Hiking still sucks but Cape Town is rad

I landed in Cape Town, South Africa 4 days ago and it feels like 2 weeks already.

Everything has been such a blur. Lots of new places and faces to learn. Surprisingly enough, I wasn't too terribly jetlagged when I touched down at 1pm CPT time despite 30 hours of travel -- 2 flights and a 12-hour layover.

My view from the plane!

My view from the plane!

I was definitely tired, but a good night's sleep Sunday night put me right back together. 

Day 1

A good majority of our group came in Sunday and we had an outdoor sunset dinner at the most unbelievable spot near Table Mountain overlooking Camp's Bay. The whole staff and several Citizens traveling in town joined us.

Photo by fellow Atlas Saif Bechan

Photo by fellow Atlas Saif Bechan

We had a solid crew of 50+ people causing a ruckus laughing and drinking at the longest table I've ever seen, jumping from seat to seat to meet and greet. Everything was hunky dory until it came time to pay the bill...

It took us almost as long to pay the bill as it did to eat. One by one we each had to step up and claim what we ate and pay individually. We all promised each other from that point forward we'd be better about planning for bill sharing and immediately downloaded all the relevant apps to help us.

After the payment debacle subsided, a few of us decided to keep the party going and went out for a nightcap a local club. We figured on Easter Sunday it should be pretty chill...

We arrived and the place was PACKED; patrons were spilling onto the sidewalk. Wall to wall people were bumping and grinding to house music. We looked at each other in disdain -- as a bunch of weary travelers, this was much more than we bargained for.

In the spirit of adventure, we decided to embrace the chaos for at least one drink.

We found a quieter spot in the upstairs lounge and ended up staying into the wee hours of the morning. We shared shots, stories, and smiles for hours. It was wonderful. 

Day 2

Monday was the first 'real' day for many, including myself. We hit the workspace in surprising numbers and many put in a solid full day's work. Besides some adventures looking for basic accouterments of daily life in nearby shops and incessantly squinting at Google Maps inquisitively in the bright South African sun, the next few days went largely the same. 

We played games, had a little pizza party, grabbed bites all over town in small, ever-changing groups, and bounced around here and there.

Day 3

Tuesday we had an African language crash course to help us greet the locals in Xhosa, one of the main native tongues. (There are actually 11 official languages in ZA!)

Many South Africans, particularly Capetonians, speak English but our friends Buntu and Ayanda leading the lesson told us using Xhosa is a great way to put a smile on a local's face.

Xhosa Crash Course

KOH-sah with a tongue click on the 'K' sound
I cannot click my tongue and use my voice at the same time.

Molo bhuti / sisi
MOH-low boo-TEE / see-see

Hello brother / sister
(Used to greet anyone regardless of familial relation)

Unjani wena
oon-JA-nee WAY-nah

How are you?


I'm fine


Thank you

Day 4

This morning was our first of 3 scheduled hikes of the incredible mountains of Cape Town. A sunrise hike to Lion's Head was on today's agenda, with almost the entire group in attendance.

I was told Lion's Head was a beginner-level hike, about 45 minutes total with some "short ladders and steel rungs".

I don't know what kind of beginners they have in Cape Town, but I assure you this was not a casual stroll. 

The whole hike is 600m wrapping around and around the mountainside in a spiral ascent. Doesn't sound like much, but 2/3 of it is 90° straight up. I'm talking real ass rock climbing -- as in if you step wrong, you're in for a nasty fall.

Photo by  Japie Muller

Photo by Japie Muller

Needless to say, 1 hour and 15 minutes in and I did not make it to the top. The last 100ft were quite literally straight up and I just didn't have it in me if I was going to make it all the way back down.

This is where I stopped. #nope

This is where I stopped. #nope

Regardless, I still saw some amazing sights...

The views were incredible, but I'm definitely done with hiking for the year. I'm taking the gondolas from now on. #catchyallatthetop

Protip: I'm pretty out of shape and clearly do not hike often and still did okay. If you have any mobility issues or moderate - severe asthma, I would not recommend this hike. It's not easy and even the pro hikers in our group were sweaty and winded.

Up next

The rest of the week we have more orientation and get-to-know-you activities. I'm hitting up Stellenbosch with a bunch of people for a wine tour on Sunday and am in the process of trying to plan a shark diving trip later in the month.

Next week our Tracks start (curated activities we sign up for) and I'm in for a bike tour and beach day shared by the only wild penguins in all of Africa!



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