Sunny winter day at the Kirstenbosch Botanical Gardens outside Cape Town, South Africa
Two and a half months in South Africa: the longest planned visit of our 13-month round-the-world itinerary. Long enough to settle in and begin absorbing the way of life, to build friendships and routines, to feel at home (away from home).
We arrived in the country on our sixth anniversary, smack dab in the middle of the southern hemisphere winter. The disjointed jump in seasons only further reinforced the timing of our as-of-late inward journey: the pictureless, post-less quests of engaging each other and God, seeking wisdom and life lessons during these foreign days and nights and surrounds.
Our schedule was loose; the horizon open. A new continent, a new corner of the world to explore. A new 90 day visa: physical reminder of the re-set button, new chapter, and unfilled days.
High above Cape Town, on top of Table Mountain (Spot Robben Island and Cape Town Stadium?)
Topography of the Cape Peninsula
Why South Africa? All sorts of second-hand connections to the country added up to a burning desire to visit this distant corner.
Some of my favorite people came from South Africa: Pastor B, a mentor and friend I met when living in New Zealand in 2004 (and subsequently the pastor who married Ted and me on a very hot July day in 2006). Theresa, a lovely garden designer and kindred spirit living as a transplant in Portland, rattling off plant names with a hint of that beautiful accent all these decades later… Leslie, another friend and mentor I met while living in NZ. And this list goes on. I’ve crossed paths with so many wonderful South Africans: Claire and Samantha and Jiljane and Charlize (okay, kidding about the last one).
Plus, I’m a nerdy landscape architect at heart, so let’s not forget the plants.
We arrived in time for the end of aloe season and the final blazing flames of orange glory.
Leafles trees dropping “lucky beans” from seed pods and clinging to the last red midwinter flowers.
The flora of South Africa often makes its way into the landscapes of the Pacific Northwest: common geraniums, flashy aloes, chubby succulents, and more; and the Hardy Plant Society of Oregon’s previous garden trips around the world and guest speaker plant slide shows included enough of South Africa to cause this little Pacific-Northwestern-garden-girl’s heart to skip a beat at the prospect of making visiting.
Queue me during early stage route-planning meetings: “Ted, we have to go to South Africa!”
Watching footage from the 2010 World Cup games and seeing those soaring shots over Cape Town Stadium served to seal the deal.
When we arrived, Pastor B had already called ahead and made connections. Such a treat to meet some of his dear friends after hosting him in Oregon and introducing him to some of our favorite people, too.
We spent time in Table View with Alistair and Janine and their sons Matthew and Michael. We house sat and took care of two energetic dogs, Spencer and Chase, enjoying beautiful visits to the beach outside of Cape Town.
Ted’s adopted pets, Chase and Spencer, across the bay from Table Mountain
We met Bronwyhn and learned about the work of View Church in the Joe Slovo Township outside of Cape Town, running a creche (daycare/preschool) for the adorable youngsters and providing employment opportunities for mothers.
We spent a week with Nils, Maureen, Simoné, Svenja, and Daniela in Stellenbosh, growing accustomed to the day to day ways of life in South Africa, and enjoying the nearby wine farms, beautiful mountains, and rolling hills that reminded us comfortingly of the hills and vineyards just beyond my family’s home near Oregon wine land…
Ted, Simoné, Daniela, me, and Maureen after breakfast at The House of J.C. Le Roux
Following the generous two week introduction to the country: a month of living and volunteering at Carmel by the Sea, soaking up calm and beautiful surroundings, meeting more wonderful people than we can count, and making new friends for life. The Daily Travel Journal lists several individuals, but truthfully the number of fascinating and friendly people who visited Carmel over the weeks grew too great to keep tally.
The nearly 60 year old spot on perched above Victoria Bay on the Indian Ocean coastline between Cape Town and Port Elizabeth hosts individuals and families, conferences and retreat groups. “Dinner, bed and breakfast” is the tradition of this once guest-farm now holiday and conference center.
The chapel at Carmel by the Sea, overlooking Victoria Bay on the Indian Ocean
At the conclusion of restful month spent volunteering and making friends…ready to roadtrip!
About two weeks ago, following our season at Carmel, we revved up and returned to touring pace. Bags packed, we journeyed eastward along the Garden Route from the city of George to the nearest fringes of the Eastern Cape, then returned the 725 kilometer stretch all the way back to Cape Town, arriving in the cosmopolitan city just this past weekend.
The soon coming collection of stories and photos will reveal more about the region nicknamed “Eden,” the care for wildlife and ecosystems in South Africa, the gorgeous places to stay along the Garden Route and in Cape Town proper, and the adventures to be had all along the tip-top (or is it bottom?) end of the African continent. So many posts in the queue; can’t wait to share them!
Thanks as always for following along, and welcome to South Africa!
(Need a sneak-peek? Day-to-day updates from the road are available at the Daily Travel Journal.)
This post is part of our twoOregonians Tour the Cape series featuring quintessential and offbeat South African experiences, one-of-a-kind accommodations and beautiful B&Bs, respectful wildlife programs, social service projects, and landscape photography from the South African Cape. As always, all opinions, photos, and stories are our own; many thanks to our kind hosts and partners along the way. It was our pleasure to experience such genuine kindness and hospitality!