South Africa
Cape Town to Port Elisabeth
Johannesburg and Kruger
March -April 2014
Part I - Cape Town

If you want to skip directly to the other parts, then just hit
Part II -  Garden Route or
Part III - Johannesburg or
Part IV - Kruger National Park .

Remark: The photos on the right side may not be correctly adjusted if you use Mozilla Firefox. I propose to use the Explorer of Microsoft instead.


This is an abridged description of a trip to South Africa in March - April 2014. The intention is to give a firsthand personal experience of how I did get to and through the country from Cape Town to Port Elisabeth and then on to Johannesburg and the Kruger National Park. Despite the fact that I did not book anything in advance, except for the flights and the first 5 nights accommodation, it still was a very good journey with no hassle. If there seemed to be one then it turned out as an advantage.

Also, I did not become a victim of some kind. I knew that South Africa has one of world's highest crime rates. I knew that a single traveler like me is more endangered than traveling in a group. So I had to take some precautions (more about that later on).

And why was I traveling alone and not with Joy? Because she had to visit her family in the Philippines and I didn't dare to accompany her. Why? Because the crime rate there is also rising to an unprecedented height. Many men, some of them I even knew, have already been murdered or badly injured in Joy's home province. Women are less affected as murders are concerned, but stealing and robbing is common place. Any precautions there are futile, because the infrastructure for tourists being able to travel safely around is not available. Ok, now let's fly to South Africa and find out, whether it's really safer there for travelers or not.

Getting from Berlin to Cape Town

I booked the flight with Airberlin from Berlin to Johannesburg four month in advance and paid 565,60 Euro (including all the taxes and fees) for the return ticket. The flight from Johannesburg to Cape Town I booked with Mango Airlines one month in advance and paid 1139 Rand. That was almost 79.00 Euro as debited to my credit card account.

However, the exchange rate was almost 15 Rand for 1.00 Euro when I withdrew cash from an ATM. And that is a very good rate. Just before I went on this trip I read that 1.00 Euro is worth 2.60 Euro in South Africa (cheaper than all European Countries and Turkey). It may not always fully apply but for the food it was almost true.

From now on I will state what I paid only in Euro using this current exchange rate, so you can easily compare. Since I met many travelers from the United States and Great Britain I herewith state their current currency exchange rate as follows: 1.00 Euro equals 1.39 USD or 0.84 GBP.

Before getting to Johannesburg I had a stopover in Abu Dhabi since Airberlin code-shared with Etihad. That stopover was even extended because of engine trouble of our continuation flight. The airline booked me into a hotel for free and after a free lunch I took the opportunity to shuttle for free to the city of Abu Dhabi. If you are interested in my photos from there then hit Abu Dhabi.

Fortunately, the plane finally arrived in Johannesburg next morning (instead of the previous evening), just in time for my connection flight to Cape Town. I had already canceled my pre-booked backpacker hostel by email ( the day before from Abu Dhabi. So I have saved 20.00 Euro for the one night in a "Double Private Ensuite". I only lost the reservation fee of 2.30 Euro to The reason why I booked that "Shoestrings" was that it was close to the airport with free pick-up and drop-off.

After I did my online check-in at the airport (I had no luggage to check-in, only my cabin bag and camera bag), I withdrew some Rands from an ATM and bought a South African SIM-Card with a balance of 100 Rand (6.70 Euro). That really was enough to last for the whole trip.

Here at the airport I had my first encounter with a scam I have already learned about before: Never let you help by anybody withdrawing money from an ATM. And what happened: A man was already standing in front of an ATM trying to keep busy. When he noticed me coming he just seemed to be finished and waved me to the ATM he was using. He then tried to "help" me by showing me how to insert the card. I told him that I can handle it myself and went to another ATM. I try to be politically correct by describing the guy only for the "Wanted" record: He was a middle aged heavy man and black. If you want to know how the scam works then look up, where you can find it between 149 safety tips.

Arriving in Cape Town

The flight took only 90 minutes. In the arrival hall I found my driver showing a sign with my name. Since I was too early (I had no luggage to wait for) I had to wait for more passengers until we finally left for my backpackers hostel, which was the
Penthouse on Long
112 Long Street
Cape Town 8001
Tel.:+27 21 424 8356
The Twin Private with shared bathroom did cost 30.00 Euro per night. I had pre-booked four nights also via being charged with a down payment of 10 %. The room was simple but ok for me. But the bathrooms were left a little bit dirty by mainly some messy youngsters, who did not care to leave it the way they found it. That backpackers hostel was full of them. They are traveling on a shoestring by staying in dormitories and cooking their own meals in the kitchen. I could afford some privacy, even if I have to pay mostly for a Double, because there are seldom any Singles.

So why do I stay in backpacker hostels rather than guesthouses or hotels? Firstly, they are still cheaper. Secondly, they always have a tour desk to inquire and book all kinds of tours and actions and their tours are much cheaper than travel agencies can offer. Thirdly, their clientele from all over the world is very interesting and easily to intermingle with or to find companions for all kinds of common adventures. And there are many more advantages. Especially this "Penthouse" had it all. Though, I have chosen it mainly because it is right on Long Street, the party mile in the middle of Cape Town, thus not having to walk back to a hostel or guest house in the evening through dark side streets or areas (this may have already saved my possessions or maybe my life).

Another aspect to choose backpackers hostels in South Africa, was the fact that the "Hop-on Hop-off Baz-Bus" only serves backpackers hostels, which is a very convenient and very safe way to travel. More about that later on. I was afraid to take any public transportation. And I actually never did except for two taxi rides. I could have easily taken the MyCiti bus to the Cape Town center but I rather pre-ordered transportation via the "Penthouse", even if it did cost 14.00 Euro (unfortunately no free pick up) instead of 3.80 Euro.

Arrival day in Cape Town

Let's start now with the first familiarization of the city itself and take a look around and to be part of the "crowd". It's already late afternoon and the streets were very busy, so was the Green Market Square around the corner from the "Penthouse". At the corner of that square was the Café Santé. There I sat down, had a big salad plate (4.00 Euro) with a draft beer (1.50 Euro), watched the people and I felt like in Paris. Then back to Long Street, where there are more restaurants and beautiful old buildings.

Click the small picture to get it enlarged

Feeling like in Paris Feeling like in Timbuktu?
Feeling like in New Orleans in the French Quarter
Or feeling like in old England with this old English church
But that's real Africa with real African art
Real African waiters Also moslems are around
Orange Street with Table Mountain in the back Table Mountain with table cloth on the top
A nice building at Church Square Where the children rehearse was a slave market
This lady demonstrates against nakedness and filth in magazines and burns them while preaching about bad morals
That's all I could see of Cape Town in the afternoon of my arrival day. It's Friday and Braii Party day (only on Fridays) on the roof top of the "Penthouse". You don't know what Braii is? It's Afrikaans (like Dutch) and means "Braten" in German and barbecue in English. I had a T-bone steak with sides (side dishes) for 4.00 Euro and a couple of beers for 1.20 Euro each. Since it also was a social event, I met many interesting people: Travelers from all over the world and locals from Cape Town, including German born Matthias.
View from the Penthouse Meeting Matthias (right) with friends
All steaks are gone now But there are still enough beers
Disk Jockeys are making music Disco Girls are having fun

Township Tour

Next day I went on a half day Township Tour. I booked it at the "Penthouse" the day before and paid 23.00 Euro. At 8:45 a.m. I was picked up in front of the "Penthouse" by "Sam's Cultural Tours". There were already a couple of passengers in the van. Our black driver's name was Gladstone (how did he get the name of a British colonialist?).

First he drove us to a place called District Six, where the forced eviction of black people took place during the sixties and seventies. And where did they have to move? To a township. Today there are many of them to the east of Cape Town. We now visited one of them: Langa. As soon as we arrived, another black guide took over.
These houses are hostels not for backpackers but for the blacks
The first houses, called hostels, we visited, were apartments for rent, subsidized by the government. The people living there were better off than the ones in the shanty towns. The water was free and the electricity did cost only over a certain usage controlled by meters and operated by coins. The rent for one room was 7.00 Euro a month and for two rooms (for a family) 17.00 Euro a month.
Tenant : A single mother with son Tenant: A single and student
The kitchen is shared by all tenants Children are playing in the backyard
Busy laundry woman Maids going to work
Then we walked to the next area, which was just adjacent. The difference was a surprise: Nice houses with mostly new cars in front. Also some maids are working here (see photo above). We were told that people who grew up in a township often come back to live there after they made some fortune. These houses are not subsidized by the government, of course.
Here must live a wealthy neighbor This must be a successful entrepreneur
Another nice house with cars in front This owner looks very proud
Then we walked again to the next adjacent area. The difference was even more astounding. From the richest to the poorest. But still: electricity has arrived but water has to be carried. Though, portable toilet cabins have been clustered around. Still, these small improvements cannot be found yet in many other shanty towns. The government is try-ing, try-ing, try-ing to improve living conditions for all its people, but very, very, very slowly as our guide told us.

There is a third type of housing for poor people: Small brick houses with surrounding small gardens and solar energy for warm water built by the government. I will show them in my next township tour in another city. Also, I will write more about politics and some of the many problems in South Africa at the end of my travel report. For now I will stick to describing what I saw and heard.
Shacks just around the corner
Despite all the living condition misery the children seem to be happy. Three girls are dancing on a mat to the drum beat on a bucket performed by another girl while another three kids are watching and listening beside the toilets.
Happy kids are dancing to the beat of a drum
The men are not up to dancing but drinking in a pub or beer joint or brewery outlet to forget their fate. Better to drink that beer than taking drugs. And it's a lot of beer that keeps them busy for some time to forget the misery they live in. We tasted it. You have to get used to it. The rest of our big can we donated easily to the other men.
Men drinking in a pub this kind of beer
Brewed by this lady with a white painted face Our guide shows how to drink it right
Then we went on to one of the shopping centers of the township. Passing by a healer (he was busy with a patient, so we couldn't pay him a visit) and a better looking pub until we did get to a market place. The veggies are nicely arranged but not so the pile of clothes. Maybe I could have found my donated suits and shoes to the Red Cross, if I would have taken a close look.
This pub looks better so did the post office
Veggies for sale Used clothes for sale
No need to get a haircut in a container. I have to admit that some people here are very practical and have ideas. Instead of building or renting a store in a concrete building, they just buy or rent a container and have it moved to the place they want.

Ok, we saw enough of the township of Langa. On the way back to Cape Town we passed another one: Khayelitsha (meaning new home but now it's old) with an estimated population over one million (according to my driver).
A store and a beauty parlor in a container Good bye, townships

Table Mountain

I was glad that Mister Gladstone dropped me off at the Table Mountain Cable Station after the end of the Township Tour. Otherwise I had to take a taxi or the bus to get there. This hop-on hop-off double-decker is a good option to get around. If I would have stayed another full day in Cape Town, I would have done it the very first day.
The City Sightseeing Bus The Table Mountain Cable Car
I was lucky again: no long lines. The return ticket did cost 14.50 Euro. While going up you have a nice view all around from your standing position, because the cable car is revolving.
There is also a trail going up to the Table Mountain Similar as up to the Lion's Head
You can do abseiling down to the trail and then walking down to Camps Bay
Get a close up lock to the left side
and then to the right side What a beautiful sight
Now I will eat in the restaurant to become as strong as the guys from the Argentinian Rugby Team
The restaurant had a nice interior and a wide selection of dishes to choose from. I have ordered Combo Vetkoek Special with a Castle beer for 5.50 Euro. Look up the internet if you want to know what a Vetkoek is. Mine was filled with minced beef and vegetable curry.
Then walking on and along the table while encountering some wild life
This is the main lookout platform for a nice view as long as the table cloth (cloud) is not covering it all
Finally, going back down to Cape Town with a closer look to the center

V&A Waterfront

Once back at the Cable Station I dared to take a taxi to the V&A Waterfront. This historic harbor has many restaurants, bars, and many tourist attractions and is a "must see" in Cape Town. And it is pretty safe even in the evening.
The view up to the Table Mountain from the V&A Waterfront All sails set for a cruise?
Or ready for an antique maritime experience? Or just a normal tourist harbor tour?
Not going on a ferry but on the Ferries wheel as part of the V&A Waterfront's many attractions
This is a preferred spot for a wedding photo in front of the clock tower This guy is not part of a mariachi wedding band
But just part of a traditional street band in their traditional Zulu outfit, not only dressed for Carnival

Carnival Parade

Cape Town really celebrates carnival and its parade took place just on my first full day after I arrived in Cape Town. I already read about it in the Mango Flight Magazine on the plane. Though, not many people knew about it, when I asked around. Only the tourist information office at the V&A Waterfront knew exactly where and when: On the Somerset Road at 7 p.m. So I dared to walk there because it was still daylight. There were already many people around on the road, some in costumes.

I settled down in the Cape Quarter Spar Mall where I had two different cakes with a cappuccino for 2.80 Euro. Then I intermingled with the Harley Davidson drivers at the outside beer stands. Yes, there have already arrived around one hundred Harleys as the head of the parade with a deafening sound and now the drivers are taking their beer drinking breaks. I had a beer with them at the Havana Lounge Latino Caffe. But here the Black Label draught beer was expensive for 2.40 Euro. Maybe the demand of these many bikers determined the price.
The Harley Davidson bikes in the street The Harley Davidson drivers in the pub
These are the backsides of their leather jackets
This girl enjoys sitting on a Harley And these girls enjoy themselves
Now the Harleys are leaving with a roar It gets quiet when the King Protea flower comes into sight
The carnival parade started almost on time and took approximately 2 hours. It was really fantastic. You do not have to travel to Rio de Janeiro to watch the carnival parade there. It may not even be as good as here in Cape Town: The designs, the music, the dances, and the girls, girls, girls.
You don't see this in Rio de Janeiro nor hear the rhythm of the drums
These pretty girls can easily compete with all the fashion models in the world
These kind of skinny girls you don't see in Rio either
This looks like more Brazilian style but this is real African style
This may also be Brazilian with a croc eating a lot of meat But this must be African with the only zebras and lions in the world
It would be too much to show all carnival photos here. If you want to see them all, then just hit Carnival in Cape Town.

When the parade was finished at around 9:30 p.m. I walked to the city center, i.e. Long Street in the middle, together with a whole bunch of people who also have watched the parade. I would not have dared that on another evening without so many people around. On Long Street with all its restaurants, pubs and discos I had to squeeze between the crowds.

Then all of a sudden a white lady called me from behind and told me that three black men were following me for some time and I should be very careful going back to my hotel. I told her that my "hotel" is here on busy Long Street and I thanked her for warning me. I probably was an ideal target with my big camera bag and belt bag. I read before that the tourists should rather carry a cheap plastic shopping bag to look like a poor local. When I passed a nice fish restaurant on Long Street I stopped and had fish and chips with a beer for 4.40 Euro.

Peninsula Tour

Next day I went on a Peninsula Tour all the way from Cape Town to the Cape of Good Hope. I booked this at the "Penthouse" and it did cost 35.00 Euro including lunch. The first stop was at Hout Bay.
The van of Day Trippers with the bicycles and driver Alexis First stop at the harbor of Hout Bay
Here we were supposed to go on a boat trip to Duiker Island to watch a colony of seals, but unfortunately the tickets were sold out. It was Sunday with too many weekend trippers. Ok, we walked around for an hour while the driver left to buy food for lunch.
No need to visit the seal island, the seals visit the harbor Next time I would rather go on a Big Game Fishing Trip as advertized
Instead of watching the seals of which we saw one in the harbor anyway, I would have rather joined a big game fishing trip to catch a Blue Marlin as shown on the billboard. Instead we took a look at all the handy craft market shops. There even was a store selling diamonds. But I resisted. They also offered a lot of Blue Tanzanites, which seems to be a hit, since Tiffany analyzed and advertized it (look up the internet).
I am sad looking at the sad African masks but I am happy looking at the colorful ostrich eggs
After our driver came back from his shopping trip we drove up on the Chapman's Peak Drive, where we stopped for a last wonderful view to the Hout Bay. Then we continued on a very beautiful scenic route until we reached Simon's Town.
Hout Bay also has a nice beach This is the last view of Hout Bay
Curving on the Chapman's Peak Drive It's a very dangerous road
After Chapman's Peak another nice beach and then Simon's town at False Bay
Simon's Town at the False Bay is a beautiful place. Even the African penguins like it here so much that they colonized the Bolders Beach (south of Simon's town) in the year 1983 after the naval base closed down and the government banned commercial fishing in the False Bay, so the penguins could be undisturbed while catching enough fish for themselves.
But what is the Air Force doing here? The planes are disturbing the penguins again?
The colony at Boulders Beach is a fenced reserve and there are short series of wooden walkways over the rocks and dunes that have been constructed to give visitors easy access to the birds. There is also an information center. The entrance fee is 2.70 Euro.
Shouting at the planes? This couple doesn't care
Loving each other so much The result is an egg to be bred
These African Penguins are monogamous, and will generally return to the same colony, and often to the same nest site. The vast majority pair off and remain together for consecutive breeding seasons. Some pairs have been known to have remained together for over 10 years. May it be that there is still some life time left for another partner?
Another couple or twins?
Still single? Looking for a partner?
Where are the others? There are plenty on the beach
It's a beautiful beach with clear blue water, but swimming within the boundary of the colony is not allowed. It's possible to meet a penguin while swimming at an adjacent beach. But beware of the beaks.
There are also many in the water and around and between the bolders
Time to leave these funny and cute creatures. We had to walk up to the main road to meet our driver again. No tea break at the Teahouse. It's still a long way not to Tipperary but to the Cape of Good Hope.
Would be nice to live in such a house Would be nice to rest at the Tibetan Teahouse
Actually, it was not a long way. Only twelve kilometers. But it was a little bit strenuous, because we had to bicycle now to the Cape of Good Hope. Ok, it was not a must. If you would have been disabled then you could have stayed in the van.
But we had to bicycle now Passing by ostriches in the fynbos
But bicycling against the wind is really hard work. It's even dangerous for ships. Bartolomeo Dias did get in a strong storm with his caravelle, so he called the cape before the Cape of Storms. Only his Portuguese king changed it to the Cape of Good Hope, because he wanted his sailors not to be afraid getting around the southern tip of Africa to bring back all the goodies from India. Wait until I get to Mossel Bay then you will learn more.
The fynbos is like macchia of a mediteranian countryside You can see from the tree: The Cape is always very windy
After only seven kilometers in the saddle, we had a break for lunch, which our guide had prepared in a restaurant. Take a look at the food and my fellow travelers with our guide in the middle.
Finally lunch is being served After that we continued our bicycle ride
And finally we reached the Cape of Good Hope There is no land between here and the Antarctica
Looking up to the Cape's rock Now looking down to the Cape's rock
While we were looking around the Cape our guide and driver loaded our bicycles on the trailer and then we all drove up to the parking lot at the base of the light tower rock. No more bicycling but now walking up all the way to the light tower. I could have taken the funicular but the walk was a better exercise with a much better view down to the Cape of Good Hope.
Going up with the Flying Dutchman Funicular but without me I rather walked up all the way to the light tower with a nice view down
Then I looked around from the light tower But I could neither see Berlin nor Beijing
After we walked down we drove back to Cape Town, but a different route than the way we came here. Finally I was dropped off in front of my "Penthouse". When I did get back on Long Street to look for a restaurant I was expecting the same busy crowd as the evening before. Just the opposite: Almost empty streets.

I didn't see any white people, only some blacks. I didn't dare to walk much around and tried to get in a restaurant close by, which happened to be a KFC. There were also only a few black customers. I just had two pieces of "finger licking good" chicken with chips and a large coke and paid 2.50 Euro. Then I went "home" quickly and finished the day with a chat with the black receptionist. Ok, that was my second full day in South Africa.

Wine Tasting Tour

Next day: Another daily tour. This time a Wine Tasting Tour with Africa Stay booked at the "Penthouse". It did cost 32.00 Euro including lunch and 24 different wines to taste at four different wine estates and 10 different cheeses to eat at one of them. Be surprised, also about the price.
This is our van and Paul, our driver guiding us through the wine country
The first wine estate was Fairview in Paarl, 60km northeast of Cape Town. Look up to learn more. First thing we saw at the entrance was the goat tower with real goats walking down. It's also one of the icons of that estate, because goats play a part in naming the "Goats Do Roam" wine and in providing many goat products.
The goat tower with real goats climbing down Wine from oak barrels is still the best
Before we could taste anything we had to enter the wine storage (cellar) with huge aluminum containers and some oak barrels. Oak barrels are very expensive, because they have to be imported from Europe. The oaks of South Africa are growing too fast, meaning that they are not strong or dense enough for making barrels to keep the wine.

Paul explained the wine making process and then he distributed a list with 18 different wines of which we could choose 6 for tasting. Then finally we were released to the real wine tasting session. But after my first glass I was already looking around for the cheese, because I haven't had breakfast yet.

There were around 10 different cheeses on platters arranged on a huge roundabout table. I walked around it several times with my glass of wine in one hand and picking the tasteful cheese with my other hand. No bread was included, only cheese. But you could have bought some bread from the counter.
Six wines to taste and here you can buy them
After a belly full of cheese floating in a melange of six different wines getting slowly into my head I had to get outside for fresh air and a digestion walk and I almost stumbled into a crocodile breeding area.
Where did the goats disappear? Hopefully not in the crocodile breeding area
The next wine estate was Solms-Delta in the Franschhoek Valley, 25km south east from Paarl. Look up to learn more. Franschhoek is Africaans and means French Corner, which is named after the French Huguenots who settled down here 300 years ago, bringing their vines with them.
Next wine estate surrounded by vineyards
Nice settings for tasting wine
After two wine testing sessions we stopped over at the Le Pommier restaurant for lunch. Our guide has already informed the cook about our pre-selected choices from the menu while still on the road. And my grilled fish with side dishes was fantastic. Wine was also included, but I was so thirsty for a beer I also didn't have to pay for at the end. And what the Llama is concerned, it was part of a little zoo in a park adjacent to the restaurant.
Lunch at Le Pommier restaurant where I did not eat Llama but fish
No peacock either At the entrance of another wine estate
Somehow I forget what the name was of this one. It was very fancy and had many art decorations with a nice bar for tasting and a nice restaurant with a terrace and a beautiful view to the grapevine terrace.
This estate displayed a beautiful designer clock and an artful lady made of cork
Looking at a grapevine terrace This is a really beautiful mountain view
The last wine estate was Vieliera Wines in Stellenbosch. Look up to learn more. This was the most interesting one, because we could watch the harvest and processing of the grape-vine. Also here we had to taste six different wines again. Some people had already enough. Not that they were drunk but they just didn't want to get drunk. So did I. Though, you could get drunk if you want. Even if you have to stick with the six, you could always get a refill of previous ones for another comparison.
More vineyards Grapevine harvest
Grapes unloading Grapes being pressed
Grape juice being processed Wine being aged
This was the end of my third full day in South Africa and also my last day in Cape Town. I didn't do and see all yet but the most interesting things, I think. Much more is now awaiting me on the Garden Route from Mossel Bay to Port Elisabeth. If you want to accompany me now then hit Part II -  Garden Route or if you want to skip it and go to the other parts then click on
Part III - Johannesburg or
Part IV - Kruger National Park .

As it was said before and will be said again: There could have been seen and done a lot more. Also I could have written more. If you want to know more all about the places I have visited, then just look up any of the many guidebooks or in the internet.

Created July 2014

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