rest of the pack.
At the top of the hill, we headed down the other side to an old shipwreck site from 1968. It was impressive to see the hull of the ship all rusted in the water.
Next we traversed across a beautiful field of wildflowers and other flora. This was actually private property, so we couldn’t stop on it for lunch. We finished the 6 km of walking across the field and headed to a nearby lake for lunch.
We were almost done with the hike by this point. According to the map, we would cross two roads and summit one more small mountain and we would be back at the car.
After submitting the mountain, we realized there was one more mountain we had to summit that wasn’t on the map. But we eventually did it and reached our car. It did seem like the trail makers unnecessarily create trails with climbs and winding paths that did not need to be there. But we finished our 33.5 km hike by around 1420 and were happy to be done.
After reaching the car, we took a little rest and then drove over to Van Riebeeckstramd where we booked an Air B&B for the night. We got a little spot right on the beach. We cooked our dinner and called it a night.
We wanted to do a two day hike out to the Cape of Good Hope, but were having trouble booking it online or over the phone. So, we decided to test our luck and show up at the Table Mountain National Park Visitor’s Center to see if they had a spot available for us. We arrived at the visitor’s center at around 0900 and asked if there were two spots open for that night.
The lady at the counter seemed a little reluctant to sell us the tickets for the hike. She told us we needed to book much farther in advance. However, there were two spots available for that night. We later found out that all the spots were available for that night because we were the only ones at the huts. The lady seemed worried that we were leaving late (after 0900) and didn’t think we were prepared with food and water. After assuring her that we had food and water for the two days and could make it to the hut easily before sunset, she took our money and gave us the keys to the hut.
The hike is two days with a night in a hut on the Cape Peninsula. The first day is ~13 km with and optional detour to Cape Point. The second day is 20.5 km with an optional detour to a shipwreck site. The Cape of Good Hope Peninsula encloses False Bay on one side. Cape Hangklip is on the other side. This bay is called False Bay because historically, mist on the bay would obscure the view of the land. Ships would round Cape Hangklip thinking they had gone around the Cape of Good Hope and run ashore or vice versa.
In order to start our hike, we had to drive back to the entrance gate of the park (the visitor’s center is actually about halfway into the park). We parked our car near the main gate so it would have some security while we were gone, sorted out gear, and headed out. It was raining by this time, so we had on our rain jackets and pack covers.
The rains cleared fairly quickly. We climbed 3 small peaks and took in the spectacular views of the cape. We could see the light house on the very end of the peninsula which was our end point for the day. The huts were not quite out to the cape, so our plan was to drop our packs once we got to the huts and then continue on to the cape.
The halfway point of the day was actually back at the visitor’s center. The thing about this trail was that we were never very far from the road. In fact, there was a road that went straight out to the cape point with tour buses and vans. After a PB&J lunch at the visitor’s center, we continued on a somewhat flatter trek.
By the time we could see the huts from the trail, we turned upward to start climbing again. Shortly into the uphill climb, we noticed something in the water. At first I thought it was just a rock or seaweed, but Jay assured me it was an animal. Then we saw it breech. It was a North Atlantic Right Whale. We weren’t quick enough to get a picture, but it was still very cool to see!
We finally arrived at the hut called Protea Hut around 1430. Fun fact: a protea is a type of South African flower. The hut was perched up on a high hill on the cape. The Atlantic Ocean was to the left and the Indian Ocean was to the right. The views were spectacular! We couldn’t believe we were so lucky to be the only ones up here in this incredible spot!
After taking in some of the views, we dropped our packs and headed to the tip of the cape. The hike over to the cape point was pretty tough. It involved a lot more climbing and scrambling up and down rocks near the steep cliffs of the cape. But we finally made it to the entry gate. While there had been no one on the trail up to the gate, now there were tour buses full of crowds of people.
The cape consisted on a steep climb up a paved pathway to a light house and several lookouts. There was also another short hike out to Danger Point which was the very end of the cape. Despite what I had learned in school, the Cape of Good Hope is not the most southern tip of Africa. The other side of False Bay can be seen from the cape and is unmistakeably further south. L’Agulhas is a actually the southern mist tip of Africa.
We enjoyed seeing the huge waves and the differences between the Atlantic and Indian oceans. Despite what is commonly thought, the two oceans do not actually meet at the Cape of Good Hope. The two oceans actually meet at L’Agulhas.
We still had the hour hike back to the hut, so we decided we needed to head back around 1700. But, we didn’t head back before getting a couple beers to take back to the hut.
We spent the evening watching the sunset from our perch on top of the mountain. The rangers paid us a visit that night to make sure we safely made it to the hut. After assuring them we were better than ok, we got to bed. We had another big day of hiking tomorrow.
Today, our plan was to drive from Hout Bay over to Muizenberg and then end the day in Simon’s Town. We made it to Muizenberg via Chapman Peak toll road. The road was along the coast and we stopped so many times along the way just to take in the spectacular views of the bay, waves, and cities.
In Muizenberg, we visited a local beach. We watched the locals surfing and enjoyed the colorful huts that lined the shore. We guessed that these huts could be rented for storage, but weren’t sure.
Jay’s family had a friend whose sister used to live in South Africa. She put us in touch with some of her friends who are still here. The first stop was to meet June who owned a local pizza restaurant called Joon. We chatted with June and she gave us some recommendations about what to do in South Africa. She was kind enough to consult some other people and gave us a hand written route to take that avoided all the construction along the Garden Route. We also met another friend-of-a-friend who worked down the street from Joon. She stopped by and gave us some tips and invited us to the local pub quiz tomorrow.
After our delicious pizza lunch, we headed to Simon’s Town. We got an Air B&B here. After hangin up our wet laundry that hadn’t dried the night before, we took a walk down the road to Boulder Beach.
Boulder Beach is home the native African penguins. There is an entire park where you can view them swimming and laying in the sand.
The penguins were very cute. They were clumsy on land, but were expert swimmers in the huge waves of the Atlantic Ocean. There were over 200 penguins that lived here.
We ended the day by admiring the stunning beaches and mountains in Simon’s Town. Jay and I both agreed that we could definitely live in South Africa if we ever decided to live abroad!
We had only seen Hout Bay in the dark the night before, so when we woke up to the sun over the bay and mountains covered in greenery all around us, we were very impressed.
Our plan today was to climb to the top of Table Mountain. Jay, of course, picked the most challenging route to hike up – the India Venster Trail. It was a two hour hike. The first 15 minutes was basically hiking stairs.
Then it turned into scrambling up rocks. The hardest part was climbing up a chimney chute that required a couple tricky moves and even had rungs and chains bolted in to help you climb up.
Once we got past the chimney chute, there was about an hour left of traversing up to the top of the mountain.
We got some amazing views on the way up of the city of Cape Town, the bay, and Clifton beaches.
We took the tram down because it started to rain. The tram ran every 5 minutes and had a round cable car. The car actually rotated 360 degrees on the way down. I have to say I think this feature is something the Sandia Tram should invest in!
Next we headed to Bo Kapp which is a neighborhood with beautifully bright colored houses. Bo Kaap is the oldest surviving residential neighborhood in Cape Town. It is unknown why the houses are painted so brightly, but it is thought to be an expression of freedom after the slaves were emancipated as houses were originally painted white.
After seeing Bo Kaap, we headed further into the city to see the Castle Of Good Hope. This was a fort built by the Dutch East India Company in the 17th century. It was used as a replenishment station for ships on the trade route between Europe and Asia.
The next destination of the day was the District Six Museum. The museum memorializes the forced removal of over 60,000 majority black people in neighborhoods in inner city Cape Town using apartheid laws to justify the move. The city government claimed they wanted to replan and develop the area and the only way to do this was to level and rebuild District Six. It was just another of the great atrocities committed during the time of slavery. After the fall of apartheid, the government has sought to pay the residents who were removed retribution in the form of returning their land. The museum seeks to help fulfill promises of retribution, preserve the neighborhood, and ensure that the atrocities committed are not forgotten.
The final destination of the day was Clifton beaches. These are beautiful white sandy beaches with giant waves. It was too cold to swim, but we enjoyed watching the spectacular views.
We finished our day with a BBQ on the deck of our Air B&B.
Today was a relaxing day for us in Livingstone after all the excitement of Devil’s Pool and white water rafting. We went and saw the Livingstone Museum which was a short walk from our hostel. It outlined how David Livingstone founded Victoria Falls and his many other journeys in Africa. It also went through the history of the area and Zambia’s political changes up to the present.
After getting some education about the area, we hung out by the pool the rest of the day. We head to South Africa tomorrow!
We took a walk in the morning, then caught a taxi to the airport. We flew to Cape Town, South Africa with a layover in Johannesburg. It was kind of funny because about 6 people from the hostel were on the same flight we were, but most of them were transferring in Johannesburg.
When we arrived in Cape Town, we had 5 tasks to complete: 1) get money 2) get our bags 3) get groceries (Luckily, the tap water is drinkable, so we didn’t have to buy water) 4) rent a car 5) drive to our Air B&B. We completed steps 1-3 pretty easily. Next was renting the car. It cost extra to get an automatic car, and Jay felt pretty confident that he could drive a manual. However, consider that the driver’s seat is on the right side, the stick shift is on the left, and pretty much everything is reversed made it a little more exciting. Plus, trying to drive on the left side of the road, figure out the foreign traffic signs, drive at night, and in the rain made it quite the endeavor. But, he did a great job getting us to our place.
We were staying in a little apartment in Hout Bay which is right outside of Cape Town. This is one of the most beautiful spots we have been in Africa, and that is saying something because we’ve been in a lot of beautiful spots!
Today we white water rafted the mighty Zambezi River. The Zambezi is known internationally for its rapids. We had heard from people at the hostel who had already done it that it was intense with class 5 rapids (the highest level of navigable rapid). One of the people on our boat was a raft guide from the states and came to Zambia specifically to raft the Zambezi.
We woke up early and were picked up by a bus that took us to the lodge where the raft company was located. We locked up our belongings, signed the release forms, and were fitted with life jackets and helmets. Then we had our safety briefing from a man that reminded me of Trever Noah. I have to say it was much more pleasant to hear a comedian tell us that the holes at the bottom of the boat that bale water can also be used as air holes if you end up trapped under a flipped boat.
Thoroughly briefed on our safety, we loaded up the bus and drove back to Victoria Falls National Park. The rafting trip started at the Boiling Pot, so we hiked down the gorge along the same trail that we had a couple days ago and got in the raft.
Our guide was named Baby Face. I was originally sitting in the front of the raft, but Baby Face rearranged us to get the boat more balanced to his liking. Jay and the raft guide from the states ended up in the front. Me and another girl were in the middle, and two older gentlemen were in the back. Baby Face taught us the commands we needed to know including “forward” meaning paddle forward, “backward,” and “get down” in which we were supposed to jump down in the boat and hold on. We were also introduced to our “safety crew” which included a gentleman in a kayak that completed the rapids before us and a raft with a frame and oars that was used as a rescue boat. If anyone fell out of the boat, the kayaker or rescue boat would paddle to them and rescue them from the water. This was a nice feature of the trip.
With that, we headed out on the river. The first rapid was the Boiling Pot. It was a tame class 2 rapid. But we quickly learned what everyone was talking about the trip being intense. Our first class 3 rapid was a huge drop with waves crashing into us. Baby Face yelled “get down!” And we all crouched down in the raft and held on. Otherwise, we would have been out of the boat.
There were 21 rapids total. Four of them were class 5. Baby Face was an excellent guide and lined us up perfectly for the rapids. He would talk to us about each rapid before we did it. He would give us all the details about a hole or rock we needed to avoid or that we needed to paddle a certain way. I don’t think any of us were able to remember everything he said, so instead we just waited for him to yell out commands. Honestly, once we were in the rapid, it seemed impossible to actually steer anyway.
On rapid number 5, Baby Face told us that there were two ways to run it. The first was going on the left side of the river which was fairly calm. The second way was going down the middle which Baby Face told us was a 50:50 chance of flipping the boat. We all agreed we wanted to do the middle.
The other boat that was with us had already flipped, but we were feeling pretty confident that Baby Face was going to get us through. We paddled according to Baby Face’s commands and he set us up perfectly. We headed into the rapid and heard Baby Face yell “get down” just in time for us to be pummeled with waves. But we made it through without flipping. We all cheered after making it out and clapped our paddles together like the rafters do to celebrate a good rapid.
Rapid number 9 was rated as a class 6 rapid which means it is unnavigable water. Thus, we all got out and walked across the rocks to skip the rapid. The boats were sent down the rapids sans people and it was crazy to see what the white water did to them. No one would have stayed on the boat during that rapid!
We made it through the first 12 rapids without a hitch and were having a great time. The other boat had flipped twice already. They also lost their guide on rapid 13. We saw someone fall out of their boat and didn’t realize it was the guide until someone yelled that the guide was in the water. So the boat completed the rapid without the guide. They luckily were ushered by the water to a calm pool and waited there for their guide to return, but I’m sure they had to be confused about what to do.
Our boat went to try to rescue the guide, but he had already swam to shore and was picked up by the rescue raft and returned to his boat. This guide was wearing a GoPro and we got to see the whole thing from his footage.
After rapid 14, we reached a stretch of flat water and the guides hooked all the boats together. The oarsman paddled us through this section while we had a snack and relaxed.
Then it was back to the rapids. On rapid 15, there was a large rock in the middle of the river. Baby Face told us that we had to pass the rock as close to the left hand side as possible, but if we got too close, then the water would push the boat up on the rock and flip the boat. We watched the oar boat go first and they nearly got flipped by getting too close to the rock, but saved it by both the passengers moving to the high side of the boat. We went and Baby Face yelled at us to paddle harder. I felt the urgency in his voice and paddled as hard as I could. We made it through without flipping or losing anyone. The other boat went next. They ended up T-boning the rock, but didn’t flip. They got stuck there. There was no paddling out because the current was too strong. They ended up having to get out and porter their boat along the shore.
We were fairing pretty well compared to the other boat so far. We hadn’t flipped yet and no one had fallen out. But, we had heard that rapid 18 called Oblivion was the hardest rapid of all. It was rated a class 5 and all of the previous groups at the hostel had flipped on this run.
When we reached it, Baby Face again asked us if we wanted to take the easier route or go straight down the middle and have a very good chance of flipping. Again, we wanted to go down the middle. We had confidence in Baby Face, after all, we had a perfect record so far. After deciding to go down the middle, Baby Face went around and double checked all of our life jackets which wasn’t the best sign. Then we headed for the rapid.
We saw a mist coming up from the rapid as we approached it and knew it was a big one. We hit it hard and Baby Face yelled to “get down!” I got down and held on, but soon realized that I was in the water.
I felt the boat come down on top of me, but was quickly swept out from under it by the rapids. It felt like I was under water for a minute, but in reality, it was just a couple of seconds. I popped up near the other girl on the boat. Just as I was asking her if she was ok, another rapid hit us both and we were back under water.
Baby Face had told us that contrary to what we were told to do on the other rapids, we should not swim for the boat or try to hold onto the boat here. Instead, we should just let the rapids carry us to the pool below. So that’s what we did.
When I popped back up again, I was in the calm water and luckily the boat was right next to me. Baby Face, like some sort of Ninja, was already on top of the flipped boat and pulling people on top. I grabbed ahold of a black handle on the boat and was then pulled up. By this time, the other boat had attempted the rapid and flipped as well, so we were picking up people from both boats out of the water. We eventually got the boat flipped back over and started paddling to rescue people. Once everyone was out of the water, we were able to sort back out to our respective boats. It was a crazy experience. People were either terrified or having the time of their lives. I came out relatively unscathed so was having a lot more fun than others.
Jay ended up being rescued by the other boat. He was thrown further away than the rest us for some reason, and I didn’t see him in the water the entire time. I knew everyone got rescued though, so I knew he was ok. When he got back to our boat, I heard his version of what happened on Oblivion and we were having a blast!
After Oblivion, there were 3 small class 2 rapids and the day was done. We rowed ashore and disembarked. There was quite a climb out of the gorge, but once we all got up, we hopped on a truck and were shuttled back to the lodge for lunch.
After lunch, we got to view the pictures that they had taken of us and the video of us flipping in Oblivion. It was cool to see the video because none of us really knew exactly how we flipped. The cameraman told us that our run was crazy! He said we just disappeared under the rapid and then the boat came back up upside down.
When we watched the video, we were able to see the boat disappear in the rapid and then flip over. Baby Face told us that boats sometimes get caught in the rapids and “surf” there for a long time. One of the other guides showed us a video of a boat that went a couple days ago that tossed everyone out except 2 people and then surfed for about 5 minutes. The whole time, the people were being bounced around like popcorn and the middle seats in the boat were being jostled out. It was an impressive video. It seemed it was almost better for the boat to flip because then you were able to get passed the rapid. Either way, we had a great time on the river and had some great stories to tell.
After rafting, we had booked a sunset cruise. For an extra $10, we got a 2-hour cruise along the Zambezi River, all you can drink alcohol, and dinner and snacks. We spent the sunset cruise watching elephants, hippos, and crocs along the shore and getting our money’s worth of alcohol. It was a really great day!
Today was our trip to Devil’s Pool. Devil’s Pool is basically an infinity pool at the top of the waterfalls. You can sit on the edge of the falls and you can even dangle off the edge while the guides hold your legs.
We caught the free shuttle from the hostel back to Victoria Falls. Then we had a short briefing and signed the release forms before meeting our guide. We had a slight hiccup when the guide told us that Jay could not wear his sandals which were the only water shoes he had. Luckily, he was able to rent some crocs for the journey.
We headed out with our guide and one other guy from the hostel (Carsten from the TAZARA train). We walked across the dry rock beds where the river runs during the high season. Devil’s Pool isn’t even open during the high season because the high water levels make it too dangerous. They do have another pool called Angel’s Pool that tourists can visit during the high season, but it’s apparently not as good.
We crossed several areas of water until we reached Livingstone Island. Here we changed into our bathing suits and dropped off our bags. Then, another guide took us into the water. The guide we had come with took our cameras and took pictures of us while in the pool.
There were two ropes set up which we held onto while getting into the water.
Then we swam across the water to another set of rocks where we entered Devil’s Pool. The guide went first, and then we followed. We sat on the edge and took some pictures.
Then we each took turns “Superman-ing” over the edge while the guide held onto your feet. I thought it would be terrifying, but you actually feel really secure on the ridge of rocks the separates you from the falls. It was such a cool experience to look over the falls from the top. There was a huge double rainbow from the mist and combined with the massive falls it was extremely beautiful.
We only got 40 min in the pool, so once we finished our pictures, we were thrown a rope and pulled back up onto the rocks that we entered from. Our guide greeted us with towels and some sodas and we headed back.
For lunch we grabbed some pizza at the same bar we played trivia at the night before. Africa really doesn’t have a lot of cheese, so the pizza was a good way to satisfy that craving. Then we hung out by the pool the rest of the afternoon.
Jay ended the night participating in “bar bungee”at the hostel. He was connected to a bungee cord and ran over to a box filled with balloons against the resistance of the cord. The balloons had prizes in them, the biggest prize being a free bungee jump off the bridge you use to cross into Zimbabwe. Jay didn’t end up winning a prize. He got a paper that said, “Sorry, better luck next time” with a frowny-face. But I think he had a fun time with the bungee.
Today we caught the free bus from the hostel to Victoria Falls. We were actually quite surprised to see how dry they Falls were at this time. Nearly the entire Zambia side of the Falls was empty rocks. You could see some falls along the Zimbabwe side, but it required a passport and visa fees to cross the border and get back. Even still, the shear size of the Falls was impressive. We walked the many paths around the area and took in the views.
We even took a trail called the Boiling Pot down to the bottom of some of the Falls. It was an area where the water swirled like boiling pot of water and was quite impressive. We were later told that this is where our white water rafting trip will start which we are excited about.
We spent the rest of our afternoon lounging by the pool.
After sunset, the power at the hostel went out. So we ate our dinner by headlamp and then headed to a local bar for a pub quiz with several other people staying at the hostel. We missed the first two rounds by the time we arrived. But a couple of our team members did a rapid fire version of round two which was naming countries based on their flags and they got every single one right.
We were given the points for this round and by round 4, we had moved up to 4th place. I helped by correctly naming nearly all of the questions during the cartoon silhouette round. I think my Aunt Connie will be happy to hear that I was also able to help my team by knowing that Elvis Presley had a twin. Sadly we didn’t fair as well on the round “All about cats.” Who knew the gestation period of cats was 2 months?!? Jay helped out a lot during the bonus round and was able to name all of the marked countries on a map. We ended up coming in second place! It was quite a comeback. After closing down the bar, we headed back to the hostel and got some rest before our big trip to Devil’s Pool the next day.
The next morning, we took a car to Lusaka. In Lusaka, we would be able to catch a bus to our destination of Livingstone. It was a 2.5 hour drive to Lusaka in a small cramped car. When we got there, we decided that getting on an 9 hour bus to Livingstone did not sound very fun after our two day train ride and cramped car ride. So we found a nice hostel, and decided to spend a day in Zambia’s capitol city of Lusaka.
I’m actually really glad we did because it is a really nice city. Aside from the crowd of taxi drivers that surrounded us when we got out of the car from Kapiri Mposhi, the city is clean with sidewalks and tree lined streets. We went to a nice deli for lunch and had a delicious BLT sandwich while sitting on a beautiful covered patio.
We spent our night watching bad action movies on one of the only channels we got on the hostel tv. By the next day, we were much more ready to make the 9 hour bus ride to Livingstone.
Today we took the bus to Livingstone. It was a 9 hour bus ride that blasted African Christian rock music on the TVs the entire way, but we made it eventually in one piece. We found our hostel, Jollyboys, which came highly recommended in our guidebook, and we agreed.
We camped in our tent for $9 per person per night. The facility had a pool, a bar, WiFi, and numerous activities each night. Tonight was a BBQ in which you bought a meat pack and they cooked it on the grill for you. It was quite nice.
Today was another day on the train. We spent it reading, listening to audiobooks, and writing out blogs and Instagram posts that we could later copy and paste into the web pages once we had internet access.
We met a some other people on the train, 3 Germans and a Canadian, and played some cards which was a nice change of pace.
It’s interesting that even though you can get up and walk around in the train, it still feels a little claustrophobic after awhile.
I also found it hard to bunk with strangers. I had crying babies, families stacking 2-3 people per bunk to save money, and constant people coming in and out of the bunk all night long. Even though I had done basically nothing but sit on a train for two days, I was still pretty exhausted.
Today was our final day on the train. By now, we were tired of being on the train and even sicker of the minimal food options of chicken or beef.
We finally arrived at our destination of Kapiri Mposhi at around 2000.
We teamed up with the people we had met on the train and all got a taxi to our hotel. Jay had called and made a reservation at a hotel in Kapiri Mposhi because the train was getting in late and there were no more buses to Lusaka that night. Plus, it wasn’t safe to be out after dark. The rest of the group was going to risk their luck and see if they could get a room. Unfortunately, the hotel was all booked and the rest of the group had to head to another hotel. We headed to our room, took a much needed shower, and settled in for the night.