Cape Tour with Thorntree… from the perspective of a teacher!

My two amazing colleagues, Jenica Simpson & Maynard Vermaak
The last group photo before heading to the boarding area at Lanseria Airport
Jenica shot this beautiful image from her window seat on the Kulula departure flight
Our beautiful hotel in Cape Town – The Cullinan
Team meeting before heading off to our rooms for the night!
Waiting to get into the cable car
Tunnel walk at the I & J Ocean Exhibit
Outside the Two Oceans Aquarium with my 9 bubble kids plus one 😉
Discipline meeting – not as bad as I made it sound hey?
Beautiful Camps Bay Beach!

Day 3: Tuesday 14 September 2021:

Rise and shine, looking forward to a very interesting day ahead. Today’s itinerary set out for us the substitute to Robben Island – a boat ride to seal island!

I have never been on a boat before, nor have most of my students. Naturally, there is that worry of sea sickness, not knowing who might be affected that way and really hoping and praying that I won’t be one of them as I was so excited!

As always, we were punctual for the bus drive down to Hout Bay, and so we had an hour to explore a little around the bay area and see the boats down at the harbour. While walking around and heading back to the area to board the boat, we passed an elderly man that was dressed in uniform.

Naturally, we stopped him and asked about his attire, and he told us a beautiful story of how he arrived in this country as a little baby, he even demonstrated the sound of a boatswain’s whistle.

With a few seals plopping on and off the harbour while we waited to board the boat, half of an hour took so long to go by. Until finally, it was time to board!

Obligatory group photo!

Maynard boarded first, followed by half the students, then myself then the second half ending with Jen at the back. Almost everyone was too afraid to go sit at the bow of the boat and so at first all 28 of us were seated in the inside and towards the back of the boat where it felt more secure.

As the boat ride began I observed the kids and myself for a good 5 – 10 minutes, just to see if anyone started to have any effects yet. However I had a major distraction. Facing towards the bow, I could see an empty seat right front and I kept thinking to myself “Should I go? Should I not go?”. Within a few minutes I also thought to myself that I don’t know when I’ll get this opportunity again, so without even letting the others know, I impulsively made my way to the front. 

At first I just stood at the entrance while holding the rails on either side for support. I watched the waves crash on the starboard side of the boat for a good 5 minutes straight to see if I would have any reactions. Once I saw I was fine, I made my way forward to the open seat. The feeling of the boat riding the waves was phenomenal! I was eventually joined by a few brave students and Maynard who were keen to see what it felt like to have some of the waves splash over, the wind in your face and not forgetting the disgusting smell as we approached seal island.

Despite the smell, the view was phenomenal! Surrounded by mountains behind you, ocean waters as far as you can see and directly in front of you a little island just packed with seals of all sizes! It was so beautiful!

I’m guessing it was all the adrenaline of being on a boat and riding those waves that caused me to do things that I wouldn’t normally do without good reason. It may sound strange, but I’m not really a fan of video calls, makes me too nervous and conscious of myself. I only ever do it with my best friends and grandparents.

With all the hype and no second guessing, I video called my mum and brother back home, more to say that I actually did it – I’m enjoying a boat ride! They couldn’t hear a thing with the strong wind but my face said it all for them.

I then felt a sudden appreciation to Helyn for sending me on this tour, and so I video called her too! She was in a meeting with the other 2 heads of phases and I didn’t care, just wanted to show her how elated I was. I walked her round the whole boat despite all the movement and then went inside to show her all the kids and the other teachers. Just like my mum, she couldn’t hear much but the joy on all the faces she saw told her everything. Helyn, thank you again. 

I still remember messaging her almost an hour later saying that was way too much adrenaline in the video call from me!

The boat ride was over an hour long, and so when we got off it was a quick bathroom break for all and then we were on the road again heading towards Boulder’s Beach. 

Now this part of the tour was honestly the crappiest – I made the biggest mistake of trying to put on a brave face. I’m not sure if it was because of the boat ride, or because immediately after a long boat ride, we hopped onto a long, but fast bus ride down to the beach. I was feeling insanely weird, first a little nauseas. My colleagues did tease me a little and I did take them on the offer to keep the disposable bag close by just in case. 

Oddly, all I kept thinking is if I vomit, or look ill, it’s going to affect these kids. So I need to wait till we stop at the beach, use the restroom and sort myself in private then.

Biggest. Mistake. Ever.

The bus ride to Boulder’s Beach was almost an hour long, driving down Chapman’s Peak which otherwise would’ve been a scenic coastal drive. I’m thankful I took that view in when I travelled to Cape Town with my eldest brother Mohammed and cousin Fatima in 2017, because this time I couldn’t care less about the view. I just wanted to figure out what to do with myself to feel normal again.

We reached Boulder’s Beach park, but it started drizzling and Andrew was worried it was only going to get heavier if we started trailing down from the park to the beach. So we decided to rather have the kids stay on the bus and have their packed flinches then. I, on the other hand, really felt the urge to use the bathroom. I needed some form of relief after the boat ride and so I decided to walked down by myself to a restaurant that was on the way down to the beach.

The walk down to Seaforth Restaurant was much needed, gave me time to ground myself, use the restroom, have my obligatory drink, Cola Tonic & Lemonade before heading down to the beach where the others were already headed down.

With my detour, I missed some exciting photos but as I rejoined the group at the bottom of the bridge I was met with the most beautiful view of beach, ocean and penguins – LOADS OF PENGUINS!

My kids and teachers were taking in the beautiful view as I joined them, before we decided to make a quick stop at the souvenir shop. Now if you know me well, you’ll know I’m only patient with kids, and boy was my patience tested today! The shop is not situated in the most network friendly places, so any payments with card machines was taking at least 5 – 10 minutes per payment. 

Now you do the math, 3 teachers and almost all 25 kids paying with a card (we didn’t encourage students to carry cash, rather their bank card). Almost an hour and a half later, we finally started to board the bus to head towards Kirstenbosch Botanical Gardens.

With a few of my students at Boulder’s enjoying the nippy, drizzling weather!

Another 45 minute drive in the bus, all those motions going on again in my head and stomach. This time, I didn’t want to endure it, so I decided to take a quick nap in the bus. Naturally, my colleagues and our tour guide took a mick out of me napping but honestly that 30 – 40 minute nap was so refreshing!

The drive down to Kirstenbosch Botanical Gardens

I was just so hungry when I woke up because I had initially missed lunch and couldn’t find my lunch pack when I got back on the bus after Boulder’s. As soon as we got off at Kirstenbosch National Botanical Gardens, I found the nearest café and bought a warm cup of chai tea to give me a boost of energy at least until dinner in a few hours. 

Now that I was properly awake, I was amazed at the views in front of me as I entered the courtyard of the Botanical Gardens. Beautiful little shrubs of various indigenous plants displayed with little descriptions so the kids could understand a little more about what makes each plant unique.

We then started a self guided tour in the gardens, starting with the Enchanted Forest and then routing off down the Tree Canopy Walk. Something I’ll admit – I’m afraid of heights and bridges and boy did I have to contain myself in this next half an hour. Some of the kids who have known me for quite some time know these fears of mine and tried to get the better of me by running a little on the bridge to cause some shakes. However, the view all around us and the sounds of the birds and insects in their natural element was so serene and calming, it was enough for me to forget about those fears.

We then headed down to the fragrance garden, which I thought was really cool! A little walk through garden where on either side you have various strongly scented plants with descriptions on which notes to smell and what they’re common uses are. I thoroughly enjoyed this part of the gardens!

After a quick obligatory group photo, it was time to head back down to the bus and make our way back to the hotel. We really needed more time in the botanical gardens, so much that we could have explored, such as the Forest Braille trail for one. Next tour Andrew, we want the entire morning there, we will only leave after lunch!

We headed back to the hotel to freshen up a little before meetíng in the lobby at 5:45 to go down to the V & A Waterfront for dinner. Tonight’s dinner was again at Spur for the kids and the rest of the staff. I decided to ditch my group for dinner and meet with my childhood family friends who live in Cape Town for supper. Despite all the excitement to see them after so long, my head was spinning insanely all night because of that boat ride! I felt terrible that I wasn’t even good company for them that night, but they knew I was feeling 100% like myself that day.

After a good hour of dinner, we made our way back to the hotel where just like the previous night, everyone was shattered from the day’s exhaustion and just needed a good shower and turned in for a much needed good night’s sleep.

Day 4: Wednesday 15 September 2021:

Our last full day in Cape Town – city tour with John Lawrence! If there’s something that stands out in Cape Town, it is the amazingly clean streets and beautiful greenery – not something common in such a busy city! Apart from that, the incredibly tall buildings and beautiful sports cars – except Porches (we came to the conclusion that a Porsche is the equivalent to a Toyota Corolla in Cape Town haha!)

We started off on Adderley Street, then passing the Mandela Rhodes Place. We then passed the Slave Memorial on the corner of Parliament and Bureau Streets. Such an interesting but sad story behind these tombstones! We drove past the Auwal Masjid Mosque – the oldest Mosque in South Africa before heading down onto Long Street. We then passed the Arch for Arch – The Desmond Tutu Memorial Arch, where each wooden arches were bent by Croatian boat builder Dario Farcic in Johannesburg. 

We then made our way to the Castle for Good Hope. Now I am not one who was ever interested in the subject of History in my entire schooling career as a child, so when I say I was hooked on every work of the tour guide at the Castle, I mean it! I guess it’s a different experience when you’re actually seeing and touching history when learning about each element.

We then headed down to the District Six Museum. While the kids waited for the museum’s guide, I took a quick detour to the nearest café to buy some bottled water for each of the students and teachers – it was a day of a lot of walking! After waiting almost an hour, the museum decided that 28 of us was too big a group to tour at once so they decided to split us into 2 groups.

Clearly they lacked planning skills as they were well aware ahead of time how many of us to expect. The other group of kids with Maynard were so lucky to be guided by Mr Noor Ebrahim, who actually lived through the history of district six, good enough to explain the history with authentic detail – I was so jealous of not being in that group and having to hear those stories in detail.

All because the lady that they put up to guide us, was no legit tour guide and had clearly never done this before. She took us to a little seating are upstairs and spoke for almost 45 minutes straight, but when I say she spoke, I mean she starts a story, gets to the middle and then starts another story. To this day, I still feel terrible for what I did next, I had to stop her and ask her to start walking us around the museum to show us all the physical items that were collected from those times and start telling the kids about each item and photo. She wasn’t quite pleased at me for asking this, but we had a tight schedule and I could see the kids clearly lost on thought and getting bored.

Anyway, once we were done, met Mr Noor Ebrahim and bought his book to at least be able to read his experiences, we headed down to the Green Point Park to have a picnic lunch. The kids immediately noticed a beautiful play area. My heart was so warmed to see the kids in their relaxed, natural element in the play area – especially the grade 7 boys who normally at school would think it’s not cool anymore to play on the jungle gym!

This got a little to my head, so I decided to treat the kids to some ice cream! You can imagine the little look of surprise on the baristas face at the coffee shop when I asked for 26 ice cream cones! It was worth every cent – we were honestly half way through the tour and I had no complaints or worries with the kids. All my anxiety and worries of worst case scenarios that I was concerned of all those weeks and months when planning and preparing for this tour had all faded away completely in that hour.

After lunch, we drove down to the Cape Town Science Centre where all the kids (even us teachers) could play around with some cool science experiments. I especially loved the VR experience centre – I had to go twice, that’s how much I enjoyed it! I still couldn’t beat Maynard’s high score in Beat Saber though!

After a show by one of the staff member scientists on some cool experiments (boy were the kids and myself amazed at some!), we headed back to the hotel to freshen up before the routine meet up at 5:45 on the ground floor to head down for dinner at the V & A Waterfront.

Primi Piatti – the atmosphere at this restaurant was incredible!!! It was a pity that it wasn’t strictly Halal, but the kids and staff couldn’t stop praising their pizzas! I know I thoroughly enjoyed their Focaccia bread, I barely touched my salad from Nando’s!

Thursday 16 September 2021:

The day we departed Cape Town, with a bittersweet smile as I knew I’d miss the amazing vibes of Cape Town, but at the same time looking forward to the coastal road trip to Hermanus!

On the agenda today was to first stop at the Spier Estate outside of Stellenbosch for an Eagle Encounters show where we were displayed a few owls and eagles that were rescued. I loved petting the first 2 before allowing the guide to put the little Eagle Ziggo on my head! Normally, Ziggo gets his little treat and flies off immediately, however when he got on my head, he decided to perch there for a little while. Boy was I getting a little worried as his little claws were rather ticklish than scratchy, so I started assuming, that’s it! This little guy is peeing on my head or doing something – thankfully, he wasn’t but it was quite the experience!

We couldn’t get a chance to ask at Boulder’s if we’d like to adopt a penguin, however we received quite a few options of owls, eagles and even foxes that we can adopt!

Stay tuned to read how the rest of the afternoon played out – Chocolate tasting at Spice Route and the scenic coastal drive down to beautiful Hermanus!

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