Friendship is the only cement that will ever hold the world together. –- Woodrow T. Wilson
My flight back to Cape Town was early in the morning, which meant missing the final safari drive in order to catch my ride to the airport. I’d initially felt bad about it and considered asking the lodge to look into alternate flights. But after four excursions into the bush, I was ready to trade in the bouncy jeep for an Uber.
I had officially reached wildlife capacity.
I was also ready for Dempsey! I met Alex Dempsey early on in my (current) job, and we became fast friends. While she’s much younger than me, she’s smart and funny, and just easy to be around. She’s a keeper, and when she took a position at another company last year, she made good on her promise to stay in touch.
About six weeks prior to my trip, she and I went to see Jamiroquai at Forest Hills Stadium. It was pouring rain, but we had ponchos, so it didn’t matter. On our way to the show, I told Dempsey about my sabbatical plan.
“Maybe I should come and meet you in Cape Town,” she mused.
And what started as a passing “haha” moment quickly morphed into a full-fledged plan, complete with an evening in Brooklyn dedicated to mapping out what we’d do with our six days together.
I was excited to see her. It had been great to meet so many new people, but nothing says home like a familiar face. My flight from the Eastern Cape arrived first, so I wandered the terminal in search of souvenirs. We would head to Stellenbosch for two nights and then return to Cape Town for the remaining three nights.
It was weird to think that in less than a week, I’d be returning to NYC. Waiting for Dempsey gave me time to reflect on how I felt about going home. I was surprised to discover I felt nothing. I mean, of course I missed Sadie, but I've been on the road for long stretches before. And usually, by the time I'm nearing the end, I'm ready to get back to my life. I chalked it up to the fact that I still had a whole other leg of the trip to go. Going home still felt a long way off.
We found each other easily and slipped into our usual, relaxed vibe. Alex had slept on the plane, so we hit the ground running.
Thirty minutes later, we arrived at a quaint bed and breakfast in Stellenbosch. I was in love the moment I spotted the rolling hills and endless wineries. It was simply beautiful and so green!
We dropped our bags and headed into town. Stellenbosch was founded in the late 1600s by a the Dutch, which explains much of the architecture.
After wandering around for a few hours and an early dinner, we returned to the hotel ready to call it a night.
The next day was wine tasting! I’d found a hop-on-hop-off wine tour where you could visit up to ten wineries on one route. I was really looking forward to the whole winery experience. And it didn’t disappoint. The first stop was Die Bergkelder, known for its Fleur de Cap. I loved learning about the process of winemaking and touring the wine cellars.
We hit two other wineries before stopping for lunch at Delheim. This was my favorite winery, thanks to the pristine grounds with leafy trees filled with singing birds.
It was good to have company, and Dempsey was a formidable travel companion. I’d had a moment prior to the trip where I worried about how well we’d travel together. You just don’t know sometimes. Traveling together can make or break any relationship, so I was relieved that we were off to a good start.
We treated ourselves to dinner at one of the winery’s well-known restaurants. Tokara was situated high up on a hill, and the views were spectacular. And so was the food. I really don’t even know what we ate that night. I just know that is was delicious! For those of you who know me well, my commenting on how much I enjoyed any food anywhere means it had to be good, considering food isn’t really my thing.
Our time in Stellenbosch was short, but lovely. Cape Town was next where we'd spend the final few days of the trip. We had a few “must-dos” on our list that included Robben Island, where Nelson Mandela was imprisoned, dinner at one of the many hard-to-get-into restaurants and a hike up Table Mountain. Other than that, we figured we'd go where our curiosity took us.
That’s how we ended up in Muizenberg, a small beach town situated on False Bay, home to the famously colorful bathhouses. As we walked along the water, it hit me (again). I was in South Africa! Never in my life did I think I’d end up here on a random day in November. It’s not that I didn’t dream of traveling to far-off places, it was just the reality of actually being there that struck me. And I loved being near the water with the sun shining overhead and the mountains standing watch in the background.
Later that day, we’d stumbled across an airy bar that served artisanal cocktails filled with natural ingredients indigenous to the area. Dempsey and I settled in for a few drinks and at the advice of the friendly bartender, we headed over to a cool, small-plate driven restaurant just off of Bree Street.
The drinks had caught up to us, and Dempsey stepped outside while I waited for the check. When I finally paid the bill, she was nowhere to be found. I must’ve looked a little panicked, because the bouncer nodded his head to my left.
“Your friend. She went that way.”
Now, I’m not one who needs to be joined at the hip to my travel companion, but I’d heard Cape Town could get a little tricky at night. The last thing I wanted was for either of us to be wandering around, drunk, in the city.
As I searched for Dempsey, a woman, who appeared to be homeless, approached.
“Hey, Lady. You are beautiful soul. You have such light around you. You are wondrous.”
I’d never been called wondrous, and if I wasn’t trying to find my friend, I might have stopped to see if she had something to tell me. But I had bigger fish to fry. We’d finally connected, and she was back at the hotel. Relieved, I immediately ordered an Uber.
“Lady. You are so beautiful. You have such a spirit. Would you have something for me? Something to give me?”
The woman was back and getting closer. At the same time the Uber driver was calling me. As he and I tried to find each other, she just kept talking and talking.
“I’m sorry, I have nothing for you,” I finally said. “I’m trying to get a taxi.”
“You have a black heart. You’re a terrible human being. Black heart,” she began to yell.
Thankfully, my Uber arrived, and I ducked inside before her rant reached fever pitch. With Dempsey safely back at the hotel, and me tucked into the equivalent of a Toyota Camry, my first night in Cape Town turned out to be just fine.