About Lizz

I am a fourth year student at the University of Toronto in the Faculty of Kinesiology and Physical Education. I am participating in the Students for Development Program this year and I will be going to work with the Desmond Tutu HIV Foundation in Cape Town, South Africa for six months. I recently came back from Namibia where I lived for 11 weeks through the Namibia Scholarship Program at the University of Toronto. I worked with an organization called Physically Active Youth which is located in Katutura, Namibia near Windhoek. If you are a student interested in getting involved internationally or interested in doing a study abroad project, you should make sure to check out the CIE website: http://cie.utoronto.ca/ Also, if you are a student in the Faculty of Kinesiology and Physical Education at the University of Toronto make sure to check out the international exchanges available on the faculty website: http://www.physical.utoronto.ca/Undergraduate/Current_Students/International_Experience.aspx

Lesotho and the Drakensberg

One of the best parts of getting to study abroad is that it opens you up to exploring completely new terrains and trying new things. When you stay in one place its easy enough to fall into a basic routine and rarely venture out. Sometimes it even seems difficult to find new things to try. In Toronto, I definitely sometimes felt myself slide easily enough into the basic study-work-workout (I’m in Phys. Ed. after all)- sleep kind of days. I’d go out to bars or movies or to coffee with friends occasionally, and sometimes we’d try a new bar, but rarely was there that feeling of ‘newness’ or any sense of adventure.

While I can’t say I ever felt quite like that in Cape Town — the city is constantly moving and changing, and being there such a short time, it was impossible to run out of things to do —
I’ve been very lucky to get a chance to leave Cape Town and explore a bit. After researching South Africa, I finally settled on the place I wanted to spend the brief period of time I had before my flight home.
The Drakensbergs. 
The Drakensbergs are a range of mountains that include the world’s second highest waterfall, and some of what must be the most beautiful hiking areas in the world. For those of you not familiar with South African geography, the Drakensbergs are located between Johannesburg and Durban in the state of Kwa-zul Natal. They make up the dividing border between Lesotho and South Africa. And I was lucky enough to get to visit Lesotho as well (more on that later).
The Drakensbergs are split into three regions; Northern, Central, and Southern. Each region has a slightly different feel to it and there are various hikes in each area with a range of difficulties and lengths. And the space between the areas is large. It takes approximately 3-4 hours to drive from one end to the other (if not longer). The highest mountain in the range is actually located in Lesotho in the Southern Drakensberg. It stands at over 3,100 meters.
The Northern
Brooke standing in the middle of the Tugela Gorge. The hike went to the base of the Tugela falls.

Brooke standing in the middle of the Tugela Gorge. The hike went to the base of the Tugela falls.

The Central
This picture was taken in the middle of the Blind Man's Corner hike which started at the base of Monk's Cowl and Champagne mountain. The end of this hike is approximately 2,100 meters above sea level.

This picture was taken in the middle of the Blind Man’s Corner hike which started at the base of Monk’s Cowl and Champagne mountain. The end of this hike is approximately 2,100 meters above sea level.

The Southern
This picture was taken on a day hike around the southern drakensberg. The days we were there the majority of the mountain was hidden in the clouds and it was really hard to get an idea of how high they actually went.

This picture was taken on a day hike around the Southern Drakensberg. The days we were there the majority of the mountain was hidden in the clouds and it was really hard to get an idea of how high they actually went.

Lesotho is one of the poorest countries in the world, and as such it has some of the worst roads I’ve ever seen and is really only accessible by a four wheel vehicle, and frankly that seemed very unlikely to work at several points, so personally I’d suggest going in by pony which is what you frequently see people ride in on. Apparently there’s even a type of horse that has adapted to the area and you’ll see people riding or leading them around throughout the country. They have adapted to the altitude and to eating the scrubby grasses in the area.
Some cool things to know:
beer flagIf you see a white or yellow flag it means that they’ve brewed some beer and you can go to the house to have some. Since most of the towns don’t have pubs and the people are very poor, its really common for them to brew beer alcohol in their house and then sell it to others. A yellow flag is for pineapple beer, and a white flag is for sorghum beer. maluti If you’d like to try some ‘better’ beer, there is a brewery in Lesotho! And their beer was a really nice surprise.
Lesotho is known for a many things–one of them is their weaving. The people of Lesotho walk around wearing blankets which is a tradition based on one of their past kings who was gifted a blanket by the British and wore it as a status symbol. Blankets are still a symbol of wealth in the country. loom
The blankets and the tapestries can come in all kinds of colours and they often have symbols or stories on them. Common pictures are of women cooking, or carrying things on their heads, patterns involving corn or other plants to indicate wealth or fertility.
lesotho hut
Lesotho is also considered the highest country in the world because it has the highest low point of any other country.

Clearing some common travel concerns up.

So. This is the end of month six of my internship with three weeks to go. Work is wrapping up, and due dates are impending on me and I will say I’m not really ready to be done this adventure. And I thought it would be a good time to write a blog about why I came here and what I’d hope to achieve and what makes leaving friends and family behind worth trying out new experiences in new places.

I wish I could travel BUT I don’t have time/money/skills/I’m a student/I have debt/I have work. 

I’ve been contacted by so many people, many of them who I haven’t talked to in years while I’ve been abroad. Most of these people have been friends of mine on facebook who I knew at some point in my life. Many of them express jealousy at my travels, or slight awe that I’m willing to go abroad for this long. Cumulatively I’ve spent about a year in Africa at this point and its definitely meant that I’ve had to sacrifice things for this experience. I gave up graduating with many of my friends, I gave up spending Christmas with my family, I missed birthdays, and christmases. I’ve dealt with homesickness, and medical emergencies in a foreign setting. It’s cost me a year of my life where I didn’t make any money, pushed back graduating, lost friendships and relationships.

However, I would not go back and change my decision to come here. In fact, if I could go back in time, I would likely have made the decision to try and find a way to stay longer. You do miss out on things traveling, and it isn’t always cheap. I feel pretty blessed to be here and to have met the people I’ve gotten a chance to meet while traveling. I value all of my experiences abroad, but at the same time–there is no ‘luck’ in me being here. I spent hours and hours searching for a way to afford to come here. I filled out applications, visas, got medical tests, worked long hours, and spent a lot of time researching South Africa. The thing is, if you want to travel -there’s a way to do it. Regardless of how much you make, or where you are in your life, you just have to really want it, and be flexible in where you are willing to go. You might not be able to find a way to go spend a semester in Vienna for cheap, but there are other ways and places to go. The world is a beautiful wonderful place and if you’re open to it–you can find a way to see different parts of it.

And you need to get over the idea of it being the ‘right time’ to travel. There may never be a great time to pack up your life for six months to go do something new somewhere new. You might have to come to the conclusion that it might put you in some debt, or it might put you off graduating in four years, or you might have to shell out a grand for an airline ticket. I had a really good friend of mine who passed away while he was here pretty suddenly. He loved his family, and missed them, but he was also having the time of his life abroad and meeting new people. He was twenty one, and if anything, that just proves that you shouldn’t put off new experiences for when you are older. You might not ever be older.

Plus there are huge benefits to traveling when you are young. You, for example, are much more willing to sleep on other people’s couches to save ten bucks. Couch surfing, is not always for the weak of heart, but it’s a great way to meet locals and see new things. Young people seem to be more okay with eating strange cheap foods from vendors, or subside on a diet of rice and beans. If you want to see how far you can stretch your money, now is the time to do it.

Language barriers intimidate me. 

So learn some before you go abroad! People everywhere seem to know a little English, but it’s easy enough to learn some basic phrases for wherever you are going. Just do your research, be prepared, and never ever doubt the power of some decent charades for getting a basic message across. If you have a smart phone, considering downloading language phrase apps or writing out important information on paper so you can show locals. I had a friend who did this with Afrikaans and she learned more than the rest of us, and made some really diverse friends because people always appreciate when you make an effort to learn their native language. It’s manners really.

How do you plan this stuff? How do you know where to go? Get around? Find housing? 

Research my friend! Lonely Planet books, and websites! Check out travellers blogs–there’re THOUSANDS of them, and many of them are very comprehensive. Hostelworld has great reviews on places to stay, and really all you need is to spend some quality time on google.

Weren’t you worried about your own personal safety in a place like South Africa?

No. And Yes. I was worried the first time I came here because I had never gone on a massive trip like this by myself. And it IS intimidating. However, traveling safely mainly has to do with how aware you are of where you are, and the consequences of your actions. If you go into townships at night, or ride the train with a sparkly new shiny phone–you’ll probably have some trouble. If you’re smart and avoid situations like that, you’ll likely be fine. There’s always that random chance something might go wrong, but a lot of being safe is being self-aware. You might have to come to the conclusion that if you want to have a smart phone here, that at some point it might get stolen. Or if you want to work in a township, or visit a more ‘dangerous’ area, you might get mugged. So weigh situations before you walk into them, because most of the time–not all the time, the stories I hear about people getting in trouble are when they engage in behaviour that is probably not very smart in the first place. I’ve had friends who had stuff stolen out of their cars–you never leave stuff in cars here. I’ve had friends who have been mugged in townships who were carrying valuables on them and thus what would have been a simply rattling experience, turned into a fairly expensive one. I even had a friend mugged in a grocery store where they lost a lot of money and credit cards/debit cards-but they lost it because they had a lot of money on them, and if they hadn’t it would have minimized the trouble.

One of the simplest things I’d say can to minimize your headaches here, or while traveling is to only carry cash if you can avoid carrying cards. They’re kind of a huge headache to get replaced, especially in a country where the mail isn’t very reliable. Same goes for passports or driver’s licenses. If you need them, carry copies when possible.

(I’m not saying that these thefts were at all the fault of those who were robbed, in an ideal world no one would have to worry about their possessions, but we don’t live in that world yet, so in the mean time do what you can to save yourself the trouble of replacing cameras and credit cards)

Well nothing bad’s happened to you..

Sure it has! I’ve sprained an ankle and spent three weeks on crutches, discovered an allergy to a very common antibiotic, been mugged, had personal property stolen in a hostel, broken a camera, screwed up a bus ticket, had friends pass away, had friends get into fights in bars, and gotten very very lost many many times.

And that is just the tip of the iceberg. The fact is shit happens. None of these events made me regret coming here. And most of my friends who have had a bad event/thing happen to them will say the same thing. The good things about traveling always outweigh the bad things. It was all still worth it.

Still intimidated?

I had a very close friend visit me while I was here. I’ve known her for ages, and frankly the first couple days were a little rough–mostly because I don’t think I appreciated how nerve-racking it can be going somewhere completely new for the first time. The fact is, traveling is something that requires a minor leap of faith to do, and for some people that leap comes more naturally than for others. If this is you, maybe try and find projects or programs where you have more support. You might have to pay a little more money in order to find a way to go abroad with a friend, or to go abroad with your school, but if you feel more comfortable, you’ll try more new things and you’ll get a lot more out of it. You only get as much out of a trip as you’re willing to put in.


Travel. Travel as much as you can, wherever you can, and don’t be afraid to skip off the beaten path and find your own adventures in crazy places all over the world. Travel in Canada, or go abroad, just challenge yourself with new things and perspectives. And learn things while you do it. As fun as it is getting drunk in bars and skydiving or whatever crazy stunts people like to do while abroad, take the time to learn about the place you are in, talk to locals and meet new people.

A lot of my best conversations occur in odd places, like cafes and on trains. People are genuinely interested in sharing their culture with tourists, and hearing about your home country. People are wonderful and if you are open to meeting them, you’ll broaden yourself to whole new experiences.



South African Beaches

My family has never been particularly avid beach-goers. We went occasionally throughout my childhood, but the trips were far and few between, preferring instead to go on camping trips and hikes, and I loved all of those trips as a child. However, this year, I’ve gotten to live near the ocean for the first time in my life and have made the fairly easy transition into a beach loving human, so I wanted to do a post on beaches in South Africa that way I could share some of my favourites.

Camps Bay

Camps Bay is likely the beach visited by the most tourists in Cape Town. You can take a mini bus from Cape Town straight to the ocean for like R6 and its usually packed with sunbathers under hired umbrellas. There are never very many people swimming, its always freezing and therefore most people avoid the water as much as they can. However it doesn’t get as much wind as Muizenberg does which makes it a nice place to read and sleep. Behind the beach, there is a street full of seafood restaurants and shops to grab a sundowner and explore. It lies between Lion’s Head and Table Mountain, and you can see it from Lion’s Head really well on your way up.


Long Beach 

This beach lies near Nordhoek and took a while to find so if you want to check it out I suggest you get better directions then we did. It’s massive, and you walk over some dunes to get to it. Unfortunately the weather wasn’t very nice when we went there, but on the plus side, it was great shots and I had a great time hanging out with some surfers I met from Hawaii.

459290_10150895508309216_408101494_o 466648_10150895507689216_1108323100_o

Onrus Beach

I spent my Christmas break at Onrus with some friends who worked as life guards employed by the city. While I didn’t surf here, the boogie boarding was tons of fun, and they had record high waves this summer. Some of them reached close to 8 meters which kept the lifeguards busy. Instead of the day after Christmas being Boxing Day, here it’s Beach Day. And it was PACKED. I also spent New Year’s on this beach, and it was great to be out there with hundreds of other people and big beautiful lanterns being launched into the air. Everyone counted down to midnight, and the water was warm enough we even went for a swim post-midnight.

onrus beach port

Jeffrey’s Bay

Jeffrey’s Bay is a surf destination that is regarded as having one of the best right hand point breaks in the world, and is home to the Billabong PRO ASP World Tour every year. I am not the greatest surfer so I stuck mostly to the beach pictured below. Lessons were cheap and there is a huge number of discounted factory shops from RipCurl to Billabong in town. It’s a quiet sleepy place with sick surf and the hostel was a ton of fun to just hang around and meet people. The water here is much warmer than in Cape Town, and was 20+C the entire week I was there. Best surfing is in winter though, so check it out if you can get there between June-August.





West Coach National Park

Located on the west coast of the continent this dreamy beach was a wonderful day trip out of Cape Town. It’s about a two hour drive away through mostly uninhabited countryside, we passed several species of antelope and ostriches as we drove in. The bottom picture is of the ocean coast, and the picture with me walking towards the boats is on the lagoon side where the water is much warmer and calmer.

wcnp IMG_6716


This was my favourite beach, mostly because there were huge granite boulders next to it that you could climb. Situated nearish Hout Bay, its a tiny secluded beach with hard surf (and frankly hard climbing). The water is freezing, but it’s kind of an amazing place to spend a day and gets overlooked by a lot of tourists for the more popular (and not as nice) Camps Bay and Clifton beaches.



** for those interested in climbing here the guide can be found online: Bouldering Guide 

Cape Agulhas 

I went out with some friends to visit Cape Agulhas for a weekend and to get a chance to go to the Southern Most Point of Africa. The trip was tons of fun, and we got to see massive sting rays as well! Which was pretty incredible on its own. The beach was spacious and the water was pretty warm. You could walk straight along it to a dock where they bring in all of the fish from the boats in big green boxes. It was super busy and smelled of fish and fresh blood, but I love old boats and it was definitely a favorite spot of mine.




Some random Sting Ray Facts: 

  • Distant cousin of sharks
  • Belong to the Batoidea family (cartilaginous fish family)
  • Eyes lie on top of their heads so they have to rely on smell and electroreceptors to sense their prey.
  • Their stings are almost never fatal and instead generally just result in a really painful cut/sore.
  • The sting ray above is a Smooth Sting Ray and they can weigh up to 770 lbs and measure up to 6 feet in diameter, and 14 feet long.

Friday Photo: Boulder’s Beach (more penguins!)






penguins on their own




Boulder’s Beach & Simon’s Town

The second picture is mainly for my parents for making fun of the fact that there hasn’t been a single picture with both me and a penguin together. So here’s some proof that I did actually see these adorable birdies in person.

Boulders beach is really cool and home to tons of penguins! Skip the pay to get in beaches and keep walking down the trail and you’ll get to a beach where you can wonder around with these tiny birds for free. Just be respectful and don’t pet them. They bite!

Kirstenbosch and Concerts


kirstenboschEstablished in 1913, Kirstenbosch is one of the oldest botanical gardens in the world and also one of the largest. It sits right beneath Devil’s Peak and the walks through it are beautiful, and steep. Rachael and I went there in the morning to take a look around, and it was beautiful.flower The gardens are home to more than 7000 species of plants and they specialize in fynbos. Fynbos is the term for Cape Flora and are only found in southern Africa. It is the first botanical garden to be part of a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The nature reserve it’s a part of is a 526 hectare estate. My favourite parts of Kirstenbosch are actually its ‘useful plants’ gardens were you can smell plants, and read about what they’ve been used for traditionally. Some of them seem plausible, while others seem like they’d be a fairly terrible idea to try. They have plants that cure everything from TB to treating stomach aches and fevers.

Another thing Kirstenbosch does is host concerts. They do a series of Sunday summer concerts in the afternoon and people bring blankets, wine and picnics and hang out in the gardens to listen to music. xavier ruddWhile I didn’t make any of those (out climbing), I did get to go see one of my favorite musicians play there in the evening, and it was a pretty awesome venue.

The two main musicians who played were Jeremy Loops and Xavier Rudd. You can check their music out here at these links: Jeremy Loops’s Soundcloud and Xavier Rudd’s Site. Jeremy Loops is a South African musician and Xavier Rudd is from Australia (I’ve seen him play in Toronto before). If you haven’t heard either of them, you should definitely check them out. They played a great show, and it was a lot of fun to get to check the gardens out in the evening.

Jeremey loops


Holi One, Hout Bay, & Chapman’s Peak



The Original Holi Festival

Holi is an ancient Indian festival that has existed for centuries. The meaning of the festival has changed over the years and is celebrated in the name of various gods, however many of the rituals or traditions have remained the same, and the one that seems the most fun, is the spraying of coloured water all over the place. You can find out more about the traditional festival here at this site: Holi Festival. Holi marks the end of winter, and start of spring, its a chance to celebrate and have fun.


Before picture! We're soo clean.

Before picture! We’re soo clean.


Holi-one festival is based on the Holi festival in India. It always starts at two p.m. when thousands of people get together to listen to music and throw coloured dye at each other every hour. The coloured powder you could buy at the festival, and you were given big packages of it in various solid colours: blue, pink, orange, green, yellow. It was apparently environmentally friendly and non-toxic. IMG_5267However, it didn’t taste too great and by the end of the day my throat was pretty dry. This was the first year it’s ever been in Cape Town, and if you’d like to see what it was like, check out this video: Holi-One Cape Town. It was held in the middle of down town, at the Grand Promenade. We got there shortly after two and the place was already covered in powder, there were a couple of food tents, and some places selling masks for your mouth, bandanas, powder-free areas. The rest of the area was fair game for throwing powder around. (Though in all honesty there was a lot of powder tossing and smearing in the powderless tents regardless) Suggestions, if you ever want to go to a Holi-one festival, don’t leave home without at least one pair of sunglasses, a white shirt, and a bandana. Also, bring yourself some water to wash down all that delicious corn-starchy powder. Beer cost about R20 a can and looking back its kind of funny how expensive that seemed. I mean, when has anyone ever gotten a beer at a concert in Canada for under $3.00? IMG_5214




Hout Bay & Chapman’s Peak


Hout Bay is one of my favorite places in Cape Town. I can’t exactly explain why, it smells like fish and its full of old boats, and sailors. The beach there doesn’t get great waves really ever, and its not the easiest part of the peninsula to get too, but I can’t help but feel pretty enchanted by it.

I love boats! Hout Bay is full of them.

I love boats! Hout Bay is full of them.

Rachael and I went down there to check it out and just walk around. The weather hasn’t been great in Cape Town, so it seemed like a good day for exploring since hiking, and climbing would have been pretty gross with all the wind and rain. Winter is coming to Cape Town unfortunately, and it seems to be hitting earlier than anyone really expected it to. We walked around the docks and watched some workers cut up bits of fish to feed a hungry seal. They had a can and were asking for coins, and were letting people feed the seal. If you put the fish in your teeth and waited it would even kiss you ( I didn’t try that). It reminded me a lot of the fisherman feeding the massive sting rays in Cape Agulhas. There was blood all over the dock next to them, and the whole area smelled like fish as tourists sort of goggled in packs taking pictures and holding toddlers with ice cream in their hands ( I had my camera out, so I really was no better). The stingrays slid under and out around the boats, unbothered by the commotion around them. One of my roommates even went in and pet one.


We walked through the boats, and I took hundreds of photos–some you’ll probably see posted throughout the next couple of weeks. I’m in love with the old boats, and the smell- salty and sharp and fishy.


Friday Photo: Cheetah Outreach

Rachael and me with cheetah


Cheetah Outreach

The Cheetah Outreach is located in Somerset West outside of Cape Town. They do environmental education and conservation work. One of their projects was training these really cute huge dogs to defend livestock from cheetahs. Cheetahs don’t like to attack anything bigger than they are, so the dogs work as a good defensive measure and helps to prevent farmers from having to shoot the cheetahs. The species is currently now only found in certain parts of Africa. The females are solitary and raise cubs on their own, and the males are more social and form coalitions that run around together. The Cheetah we met was apparently a celebrity, his name was Joseph, and he was apparently in a movie with Patrick Swayze. (Sorry if I spelled his name wrong). To find out more about the project check out their website: Cheetah Outreach.

Friday Photos: Rock Climbing Cape Town



Rock Climbing, everyone’s got their hobbies


This picture was taken in Montagu where I spent the past weekend with the University of Cape Town Mountain and Ski Club. It was a three day trip camping at De Bos Campground. Which is for the record–beautiful, though it IS full of roosters and horses. Very loud roosters. They have a pool though, and showers, so all and all, pretty cozy camping. My only real regret from this trip is that I didn’t take more pictures! Montagu is located about a two hour drive from Cape Town.

IMG_5081The picture to the left is also from Montagu. This wall was a little too difficult for me. It was all 30+ climbs, and was this massively beautiful long overhang. Over the weekend I went to the Steeple, Legoland, and the palace. Favourite climbs were at The Palace. It was awesome.

South African Rock Climbing Grades

For those interested, or who climb, South Africa follows a different rating system for its climbs. Its the same system as Australia and New Zealand and basically it begins at 1 which you can walk up to 38 which is the hardest reported sport climb. SO

  • 5.9 -> 17IMG_5078
  • 5.10a -> 18
  • 5.10b -> 19
  • 5.10c -> 20
  • 5.10d -> 21
  • 5.11a -> 22
  • 5.11b -> 23
  • 5.11c/d -> 24
  • 5.12a -> 25
  • 5.12b -> 26
  • 5.12c -> 27
  • 5.12d -> 28
  • 5.13a/b ->29
  • 5.13c -> 30

The Mine


The picture on the left is from an area closer to Cape Town. The Mine is mostly overhung area that doesn’t have very many ‘easy’ climbs. Most of the climbs begin in the 20s and go up from there. The nice thing about the Mine is that it generally doesn’t get very wet, and so you can climb there whenever there’s not a bad south-eastern wind (it makes the holds kinda slime-y). The Mine is about a 30 minute drive from Observatory, and the view is pretty wonderful. You hike up past a military compound-thing, and it overlooks Muizenberg, and the old pine forests.


IMG_5046This wall is Blaze of Glory ( i think), and its become one of my favorites in Cape Town. It’s beautiful, and despite my awkward picture, is actually I think slightly overhanging for the most part. A lot of the climbs have really cool sections through them–the rock here is sandstone, and it’s beautiful. Think lots of cool slope-y holds, tiny crimps, and lots of pinches. It’s super sticky, and has been pretty awesome so far. Silvermine is located about 30 minutes from Observatory, and it’s on top of the Mine (sort of). Basically the mine you climb up to from the bottom of the mountain, and Silvermine, you start closer to the top and walk down paths/gullys.


More Climbing Information!

South Africa is fairly unique in that you can sort of climb any type of Rock here. There’s limestone in Outshoorn and granite in Cape Town as well. Table Mountain/Lion’s head have a granite base, and then turn into sandstone further up. For those who are interested in coming here to climb, here are some really useful links.

If you need to find other people to climb with check out the Climbing Forum. That site provides one of the best guides to South African climbing, and has a forum where you can buy/sell gear, and find other people who need climbing partners. They also have a good wiki with more information about South African climbing crags.

If you are here on exchange and want to meet other to camp/climb/hike/hangout with check out the Mountain and Ski Club at UCT. (facebook link as well) They go to Silvermine almost every Friday, help people find lifts, and THEY ALSO RENT GEAR. So if you do come here and want to try climbing/ need to borrow a tent or rope, they’re a great club to join.

If you want to see a crazy video check out this video of Andy Court Slacklining taken in Echo Valley –which is a really really amazing bouldering area.

If you want to climb inside check out cityrock, they’re the only ‘official gym’ but there is also the UCT climbing wall. If you’re not a student, you can join the MCSA and use it I believe.

If you want to compete find someone who’s in BOULDER LEAGUE. Sorry there’s no link for it. It took me a long time to track down the information, but basically its a series that starts in Feb and there’s one every week either at the UCT wall or at cityrock. (Tuesdays or Fridays).

Lastly areas I still want to hit up and future climbing plans (AND I PROMISE BETTER PICTURES)

– Table Mountain (trad)
– Lion’s Head (trad)
– Rocklands –(APRIL :D)
– Oudtshoorn (get a chance to remember what limestone feels like)
– Kleinmond (March 8!)
– Paarl (March 16)

Other things coming up climbing wise! Montagu Rock Rally in April and the Easter Bouldering Festival! 

Living in Cape Town

SO not too long ago I moved out of a hostel dormitory, into a house in Observatory which is an area of the Southern Suburbs in Cape Town. It’s sort of a student area–sorta a hippy cheaper version of Kensington market. Good bars, lots of places to play pool, cheap weird ‘Asian’ restaurants that serve Thai, Chinese, and Sushi all in one convenient location. (Pad Thai for R30 ! ) It’s a nice place to live, and it’s conveniently really close to work which  is an added bonus.

So how’d I find it?

I found my place on Gumtree. Finding affordable housing abroad can be difficult and stressful. It’s hard to find before you get arrive, and it’s also hard to figure out what areas are good to live in, how public transit works, and what a decent price for rent is. So I thought I’d post some information about Cape Town to help give an idea of what to expect. I was definitely scrambling to get my act together and find a place.

Gumtree — South Africa’s Craigslist 

I found my place on Gumtree which is sort of like craigslist. People post apartments, bikes, cars etc. I spent a lot of time looking through different ads. Most advertisers want you to text or call them about the apartments, and I found the easiest way to get information on new places is to post something about yourself and what you’re looking for in the wanted section. Keep in mind a lot of places on Gumtree would turn out, well, not as great as they sounded, and you might have to visit a lot of apartments. Also talk to hostels about staying there longterm and work out a deal. Many hostels will agree to give long term guests a better price and if you’re going to be somewhere for less than three months, it might be your best option. Many South African landlords will also try and get you to pay a significant damage deposit or will even try and get foreigners coming in to pay for a large portion of the rent ahead of time. Make sure you iron out these details before you agree to sign anything.

The best hostels near where I work in Observatory are the Green Elephant and Observatory Backpackers. The owners of Observatory Backpackers also own a house they rent out to international students staying for a minimum of three months or longer, so they’re an excellent people to talk to about finding a more longterm home.

Living Costs?

Everyone seems to think Africa is going to be dirt cheap, but it adds up pretty quickly, particularly South Africa. While some things are much more affordable than Canada, don’t expect things to cost a couple of pennies. One of the biggest mistakes everyone going on the Namibia trip seemed to have made, was underestimating how much you spend –R100 isn’t $10.00 and overestimating how affordable things would be in Africa. The exchange is R8.9 to $1, which is pretty great but things add up pretty quickly. I found rounding down to R8 helped a lot. (When we were in Namibia the exchange was closer to R8.4-8.6.)

My rent is just under R3000 a month (about $350.00). I have my own bedroom in a house with internet and laundry. Rent generally runs between R2000-4000 for a room in a shared house/apartment it can however be much higher than that. Short term rentals for 3-6 months are harder to find, and most of the places asking R2000 required longer leases. I had a friend who was here for an SFD program that ended in December and her place was about R4000 without internet which was an extra R300 a month. (two bedroom split two ways).


Food is not as cheap as one would hope in Cape Town compared to Toronto, but it all depends on what you eat. Eating out is much cheaper than in T.O. but it still adds up pretty quickly. Examples of some prices:

2-for-1 burgers on Tuesdays at : R48 ($5.58)
Chicken Pad Thai: R35 ($4.07)
Sushi dinner: R100ish ($11.63)
Coffee: R12-R18 ($1.40-2.09)
Cocktails: R30-48 ($3.50-5.58)
Beer: R10-R25    (game of pool to go with your beer: R4)   ($1.16-2.91)
Pizza: R45-65 ($5.23-7.56)

Groceries actually are deceptively not that much cheaper than in Toronto. Here are some costs.

1 L of “Orange Juice”: R26.99  ($3.14)
Yellow Peppers: R65.99/kg ($7.67/kg)
Apples: R15.99/kg ($1.86/kg)
Cucumber: R5.99 ($0.70)
Bottle of Wine: R25+ (typical R40) ($2.91, $4.65)
Peanut Butter 800G: R38.99 ($4.54)
Cheese 250g: R35.99 ($4.18)
Flour 1kg: R11.49 ($1.34)
Sugar 1kg: R13.99 ($1.62)
Eggs half dozen: R11.99 ($1.40)


Minibus, train, taxi –I don’t have a car, (nor can I drive — check study abroad rules etc). However, the public transit in and around Cape Town is affordable and extremely easy to get around.

Taxi (private) – R10/km

Minibus – R6-8 to Cape Town or Claremont etc. Generally it doesn’t get much more expensive unless you go somewhere really far. It costs R14 to get from my house to Camps Bay beach in Sea Point. These are basically big white trucks that pick up and drop off people on set routes around the city.

Train – R15 round trip to Muizenberg.

Safety Note: Keep in mind when using public transit in Cape Town that certain areas can be dangerous to get to on your own. General rule is to travel with someone, never take anything you’re not okay having stolen, and to exercise caution. Also, its generally a bad idea to go on trains or minibuses at night.

Drunk driving is fairly common here, and the easiest way to avoid it –is to avoid minibuses in the evening and to always exercise some caution before getting into a cab.