FOUR DAYS IN THE MOTHER CITY WITH A CHIC MAMA
As a model and photographer I lived in New York City for 13 years and never visited the Statue of Liberty. I returned home to Cape Town 19 years ago and over an amazing 4 days in December I was able to experience the mother city as a visitor for the first time.
I kicked it off at Truth Café on a Saturday morning. While I waited for my ride, I had a sublime coffee with the dapper Mr David Donde, founder and owner of this “steam punk” inspired café. Truth is full of eclectic people and paraphernalia, not to mention quite a few bicycles. Like me, David is a keen cyclist and his café hosts the local Bike Nite event – all in all my kind of man and place. But for this adventure my transport was two wheels of a different kind. Ant, the editor of Africa Geographic, has a hankering for flash bikes and ex-models, so he offered to whisk me around on a monster of a Harley Davidson.
Before letting the bike loose on the open road, we spent the day in and around the city, our first stop: Oranjezicht City Farm. City folk who like their fare “au naturel” hang out here on weekends. Unsurprisingly, I bumped into one of the “Naked Rangers” I had photographed for a 2015 calendar in aid of Rhinos. My cover boy, John Barclay, was unfortunately fully clothed, but it was great to hear about a new mobile camp he is setting up in Botswana. I chatted to Viv Cohen who had bought the last of the peonies on sale at the market. People kept interrupting our conversation to buy them off her, and she must have given away five of the flowers by the time we finished chatting. I walked between the neat beds of succulent vegetables with the infectious Sheryl Ozinsky who is pouring her heart and soul into this project with the help of volunteers. Their mission is to get city folk to embrace small-scale food production and improve under-utilised green spaces. All the food on sale is locally grown and I was about to try a 100% vegan ‘sexy burger’, when I was reminded of a lunch date with my eldest son Peter Raven at Grand Café.
Grand Café is beautifully situated on a private beach not far from the V&A Waterfront, and it lives up to it’s tag line “where grand-chic meets retro-romance, for the worldly traveller and diner”. We were spoiled with a variety of platters representing their extensive menu, from pizza and calamari to succulent line fish, finishing off with three tasty vodka drinks.
Walking off the meal at the V&A Waterfront we were lucky enough to see the yachts in the Volvo Ocean Race come into the harbour, but we escaped the crowds by riding the enormous ferris wheel and were rewarded with astounding views of the city and the tall sails entering the harbour.
Booking into the Taj Hotel for the night we took in the view of Table Mountain from my room. Peter Raven was along for this “staycation” and we wallowed in luxury before heading out for our next adventure: an evening of Djembe drumming and African cuisine. The venue, Gold, is incredibly well run and staffed by a crew from many different parts of the continent, the vibe and food reflecting 14 different African cultures. I feel South Africans are at a disadvantage by not participating in these sorts of experiences – foreigners often get to experience the culture of Africa much more than we do.
The breakfast at Taj’s Mint Restaurant, which opens onto the iconic walkway of St. Georges Mall, was tasty and unique. With sushi, salmon and some extraordinary Indian dishes, I just had to indulge – but I had an excuse: I was off on a cycle tour with a difference.
I met Ant on his trusty steed and we cruised along the stunning Chapman’s Peak road, which I cycle every day, finally stopping at the township of Masiphumelele. I have visited quite a few townships in Africa and I was impressed with Masi’s infrastructure. There is a clinic, school, library and orphanage for AIDS babies. Habitat for Humanity actively helps people build livable housing and an extensive support system helps locals improve their situation through workshops, volunteer and tourism organisations. One such organsation is AWOL Tours. They donate 10% of their tour price to Masicorp, an NGO that has funded Masiphumelele’s new library – among other projects.
Josie meets her match while on a cycle tour in Masiphumelele township with Awol Tours. Locals come out in their Sunday best to attend church. Traditional African rituals take place in tandem with Christian worship. ©Anton Crone
We jumped on our bicycles and were guided through this bustling community by Mzwamadoda. Being a Sunday, people were dressed up for church and we sat in a charismatic service listening to gospel singing that poured onto the street. Equally invigorating was the traditional healer we visited, who danced to the beat of a skin drum while the smoke from burning herbs washed over us. In this and many African cultures, traditional African rituals still take place in tandem with Christian worship.
We ended off our tour with tea and freshly baked vetkoek in the home of Nonny, a vibrant entrepreneur who AWOL has helped to set up a bakery. Nonny’s next aim is to start a restaurant and B&B and I have no doubt that she’ll realise her dream.
Leaving the wonderful vibe of Masi, we swapped the bicycles for the beast and steered for the serenity of Cape Point. A delicious lunch was had at the Two Oceans Restaurant. The new interior is beautiful, inspired as it is by the rib cage of a whale. The ocean theme was enhanced by a walk to the furthest point along the ridge where waves crashed far below and spectacular views were had over false bay and the open ocean. I need to extend my bicycle run to include this wonderful place: one can cycle in the reserve and there is minimal car traffic to go along with beautiful vistas and bountiful wild game.
After cruising back along the coastal road through Scarborough and Misty Cliffs where we watched kite surfers ride the wind, we retraced our route along Chapman’s Peak until we reached Tintswalo Atlantic. Peter Raven was lucky enough to spend another night with mom at this, the most beautiful lodge I have ever stayed in.
I had walked the Otter Trail a week before, and staying at Tintswalo, with the serene noise of waves crashing upon the rocks, brought back memories of that equally incredible coastline. Three cycling buddies saw a photo I posted on Instagram the next morning and asked if they could join me for coffee. We all live in Hout Bay and pass Tintswalo’s gate every day on our cycle along Chappies. We had visited the place when it was an abandoned scout hall years ago, and to see it in it’s new found glory, blending into the environment among the 400 year old milkwood trees, made it hard to leave. But real life beckoned beyond the gates, and besides, surf was up.
At Muizenberg beach, champion surfer Roxy Davis showed me a few moves. She and her husband own and run the Roxy Surf School and Emporium. My three kids and I have taken lessons before, but I’ve never managed to stand up on a surfboard. With Roxy’s patience and skill, I was standing and riding waves in no time, and just being in the water and breathing in all the healthy minerals reminded me to take to the ocean more often.
Next door to Muizenberg is Kalk Bay where I strolled through the eclectic galleries and shops, pausing for a while at Quagga Rare Books & Art. You need a full day to rummage here and owner George is himself a treasure trove of information and anecdotes. I have a soft spot for Kalk Bay as my first-born was conceived in what was the Backpackers in the mid 90’s, right above Olympia Café. The café is one of the pit stops on my bike for a yummy coffee and croissant, but I was extra spoiled this time with a delicious lunch at Harbour House which must have the finest view of any restaurant in South Africa.
After lunch we walked around the little fishing harbour where I haggled with Peter from Zimbabwe, buying all his obsolete Zim’ Dollars to wallpaper a room in my house.
Back in the mother city, my daughter Willow and I spent a night at Hollow on the Square, a carbon neutral hotel with a green philosophy, using energy efficient and environmentally friendly materials. It was to be a musical night and we caught the wonderful Paige Mac Band at the hotel, then I rushed off to House Of Machines to see my friends in The Josh Hawks Band. They are a new group of well established players: Josh plays bass with Freshly Ground, Barry drums with Johnny Clegg and Chris the guitarist is in a few other bands. Together they are incredible.
Willow and I went on an inspiring walking tour through Woodstock the next morning. Juma of Juma Art Tours was our wonderful guide of this expansive outdoor gallery, and we perused the street art painted by international and local street artists such as Freddy Sam, Andrzej Urbanski and Faith 47. The experience was an eye opener for my daughter. We walked through some dodgy areas where drug dealers skulked about doing their nasty thing, yet Juma weaved his charm and grace, leaving everyone smiling.
Later we checked into The Grand Daddy Hotel. Now I have coveted Airstream trailers since I moved to America in 1982, and I was excited about the seven Airstreams on their roof. Alas the silver trailers were fully booked, but we spent a night in a wonderful room in this vibey hotel, and I’ll definitely be going back for the ‘trailer trash’ experience.
On our last day, we hit the water again with Cruise IQ, heading out of Table Bay towards Robben Island. The crew were incredibly friendly – perhaps being on the water every day, with such beautiful views of Table Bay, does that to a person.
Our last adventure was right outside my back door in Hout Bay. What a homecoming. Animal Ocean took my youngest son Phoenix and I out to Duiker Island where we snorkeled with seals. We came across a large sunfish aka ‘Mola Mola’ on the way out, a very lucky sighting indeed, and we spent a while admiring this extraordinary creature. Once alongside the island with its colony of wild seals, we zipped up our cosy wetsuits and jumped into the water to join the fun. In their natural element the seals truly come alive, and they are as curious about you as you are about them. They swim right up to you, sometimes even nipping you softly, like a puppy. It must be the best way to get close to nature in Cape Town.
The more I experience Cape Town and South Africa, the more I think locals should spend holidays in their own country. With the money we spend on flights, restaurants and accommodation overseas we could have amazing holidays right here for less, and learn more about our own surroundings. We might even get more involved. One last stop was a shop I run along with a small group of volunteers in Hout Bay called Chic Mama’s Do Care. Hout Bay residents are renowned for their ethos of reducing, reusing and recycling, and we’ve found an ethical yet stylish initiative reselling upmarket and designer clothes at bargain prices with proceeds going to educational opportunities for the disadvantaged children in our little bay, the place I call home.
VISIT CAPE TOWN
Travel in Africa is about knowing when and where to go, and with whom. A few weeks too early / late and a few kilometres off course and you could miss the greatest show on Earth. And wouldn’t that be a pity? Read more about Cape Town here or contact an Africa Geographic safari consultant to plan your dream vacation.