South Africa Itinerary

So, it’s a Saturday night and I should really be studying for my preclinical exam that’s in less than a week…so guess what time it is everybody?  That’s right, it’s travelhacking time.

As I am getting closer to leaving it’s time to solidify plans.  One thing I was waiting to take advantage of about a week ago is something called PointBreaks by the Intercontinental Hotel Group (Intercontinental, Holiday Inn, Crown Plaza, etc).  They put properties on “sale” every couple of months, and you can redeem just 5,000 points for a night’s stay.  It’s possible to buy these points for as little as $35 if you know what you’re doing.  I stocked up on a promotion earlier this fall, so I had about 75k points stored up.  The sale went by fairly quickly, but I was able to snag the 1 night I needed in Muscat this month (right on the beach!) and even better, a night in the ritzy Intercontinental Johannesburg (Sandton).  Not only is it nice once in a while (especially after a long flight) but sometimes they give you some pretty nice bonuses for having status or being a pleasant person.  Sure, I’ll take a free bottle of good South African wine, free breakfast, fruit and drinks and snacks in the room.  This is the sort of thing that makes a hotel stay worth it sometimes vs couch surfing or hostels, if you are able to snag some cheap eats too.

So, back to the itinerary.  I was able to change my flights on united free of charge, and will be flying into Cape Town and out from Johannesburg.  And no more EgyptAir! (no offense guys).  Instead, I will get tasty food and drinks, and a chance to practice my Turkish.

In Cape Town I’ll be spending three days. In no particular order, things I’d like to do:

Table Mountain- this is a big park with amazing views and hiking.  I believe it’s free if I hike it.  Sounds great!  If I really get tired I can take a tram up or down the mountain, but I doubt I will.  Roughly 3 hours each way.  There’s also a campsite at the top, another option.

Boulder Beach/Simon’s Town- yes, there are jackass penguins there.  You can take a train here from Cape Town.  Admission to the penguin beach is R45, though I’ve read this is actually for the penguins’ “private beach”.  I guess I’ll see if all that is necessary when I get there. This penguin colony is located down towards the Cape of Good Hope…speaking of which

Cape Point/Cape of Good Hope- antelopes and ostriches and baboons, oh my!  I’m thinking maybe I’ll combine these last two things into a one day trip (potentially staying overnight down here if I can score a good couchsurf)

Robben Island tour- I’m undecided on this since it’s rather expensive, but I’ve seen so many good reviews, I may just check it out.  It’s rather pricy at R250, but this is your only way onto the former prison site where Nelson Mandela and many other activists were held (it’s actually a UNESCO site).  Since it looks like the price went down on the car rental I’ll need later in the week, I may try this.  You actually get to meet a former political prisoner and have a 45-minute Q/A period.  A HUGE part of the history of South Africa obviously.

Wine tasting- honestly, I may do this one of two ways.  One: take the local train out to Stellenbosch area and hang, and come back.  2. make some friends at a hostel or go to a wine bar and try a bunch.  It’s scenic and all to head to the vineyard, but not necessary for me, especially with limited time.

Botanical gardens- last but not least, this is a total must for me.  These are supposed to be some of the most amazing gardens in the world, so I’m pretty stoked.  I’m still kicking myself for not going to the gardens when I was in Montreal this summer, so there.is.no.way.I.am.missing.these.

In the late afternoon/evening of my 3rd night in Cape Town, I’ll take an inexpensive flight to Johannesburg.

I was really having a hard time figuring out what to do, so I figured I’d give myself a taste of the eastern part of South Africa.  There is just so much to do and I definitely want to go back some day.  This is what I’ve decided on:

Day 1: Take a rental car (unfortunately, necessary.  About $100 for 3 days with automatic transmission…hoping to avoid my Turkey incident) east and head towards the Blythe River Canyon area.  This is one of the largest canyons in the world and has amazing waterfalls and geological structures.  I will end up in the town of Hazyview near Kruger park.

Day 2: Go on an all-day safari of Kruger park.  There’s a hostel I contacted that will take you out, park fees included (they’re actually quite expensive!) for R7-800.  Pricy, but it saves me driving for a day and there’s a guide to point things out.

Day 3: Go on a morning tour or bush walk.  Same price.  Then in the afternoon/early evening head back to Johannesburg for my flight ’round midnight….to Beijing!