Hello there! I’m Tabytha, born in Vancouver, Canada. I used to write articles for Hackwriters a long time ago, from a wild teenager’s perspective up until my early twenties. But then I went travelling through Europe and Asia and ended up living in Toronto where I have been residing ever since 2009.
Living in this metropolitan city, and with the job I have, has allowed me over these past eleven years to travel often. I have been to many countries and have had a lot of adventures, mostly solo globe trotting. Indeed I wish there was always more time and finances, but I make do with what little I have to see as much as possible.
I was asked to share with anyone who cares to hear about my latest trip to five countries this year which, with everything horrible happening thus far already, it was not a bad start to 2020. Sadly, with this unpredictable pandemic, who knows when we can travel again? My heart goes out to those who have lost anyone, and I wish you all safety and sanity during this terrible time.
Back in 2003 when I was just a naive little 20 year old, I decided to visit Cape Town, South Africa. My mother had shown me photos growing up of when she had lived there in the 70’s, and having lived in the Canadian suburbs at the time, I was always keen on going there. Vancouver was a fairly multi-cultural city, I couldn’t even imagine how difficult it was for people to live together in peace in South Africa. I did know that the respected, heroic efforts of Nelson Mandela had ended apartheid in 1994 when he became President. So when I landed ten years later in 2003 I thought it would all be done. There was still a lot of separation and it felt like a divided nation. Certainly changed my perspectives on things and opened my eyes wide.
I booked my itinerary through Flight Centre in November, 2019. My work had given me a 10 year $1000 gift card as a thanks for my service. I usually book on my own, but had to use the card. After much research I ended up saving $5000 by booking alternative routes and dates. So, on Jan 10th I had a 26 hour stop-over in sweet Amsterdam, my third time there. The other trips are, of course, another story.
Now this particular trip I call The Reunion Tour as I met up with old friends again, some after a very long time. My friend Tijn whom I met the previous year on my travels in Asia, just so happened to live in Amsterdam. Jet lagged, he managed to take me on a bike tour to do a typical locals day of his hometown. We ate stropwaffels in the market, went to a museum, even did a canal tour for the Lights Festival. Being a bartender I tend to know which bars are great in foreign cities, so took us to Rosalie’s Menagerie, which is an adorable date spot with great cocktails. Then after the Red Light district we went to the Flying Dutchman, which is open till 4am. What a wonderful day we had.
Flew out the next morning hungover and still tired, then finally arrived back to my beloved other home, Cape Town, on the 12th. I was last there was for a month in 2012, then I went on Safari to Namibia, Botswana, Zambia and Zimbabwe for another month and loved the nomadic, camping style of living amongst the wild. I was supposed to go back to Toronto with my then boyfriend, but I couldn’t resist and extended my trip another three weeks and went back to South Africa. I made new friends and just never really wanted to go back home. I already felt like I was home in Cape Town.
|I was greeted at the airport by my friend Cal, whom over the eight years since we last saw each other, kept in touch via funny quirks on each others social media. He didn’t recognize me at first with my blond hair, (I was a brunette before). It was already late and it turned surprisingly dark when we pulled out of the parking lot. No traffic lights, utter silence. Cal told me there was this wonderful Government solution to saving power by the bankrupt State owned power company Eskom by literally switching all electricity off in areas for an amount of time.|
They call it Load Shedding, aka rolling black outs, rotational energy saving resources. It’s when they try to save energy and shut down all power in a few districts at a time, randomly, for hours at a time. What the f**k? When the road lights are down, there are new rules to the road. Like in certain neighborhoods you can run a stop sign as it is safer to do so, to ensure not getting hijacked.
It was late when I arrived but I was on weird time difference and really wanted to grab a beer and catch up with my friend. There was one bar open left, cash only (smart) and candle lit. It actually made for better ambience, but to the locals, it was an utter nuisance. I understood the next day when Load Shedding happened at 2pm and I was at the Mall, unaware as I did not have the App for the pre-warning, and could not get all the things I wanted to as the centre was shutting down and clearing out all of a sudden. How frustrating! If you don’t have your phone charged, some sort of flash light, your food pulled out of the freezer and pre-cooked, you get screwed, basically. In Johannesburg with a higher population, I guess they figured to at least turn off the power later at nighttime, when people are sleeping…. not during business hours or dinner time, when people cook.
|The first couple days I stayed at a lodge called Ashanti as I have many memories there each visit. I didn’t do the typical Long Street pub crawl, but I did explore other places like Sea Point for a rather pathetic first attempt at a Lantern Festival (when there are only a dozen it seems a bit sad.) I got re-acquainted with my friends Jason and Angela and met some cool American girls, and went on day trips to Koegelburg Park where we walked through dead protea terrain to a secret dam and floated in the water all day. It was pure heaven.|
Driving back through Gordon’s Baai with the most amazing mountains and ocean views are something that I feel cannot be beat. Stunning scenery surrounds Cape Town, so much so it doesn’t even seem real. Picturesque-vintage-postcard realism I’d say.
|I loved re-visiting Hout Bay, but unfortunately, as I get older I get more motion sickness and dizzy spells, so as pre-caution I took anti-nausea pills for the winding roads ahead. Unbeknownst to myself, I literally took a horse tranquilizer, and luckily Cal was with me because I nearly blacked out and lost my motor skills, and slept through the entire day. The market is awesome, go there. If it’s a windy day you’ll get sand-swept or maybe your car will get stuck, keep your eyes covered! And go see the friendly, famous seal who lives at the harbour, he’s been there years and is very well taken care of.|
|With my other friends, the De La Harpe family (minus one daughter that day,) went to Kalk Bay beach that I highly recommend. The water on the False Bay side is much warmer than the Atlantic side – the waves were astronomical and we had a blast walking along the seawall getting splashed. Cute hippy shops there too. So Boho and Mystique Rose that have remained on the strip for ages, opposite the rock pool bar (have a drink out on the sea ledge.) We dined in Muizenburg, the quaint, old school surf town.|
|Another trip was to Simonstown, an old navy port that is trapped in the 50’s still, but has charming antique shops and cafés, and with the infamous Boulders Beach where the penguins reside. I did not go to Boulders as it was full of tourists, so I snuck to the local, secret beach nearby, where seals hang out and maybe a penguin or two stop by. Apparently so do some school kids.|
As much as I was blessed with beautiful sunshine each day, there were three days of rain and gusting winds, so much so that my mates braai (bbq pit) nearly flew off his balcony! Those days were movie and eating days with friends inside. Except for the one hike at Sandy Bay (also the only nude beach in town) with Sue and Mikey for a few hours hopping along the slippery rocks and almost stepping on a dead seal carcass – oh the stench, poor thing, but ewwww- and despite the gray, wet walk, I thoroughly enjoyed it. There was a shipwreck and the trails were great.
|Unfortunately on the days I decided to go up Table Mountain and Lions Head or Signal Hill, the ‘must do’ scenic view points and epic treks, the wind was too crazy and mountains were closed off to hikers. I’ve done them before but must go back and do. Another excuse to return quickly.I did like going to Victoria and Albert Waterfront for happy hour oysters and rose. It is a touristy marina hub but still fun. I took a sailing ship in the afternoon around the wharf and surprisingly did not get seasick, but the Zeitz Museum was pretty awesome. The building itself is in a former grain silo, the architecture was brilliant. I did get dizzy walking down the spiral staircase however. All local artist exhibits so definitely check it out.|
Photo: Zeitz Musuem © Sam Hawksmoor
|If you go to Woodstock, which used to be quite dangerous and still is at night, do the graffiti tour. It’s worth paying the street guys because they are the artists, and a little rand (ZAR) for them is worth it, and not much to us. Also most locals go to the market on weekends for brunch, but I say go during the week when it’s less hectic. My friend Dave and I caught up on one of my favourite things to do, especially in that part of the world, hitting up some wineries! That day we went to Constantia to two vineyards Buitenverwachting and Klein Vines. We had a charcuterie Board and sampled many varieties of reds and whites. I was in my happy glory. And I am not usually one to enjoy a Sauvignon Blanc, but for some reason, in Cape Town, there a quite a few I find acceptable.|
Other amazing wineries I went to were with Cal and friends to Stellenbosch, Paarl, Franschoek and even Noordhoek has a special one (with a sea view.) We had many tastings, oysters, there were cute animals roaming some of the farms like goats, donkeys and chickens, there were gorgeous gardens full of flowers and succulents, maintained lawns to chill on and soak up the sun drinking the sweet nectar of these new world terroirs; just the most beautiful wine lands you can imagine. I recommend when you visit Cape Town go to Babylonstoren Estates, Fairview Farms, Tokara and Cape Point, but do have a designated driver or take a tour, you’ll want to drink and take a big bag to bring wine home with you.
|Camps Bay is a very cool beach area, quite posh, but has lovely restaurants along the water. Fantastic people watching spot and lots of activities there, though it can get really windy and that water is very cold. Nearby is Clifton. My god. I had a reunion with my dear friend Elan from Toronto whom was also visiting, and I stayed at his families hill top house on the cliffs over looking the beaches. Like, holy shit, what a sight! Another more booojie area, by that I mean ridiculously expensive, but I’m just glad I got to spend time in some of its divine swank.photo: Camps Bay © Sam Hakwsmoor|
|Kirstenbosch National Botanical Garden is very cool. I was looking forward to a sunny a Sunday during the summer months as they put on free concerts and you bring your friends and blankets, a wine picnic and hang out. I kept missing them due to weather issues, or something else came up. Shame, but I luckily did get to walk through the gardens regardless of a concert or not.|
Long Street can be dangerous at night but still very busy on weekends, yet I still partied there with a few friends and felt suddenly very old!? They were too crammed for me, even on the balconies, they were like swimming pools ’cause we got drenched with sweat, I don’t know how the kids do it. So we went a few blocks up and Bree Street is the best! Funky little pubs and cocktail bars, I would work at any of those if I lived there (I am after all, a seasoned bartender.)
|Kloof street still has some gems, and I revisited my old work spot from 2003. Observatory where my cousin and his darling family live is a very cool neighborhood, kind of divey vibe with old bars and cafés, pool halls, graffiti, vintage shops. I really dig the collective and the community there. I’m not gonna name every cool bar and restaurant, but if you go look up these areas for dining and drinking, plus some on Hof Street, you’re set.|
But do go to Stones Billiards it’s essential. I ended up on one of the social party nights at an all night rave party, as you do, barefoot in the club dancing on stage; ah that was perfect, and yet disgusting! I really should keep my shoes on. But it felt so good. It was an epic night for me, as I didn’t go out on the town too much and had a wonderful crew.
This trip I did not get chased by any baboons, and oddly enough the big white shark tourism had ended due to no freaking sharks! Partly due to humans but not as bad as other countries who do the horrific finning, (don’t get me started on those assholes. But this time, maybe because we humans have culled too many species of shark the top predator is getting changed in nature and thus the cycle of life is shifting, for some reason there are Orcas in the Cape who started hunting the sharks. So bizarre. We’ve really screwed the oceans guys. Killer whales are not native to African seas so this behaviour is still unknown, and even stranger, the whales are just taking their livers! Like they were Chinese having a delicacy, leaving the whole body to rot down to the bottom of the ocean floor. Vicious techniques too. Anyway I couldn’t believe there were no sharks around. Astonishing mystery still.
For me, I still have a hard time with my privileged friends (ok white descendants) who are born and raised there and know no other way, TIA as they say ‘This Is Africa’, but watching families have maids and cooks and babysitters often feels like slavery to me. I couldn’t get used to that and it has nothing to do with being poor, I mean I get by well enough, but I just know that these women have their own families they want to spend time with back home. They travel far to keep a wealthier man’s home clean, children fed and entertained, making very little. More than they would in another job I’m sure, but I remember being shocked when I was washing a dish and being nearly scolded for it; and I almost got laughed at when trying to organize plastics and bottles in to recycling piles from the trash. Yeah, another thing that kills me. The Government isn’t the strongest, and with so many people and most in poverty, control over recycling matters simply just don’t matter to some. The population of Cape Town alone is 4.6 million (UN projection 2020), predominantly in townships like Khayelitsha home to hundreds of thousands in shanties mostly..
I can go on about politics and history but I’ll keep it light and let you go for yourself. Yes, things are harsh sometimes, and different, but we have to respect that. First world nations sometimes don’t understand. However, despite all of that, I really do feel at home there. I miss it already. My memorable encounters have been so incredible, and this one seeing kids growing up, people together again, it was so special, to see my family and friends I’ve known for many years and never get to see, my heart is full. I love them all dearly and I gave my word I’d be back for my 40th birthday for two months plus next visit. That is sooner than later and I can’t wait – well the turning 40 part can – to be there with them again.
Kuze kube yileso sikhathi – Zulu for until then.
I pray Covid-19 doesn’t get into the townships and hope the Government lockdown there mitigates the spread of the virus.
© Tabytha – April 2020 – Here’s my previous visit to Cape Town and Nambia
* Things to know before you go to South Africa. The Rand, their currency, is roughly about 10x the Canadian dollar. For example (ZAR) 100 is about $10 CAD or $7 US. A beer can be typically R50 so nearly $5. It is cheaper, but it all adds up quickly. The weather is hot, and gorgeous, but it gets windy in Cape Town. The rainy season happens around March-May. You do need to pack jackets and loads of sun screen.
*Most speak English, but the Afrikanners have their own language, but it is still regarded as the oppressor’s language. Mostly (in townships) people speak Zulu, Xhosi, Sebedi and Sotho, where people have come from other areas and countries.
*Johannesburg is big, traffic is hectic! However it is actually very green, they have the most trees planted for an inner city. I only got to spend one day in the Parkhurst neighborhood, but drove through Joburg a couple times on my way to Hartbeesport and the airport. Perhaps I would have enjoyed it more if I spent more time there, plus Kruger National Park is so close. There is so much to see and do I could write about it forever and I haven’t even done most of South Africa yet. I still want to drive to the Wilderness and then walk along the Drakensburg Mountains, maybe go to Pretoria and Durban one day. In the meantime I’ll tell you about my latest visit for a short, yet ever so sweet three weeks there.
LIVING ON THE RESERVE
Part Two – Conservation week with Lions:
Somewhere in Africa, 2020
Tabytha’s latest travels continued Prt 3 – Kigali, Rwanda
Prague Winter of 2012
It was a long and overwhelming day, but I still ended up walking home to the hostel that evening. It really was tough, but for some reason I just had to do it
Tales of OZ
Leaving Thailand nearly a month ago was extremely surreal and rather hard to let go of. I was still stuck in Thai mode for a few days until I realized, abashed and confused, that ‘shit, I’m in Australia!’
Save Your World
Oh what a day! Hanging out with my girl friends nude on the beach, I can’t think of anything better.
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