Tuesday, 12 July
We arrived in Cape Town at about 9am local time (6 hours ahead of EST). Going to the baggage claim and actually getting both of my checked bags was one of the best feelings in the world. A lot of people had problems with lost baggage and things and I’m really glad I didn’t have to deal with that. We then walked in small groups out of customs and immediately saw the RA’s for our CIEE program who then took us on buses over to the campus of the University of Cape Town.
Once we walked out the doors of the airport, we could immediately see Table Mountain. It is absolutely humongous and gorgeous. I don’t know if I have ever been somewhere like it. Once at UCT, we were assigned dorm rooms at Graça Machel for the week and I am living with a girl named Sally who also goes to AU (but we hadn’t met until we got here!). Lunch was at a burger place called Steers on Main Road just a few minutes away. It’s really weird seeing the different money amounts here because the Rand quantity is so much higher. I paid about 40 Rand for lunch but that’s really only about 6 dollars.
At 14h00 (that means 2pm here!) we all met up for the elusive climb up Table Mountain. The RA’s and staff presented it to us as a casual and fun hike that wouldn’t take too long. However, we ended up leaving late (South African time means you are always late!) and didn’t have enough time to climb Table Mountain if we wanted to be back for dinner. Instead, we took a Jammie (shuttle) to Lion’s Head Mountain!
Lion’s Head Mountain is another mountain in Cape Town that overlooks the entire city. Our hike ended up being about 3-4 hours long. It started off as a steep hike on trails gradually going around the mountain. This gave us a complete 360 view of the city as we went around it. However, once we got to the top of the “hill” we had to start literally climbing rocks and boulders. Some parts had ladders, chains, and metal bars to hold on to! I was really glad that I packed my backpack for the trip because I would not have liked to carry a water bottle and camera while trying to hoist myself up all of the rocks. I couldn’t believe how high we climbed! I got a little nervous at times due to my fear of heights, but I never let it stop me… and I’m so glad! We really could see the ENTIRE city at the top. After spending a bit of time at the top we climbed down the boulders (scarier than going up) and watched the sun set from the trails parts.
The sun comes up here around 9h30 and goes down around 18h00, and there is an incredible drop in temperature when the sun is gone. During our hike most of us wore t-shirts and shorts, but once the sun went down everyone rushed for pants and North Faces. The fact that the sun goes down so soon is also messing up my awareness of time. I kept thinking it was super late because the sun had been gone so long, but it was really only 20h00.
All of breakfast and lunch this week are served in a cafeteria in our dorm area. It’s not bad, it’s basically what you’d expect of cafeteria food. We’re not really sure what “real South African” food is yet though. After dinner I was absolutely exhausted from jet lag and the hike so I went to bed really early (a very good decision).