Hiking with Lions: An Active Trip to Cape Town

Cape Town is a city that loves the outdoors.  While other places may attract visitors with fancy shopping and trendy clubs, Cape Town prefers to keep it natural.  She shows off her beaches, mountains and countryside whenever the opportunity arises.  In fact, the Mother City is a place that inspires you to take in the Great Outdoors.

Hiking is an ever-popular pursuit among Cape Town’s active visitors and residents.  There’s no shortage of windy paths through the Helderberg or Cederberg Mountains.  In fact, mountains are so predominant that Table Mountain is practically synonymous with the city.  But perhaps the best hike of all is up Lion’s Head, Cape Town’s “little” mountain.

Compared to Table Mountain, Lion’s Head looks unimpressive.  The views from the top, however, are anything but.  The trek up Lion’s Head is something that can be done in just a few hours, as opposed to the full day commitment other mountains demand.  You might hear that it’s more of a walk than a hike, but this is an understatement.  It’s a real hike that gives you a chance to test out your rock climbing skills if you choose, or opt for the gentler path around the top.

The beauty of Lion’s Head is the 360 degree look at Cape Town it provides.  As you make your way to the top, you alternate between views of the Twelve Apostles mountain range over Camps Bay, the shiny water surrounding Robben Island and the slick skyscrapers of downtown – all the elements that make up this complex town.  And once you reach the tip of the Lion, it’s Cape Town views on steroids!

So, go on.  Book your flights to Cape Town and enjoy Cape Town’s outdoors!

Top Ten (Underrated )Things to Do in Cape Town

It’s no secret that Cape Town is a great city to visit.  Once again it was voted the top travel destination in the world by TripAdvisor.  It’s been named the World Design Capital for 2014 and its centerpiece, Table Mountain, has officially become one of the New Seven Wonders of the World.   There’s a lot going on here.

But while travel blogs and travel guides may sing their hymns of Camps Bay, Long Street and the V & A Waterfront, there are far more things to do in Cape Town that seem to slip under the radar.  Here are ten of the best, most underrated things to do on your next trip to the Mother City.

Blouberg Beach

Skip the high prices of Camps Bay beach and head west to Blouberg.  It’s all of a 15 minute drive from the city centre and, once you’re there, you’ll have one of the longest beaches in the country to yourself.  Blouberg Beach not only runs uninterrupted for miles, it’s also got that quintessential postcard view of Table Mountain.  There’s a paved path that runs most of the way along it that’s perfect for biking, rollerblading or skateboarding.  Forget the crowds of Clifton beach, Blouberg is a laid back beach where it’s not uncommon to walk for twenty minutes without seeing anyone else.  Small bakeries, restaurants and bars are tucked in here and there and charge half the price of places on the other side of town.

Wine Farms

Ok, the wine farms of Cape Town are not exactly a secret.  In fact, they’re a major draw for tourists from around the world.  But the secret is that visiting a wine farm does not have to be an expensive, tour bus affair.  The roads in and around Cape Town are well maintained and renting a car is easy.  Once you’re away from the tour guide inflated prices, you’ll find that Cape Town wine farms are cheap to visit.  In fact, many of them, especially on your way to Hermanus, are completely free.  Others, like Alluvia in Franschhoek subtract the cost of the tasting from any wine bottles that you choose to buy.  And you don’t need a guide to show you around.  Most wine farms offer complimentary maps of the surrounding farms and will give you honest recommendations on which to visit.


No, not the one in Pennsylvania.  In fact, this Philadelphia couldn’t be more different.  The tiny farming town of Philadelphia lies just outside of Cape Town – about a half hour’s drive from the center of town.  It’s a picture perfect place, surrounded by green rolling hills (that are covered in wild flowers in the spring).  It’s also a Mecca for art lovers.  The two streets that make up the town are loaded with the work of local artists.  The few quirky restaurants serve homemade pancakes and delicious tea.  This is the perfect place to spend a weekend morning.


Melkbos is the place to be for seafood lovers, surfers and visitors who want to break from the norm.  Melkbos is a small town just west of Cape Town that remains true to its (largely Afrikaanse) South African roots.  Instead of hotels and fancy bars, you find seaside-cottages-turned- restaurants.  The hugely long beach offers one of the best surf spots in the area.  And, it seems impossible to leave without meeting at least half the locals.

Simon’s Town

There’s more to Simon’s Town than penguins.

Most travel guides will mention Simon’s Town as a great place for lunch after you visit Cape Point.  However Simon’s Town is more than just a pass-through spot.  Aside from its famous African penguins (which are hot on the tourist map), Simon’s Town is a real, traditional South African town that’s worth visiting for a few days.  The little cafes are more than just cute – they’re filled with patrons who have lived in town their whole lives.  This is an area of Cape Town that forces you to slow down.

Water Activities

For a city that’s surrounded by the ocean, there aren’t many tourists who come here for the water.  That’s because the water in Cape Town is sent up straight from the Arctic.  It’s cold.  Really cold.  But if you can find a wetsuit and brave the waves, you’ll find that Cape Town waters are some of the best in the world for surfing, diving and kite boarding.  In fact, Blouberg Beach is considered the world’s best kite boarding spot.


Woodstock is an area in a constant state of change.  What was recently a don’t-go-there zone has quickly become a popular place for artists, collectors and coffee drinkers.  Aside from the acclaimed Saturday market at the Old Biscuit Mill, Woodstock can easily keep you entertained with its array of small sandwich shops and espresso bars.  It’s also the place to find designer chairs made from old suitcases, lamps made from old typewriters and paper machete sculptures of lion.  It’s definitely worth checking out.

Camps Bay in Winter

Camps Bay is a must-see in all travel guides about Cape Town.  Problem is, it knows it’s cool.   Prices are high, beaches are crowded and there’s an unofficial fancy dress code.  But in winter, after most tourists have headed home, a different sort of Camps Bay emerges.  This less congested Camps Bay allows you to take in the stunning scenery – the backdrop of the Twelve Apostles Mountains and the front view of the gorgeous sea.  It’s a place where the locals come out of hiding (in more casual clothing) and where most of the restaurants along the strip change over to their much less expensive winter menus.

Artscape Theatre

Right in the center of town, conveniently next to a public bus stop, is the Artscape Theatre.   From the outside it’s not the most impressive building, but inside you’ll find internationally renowned theatre for next to nothing.  You can watch big names like Jesus Christ Superstar and Phantom of the Opera for about R150 (that’s less than $20!).  Sure, you could see them at home, but for less than that?

Cederberg Mountains

This one’s cheating.  Melkbos and Philadelphia might be just outside of Cape Town, but the Cederberg Mountains are a little drive.  Still, if you have an extra day, they’re worth it.  The Cederberg Mountains begin about an hour outside of Cape Town.  They’re a beautiful place to hike, explore and discover real Bushmen paintings.  The only other tourists you’ll find there are South Africans, since most international tourists flock to the Drakensberg.  This means you will pretty much have the whole place to yourself.  There are plenty of places to camp, cottage and even a few luxury resorts scattered around that are just tempting to you to go visit.

Make your next trip to Cape Town one that strays from the beaten path.


The New City of Marrakech

When people think of Marrakech, the images that tend to spring to mind are those of ancient buildings, bustling markets and an old and exotic culture.

Snake Charmer in Marrakech

What you may not know is that in recent years the Gueliz area has been developing a reputation for fantastic dining, stylish bars and modern shopping to rival the historical charms of the medina, or old city.  While the attractions of the medina make Marrakech a fantastic travel destination, the cosmopolitan delights of Gueliz have a charm all of their own.

A world away from the narrow alleyways and towering spires of the medina, Gueliz is all about glitz and glamour and boasts a surprising array of sights and sounds for visitors to discover. Eating out in this area is always a pleasure, with the traditional restaurants of the medina giving way to a more modern approach to Moroccan cuisine that has allowed several high-end fusion restaurants to flourish. Place de Liberte MarrakechHere visitors can enjoy French, Italian and Spanish cuisine within a few blocks of each other, all just a short distance away from the historic attractions of the old city. Cafe culture also thrives in Gueliz, with countless establishments offering tempting food and drink at very reasonable prices.

On a sunny day, there’s nothing better than finding a spot at a pavement cafe at Place de la Liberte or Place du Novembre and watching the world go by with a pot of speciality tea.

Gueliz is also well known as a top shopping destination, with everything from designer stores to craft emporiums tempting visitors away from the medina and towards the charms of the new city. Rue de la Liberte is the place for picking up big-name brands and artisan textiles in Morocco, while Avenue Mohammed V has plenty of shops selling more traditional souvenirs such as leather goods
and traditional art.

Upscale Restaurant in MarrakechAnother element which puts Gueliz streets ahead in terms of attractions for tourists is its fantastic nightlife. While the medina is the focus for cosy evening meals and night time strolls through romantic alleys, Gueliz is fast becoming known as an exciting destination for those who want their night out to pack a bit more of a punch. The hub of the city’s nightlife is Avenue Mohammed V – the main road connecting Gueliz to the Medina – and countless bars, discos and clubs are dotted along the road catering for every taste. From loud electronic dance clubs to sports bars and live
music venues, the new quarter of Marrakech ensures this ancient city has plenty to offer even the most modern of tourists.

Author: Claire is an experienced travel writer and blogger with a keen interest in city breaks and exotic getaways.

Thanks to Claire for today’s guest post.  If you’re interested in guest posting with IShouldLogOff, email us at info [at] ishouldlogoff.com.  Thanks!

Diarrhea + Ethiopia = Worst Day Ever

A fellow traveler once told us a story of wetting herself on an Indian train for fear of losing her seat and all her belongings. Another traveler recounted a tale of two horrendous days on a bus, stopping the driver every hour to relieve himself. He was later diagnosed with cholera.

IMGP1165This is that type of story, the type that takes time to be able to tell; to see the humor in what was both extremely dangerous and embarrassing all at the same time. This is the kind of thing that happens to all of us on the road, the memories we loathe and relish at the same time, but can almost never ever talk about. It has taken me a few months, but this is my travel illness story.

Disclaimer:  This story should is long and should not be read by anyone with an affinity for plant life, or over any meal.

During a brief excursion to the eastern Ethiopian city of Harar, Jill and I hired a local guide who we invited to eat with us after our tour. We asked him to chose a very authentic restaurant. To order, Jill walked to the front of the shop and actually select the cut of meat right off the actual slab of meat. As she ordered, I held the table and ordered 5 cent beers. The men sitting next to me offered me some of their meal, uncooked beef, I politely declined and opted instead to share a drink.

Several hours later I felt a rumble in my tummy. This is nothing uncommon in Africa, especially not in Ethiopia, and I went running (but with clenched cheeks) all the way back to the hotel. Jill, in close pursuit, saw the humor in the situation and laughed as I paused periodically to ensure no ‘leakage.’ To be fair, this sort of moment isn’t exactly infrequent on the road. We made it back to the room safely and as I flushed the toilet I became aware of two realities: both the water and the electricity were out of service. TIA, I thought, this is Africa.

IMGP9340Over the next few hours things got much worse and I went far beyond the usual roto router pipe cleaning. At first I only went to the bathroom once or twice, nothing major, but then I crawled into bed and simply could not get out from under the covers. I was shivering and thrashing about so violently that my body was actually getting ‘air’ off the mattress, enough to make both Michael Jordan and Ron Jeremy jealous. As luck would have it, we had left most of our belongings, including antibiotics and our assortment of fever reducers and stomach drugs, in Addis Ababa with friends, figuring we wouldn’t need much more than a change of clothes for the two day trip to Harar. All I had to do was make it through the night- we were already booked for a bus back to Addis Ababa the next morning at 5 a.m. We both decided that unless the fever didn’t break, which it did soon thereafter, we would avoid the local hospital and seek help back in Addis.

Intermittent utilities are not all that uncommon in Africa, especially away from the capital cities and we had been warned about the possibility by the front desk upon check-in. By all accounts it hadn’t been lunch with the guide that made me sick (Jill was perfectly fine), rather some undercooked chicken from the night before that I hadn’t been able to see. That’s right, the electricity was out.

IMGP2337Somehow I managed to drink some Sprite and water and rather quickly the high fever subsided and I was left with only some awful diarrhea. Eventually I was able to get out of bed and spend two minutes out of every 20 on the can. A good thing for sure as ‘getting it out’ is generally viewed as progress in these sorts of things and ‘getting it out’ somewhere other than your own bed is generally viewed as success. By these simple measures I was suddenly a very successful man; but success, like all things, wanes with time. I was feeling much better though, and it was clear the worst of it was over. The fever had largely broken, I wasn’t shaking violently, and I managed to send Jill against her protests to feed a few hyenas.

By the time Jill returned to the hotel an hour later, power had returned and we were in the daily 2 hour window of running water which allowed her run a few laps up and down the hall with a 20 gallon bucket of water to “force flush” the toilet. Ahhh, good times. Eventually she went to sleep but I did not. I was awake and in and out of the bathroom about every 5-10 minutes and even with a ‘full bucket,’ water was still in limited supply and I actually had to ration my flushes, eventually settling on a ratio of 2-3 bathroom trips to one flush. Thanks to the returned electricity I was able to occupy myself while in the bathroom by playing ‘wack-a-mole’ with cockroaches when they came within striking distance. We had actually chosen one of the nicer places in town, it had a front desk and even a restaurant. This was one of the most expensive places in town….and government run as well.

It was a restless night but eventually it was time to get to the bus. I changed into the only fresh set of clothes I had with me before spending another 20 minutes making sure the pipes were clear. Feeling confident, we headed out down the ‘main’ street to the departure point. Luckily we had purchased tickets for the nice bus, we did that even before I got sick, and it had a bathroom. I just had to make it the 20 minutes to the bus and I was in the clear.

As we were walking, my previous success began to wane. At first I thought it was nothing but then the familiar rumble in my stomach got strong and the fart that I thought I was having quickly grew legs. As I dropped my pants the stream of water continued to flow unabated, as if Lake Meade was suddenly freed of the Hoover Dam. It was a powerful force of nature destroying all plant life in its path…..in this case some nice grasses planted as the road’s median. Luckily there was enough darkness to hide me, practically naked, from the runner enjoying his morning jog a mere 30 meters away. My success was gone, my internal housing bubble had burst, and I had foreclosed on any amount of pride I had managed to collect for myself.

We made it to the bus a few, very short and red-faced minutes later. I climbed on and went straight for the bathroom. Locked. Ethiopia strikes again. It was as though I was 14 and I was turned down by a girl for the 8th grade dance. Part of me knew I would survive but it felt like the end of the world as I knew it. Instead of praising love’s sweet sorrows however, my body was so physically exhausted and drained that, miraculously, I fell asleep.

I was doing much better though, able to last several hours between each rest stop. At lunch I found that I was thankful for having already had so much practice with squat toilets, having an easier time ‘aiming’ at the squatter despite the fact that I was aiming in sheer darkness. At one of several ‘side of the road’ bathroom breaks however, I took a little too long and it was Jill, clearly the hero of this story, (she handled the hand-laundry with us back in Addis with me sound asleep) who managed to stop the bus and have it wait for me to finish. I was already walking back to the bus but was moving a bit slower than might have been expected.

The reason for that slow movement was actually our first bathroom break from the bus. Another ‘side of the road’ with a cliff-side replacing the the usual privacy of trees and rocks, I walked from the bus as far as I could, knowing that I’d be having the same Number 1 as everyone else….just out the wrong end. As the flood gates opened, I inched myself forward, away from the carnage behind me until I could not ‘inch’ anymore as a thorn bush had completely engulfed my pants and underwear from all sides.

For the remaining 6 hours of the ride, I sat with burs piercing my butt….because I clearly hadn’t had a bad enough day as it was. I’m not sure exactly how that ending of this story becomes a moral, but I’m pretty sure the moral is in there somewhere.

Malaria: Our Decision

If you think something small can’t make a difference in life, think of a mosquito. One sleepless night, ruined picnic or one sore arm, a single mosquito can be the cause of so many of life’s displeasure’s. Unfortunately for travelers and many in the developing world, it is a little more serious. Mosquitoes carry two serious vector borne diseases: dengue and malaria. While there’s no vaccine or cure for dengue, there are chemical prophylaxis to help prevent malaria.

We’ve gotten a lot of questions over the last 16 months about malaria medications and we’ve asked plenty ourselves. Here’s how we came to our decision.

To drug or not to drug, that is the question.

The ever growing global discussion on vaccines, use of pharmaceuticals and immunizations is alive and well in the world of travel. We met several long-term backpackers in South America who took no prophylaxis against malaria. On the other hand, we didn’t meet a single traveler in Africa not using a chemical prophylaxis. To put that in perspective consider this: approximately 90% of deaths due to malaria occur in Sub-Saharan Africa.

We began researching our options and speaking with our doctors regarding the different drugs. We wanted to take a chemical prophylaxis for a few reasons: 1) we didn’t want to get malaria, 2) we believe that the potential side effects of the drugs are less damaging than the disease itself and 3) we did not want to contribute to the spread of malaria across regions. Spreading Malaria is no joke, if we were to be infected with a particular strand in one region we risk spreading that strand to another region when we travel there. In some countries malaria accounts for over half of hospital admissions and public health spending. We try to be responsible in our travels and for us we didn’t want to take the chance that we could carry a new strand to a previously unaffected region.

We based our decision on where we would be, the potential side-effects and the convenience of the drugs. We knew we didn’t want to carry a daily drug with us, the storage space aside, its never good to show up at a land border carting around boxes of pills. Also, we wanted to take a drug that’s effective in nearly every region on our itinerary. I wish I could say my regular doctor was helpful in leading the discussion about the options, but she unfortunately was not. Although Danny’s doctor was more willing to educate himself on the possible side-effects and have an informative discussion with him, I think the situation I faced is probably more normal. If your regular doctors is unfamiliar speak with someone at a travel clinic who can guide you through the options.

Besides taking a chemical prophylaxis, we also bought an insecticide treated mosquito net. Although most places we slept in had mosquito nets, it was good to have our own for the few places that didn’t.

The Options

There are several chemical prophylaxis options on the market. You should discuss with your doctor which one is best considering your time frame, travel locations, risk of transmission and medical history. No matter your choice you should always take precautions against mosquito bites, especially dusk to dawn when transmission occurs.

COST: inexpensive
AREAS: Central America
OUR EXPERIENCE: 5 months in Central America, no problems.
COST: inexpensive
AREAS: South America, Asia and Africa
OUR EXPERIENCE: None. Doxycycline was impractical for us, it upsets Danny’s stomach and we didn’t want to carry 365 or more doxycycline pills each. We’ve met several travelers taking this and the most commonly side effect seems to be sun-sensitivity. An added benefit of Doxycycline is that because it is an antibiotic, it also helps when you come across a questionable meal or two. If we had trouble with Lariam this would have probably been our backup.
Lariam (Generic: Mefloquine)
COST: expensive
AREAS: South America, Asia and Africa
OUR EXPERIENCE: Lariam is probably the most controversial anti-malarial on the market. We took Lariam for several consecutive months in South America, Africa and Asia and have experienced no negative side effects. For us this was the most practical choice: weekly, effective and not as outrageously expensive as Malarone.
COST: very expensive
AREAS: South America, Asia and Africa
OUR EXPERIENCE: None. We’ve met other short-term travelers taking it. Most frequent complaint we hear is the cost. For us this drug was impractical because of cost and frequency; too many pills to carry and too expensive at that.


Several promising vaccines are under development around the world, however none has yet been proven to develop immunity to the disease. You cannot build up immunity to malaria by drinking the local water. Seriously. People with sickle-cell disease or carriers of the trait have a substantial protection against malaria. Because the disease causes a deformation of the red blood cell, the malaria causing parasite attached to the red blood cell is destroyed before it has a chance to reproduce.