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TapTheForwardAssist
Apr 9, 2007

by R. Guyovich


I'm currently living and working in Liberia, West Africa, and it looks like I'll have a gap of a month or two between gigs starting in February. I've had a number of these gaps in the last couple years since I quit my 9-5 job, and had similar gaps in the past after I got out of the military. For those "I have nowhere in particular to be, I'll just move somewhere interesting" stages, in the past I've done St John's (Newfoundland), New Orleans, Quebec City, Savannah, Berlin, and Porto (Portugal), and all those places ended up being pretty cool. Some I bounced to briefly and ended up staying a couple months, others I set out with the intent to buckle down there for a month or two since it seems a healthier habit that just backpacking endlessly for months.

For this Feb-April-ish 2016 gap I'm thinking Capetown since the climate will be cool but not cold, I've never been anywhere else in Africa except Liberia, and it'll have some of the upsides that being in Europe/US/Australia would have while still being a different cultural experience (good food/drinks, museums, concerts, etc). And to be perfectly frank it'll be a relief to live somewhere where I'm not automatically the only white guy on the block at any given moment, will feel good not to always stick out in a crowd.

My thought is to fly down on Air Maroc, and have a by-month lodging set up with AirBnB. I might make a few side-trips (Windhoek, in particular, might even rent a car and road-trip it) but I want to be actually semi-settled somewhere instead of just bouncing around ZA. A few questions:

- What are some artsy/hip parts of town I should look into finding an AirBnB in? I'm a single 35yr old guy involved in a lot of foreign affairs work and in art and music projects, so it'd be cool to live somewhere walkable where there are cultural venues, good for bicycling, interesting people to meet, etc.

- optimally I'd like to find some shared apartment with some artist/musician/tech-geek types on AirBnB, which I've had work out pretty well in Canada and in Portugal before. Or would advertising looking for a room on Gumtree or Craigslist be an easier way to find a 1-2 month stay in a shared apartment?

- I hear Capetown is good for public transportation, yes? How is it for bicycling? Separate bike lanes, good culture for it, etc? Despite the huge mountains, the main parts of town look reasonably flat, are single-speed bikes okay or do you really need gears?

- Any absolute "can't miss" experiences for the longer-staying tourist who's here for multiple weeks? I'll read up more on cultural events, volunteer opportunities, etc. to see what I can slide into, and what hobbies of mine might fit into the area. Fortunately the cold local waters thing doesn't bug me since I can go to the beach whenever I want in Liberia, so I'm kinda beached-out and looking forward to doing more cityscape stuff.


Those are my main initial questions, but I'm open to any other helpful ideas for whatever you call this thing I do; "long stay tourist" or something? I'm a US citizen so as I understand it I get 90 days on a tourist visa which should be plenty. I'll probably buy a one-way ticket, but if advisable I can get a letter from my employer saying "he's on vacation waiting for his next gig, we'll fly him to Turkey or Senegal or whatever before the 90 day mark, we just don't know where yet, so chill".

I've heard Capetown is amazing, so I'm pretty stoked.

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BlueBull
Jan 21, 2007


Disclaimer: Looking at your questions, you and me are fundamentally very different people, and I hence can't help with a lot of the cultural / art / music / dirty hippy stuff.

Nevertheless, as no one else is posting, I'll give you some info on areas I am a bit more clued up about.

In terms of weather, Cape Town in Feb will be absolutely awesome, it's my favorite time to be there by far as the tourist hordes are gone, wind isn't so harsh and you still got proper summer sun.

Cape Town has the best public transport system of any major city in South Africa, and the Red Bus hop on/off system is great to get around for tourists. Cycling lanes etc are available in some areas, but I wouldn't consider it as a primary mode of transport for a whole lot of reasons. Essentially, as a cyclist, you never have right of way, people will gently caress with you for the sake of loving with you, and so on.

Also, if you were to cycle at night to get around the city for an extended period of time, you'll eventually end up in a life-changing (-ending) situation.

Instead of hiring a car in Windhoek and driving to Cape Town, I strongly recommend hiring a car in Cape Town and doing the garden route or something. WDH to CPT is a long, poo poo drive.

If you're into volunteering etc, I think there's a lot of opportunities in this regard in the Eastern Cape (which is a very poor region), so maybe consider spending some time in Cape Town and then doing a trip towards that side? As a matter of fact, if you have the time (say a month), maybe consider driving Cape Town to Durban along the coast, stopping wherever you feel like? You'd see some of the best the country has to offer in terms of natural beauty, meet awesome people and so on.

Blut
Sep 11, 2009


disclaimer: I'm not from Cape Town but I have spent a fair bit of time there as a medium-term tourist and absolutely love the city, so I can field a few of your questions. I've seen some CT locals post in other South Africa threads here, so one might wander by sooner or later hopefully.

TapTheForwardAssist posted:

- What are some artsy/hip parts of town I should look into finding an AirBnB in? I'm a single 35yr old guy involved in a lot of foreign affairs work and in art and music projects, so it'd be cool to live somewhere walkable where there are cultural venues, good for bicycling, interesting people to meet, etc.

Long Street is the mainstream bar area, roughly equivalent to Bourbon Street in New Orleans. Lots of tourists, but also locals at weekends. Just up from it is Kloof Street, which is more hipster and local - think of it as Frenchman Street. Over the hill is Clifton, which is where you get the "jetset" type nightlife. Clifton also has great beaches. I'd recommend Kloof Street if you're into art/music/hipster stuff, since you've said you're not too pushed on the beach front.

This is fairly accurate:



quote:

- Any absolute "can't miss" experiences for the longer-staying tourist who's here for multiple weeks? I'll read up more on cultural events, volunteer opportunities, etc. to see what I can slide into, and what hobbies of mine might fit into the area. Fortunately the cold local waters thing doesn't bug me since I can go to the beach whenever I want in Liberia, so I'm kinda beached-out and looking forward to doing more cityscape stuff.

In no particular order:
- Drinking on Kloof St / Long St
- Climb the Lions Head
- Catch the cable car to the top of Table Mountain
- Drive up Signal Hill and watch the sunset
- Drive south to Chapman's Peak
- Go to the penguin sanctuary at Boulder Beach
- Go to the Cape of Good Hope
- Go surfing on Muizenberg beach
- Drive to the wine country and do wine tasting - Stellenbosch is great
- Catch a ferry to Robben Island and visit the museum
- Go on safari (it won't be as good as Kruger, but still better than almost anywhere else in the world)
- Go diving in a shark cage
- Check out the V&A waterfront
- Have lunch in Company Gardens near Long Street
- Visit the military museum in the Castle of Good Hope (near the CBD)
- Drive up the garden route
- Hang out on the beaches in Clifton
- Go to a professional rugby game (the Western Stormers are the local team) or some cricket
- Go to some local gigs by Afrikaans music artists
- Visit the Kirstenbosch botanic gardens

There are probably lots more, but they were just the ones off the top of my head. Cape Town is possibly the most stunning place I've ever been to. The locals are also extremely friendly. With the Rand depreciating massively its also going to be very cheap for you. Its a great place to spend a month.

I probably wouldn't recommend renting a car for the entire duration of your stay if you stay somewhere with lots of things in walking distance like Kloof Street. But its definitely required for a lot of the medium distance touristing on the above list - Chapmans Peak, Boulder beach etc. So I'd say do rent one for a few days here or there.

I would add in a word of warning about safety but if you're coming from Liberia I would guess you have your head screwed on OK - you won't go wandering around late at night by yourself while drunk etc. The safety concerns in Cape Town are somewhat overblown by people, I think. If you treat it as you would any other developing world city you'll be fine.

Blut fucked around with this message at Jan 24, 2016 around 17:15

TapTheForwardAssist
Apr 9, 2007

by R. Guyovich


Got some excellent suggestions, thanks! And the map is pretty clever and clarifying. I'll just have to do some googling to figure out whether I want to AB&B a place in "Hipsters" or "Artists".

Off your list, I'm not so much a nature/penguins/sharks guy but the food/drink/art/museum ideas sound great.

Looks like if I want a side trip to Windhoek, better to take a short flight (or train)? I'll need to puzzle what driving stuff I want to do outside of the city (I hate driving within cities so glad that's avoidable). Though this is kind of a weird goal, since I have a weird list for a Suzuki Jimny (like a tiny Jeep) for my West Africa work, and the Jimny is popular in ZA, I may pop in to some off-roader website to see if there's anyone outside of town willing to take me out off-roading with him while he's mucking around if I give him some beer and meal after. Just want to see how a competent Jimny driver gets around and how that kind of rig would serve my purposes. Other than off-roading experience out of professional interest, I'm really most inclined to doing city stuff since I've been mucking around in and out of the bush the last couple months.

Thanks for the safety comments, always good to get a feel for the area, and I'll read up more on it. Either I'm less dumb than I look, or I've had staggering good luck living in some rough patches of the US, Latin America, and a few war zones. Will just have to wrap my head around the differences between Liberia and ZA crime so I don't misapply the wrong techniques or get cocky. Is police harassment of foreigners a big thing in ZA like it is here, is a white guy who looks foreign subject to a lot of shakedowns? I get out of a lot of police hassles here by pulling the vet card since these people adore US Marines, but that's not a popular status in most of the rest of the world.

Looking forward to buying good beer with a cheap rand.

Saladman
Jan 12, 2010


TapTheForwardAssist posted:

Looks like if I want a side trip to Windhoek, better to take a short flight (or train)? I'll need to puzzle what driving stuff I want to do outside of the city (I hate driving within cities so glad that's avoidable). Though this is kind of a weird goal, since I have a weird list for a Suzuki Jimny (like a tiny Jeep) for my West Africa work, and the Jimny is popular in ZA, I may pop in to some off-roader website to see if there's anyone outside of town willing to take me out off-roading with him while he's mucking around if I give him some beer and meal after. Just want to see how a competent Jimny driver gets around and how that kind of rig would serve my purposes. Other than off-roading experience out of professional interest, I'm really most inclined to doing city stuff since I've been mucking around in and out of the bush the last couple months.

Why are you so interested in Windhoek if you don't mind me (probably us) asking? My in-laws are originally from there and—from what I understand, I haven't visited—it's not the world's most exciting place, even if you have family there. There are some sites like Sossusvlei which aren't too far given distances in southern Africa, but Windhoek itself is an unremarkable small town. IIRC them getting a modern cinema a few years ago was a big deal.

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Blut
Sep 11, 2009


I should probably have added with the map; Kloof Street is the center of 'hipsters' and Long Street 'Tourists'.

I haven't been to Namibia yet but I've heard good things about it. Beautiful scenery and some cool sports like sand boarding. It's definitely a flight to get to though. There are far nicer drives around Cape Town you should do instead (the garden route, or up to the wine country around Stellenbosch etc).

I'm not hugely into nature stuff either but the scenery in some of those places is really absolutely stunning. I travel a lot and I've never been anywhere with better scenery. I'd say have a Google of some of them and see if any appeal to you.

I've never had any problems with the police in SA. They're a lot closer to an American police force from a poorer part of the US than anything I've experienced anywhere else in the developing world. Underfunded, a bit inefficient, and undermanned, but not so much corrupt like you find in many other countries. Probably not far off another Louisiana comparison, actually.

The main safety concern is just crime - theft, muggings, carjackings, property invasion etc. Property crime is just blind luck so you can't do much about it, but rates in SA are a lot higher than in developed countries, so its something to be aware of. Most housing will have much more security than you're used to from the US, though, which helps counteract this somewhat.

Muggings/carjackings you just have to be aware of your surroundings - have you ventured into a bad area, are people eyeballing you etc. Its the kind of thing where I'd worry a bit about a middle-aged person who's never left the 1st world before, but from the sounds of it you're a young enough guy with decent life experience so I think you'll be absolutely fine.

I think coming from Liberia you're going to find CT an almost American level of development/safety. I'm really labouring the New Orleans comparisons here (mostly because you mentioned having lived there, and I've also spent a decent amount of time there) but Cape Town's safety level/negative reputation is kinda similar. People think NOLA is super dangerous, and sure it is a bit more dangerous than most other developed world cities. But it's not exactly the wild west, a bit of common sense goes very far. The same thing applies in Cape Town.

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