One Year in South Africa: A Look Back

This Saturday marks one official year of being Cape Town residents (ahem ’temporary residents’).

table mountain

It seems crazy that a year has already gone by. Crazy because it feels like I was just lying in bed at our first apartment, awake at 4:30 in the morning fighting jet lag, and rolling the sentence I’m in South Africa! around and around in my head. I couldn’t quite believe it then.

On the other hand, life here feels very normal. We have our routines, our places, and a handful of people that somehow want to be friends with us. I doubt I’ll ever feel like a local, but I definitely don’t feel like the newbie around here anymore.

Cape Town is such an easy city to fall in love with, and we have fallen hard. It’s difficult to explain to people (until they see it for themselves) just how breathtaking the backdrop of Table Mountain is against everything you do. Or the fact that you’ve got the mountains, yes, but you’ve also got the beaches—like, just down the road. Beautiful ones. Turquoise water and white sand ones. Or that there is a wine route some 6 minutes up the road from our house. Or the fact that it’s not a beach town or a big city or a nature haven, but all three! Or that this is a foodie mecca and we can eat out well, and often, on the cheap. We went on a date night last week for $11.00! Amen and amen.

Looking back on 2015, I feel so thankful for everything we got to experience, the places we were able to see, and the people that saw and did a lot of those things with us.

On that note, here are some highlights from our first year:

Seeing Cape Town from the top

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On the back table from Constantia Nek

It’s no surprise Capetonians are a fit bunch. There are hundreds of ways to hike up Table Mountain alone. And here in Cape Town, it’s often not called hiking but walking, if that gives you an idea of how they view a casual day out on the mountain.

Favorite hikes of the year include our first, ill-prepared hike up the Table, kloofing and abseiling at Crystal Pools for my 30th birthday, a gorgeous hike down Corridor Ravine after getting majorly lost trying to find the Tranquility Cracks, and the many jaunts up Lion’s Head—especially this one, on Christmas Day.

abseiling crystal pools

Abseiling at Crystal Pools in the Steenbras Nature Reserve

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Lost and looking for Judas Peak on the back table

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The Atlantic Seaboard from Lion’s Head


Safaris in South Africa and beyond

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I can’t believe we’ve been so fortunate as to go on three safaris within a year of living in South Africa!

Each safari was so different, too. From our guided safari at Mohlabetsi with my parents, to camping and self-navigating the sandy terrain of the Okavango Delta with our good friend, Micah, to another great stay back at Kruger Park with Chas’s parents in October. We have seen and been seen by hundreds of elephants, gnus, impala, buffalo, giraffe, prides of lions, testy hippos and even a rhino at a petrol station. I’m itching to go again!

wildebeest in chobe

Wildebeests in Chobe National Park

camping in botswana

Safari-camping in Botswana

moremi

giraffe

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Sundowners above the Zambezi in Zambia

lions in chobe national park

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zebra herd in kwhai

hippos in moremi

elephant in more

kruger safari


Hosting Friends & Family

We keep telling people that if you can get here, you won’t regret it. It’s a long 19-30 hour trip from the States with anywhere from 7-10 hours of jet lag to deal with, so we know what a big deal it is to come all the way to the bottom of Africa!

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chapman’s peak drive

swimming in angel’s pool, zambia

Swimming at the top of Victoria Falls in Zambia—an unforgettable experience!

P.S. There’s still time to visit, friends!


Road tripping around the Western Cape

Chas and I set a goal when we moved here that we’d try to visit a new place every month—at least a day trip, or if we’re lucky, for longer.

One of the best trips included a drive to Hermanus in October to see the whales and explore the Walker Bay Nature Reserve—an unmissable part of the coast.

walker bay nature reserve

Exploring the West Coast Nature Reserve

We loved weekends at De Hoop and the Cederberg a little further out, and even further, a great time kayaking with seals in Namibia.

namibian flamingos

Hoards of Namibian flamingos

kayaking in namibia

Kayaking with seals in Namibia

de hoop mountain biking

de hoop marine walk

Learning about sea life in De Hoop Nature Reserve

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Finding San art in the Cederberg


Life in Hout Bay

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We’ve had the fortunate honor of taking care of a great big house and a small cheeky cat in the quiet valley of Hout Bay for the last six months. We’ve loved the space and how peaceful it is, and that we’ve been able to host guests and get-togethers, like an American Thanksgiving party.

It’s a life of luxury we probably won’t ever have again, so we’re soaking up the final days of sundowners on the porch, braais on the patio with friends, and snuggles with a cat who thinks he’s a baby.

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Life with Uncle Hobs

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One of my not-so-favorite moments in Hout Bay: finding a baboon going through our trash!

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Thanksgiving Extravaganza


Living and Eating Well in Cape Town

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I could go on and on about the food, but since living in Cape Town, I’ve probably had the best coffee, wine, Eggs Benedict, pizza, and fresh vegetables and fruit since living anywhere else. The food is so fresh!

We’ve also become quite the picnic connoisseurs, once we figured out how seriously Capetonians take their picnics. Favorite place for a sunset picnic? Any beach where you can grab a windless patch of sand and Kirstenbosch Garden.

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A sunset picnic at Clifton Beach

The “City Bowl” of Cape Town is also a fantastic place to explore. With incredible restaurants, museums, markets, outdoor cinemas and concerts, green spaces, and a continuous calendar of events…we are never bored.

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Exploring Bo Kaap

Kirstenbosch Summer Sunset Concert

A summer concert in Kirstenbosch Garden

Neighbourgoods Market

One of the many markets in Cape Town—there’s a market for every day of the week!

graffiti cape town

Cape Town, especially East City and Zonnebloem, has some great graffiti.


Volunteering

Since August, I’ve had the opportunity to teach English at the Scalabrini Centre of Cape Town—a crisis center for refugees and asylum seekers from around the continent of Africa. The classes can be challenging, but my students are precious, and the organization taking care of them is really great.

More info on Scalabrini here.


And, sure there’s been tough stuff, too, like getting word that our Visas couldn’t transfer like we thought they could, getting our property broken into, getting a car broken into, having several mishaps with learning to drive on the other side of the road.

Cape Town, and South Africa generally, is also having some growing pains in terms of the lasting effects of apartheid. Xenophobia is a big issue here, as well as systemic segregation. It’s something that I doubt you ever get used to—no matter how long you live in the area.

But I appreciate the complexity of the country. It’s a strange history of pain and beauty. I love South Africa for its protests and its many cultural experiences. I love that South Africans want to talk. And I feel safe. I feel welcome. I feel like the conversations that are happening are genuine and, hopefully, fruitful. At least they’re happening.

graffiti cape town

So, what’s on tap for 2016?

We’ve got a few more trips planned around the Western Cape, and hopefully a week on the Garden Route. We hope to get to know as much of the city as we can, when we move back to the City Bowl at the end of this month. Maybe we can even squeeze in visiting another southern African country between now and May, when we head back to the States for what could be a visit or a move. It’s still to be decided.

2016 will also hold as many wine farm visits, beach afternoons and hikes as possible. And practicing our South African accent to the chagrin of friends. Perhaps even some more baboon run-ins, though I hope not.

Cheers to 2016!

 

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3 thoughts on “One Year in South Africa: A Look Back

  1. jfant1 says:

    Wow, Amy and Chas, it is hard to believe how fast a year has gone. You all have tasted so much of the culture there than I thought possible in a year, but I’m so happy for you. We so miss seeing you, so we are glad that you will be back in May. And thanks for all the memories of your 2015. Adventures for sure!

    Liked by 1 person

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