South Africa

Until now, Ive only ever been to southern Africa and Egypt, and while people miscorrectly refer to Africa or African as an entity, each corner of it is worlds apart from the next. Southern and northern Africa are completely different from western, central and Eastern, and even those broad generalisations of regions of Africa refer to 5 or 10 totally different countries. Then within each country, you’ve often got 10 to 50 local languages, a complicated history of colonisation and independence, and dramatically different landscapes and climates.

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Chapmans Peak Drive around Cape Point

When someone asks me “what’s Africa like?” I have a feeling of what they’re picturing: something between poverty, danger, disease, black faces, hot climates, dense jungle, and poor infrastructure, and its certainly not a question I can answer having only been to a few places in Africa. So far, Ive learned there is civil unrest, political instability, impenetrable wilderness, poor and sick people and a very hot sun, but only in a fraction of the continent. There’s also a lot of the opposite, and places the size of Iceland with not a singe person living or traveling through them.

Cape Point, in all its glory

There’s unbelievable wealth in South Africa, especially in Cape Town, and neighbourhoods that make me believe Im in Brisbane or Sydney, Australia. Cape Town is also cold; its only been hovering around 11 degrees celsius since I got here, with periods of torrential rainfall worse than Vancouver and windstorms that compete with the fierceness of Iceland’s climate.

Today was the first day of sun since I arrived, and I felt like a blossoming flower gravitating towards its rays for warmth, and very catlike as I curled up in the sunlight on the only edge of my bed being lit.. It also felt like a rarity since the days are only 10 hours here, from 7:30am til 5:30 pm, a big change from the 22 hr sunlight in Reykjavik I left. All the bad weather was great for my writing, since I wrote my first complete childrens story and also started brainstorming for my first book.

a 5:30 sunset from Camps Bay

I managed to have quite a few bubble baths, since Capetonians are not used to the cold and built their houses with zero insulation. You may as well wake up outside, when you crawl out of bed to a 10 degree apartment, so a hot bath is one way of warming me up, and another way to reconcile my longing for an Icelandic hotpot.

I love that Cape Town is on the sea, and on 2 seas at that – both the Atlantic and Indian Oceans battle  violently at the bottom of Cape Point, and suicidal kite surfers take advantage of the huge winds to ride waves like the adventure-seeking extremists that they are. Surfers tempt fate as they enjoy the consequential great waves, in some of the most infested Great White Shark waters in the world.

I took a tour to Seal Island, a colony of thousands of seals that hopefully keep those sharks satisfied enough not to take my leg when I surf. The thick 5mm wetsuit I wear while surfing kind of makes me feel like a flailing seal, so thats worrying. But so far, so good.

Enjoying the waves from the sandy beach shore is much more assuring, and I did that in the most amazing way possible. I went with a local guy on two, HUGE, retired racehorses to Noordhoek beach, and we virtually had the entire thing alone for us to race fullspeed and frolick in the wake of the shallow waves. My legs are certainly suffering now, but it was well worth it.

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kite surfers at Scarborough Beach

The thing I love about travel is Im always experiencing new places, new faces, and making new memories, and trying to absorb, digest, and make sense of them all is exhausting. So it doesnt help when you get trashed around by morning waves on a surfboard and your ass kicked by a monstrous horse, since mind and body recuperation simultaneously seems to happen slower.  Although, as confused as I may get, I cant even remember the names of the 11 official languages in South Africa, let alone speak any of them except english, so Im constantly refreshed by the people I meet here to keep pushing for more unfamiliarity, more novelty, and just take things in stride.

Marin County, California

sunset at bolinas beach

sunset at bolinas beach

If you cross the Golden Gate Bridge, just north of San Francisco you will find Marin County, a beautiful, sparcely populated oasis of redwoods, beach and countryside. I roadtripped with a friend north up the 101, and then went west towards Muir Beach, until finally driving along the coast up to Stinson Beach. The drive over the hills was a little trecherous, speckled with road-side grazing deer, but the small, single lane highway made it seem like we were miles and miles away from the city when we were really only about a 30 min drive away.

Once we arrived at Stinson, we tipped our hats to the (amazingly) good weather by heading straight to the beach, where kids were still swimming and surfers still catching waves, despite it being late October. There was barely a breeze, and luckily enough no fog either. We ate lunch at a locally run, organic, open-air cafe before heading out for some surf. We drove around Bolinas Lagoon to the north side of Bolinas Bay where the town, Bolinas is actually situated. We rented boards and wetsuits and spent the next 3 hours riding waves without ever feeling cold.

We welcomed the evening by settling on the beach ontop a sleeping bag we took from the Bolinas “free box,” a place where you leave or take what you dont need or have. We stayed there throughout one of the most beautiful sunsets I’ve ever seen, and on through to the darkest point of night where the only light you could see was the distant city glow of San Francisco, still within eyesight but definitely out of mind.

The following day we drove through Samuel P. Taylor Park, home to some enormous redwoods, and all the way to Pt. Reyes Lighthouse which sits at the end of Drakes Bay in Pt. Reyes National Seashore Park. Enroute we stopped in some tiny, historic towns like Pt. Reyes Station, Inverness and Olema, and dipped our toes in the sandy beaches of Drakes Beach and North Beach.

It was the perfect getaway out of the city, only a short drive away, with enough natural beauty, solitude and quietude to make us totally forget about the stresses awaiting our return home to the huslte and bustle of the bay.