Active Travel: Cape Town

Monday, May 22, 2017

Our bikes from iRide South Africa
On my recent trip to South Africa, I wanted to take advantage of the good weather and be outdoors and active as much as possible.   My running and cycling kit were the first things to go in my suitcase, followed by my swimsuit and sunscreen.  I knew it was going to be warm and sunny, but I didn't know the water was going to be so cold.  My hotel was a lovely walk along the promenade to the V&A Waterfront and I saw many other outdoor activities going on- paragliding, sea kayaking, scuba diving, speed boats, sail boats and surfing.  I also heard there was horseback riding in one of the nearby towns.  Although Cape Town wasn't expensive, doing all these extra curricular activities would had added up so I only chose a few. I need to go back to try the rest!

Part of the fun of traveling for me is seeing new places by foot or wheels.  My husband is more of a cyclist than I am but we were both keen to cycle while in Cape Town.  Last year, he hired a bike through iRide South Africa so we did the same for this trip.  The service was great as they dropped off and picked up the bikes at the flat where we were staying.  You could also hire helmets and shoes which leaves more room for other things.  One water bottle per bike was provided and we brought extras.  This was important as it was 26 degrees Celsius and more while we were in Cape Town.

We made it.

We are both comfortable cycling in a city (James more so than me because he cycle commutes every day) which was important as Cape Town doesn't have many bike lanes.  It took about 20 minutes to get into the fancier suburbs and passed everyone headed to work.  South Africa for the most part has wide shoulders on their roads for passing traffic which many of the cyclists we saw used.  We were headed south to Chapman's Peak, which included an 850 m climb in bright sunshine with HUGE winds.  I, of course, was nervous of needing the toilet along the way but made it through without incident.  It was great to get back on the bike (it had been since Fitbit Fifty) but I did feel bad for my husband as I am a very slow cyclist.  He is fantastic at climbing hills!  Slow and steady is how I aim to do it.  I get there in the end.

We had plenty of fuel and water with us because it was so hot in Cape Town.  I used additional saline drops in my water bottles to ensure I was hydrated, plus nuun and Powerade.  I had heat exhaustion once in Texas and it was not fun!

What a view!
When we did make it to the top, the view was amazing.  There were other cyclists there too and several cars pulled over.  Everyone was taking photos and looking out over the water.  We were told that over and down the peak there was a cafe, but I didn't want to climb up the hill twice.  We headed back down the way we came and stopped for a 2nd breakfast near the beach.  It was really lovely to be outside, in the sunshine, and see the ocean just across the road.  We made it back to the flat without any problems and relaxed the rest of the day.  James climbed to the top of Chapman's Peak again the next day and found a cafe on the other side of the hill.  I was due to run 13 miles for my marathon training and did that instead.

I found there were plenty of opportunities to run in Cape Town.  Although many books and websites said not to go out by yourself in Cape Town, I felt safe running along the Sea Point Promenade, as well as running from my hotel to the promenade.  There wasn't much shade along the path but the ocean breeze helped keep me cool.  You will definitely need sunscreen!

Adidas Runners Cape Town

Representing London
With marathon training in full swing, I ran most days but had to run very early in the morning or late in the evening because of the heat.  I managed to join Adidas Runners Cape Town for a run along the Promenade and through Greenpoint Park were we crossed paths with Park Run which had a large amount of people taking park (FYI- parkrun starts at 8am in Cape Town!).

The other running I was able to due was a trail run in Stellenbosch.  I was lucky enough to take part in a Dirtopia race on Valentine's Day.  A more detailed review will be up soon.  It was hard to find a comprehensive race calendar, but I think this was due to it being such a hot time of the year.  If you know of one for Cape Town or South Africa, please let me know!

Sea kayaking
I went out on two trips with Kaskazi Kayaks in Cape Town.  The only other time I have been sea kayaking was a on-off in Seward, Alaska, USA when I lived there for a summer.  For those that don't know, kayaking is a sport where you sit in a small boat close to the surface of the water and use a double-sided paddle to propel yourself.  Here are a few things I learned on my trip that you might find useful for your first sea kayaking trip.

All the gear ready for us

Do you need to be fit to sea kayak? Not necessarily, but you do need to be willing to dig in and paddle against the current and waves.  We were put into kayaks with others, so you can share the burden a bit.  Double kayaks are more stable too.  You will wear a life jacket during your trip but you may have to go a ways offshore to go around reefs or rocks under the water.  If you are afraid of the water or are not a confident swimmer, this might be unnerving.  Speak to your instructor before getting into your kayak to discuss your fears and what the trip will be like.  I love being on the water but a few people in my group were either scared to be on the water or didn't realize how much physical activity was involved.

If you want to see local wildlife, ask the company which time is the best to go out. I was told the early morning trips are when animals local to Cape Town are most active and picked the second trip of the day so I could sleep a bit.  We saw a fur seal and some dolphins during my second trip, which was pretty neat!

Everyone is ready to go. Photo by Kaskazi Kayaks

There were a few things I brought with me that were important for this kind of activity- sunscreen (my legs got very burned), bottle of water, sunglasses, hat, swimsuit bottoms (no matter what they say, you will get wet), and shoes for water sports (I wore my Keens sandals).  A towel and change of clothes will not go amiss either.  Basically, it is sunny in Cape Town and even brighter on the water.  You don't want to waste any days of your holiday with a sunburn, so protect your skin.

Just look at that view.  Photo by Kaskazi Kayaks.

I hope to one day return to Cape Town.  What would you recommend we put on our activity list for the next time?  We managed to squeeze in a short safari and cage diving, which I will post about soon.  But I know there is so much more to do and see.

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