Claus Lauter: and welcome to another episode of the Why We Travel Podcast. Today it takes us to South Africa, better set to the city of Cape Town, right on the tip of Africa. So I’m living there. I’m completely biased, [00:01:00] that’s the reason why I don’t wanna talk about it. But I have Megan Gieske with me. She is a travel writer.
She has lived in Cape Town for three and a half years. She’s also photographer and a content creator on one way ticket around the world. So, hello Megan. How are you today?
Megan Gieske: Hi. Awesome. How are.
Claus Lauter: I’m very well, thanks for taking your time to be on the show. Tell me a little bit, first question, as always is what is your first childhood memory on being a traveler
Megan Gieske: that’s such a good question. , I remember reading the book, not exactly childhood, I think I read it in middle school by, , Bruce Chatwin in the Patagonia. And just the way that he described that area and his excitement for the place made me feel like I really wanna be that kind of adventurer .
Someone that goes somewhere that’s, , almost unknown to travelers and just enjoys and experiences the place. And to go somewhere that’s not, , familiar already, just to sit on off on an adventure like that, I think was something that was really appealing to me. , also watching. Indiana Jones movies.
Cause I feel like he’s kind of a [00:02:00] traveler, although kind of a problematic character these days. But the idea of just going out on adventure and going to these different countries. , I kind of wanted to be like a female version of that.
Claus Lauter: Okay. I can totally rely to Indiana Jones. I really like that comparison Cape Town is not necessarily number one on a lot of, , first time travelers, , destinations. So it’s a lot of on winning tourists lists and so on, so forth. What got you to
Megan Gieske: Cape Town? Yeah. I was actually traveling abroad on a ship with semester at ce, which is a, , travel abroad program, , for college youth students.
And so they travel on a cruise ship around the world. 12 countries either in Asia and Africa or they have a Europe kind of version of the trip. And so I went in 2016 on that trip and one of the stops was Cape Town. Before that, I had no idea Cape Town existed. Like you said, it wasn’t really on my radar, but I can remember just, , pulling into, Cape Town Harbor on that ship and seeing Table Mountain for the first time and just being completely blown away by everything in Cape Town, the [00:03:00] nature.
The ocean, the beaches, and kind of wondering why hadn’t I heard of this city before? , which is completely breathtaking. Okay. Yo,
Claus Lauter: so one of the very few travelers that are actually coming from the seaside, most people are coming with, a plane. What was your first impression? You said Table Mountain.
Tell me a little bit of what is Cape Town
Megan Gieske: known for? Definitely Table Mountain, I can’t even think of another city in the world where you have that dramatic experience. I guess you get it when you fly in as well because you can see a bit of Table Mountain when you’re flying in as well as Lion’s head.
But when you come by sea you can get this experience If you visit Robin Islands and then, when you take the ferry back from Robin Island, you see Table Mountain before you and the City Bowl. But it’s a. Just breathtaking experience to visit a city that is just backed by this, , natural world wonder.
That is completely massive. And I think what’s really unique about Cape Town is it’s a city where, , nature and kind of the urban areas, , coexist in a really beautiful way. And so you have, , houses going up like most of the slopes of Table Mountain, and they [00:04:00] kind of wrap around Lion’s head and you get the beautiful beaches and.
Oceanside mansions around Lion’s head. And so I think what’s unique also is the way that you can kind of get the experience of living in a city while still being able to go on incredible hikes on the weekends, that in other places you would have to travel far to get to. And so it’s kind of a nature lover, city lover.
You don’t need to choose one or the other. In Cape Town.
Claus Lauter: Yeah, it’s pretty too. It’s very short distances to get from the city center into a national. Best case scenario, it’s a 20 minute drive. Now Cape Town is known as a very cosmopolitan city, even being in Africa. Tell me a little bit of the experience with the people, with the culture.
Megan Gieske: One of the things that makes Cape Town also a really great, , first destination for people who haven’t been to the African continent, but once they kind of get their feet wet into visiting African countries, Cape Town’s a really great starting point because it is very westernized, so you still have, , lots of malls with stores from America and kind of things that look like that could be in America as [00:05:00] well.
. It has a lot of, , Western influence, but also, it’s known as the Rainbow Nation South Africa, so you have all sorts of cultures just coming together. , people with Indian heritage and people with, , Indonesian heritage and of course the, , black South Africans with just incredible diversity.
it’s amazing to kind of experience all of that in Cape Town. That’s what makes it a great place for people to visit their first time in the c. Yeah, sort
Claus Lauter: of a kind of Africa light version, can level up later on. Now. What should people do in Cape Town when they come for the very first time?
What kind of schedule would you recommend?
Megan Gieske: there’s so much to do in Cape Town. , I think I’ve been living there for three years and I haven’t even finished my Cape Town bucket list yet. But for first time visitors, there’s definitely things that you shouldn’t miss when you go to Cape Town. And actually I got to plan a trip for my family, , when they visited in May and it was their first time in Cape Town, but also their first time on the African continent, which was really fun.
And so it’s kind of the things I recommend first time visitors doing is to. Up Table [00:06:00] Mountain, whether that’s hiking, which is definitely doable even though it’s difficult. Or just taking the cable car. Then also taking the Red Bus City tours, there’s different versions of them that kind of go to, , Cape Points National Park in the south or that can just go around the city they even have a route that will take you to Table Mountain.
And so that’s really fun because you get these, , cheesy little headsets that kind of have this. Infomercial kind of deal telling you about the history of Cape Town in South Africa, which feels like a little touristy and cheesy, but it’s actually really useful if you don’t know much about the history of the country and the city.
And so I definitely recommend going to Table Mountain and taking a red bus tour and also visiting the Winelands. because South Africa has incredible wine, especially in Cape Town. So you can go on a day trip to Stellan Bosch, or to Par or to Constantia. If you don’t wanna take a 40 minute kind of Uber drive or rental car ride out into Stellan Bosch, you can go to Constantia, which is [00:07:00] about just 20 minutes away from the downtown of Cape.
And they have some incredible wine farms there, , that are my favorite, those three things paired with a hike on Lion’s Head, which either has to be sunset or sunrise because you get just breathtaking views of Cape Town from Lions Head. You can see kind of in a 360 towards Table Mountain, the city center couldn’t even see out to, the ocean in Robin Island.
So Lion’s Head is an amazing hike. Another thing, it wouldn’t really be a visit to Cape Town without going to see the penguins at Boulder’s Beach. So I think that is something that everyone’s excited to do and is like a first for most people when they visit is going out to Boulder’s Beach and probably going to have fish and chips in Col Bay at Kki is another must.
I feel like it’s an incredible local, colorful restaurant and then also strolling around Col Bay to visit the kind of local shops in supporting the local, , shop owners. And then kind of finishing it off with a swim in one of the tidal pools, [00:08:00] which if you are afraid of cold water might not be your favorite thing, but it’s definitely an experience that makes you feel alive and you can definitely get used to and you won’t die.
I feel like the first time I went in that water, I felt like this is so cold. This can’t be good for you. But it actually is. It makes you feel alive afterwards. So you’ll definitely be glad you did. If you take a swim in those tidal pool.
Claus Lauter: Very good point. Even South Africa or the Western Cape has amazing beaches.
The water is really, really cold. The water’s coming with a Bangladesh stream from Antarctica, so even in the summer, it doesn’t get really warm. Now, you already touched on the topic of food and wine, Cape Town, also known as a foodie city, sort of paradise for foodies. Tell me about your experience on what you can find here when it comes to.
Megan Gieske: Yeah, Cape Town is amazing because it’s a really cosmopolitan city, so you can get really good Indian food or Italian food and even, , there’s like Jewish bagel shops. There’s kind of everything in Cape Town, like food from around the world you can find there. , but I think some of my favorite food is the, , typical South African foods.[00:09:00]
, but I guess there’s no typical South African foods because South Africa’s made up of so many culture. But the ones that you kind of think of as representing South Africa would be like Bai, which is kind of a sweet meatloaf with a egg on top. so you have to try Bai when you visit. That’s one of my favorites.
And it comes from the Cape Malay cuisine, , which is people who settled, in South Africa , Southeast Asia. And then I think. Necessity is bribing, which is a South African, just, , one of the pillars of the nation, I feel like is bribing that you don’t get between South Africans and bribing, and don’t call it barbecue.
It’s kind of how they feel about it. And one of my favorite places to get, , some really nice Bri meats is actually in, , longa and I believe they have a new location. I believe they have a new location, , or it’s coming out soon. And so Jordan, ways of cooking in Langa, you can take an Uber there or you can go there on a tour.
, and that’s a place where you can get these amazing, trays of bri meats that come with traditional black South African sides, like, it’ll come [00:10:00] with some veggies that kind of look like collared greens and some sweet potato mash. , so that’s like an amazing place to visit.
And there’s always a vibe there, especially on a Saturday or a Friday, , every time they go there, someone’s having like a bachelorette party or a bridal shower and someone’s DJing, so it’s always a party. And so you get to feel some of that when you’re. Okay,
Claus Lauter: so we were touching on , a township, which is called a township, which is an area where back in apart times, in the bad times, people were basically put to live together.
These exist still nowadays. Very good bride barbecue place is Googled in gto. Les, not sure if you have been there. Also big party place now. What was the experience there? Because sometimes you will see in the news and it might scare some travelers of, or going to South Africa, Cape Town, there is relatively high crime rates.
But what was your experience in your years here in South Africa and Cape Town
Megan Gieske: Yeah, I think I had a different experience than first time travelers to South Africa because, , the first time I visited South Africa Langa, which is one of those, , [00:11:00] townships you described, which were historically for black people only.
But now, , there’s still, , predominantly black, but it’s not really a place that many, , white South Africans would visit because of the high crime rates and other, , issues carried on from apartheid. Pergo is one of the first places I visited. So for me, longa really represented South Africa , my kind of eyes.
And over the years of living there, I have a lot of, , really good friends, some of my best friends. So Langa, who I also work with doing kind of, nonprofit industry work with them. And so I think Langa, . Should be on everyone’s kinds of, , list when they visit, , South Africa, especially Cape Town because in Longa you can really see the history of South Africa.
With Aparte, you can go to different buildings there that were reserves for, , young men, when they were coming to work. In Cape Town, they were only allowed to live in these hostels. And so those are still there today and you kind of see them and then really understand the history of the area and what happens to black people in the country.
More than that, I think visiting Langa, you get to really see how the majority of people live in South [00:12:00] Africa , so many people do live in communities like that. Even though they have , high crime rates,. Visiting as a tourist, especially if you go like in an Uber to Jordan ways of cooking or if you go on a tour, , it’s definitely doable and I’ve never had a bad experience, , going there, even though I’ve been there over a hundred times, , literally hundreds of times.
And I definitely recommend it for people to really get to see, , what it’s like to, , really live in South Africa because a lot of the places we recommend to tourists, which are Clifton Seapoint Camp. These beautiful high income areas also stand, aren’t really the reality of what it’s like to live in the country.
Cuz those areas are kind of like if you visited, , Beverly Hills in America and thought that’s how people live. And so it’s definitely a worthwhile place to visit.
Claus Lauter: Okay. How did you get around the year or what would you recommend for a visitor? What’s the best way to get around in the city, in the area?
Megan Gieske: I think if you’re there for a longer period of time, it’s definitely worthwhile to have a rental car because if you wanna go to, , the [00:13:00] Penguins, which are like 40 minutes from kind of the downtown area where most people stay, or if you wanna go to Cape Point, it’s awesome to have a car. And then you also have the option to go to Stellan Bosch, which is like an hour away from the downtown.
But if you’re there for a shorter amount of time, I think Uber is really affordable and it’s, , safe. There’s a lot of safety features these days. and you , Uber to a certain area. So like Uber to Cal Bay and then from Cal Bay kind of spend a whole day there walking around and swimming and , taking another Uber to maybe the penguins.
But there’s kind of different areas you can go to, , with attractions that are near each other. So you don’t need to be Ubering back and forth. You can kind of Uber a couple of times a day and then it like stays affordable that way.
Claus Lauter: Okay. Before we come to the end of our chat, one question. If you’re coming to Cape Town, what kind of budget , do you need to calculate for?
Is it expensive? Is it cheap? What’s the best way to get around it? Yeah,
Megan Gieske: , that’s a good question. in my experience living there, , the kind of rule of thumb I’ve had is that coming from America, things are usually like a [00:14:00] third of the price, , as what they are in America. So you can go out to dinner and have a really nice dinner and even have a steak or a pasta, something like that, and it would be a third of the price of what you would pay in the.
And the same with accommodation. When I stay in Airbnbs in South Africa, they’re usually under $50, , for a night. . If you’re on a budget, it’s a great place to visit because you don’t need to sacrifice on your experience in order to really have an amazing trip.
And then a lot of the things I talked about, which were hiking and swimming in tidal pools and just going on walks and maybe boco or downtown or by the ocean, they’re free things. So most of the activities are free. , and if they’re not free, they’re not, , very expensive. Like seeing the penguins for foreigners is.
Around $10, something like that. So even a lifetime experience like that isn’t expensive. So it’s definitely a place that you can go to, , with a limited budget. Okay.
Claus Lauter: So from your perspective, would you recommend even if it’s a long trip for someone to visit Cape Town?
Megan Gieske: Yes, definitely. a thousand percent. I think it’s the [00:15:00] most beautiful city in the world I’ve been to, , over 30 countries now. , and I’m 27, so I’ve gotten to do a lot of traveling and I just love Cape Town. There’s a reason that I’ve stayed there for three years and have a fiance who’s from. Cape Town. We both think it’s the most beautiful place.
And so I think for anyone, especially if you’re into culture or wine or food or hiking in outdoors or sea life, it’s really an amazing place with so much, history you can explore. , and just to invest in the really the tourism economy, which is, , huge and really, , beneficial to Cape Town, into South Africa is an awesome thing as.
Claus Lauter: thanks for reconfirming because I’m living here for 15 years now and I wanna just wanted to hear it from someone else. Thank you Megan, for your time. I think that was a very good overview of what you can do and what you can expect coming to Cape Town. And , hope to chat you soon again.
Megan Gieske: definitely. Thanks so much for having me. Have a good one. You too.
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