cape town, table mountain, south africa

Top Things to Do in South Africa

This is the list I used when planning my trip to South Africa. Scroll through it and see what jumps out at you. Enjoy your trip, and ping me with any questions!

Johannesburg 

Two days is plenty of time to see all that Joburg has to offer. Tack on an extra day to do quirkier trips and explore the city. Uber is the best (and cheapest) way to get around if you’re new to the city and unaware of its good/bad areas, especially since there aren’t that many sidewalks for walking. Make sure your cell phone works overseas without crazy fees because there’s very little free wifi in this city!

  • Soweto
    • “For real insight into post-apartheid South Africa – a visit to the township of Soweto, home to an estimated 3.5 million people – you need to hire a guide. Besides providing a glimpse into how millions of black South Africans live today, Soweto is historically fascinating. Nobel Peace Prize-winners Nelson Mandela and Archbishop Desmond Tutu both lived on tree-lined Vilakazi Street and Mandela’s former home is open to visitors. Left as it once was, Winnie’s military boots stand next to a bed with a jackal-skin throw, and old photos line the walls. Just down the road, the Hector Pieterson Memorial Museum, named after the 13-year-old whose murder by police sparked an uprising in 1976, is another hard-hitting reminder of the horrors of apartheid.” –Condé Nast Traveller
    • The guided tour of Mandela’s home is simply a memorized speech of significant dates. It’s interesting, but don’t expect it to take more than 20 minutes at the maximum.
    • The Hector Pieterson Memorial Museum was fantastic. It did a great job of explaining the uprising and its aftermath. All the feels.
    • I was skeptical of paying $70 to take a tour of Soweto, especially when I’d been told that it’s fine to walk around in the daytime. But I’m really glad we went with Township Travel (Siphiwe Kumalo info@township-travel.co.za sowetour98@gmail.com). The tour offers perspectives, not only from the tour guide, but from residents in their early 20s who take you around their neighborhood and answer all your questions. I highly recommend it!
  • The Apartheid Museum:
    • Built by the casino next door, this museum is pretty awesome. It’s also incredibly overwhelming (the layout is like a labyrinth!) and crowded. It’s worth a visit to learn some basics, but I think you’d get much more out of reading a book.
    • This place is difficult to get to. You can call an uber from where you’re staying, but there’s no wifi at the museum or the museum’s cafe to help you get back. Luckily, the pawn shop next to a gas station down the street has wifi. Ask an uber driver (they pull up to the museum all the time!) to take you to the gas station, ask for the pawn shop’s wifi and then request him/her on the app from there.
  • BOOKS!
  • Sporty Things
    • “If you can, try and watch a Premier soccer league game at the FNB stadium- kaizer chiefs (most famous and loved soccer club in SA) play there (world cup stadium finals were played and biggest stadium in south africa) tickets should be no more than $5 usd.  Sit in the heart of the crowd and get in the mix of their singing and dancing all game long. Another good PSL game to go to is Orlando stadium- for Orlando pirates (second most popular team in SA) –sit in the heart of the crowd to gain full experience.” -Emily Chow
    • “If you care to watch cricket games–you can watch at the wanderers stadium—warning: games can take up to 8 hours… or 3 hours for a “t cricket game”” -Emily Chow
    • “You can also go to Ellis Park, now known as emirates airline park to catch a rugby game. world famous stadium– where invictus was filmed and where mandela unified the black and whites thru sports.” -Emily Chow
  • Witchcraft
    • https://www.atlasobscura.com/places/museum-man-and-science
    • Kind of a letdown, actually. It’s only fun if you go with a tour and can have everything explained to you. The proprietors of the shop won’t take the time to point out all the cool stuff, (unless you show up at around 7 a.m. and ask for the owner’s son) which is understandable.

Click the link below to read more:

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Inka ruins, Puno

How to Get to Inca Temple Ruins, Puno

Lake Titicaca in Puno is a must-see Peruvian attraction, but it’s definitely a tourist trap.

For those who want to get off the beaten path for a few hours, this Inca temple is on my Top 10 Things to Do in Puno list. It’s a fantastic, short (45 min) hike. The view is spectacular; the temple has several “rooms” to explore, and (my favorite) you won’t see another tourist for miles.

Lonely Planet has a blurb on how to get there, but they have you climb up the back of the mountain, which is very challenging. After exploring a bit, the Significant Other and I came up with a (we think) much easier route.

Here’s how to get to the Inka temple ruins outside of Puno:

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skull, inca, grave, tomb, burial site, yuraq-qaqa, coporaque

Inka Burial Tomb, Coporaque

I hope Pachamama likes peanut butter and jelly sandwiches.

It’s tradition to give the first sip of an alcoholic beverage to Pachamama, the Peruvian version of Mother Earth. Lacking anything more fermented than peach jelly left out in the sun, I dropped a piece of crust into a patch of flowers. If Madre Tierra didn’t appreciate it, the beetles might’ve.

Locals told us it would take about half an hour to climb from the town of Coporaque, Peru to Yuraq-Qaqa, the Incan burial tombs. That, of course, meant it took us a full hour. Altitude is a bitch.

Though we didn’t see anyone else on the trail, the tombs are highly trafficked. Coca leaves and Peruvian coins litter haphazard piles of vertebrae, splintered jaw bones and dirty swatches of burial cloth.

In the U.S., I don’t believe in spirits, but in Peru, I’m firmly convinced they exist. So I was more than a little nervous to scale the burial towers. Exploring tomb after tomb took me farther and farther into the underbrush bearding the steep side of the mountain—perfect hidey holes for malicious duendes.

Barricaded by an enclave of bramble, I found myself squinting up at a small tomb two stories off the ground. My stomach did a quick somersault and settled comfortably into queasy. I was scared. So I was gonna climb that sucker. Por supuesto.

Childhood summers spent in the walnut orchard back home paid off handsomely, and my lack of youthful elasticity was mercifully forgiven by a few handily placed stones. The view from the tomb top was gorgeous and dizzyingly terrifying. The tomb itself soon became a crawl space, and after hoisting myself the last few feet, I had to admit there’s a definite line between conquering fears and being stupid. So I started the (even scarier) journey back down to (relative) safety.

Thunder ricocheted off adjoining summits, and I scrambled back to Significant Other, who was quietly contemplating life next to a Hamlet-esque skull. We scurried down the mountain—stomachs full and curiosity satiated but a tad uneasy. I looked back. The skull wished us farewell with its vacant sockets. *shudder

Hopefully duendes like PB&J, too…

Yuraq-Qaqa, Coporaque, Peru

Yuraq-Qaqa, Coporaque, Peru

Yuraq-Qaqa, Coporaque, Peru

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colombia, bogota, gold museum, jewelry, penis

OK, I Admit It, I Have Penis Envy

I’ve always had a teensy bit of penis envy.

It’s not that I don’t value my chromosomes. Estrogen has its perks—amiright, ladies? And who wants to clutch their crotches in fear every time a baseball hurtles by? or deal with embarrassing teenage erections? Ew.

But the lack of certain equipment makes my XX world more challenging.

Stake outs, for one thing. I want the stuff of ’80s cop shows, Lifetime movies and bad paperback mystery novels. I want—more than anything else—to ‘case the joint’ while huddled in a station wagon, it’s brown, stained interior peeling and musty. I want to stay up all night getting buzzed on the marriage of blue Gatorade and Twizzlers. I want to have a puppy-like sidekick who will do most of the work but get little of the glory.

Sadly, it’s not to be. All that liquid blue sugar has to go somewhere, and peeing in a bottle is every woman’s nightmare.

Writing my name in the snow. OK, to be honest, I’ve never actually had the urge to try this, but after further consideration, it seems vital. What if I was stuck on a mountain, at the precipice of death, and my last chance to communicate with the world before succumbing to the elements was snow writing? A dude could urinate something pithy. My last words would be a puddle—how very profound.

Then there’s hiking. If a bear poops in the woods, so can I, and squatting behind a tree is par for the course when you’re an outdoorsy gal. But I’m in the Peruvian Andes, and there aren’t any trees of substantial size. I have to hike far off the path to find a safe hiding spot—nobody wants to see my moon hit the sky. Ew.

Weekend hikes throughout Peru have become female map-making expeditions. For my testosterone-filled Significant Other, gorgeous outcroppings of rock are just landforms. For me, they’re the perfect bathroom. For him, the uncharacteristically fat eucalyptus we just passed is a curious anomaly. For me, it’s an emergency latrine.

And despite my constant vigilance, I usually don’t get lucky. Most of the time, when nature calls, Mother Nature doesn’t provide (for shame, woman!), and I end up playing Twister with a bunch of prickly bushes.

Women need backgrounds in espionage and circus acrobatics just to relieve themselves.

For several years, I’d heard of companies like SheWeepStyle and Go Girl, which attempt to solve this problem for the female adventurer. #innovation But using appliances that are little more than glorified funnels painted feminine hues seems, I don’t know, icky.

It wasn’t until last month that I decided to man up and try them out. Peeing standing up can’t be more difficult than the alternative. Because even if I find a hidden place to pee; even if I manage to avoid the jagged rocks, curious bugs and unfortunately placed cacti, I still—invariably—run the risk of peeing on my shoes. Ew.

So I ordered a couple products and read the instruction manuals front to back. I’m only two steps in, and I figure I’m already way ahead of any dude. Now, I just have to find a suitable place to give it a go.

Anybody up for a stakeout?

UPDATE: After trying out a few models and doing LOTS of Internet research, Freshette is the best. Check it out.

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