I booked my trip to Cape Town a mere 48 hours before getting on the plane. I had no time to buy a Rough Guide and hastily Googled essentials such as currency and time zone (I know, sorry) as I threw my sunhat in the suitcase. I also gave not one single thought to how I was going to stay safe upon arrival.
With a stark disparity between rich and poor, South Africa (and that includes Cape Town) has high rates of assault, rape and murder. If you don’t believe me, check out this graphic of the World’s Most Violent Cities. Gulp. And gulp again.
Going to Cape Town without scaling the heights of Table Mountain would be rather like weekending in Paris without photographing the Eiffel Tower or long-hauling to Sydney without posing in front of the Opera House. Put simply, it’s got to be done.
As is the scourge of the modern world, you sightsee everything twice – once on TripAdvisor and once in real life. Sadly, as a solo traveller, I see the review site as a necessary evil. I’d rather be forewarned and forearmed about rancid food, belligerent staff and interminable queues, than turn up and burst into disappointed tears without a friend to console me.
After the excitement of the penguins, I was terrified I had started my Cape Town odyssey at the pinnacle and everything that followed would be a downright disappointment in comparison. I half-heartedly flicked through the ‘Cape Town Official Visitors’ Guide 2016’ over breakfast (at THE best accommodation in the northern suburbs, Cape Sunset Villas, directly on the beach with frontline views of Table Mountain) and spied a picture of a cute row of primary-coloured beach huts. Now, I love to show off a good travel photo on social media so my sights were set on tracking down the aforementioned huts – camera phone in hand (I am not responsible enough to own an actual camera with lenses and things).
At least once a year, the Daily Mail reels out a variation-on-a-theme survey on the life events that give adults most stress. In 2015-16 I managed to tick a few off: death (close family member), divorce (close family member), moving house (of deceased close family member), separation (me) and job loss (also me, at the same time as the separation; I kept the coffee machine, he kept the business – to be fair it was his in the first place, the business, not the coffee machine). I considered various coping mechanisms from dying my hair pink (new life new me!) to drowning in a barrel of vodka (“poor m,e my laife is over, i will vdie old and lonely with jusjt cats for company” thanks Drunk Post Translator) but then someone mentioned penguins. Yes penguins. And everything changed.