Awhile back, my dad and I were chatting about all the great adventures we had been on together. He had always been an advocate for travel and interesting escapades. He once took me on a week long canoe trip in the Adirondacks when I was only 9 years old, pulling off at the nearest shore at night so we could pitch a tent. While discussing what new adventure we should go on next, he suggested a long bike ride. I loved that idea, but I added a twist; "Can we do it internationally!?" He said sure, as long as I did the research and set it all up. Challenge accepted!
There was one main factor that led me to my final decision of where we would bike; we had to travel in late January. This was the time of year that worked best for our schedules. Since I didn't really imagine us riding for miles on end in the middle of winter, I aimed my eyes to the southern hemisphere, where it would be summer in January. The first country that popped into my head was South Africa.
The next step was probably the easiest. I did a quick google search of "South Africa biking tour", and a guy named Mark came up at the top of the page. I clicked on his website, Cycle The Cape and sent him an email. I gave a quick description of who were were and what we wanted to do, and he replied quickly with all the info I needed. For a good price, he said he could take us around Cape Town and it's neighboring areas for a week with a follow van, accommodation, bike rentals, and much more. And that was that! We booked Mark right away!
After all the excitement of "wow this is really happening", my sister decided she wanted to hop on the tour with us. We were now a team of 3. We all started training at home to be on the bike for hours on end, and finally we were headed off to Cape Town, South Africa.
Mark picked us up at our hotel, and we were literally off and on our way. The first day we started south to Simon's Town, where we got to see all of the local South African penguins! The following day we headed even further south. We rode all the way to the Cape of Good Hope, where I actually saw a wild Ostrich. Very strange.
The third day of biking led us to the cute town of Kalk Bay. It was very bohemian, and I loved the local small town vibes. I treated my family for dinner. We got 2 bottles of wine, three entrees, and an appetizer, all for $25USD.
Next we headed on to Stellenbosch. This whole area is known for it's wine. (So we obviously had to stop for a wine and chocolate pairing). What do most wine countries come with though? HILLS. Lots and lots of hills. On bicycles. The views were worth it though…
After Stellenbosch, we headed on over to Franschoek. The views coming into these areas are priceless, and even though it was rough at most points, it beat any view from the back seat of a car! We also had a pit stop at the prison where Nelson Mandela was last imprisoned. I actually had to use a bathroom, so they let me IN the prison to use the toilets! I got to walk in the same footsteps as Mandela as he took his first steps of freedom out of the prison, although my footsteps were not nearly as special. We had a FABULOUS dinner on top of the mountain at Dieu Donne Vineyards as we watched the sunset at feasted on Springbok, (a type of antelope). So delicious!
The last day of biking was along the coast. It was nearly 100 degrees, and as badly as I didn't want the trip to end, it was a perfect ending point. I couldn't really go on in that heat! Mark drove us back to our hotel in Cape Town, and we said our goodbyes to the best tour guide!
We stayed a bit longer in the city, and my favorite thing we ended up doing in Cape Town was visiting the neighborhood of Bo Kaap. The houses are famously painted in vibrant colors, which was a silent protest to apartheid and forced racial segregation.
All in all, this was both a luxurious trip, as well as a bit of an ass-beating. Cycling all day is HARD. But it was a totally different way to explore a country, and Mark had SO much information to share; he was basically our walking encyclopedia! At the same time, Mark structured our trip to our personal wants and needs. We didn't want to be cycling until 10pm everyday, because we also wanted to explore each town we visited. We were usually done around 3pm, then we would shower and go hit the town for dinner and exploring. South Africa was very cheap as well! But the #1 highlight everyday, was the FOOD. I never had a bad meal while visiting, not once. Everyone was extremely friendly as well. I'd definitely go back!
Shelly lives in Southern California and photographs love portraits up and down the coast, as well as all around the world. She focuses on the "in-between" moments, and is obsessed with travel. She also loves good scenery, hiking, new experiences, interesting compositions, golden hour light, and all puppies of the world.
Check her out on Instagram and her website. Read her previous travel feature here, and her 'What I Wish I Knew' feature here.