The past few weeks have been an extremely exciting time in Cape Town, South Africa. Last Friday I made it to Vudu Surf in downtown Cape Town and bought a surf board. It is a 6′ 10″ shortboard made by Vudu. Later that day/night we went to Hout Bay for the Hout Bay Market. They have a market set up on the water’s edge in the old authentic part of the Hout Bay Harbour every Friday night. The market was a fun experience as a bunch of local vendors are there selling food, clothes, and other stuff.
The following day, and group of us hiked Table Mountain for the first time. We decided to ascend one of the tougher hiking routes — Skeleton Gorge. Skeleton Gorge starts in the Kirstenbosch Botanical Gardens and it is a steep hike up a creek and waterfall. The hike took us about an hour and a half, leading us to a pretty lake on the top of Table Mountain. After enjoying our time at the top of the mountain, we were directed towards a cable car that would bring us back down the mountain, which we were told was 30 minutes away. However, it turned out to be a disaster as it was actually about a 2.5 hour hike to the top of the cable car. We were literally in the clouds with limited visibility, making the hike to the cable car extremely difficult. Once we finally made it to the cable car station we found out that it was closed due to the weather, so we ended up hiking down after all that effort to get to the cable car. After a little over five hours we hiked 10.8 miles and 299 flights of stairs.
Towards the end of the week, I was finally able to try out the new surf board. A few of us went to Muizenberg everyday after class. Wednesday had the best waves as there was a perfect Northwest breeze blowing offshore. It was a perfect day to catch a few waves and try out the new board. While Thursday and Friday did not bring great waves, it was still fun nonetheless to get out in the water with my friends.
On Saturday we went cage diving out of Gansbaai, a fishing town known for its dense population of great white sharks. Wake up call came very early at 3:30 AM as we departed in vans to the Sharklady Adventures office in the city of Gansbaai. From there we ate a quick breakfast and got on the boat to Dyer Island. This is where “shark alley” is located and the area is actually known as the White Shark Capital of the World. We quickly began to see sharks after chumming to attract them near our location. I was in the third group with four of my Vanderbilt friends. The experience underwater with 15-foot-long great white sharks was like nothing I have ever done before. You don’t really know how massive those creatures are until one swims by and you see it face to face. Experiencing them under the surface was amazing, but it was also really fun to just watch them from the deck as we had greater visibility from a higher point, looking down on the massive animals as they went after dead fish and seal decoys. In all we saw 9 different sharks, the largest being a little over 15 feet long. After we got out of the water we dried off and headed back to Gansbaai before taking the bus ride back to Cape Town.
Sunday, we got to go on a tour of Robben Island. Robben Island is most famous for its prison where many influential politicians were held captive in the 1900s, including Nelson Mandela. From the V&A Waterfront it is was about a 45 minute ferry ride to the island. Once we got there we began with a tour of the prison. Our guide was a former inmate who was arrested solely for being part of the ANC (African National Congress), the democratic party of South Africa.
We learned of his experience while serving his five year sentence in the prison, which involved torture, interrogation, and solitary confinement. It was truly an eye opening experience to see the prison and hear stories from someone that lived through the events which took place. During the prison tour we got to see Mandela’s solitary confinement cell along with the rest of the prison buildings and facilities. After the prison tour we took a bus tour around the island. We had multiple interesting stops including the Limestone quarry in which the prisoners had to work every day for eight hours a day. They were forced to pick and shovel limestone all day for basically no reason at all. Along with that we stopped for a while at the shore where we were able to enjoy a great view of Cape Town from the other side before heading back on the ferry.