Month two of lockdown. I haven’t gone this long without traveling in seemingly forever. As much as I’d like to keep pushing out content and travel guides, it’s a bit difficult to find the inspiration when you know no one’s going to be able to travel for at least a few more months. What’s keeping the travel bug alive has been looking through and re-editing old photos with new eyes.
Perhaps that’s been the biggest blessing of this time in quarantine, at least for me. I’m used to traveling at such a nonstop pace that I often don’t have time to process or truly appreciate the moment while I’m there. Most people will go on a week-long holiday and then have that fluttery feeling stay with them for the following weeks. I’ll wrap up one adventure and by the following day or two, be off on yet another adventure. I’ve been looking through old photos and asking myself if I was really even there. Some of the places seem so foreign to me, and at age 25, I definitely shouldn’t already be losing my memory.
I’m going to take this time in lockdown to relive some of those adventures and try to really capture what those moments were like. It’s going to be fun, digging deep into the crevasses of my memory and really forcing myself to go back in time and smell the roses that I may have missed. I’m doing this for me, as these types of posts aren’t the typical money-making, SEO-fueled, affiliate-link-riddled blogs that rake in traffic from curious travelers. The odds of you reading this are very slim, but if you’re here, thanks for coming along for the ride.
Welcome to my Travel Stories From Lockdown series.
Part 2: Chasing Sunsets In Cape Town
I was on a hiking binge. It was meant to be my last week in Cape Town, and so far I had hiked nearly every day of the week. There were over 200 hiking trails in and around Cape Town and there was no way I was leaving without putting forward my best effort at conquering all of them. I had already wrapped up a hike around Table Mountain and the Uber pulled into our apartment outside of Cape Town. A long night of relaxation and recovery was afoot.
Or so I thought. I looked outside from our balcony, a perfect little patio with a clear view of Table Mountain, Lion’s Head, and the ocean. Despite having seen this view every day for the last month, something was different about it. Table Mountain was wrapped in clouds, weaving about in magical, spindly movements. The high winds made it seem like a conveyor belt of cotton candy.
Ding. I got a text from my friend. He had never hiked up Lion’s Head, and asked if I wanted to go. I looked outside. It did look amazing. But my friend, a local South African, said that she didn’t think it was a good idea. The winds were quick and the clouds were moving quickly. While it may have looked a beautiful view now, by the time we got into town, Lion’s Head might be entirely engulfed in clouds.
She had a point. The wind can be notorious and dangerous, especially hiking Lion’s Head where you are exposed to the elements and have to deal with your fair share of tricky inclines. Besides, we were at least 40 minutes away from the trailhead of Lion’s Head. Sure, it was clear now but a lot could happen in that time.
I had already finished a hike that day and should have just gave in and hopped in the shower. But I was hesitant. And every minute we hesitated was another minute less of daylight that we would have. You don’t make unforgettable memories by wondering “what if?”
Forgive me, but I still unironically say yolo. Yolo.
The Uber pulled up to the apartment and we prayed that the 5 PM Cape Town traffic wouldn’t be too severe. It was a race against the clock, with daylight growing thinner and thinner as the minutes ticked by. As we closed in on Cape Town, the sheer majesty of Table Mountain and Lion’s Head were awe-inspiring. Lion’s Head had a halo of clouds wrapped around it. Table Mountain was topped in a layer of thick, quickly-moving clouds. As of now, they had remained on Table Mountain and left Lion’s Head relatively cover free.
We reached the trailhead. I’d done Lion’s Head twice before, and each time took me at least 45 minutes. Even with the endless photo stops this time around, we clocked in at just under 30 minutes. We cut it close, but our timing could not have been more perfect.
The hike up was as difficult as always, yet I felt light enough for the wind to carry me as I raced up to the summit. Throw in the reward of an incredible sunset and I could probably beat Usain Bolt in a sprint. Okay, that might be too far of a stretch. But this sunset was clearly going to be special, and I wasn’t going to let tired legs hold me back from anything. The typical golden hour traffic jam to the top of Lion’s Head didn’t even phase me.
Why wouldn’t people want to go see a sunset like this? The vibe at the top was electric. There was a palpable buzz as you could feel and sense the wonder shared by everyone at the top.
Lion’s Head is one of my favorite sunset spots in the world. Behind you, Table Mountain in its stoic and unwavering watch over Cape Town. Look ahead and the vastness of the ocean meets your eye. At sunset, the ocean is especially magical. Look to your left and Camp’s Bay and the other coastal neighborhoods sit in their shining beauty alongside the shimmering sea. And then of course, the city of Cape Town itself to your right. Table Mountain, Signal Hill, and Lion’s Head all slope gently down as the city settles into the flatness of a bowl by the bay. The panoramic views are unbeatable, rivaling even that of Table Mountain, which was named one of the World’s Seven Natural Wonders.
It was dark by the time we made it down. We had maybe five minutes at the top before golden hour transitioned into the early stages of night. Was racing into town and sprinting up a mountain really worth those few minutes at the top? No doubt. Those moments make you feel alive, and the chase is just as much of an adventure as the destination.
This short hike still stands out in my memories as the most exciting sunset chase of my travels. Reading through this post, it doesn’t even begin to capture the thrill of that adventure. The race against time, the awe as we approached the city, and the electricity at the summit are all feelings that one would have had to experienced to feel the adrenaline that coursed through our veins during those hours.