Nestled between the Table mountain range and the powerful Atlantic ocean lies the most spectacular city in the world – Cape Town. It is the oldest town in South Africa and also referred to as the ‘Mother City’.
Cape Town has become so popular in the last few years and with good reason. The city and its surrounding Western Cape offer so much variety – from sophisticated lifestyle to nature lovers or sports enthusiasts to culture junkies. There is literally bit of everything for everyone.
In the posts that will follow we will explore different parts of the city as well as some destinations around it. Hope it encourages you to visit this beautiful country.
After a long European stay we arrived back home to South Africa. Immediately after landing in Cape Town we headed even further south, in fact as far south as you can possibly get – Cape Agulhas. Although most of the holiday makers head to magical Cape Town for the summer season ( peaking over December and January ) for us its better to be away from the hustle and bustle, traffic and well yes, tourists. The Western Cape province has so much to offer in terms of fantastic coastal holiday destinations. Beaches you don’t have to share, and tranquility in abundance. Not to mention a warmer ocean than you will find in Cape Town. For myself at least, the festive time of the year has always been symbolised by time at the coast. Board shorts, the ocean, good wine and braai ( South African slang for barbecue ).
I had watched to many Mexican telenovelas (soap operas) as a kid to pass up the chance of trying to stay at a hacienda style hotel or at least to visit one. It would have to be the latter. Before embarking on our trip to Mexico we did some research into spending a night but it just didn’t fit into our itinerary. However we still had the opportunity to visit one. As we mentioned, a hacienda is a lavish estate house. Think Antonio Banderas in Zorro. These large and expressive estates were run and owned by extremely wealthy families who had interests in farming, business and often politics as well. However, as we were to find out, many are connected to a very dark part of Mexican history. Namely, slavery.
The Mayan city of Uxmal is a relatively unknown place among foreign travellers when compared to the more famous Chichen Itza, for example. Hidden deep in the jungle of the Yucatan, one requires a bit more planning to get there, either by car or bus from Merida, 62 km away. Prior to our visit we had seen pictures of Uxmal online but could not imagine what it would be like in real life. Man, were we blown away!
I think we all have our own image of Cancun created through Hollywood movies. To us it was a postcard of white hotels, palm trees, blue Caribbean water and American tourists in colourful shirts. Cancun, or at least the image it conjures up is not really our cup of tea but is certainly somebody’s margarita.
A short bus ride saw us from Tulum back up to Playa Del Carmen. Playa has a definite more ‘Cancun’ feeling to it. The walk through the town towards the port was interesting, with people selling souvenirs on the street and a man dressed as Spiderman inviting tourists to bars. We bought our return ferry tickets ( 300 pesos pp) and got to San Miguel de Cozumel some 40 min later, just before the rain and night. Cozumel is famous worldwide for its diving and also a very popular Caribbean spot for the cruise liners. Hence, we came to visit in the slow season ( September to November ) before the crowds flock here.
We were luckily drawn to Mexico to join our friends for their wedding. As Thane had never crossed the Atlantic and with the opportunity presented, we extended our visit into a holiday to see more of Mexico. Our plan was to explore the Yucatan Peninsula (eastern Mexico). So on a late October morning we left a nearly-always grey cold London and headed for mostly-warm Mexico. An easy 10 hour Virgin Atlantic flight and we would land in Cancun. We flew over the coast of Canada, along New York State, Washington and down to the Gulf of Mexico. We flew over some amazing scenery in the US, especially the Cactuclan mountains, but as we approached Mexico the views got even better. We flew over the Holbox Island and the huge jungle of Area de Proteccion de Flora and Fauna Yum Balam. Never have we seen such a endless and thick uninterrupted stretch of green before.
Our third day in Muscat stared almost with the (very) sad news that we couldn’t go scuba diving, due to a storm that never arrived. We couldn’t make sense of it. The water was flat and glossy that morning and we were forced to make a plan B. We arranged with Fahed to drive down the East coast towards the fishermen’s village of Al Kharyan. On our way there, we stopped at a few view points, admiring the scenery of crystal blue water, sandy beaches and rock mountains. A few yachts had pulled in the deserted bays. We noticed how many people just pull over by the beach and camp for a night or more. Fahed told us it is extremely safe in Oman and that camping was very popular – both tourists and locals alike.