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.

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Packing for Winter in Iceland

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What to Pack for a Trip to the Galapagos Islands

Here’s a very detailed list of what I brought to the Galapagos. It looks like a lot, but everything fit in a carry-on.

This list will save your checks for 365 days so if you like packing (*high five) early, you can return to this page and survey your progress!

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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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huacachina, peru, sandboarding, desert

Pro Tip: Close Your Mouth

My elementary school bus driver didn’t speak Spanish, but the few phrases she’d memorized were scary as mierda.

¡Cállate! ¡Silencio! ¡Sentarse sin hablando! She’d sweep the back of the bus with her omnipotent glare and scowl into the rearview mirror. If she made eye contact, you were as good as muerto.

I grew up in a farming community where half of us rooted for Mexico and rest backed Italy. The gringos jóvenes had no clue what she was saying, but her threat—however foreign—scared the bejeezus out of us all. If you didn’t shuttheHwordupRIGHTNOW then you’d have to sit at the front of the bus with *gasp* the nerds.

Sitting up front was worse than getting a yellow card. It meant you’d miss out on everything. Maybe Suzette would finally kiss Jose. Maybe you’d barter your chips for a Lunchable. Maybe Antonio would stick his hand out the window again, and it’d get knocked off by a tree branch. He was a brave, but dumb, boy (weren’t they all?), and we were easily entertained.

To sit up front meant you’d lose your front-row seat to all the action and, thus, your social standing for days, if not weeks. The horror.

I was a regular at the front of the bus (shocker). With horrible motion sickness, my hour in that yellow tank was hell. I passed the time talking to the bad kids (re: cool kids) who really didn’t want to sit next to the chick in penny loafers with her eye on the vomit bucket.

But I won them over with my charm. Or they were bored. Either way, I spent a great deal of time chatting. They didn’t adopt my sense of style, but I was quick to mimic their behavior. From first grade all the way into middle school I never, ever ¡Cierras la boca!

That poor bus driver.

huacachina, peru, sandboarding, desert

(The Significant Other killin’ it on the sand slopes!)

Apparently I haven’t changed much since third grade because my bus driver’s warnings still fall on deaf ears. A few weeks ago, I found myself standing at the top of a HUGE sand dune in the Peruvian desert, clutching a sandboard in shaky hands.

Sandboarding is kind of like snowboarding but not. The Huacachina desert is far more gorgeous than a snowy mountain. However, face-planting in sand is a lot less thrilling than belly-flopping into a snow drift.

huacachina, peru, sandboarding, desert

While our tour guide mechanically waxed my sandboard, he waxed poetic about the many ways white people have screwed up this sport—enough to land themselves en el hospital. Muy peligroso. He laid out his list of do’s and don’ts in perfect Spanglish: Don’t lean forward. Never hold your hands out in front of you. Always keep your torso curved upward.

But his main advice? ¡Cierras la boca!

*sigh* I never listen.

huacachina, peru, sandboarding, desert(I’m smiling here, but that’s because there’s so much sand in my teeth that shutting my mouth feels like licking a lumberjack’s face.)

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