Cape Town & Flight back home:

18th – 23rd of June 2024 :

During our time in Cape Town, we walked a lot through the various and very different neighborhoods of the city. The Waterfront is very touristy with many souvenir shops, restaurants, and luxurious accommodations. This part of the city felt too inauthentic and sterile to us. The Long Street in the city center, on the other hand, represented the colorful mix of people from all over the world much better.

By chance, we found a restaurant called “Mama Africa” one evening on this street. The interior was beautifully decorated with African themes, there was live music and even the staff wore traditional clothing. The menu included dishes from West Africa, East Africa, and Southern Africa. We tried the Mopane worms, which were not particularly tasty to our palates, but in many countries, they are an important source of protein for millions of people. We liked the atmosphere in the restaurant and the variety of dishes offered. Unfortunately, the unrequested addition of a 10% tip and the small print on the menu about the music fee, which we hadn’t noticed, slightly marred the positive experience.

Despite the still-present separation of the four races introduced during apartheid (Black, White, Asian, and Coloured), poverty can now be seen even in the city center. Time and again, you see tents where people live right next to the four-lane main road. Additionally, we were often approached by beggars. Due to the few tourists in the city, there was little going on in the evenings, and the city center was generally rather quiet for a city of this size. For this reason, we stood out more on the streets and were more frequently approached.

Cape Town is neither the only capital of South Africa nor the largest city. There are three capitals: the government is in Pretoria, the parliament in Cape Town, and the highest court of appeal in Bloemfontein.

We still find it difficult to process the end of this gigantic journey, as we have been traveling and moving every day since our arrival at the Southern Cape. However, after a bit of reflection, we realized that we drove about 1,000 km on average in each country we visited during the trip. Additionally, we were curious about the shortest possible route from the North Cape to the South Cape if you travel through West Africa. In Europe, it is about 5,500 km, and in Africa about 13,000 km. This means that without the many detours, connecting the two points would have been possible with even half the distance we traveled.

On the first day in Cape Town, we booked a trip to visit Robben Island, the former imprisonment site of Nelson Mandela. Unfortunately, the tour was canceled the day before due to defects with the boat. This gave us more time to explore the hiking trails around the city.

From the 14th floor of our hotel, we had a sensational view of the entire city, including the mountain range. Before planning our day, we took the elevator up to check the weather in the mountains and the city.

Table Mountain, over 1,000 meters high and the highest peak around Cape Town, had long been a fixed item on our itinerary during our visit. We tried to choose the day with the best weather. Unfortunately, this is not easy during the rather wet and windy South African winter. On the selected day, it started raining on our way to the starting point, and we spontaneously decided on Lion’s Head. This mountain also belongs to the Table Mountain massif, but it was not shrouded in thick clouds and is lower than Table Mountain. The final ascent was so challenging that we needed both hands to climb the ladders and steep sections. In the evening, the clouds were blown away by the wind, and from Signal Hill, we enjoyed the beautiful view of Table Mountain and the sea, including the sunset, while having a delicious aperitif.

Our last full day was entirely dedicated to Table Mountain. Luckily, we had gambled on good weather, and we were rewarded! Already in the morning, the view of the distinctive rock face was clear, and we drove to the base of the hiking trail. The path started steeply right from the beginning and before reaching the plateau, it led through numerous switchbacks in a cut through the imposing rock wall. Once at the top, we enjoyed the view in all directions and were pleased with our weather luck.

Table Mountain boasts a great diversity of plants with about 1,400 species, which means more diversity than in all of Great Britain. The younger group chose a different, much more challenging route back down, while Lilo and Peter took the same path down. In the evening, we reminisced about the wonderful day and our time together, enjoying another delicious dinner with local wine.

One day before our flight home, we packed our bikes into boxes provided by a bike shop not far from our hotel. This allowed us to walk directly to the bike shop with the rest of our luggage and then take a taxi with the bike boxes to the airport. Using Uber, we tried to order a large taxi. The first one was much too small and the 180 cm long boxes would never fit into the car. The second driver arrived a few minutes later, but his vehicle was not much bigger. With his African calmness, the man, who had emigrated from the Congo, suggested we give it a try. We managed to fold down all the back seats, and the boxes barely fit in. The problem now was that there were only two seats left for three people. So, we had to share the one front seat and cover the roughly 20 km that way.

At the airport, we met Fabian’s parents again and went to the Qatar Airways counter. The check-in went smoothly, and we were able to drop off the boxes at a separate counter two floors down. After that, we were relieved and could relax and prepare for the long journey home.

Just before midnight, we arrived in Doha and walked into the huge transit hall at 34 degrees Celsius. We said goodbye to Fabian’s parents, as their connecting flight was earlier than ours. We thanked Peter and Lilo for their great support over the past two weeks, the time spent together and their incredible generosity.

We found a quiet spot, set up our air mattresses and slept until shortly after seven. After another flight, we arrived in Zurich with a slight delay. Fortunately, we didn’t have to wait long for our luggage and bikes, and we walked to the exit. There, we were surprisingly greeted by family and friends with homemade signs and an aperitif. It was a lovely welcome home, and we greatly appreciated and enjoyed the organized reception.

Garden Route – Cape Town

12th – 17th of June 2024:

After breakfast, we drove back to our bikes, which we had deposited on a farm, in just over an hour. The farmer told us that he owns a total of 1500 sheep and grows rape, among other things. First we pedaled about two kilometers back to the tarred main road and then continued south. With a strong crosswind, we had to hold the handlebars carefully when passing trucks so that we didn’t leave the road.

For the first time we saw a large wind farm and huge farms with bright yellow rape fields everywhere. We took a break in Bedardsdorp before continuing on a dead straight and much flatter road. The sea breeze was already in our noses 30 km from the coast.

Meanwhile, Lilo and Peter got a call from the car rental company to take their car to the airport in Cape Town (over 250 km away). The car rental company had apparently sold their car. They logically refused and told the car rental company to exchange the car at their current location. A few minutes later the whole thing turned out to be a mistake as it was a different car.

During the last hour to the Southern Cape, we were constantly driving past flooded meadows that were still inundated from last week’s heavy rain. Suddenly, a sign appeared, symbolizing that we only had about 10 km to go to our official destination of our project. We enjoyed the last few kilometers along the coast and despite the strong wind, we reflected on some of the most outstanding moments of the long journey. In L’Agulhas, the southernmost village in Africa, we met Fabian’s parents and drove together to the southernmost point where the Indian and Atlantic Oceans meet. It was a special feeling to arrive at this point after about 2.5 years, 38,000 km and 38 countries to toast what we had achieved. Of course we were proud of our achievement, but we won’t really realize it for a few days or even weeks.

Our project goal had been reached, but we still wanted to cycle on to Cape Town. A few more scenic and animal highlights awaited us on the remaining 350 km or so before we definitely planned to pack up the bikes.

So we left Agulhas and headed north again. Due to the extensive flooding, our originally planned road was closed. So we had to drive back a little more than 30 km before we could turn off to the west.

The wind had died down and we made good progress in bright sunshine. There was very little traffic on the road, but it was in good condition. We were glad that we were no longer on the N2 national road, as the volume of traffic was much higher there. The Garden Route runs along this N2 from Port Elizabeth to Mossel Bay. We had heard a lot of positive things about this route, but didn’t find the landscape spectacular at all. Many tourists probably like the top infrastructure for Africa and the possible activities in the surrounding area.

About 15 km before reaching our destination for the day, the gear cable on Fabian’s bike snapped. He already had to replace the other gear cable in George and now he couldn’t change gears again. Unfortunately, we didn’t have a spare cable anymore and he had to choose one gear. So he fixed a gear in the middle of the cassette, so that he could at least ride the remaining climb to some extent. We reached Gaansbai and with a quick Google search found a bike mechanic near our accommodation. The store was already closed, but at least it looked like a lucky strike through the windows.

Fabian took his bike to the mechanic before breakfast and he promptly replaced the broken gear cable. After breakfast with delicious bread, the bike was ready to ride. At the start, the sky was overcast and the area was shrouded in fog. After 20 km of roadworks and a moderate climb, the sun came out and we were able to get rid of our jackets.

In the second half of the day, the landscape changed and the road was located suddenly between a relatively high mountain range and the ocean. Every now and then there were small villages and this exciting landscape was a nice change. This was actually how we had imagined the Garden Route.

Hermanus is famous for boat trips to see whales. The best time is in August, when the whales can even be seen from the coast. This town is full of vacation homes. We have never seen this level of upper-class capital anywhere else in Africa. The gap between rich and poor is particularly wide in South Africa and unfortunately only a few benefit from the great economic performance. South Africa has the second largest economy in Africa after Nigeria. South Africa is the only African country to belong to the G20 economic powers and is counted among the BRICS states.

In Betty’s Bay, we showered in the accommodation we had booked and immediately afterwards visited the African penguins at Stony Point. On this beach we saw dozens of these 60-70 cm tall birds at close range, waddling out of the sea to their nests. It was amusing to watch these excellent swimmers struggling to get ashore. The African penguins are highly endangered by the fishing industry and are the only penguins living in the wild in Africa.

The winding and hilly coastal road during the first 30 kilometers was definitely one of our highlights in South Africa. We had a constant view of the foaming ocean, the Cape of Good Hope was visible in the distance and steep cliffs surrounded us on the land side. Not even recurring construction sites and heavy traffic could spoil this sight for us.

After that, the landscape became flatter as we approached the Cape Town metropolitan area. We encountered multi-lane highways and densely populated neighborhoods. The wind was always present and strong, affecting our progress whether it blew head-on, from the side or at our backs.

Just before reaching the sandy coast, we drove past the enormous township of Khayelitsha. In southern Africa, a township refers to a territorial unit planned and developed apart from the core cities dominated by European immigrants. Khayelitsha currently houses around 1,000,000 people, almost all Black. Ironically, adjacent to the township was a sewage treatment plant, contributing to the area’s distinctive smell. This population segment lives in tin shacks, some without electricity or proper sanitation facilities.

Battling strong crosswinds, we passed False Bay and enjoyed the view of the beautiful coastline. Peter and Lilo overtook us just before Muizenberg, and shortly after, we joined them for a meal at a restaurant. It repeatedly struck us how the majority of guests in most “upscale” restaurants were White, while the staff were Black. This may be entirely normal for South Africans, but it was unfamiliar and weighed on our minds daily.

Instead of cycling to the Cape of Good Hope on our bikes, we decided to take a day off and go on a day trip by car. After all, we had been on our bikes enough in the last few days and weeks.

First we drove along the wild cliffs until we reached the entrance to the national park. The region around the Cape of Good Hope is part of the Table Mountain National Park and is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Foreigners have to pay the equivalent of CHF 20 per person. First we drove to our second cape on this trip and took an obligatory picture with the sign. Many tourists think this point is the southernmost of the continent, but it is in fact the most south-western point. We then drove along a typical fynbos landscape to Cape Point, where there is even a funicular for a tiny climb. At the southern end of the Cape Peninsula there is an old lighthouse and a newer lighthouse lower down. From the viewpoint at the end of the funicular, we enjoyed the panoramic view of the sea and the peninsula.

From there we drove to Simons Town, where we indulged in something sweet, a coffee and later craft beers with tacos. Sated and exhausted, we relaxed in the afternoon in our accommodation with a perfect sea view.

The last, albeit short, stage awaited us. The destination was Cape Town. We have probably told several hundred people this city as our destination since the start of the trip, as practically all Africans know Cape Town.

Right at the start, we climbed over 100 meters in altitude before the road to Chapman’s Peak Drive began. This 9 km long coastal road winds its way along 114 bends between the sea and steep cliffs towards Cape Town. Due to the high cost of repairing this section of the road, motorized road users have to pay a small fee.

Despite the extremely strong wind at times, we were able to enjoy the impressive coastal scenery as we approached South Africa’s second largest metropolitan region. After two more climbs, we descended into the center of the city, which has a population of 430,000. Unfortunately, we were denied a view of the imposing Twelve Apostles mountain range due to gathering dark clouds. We reached our accommodation for the next few nights at high speed until we left Africa again. We had therefore covered the entire planned route by bike and were able to devote our full attention to sightseeing in Cape Town. We celebrated the successful and accident free completion of our huge project at the Waterfront together.