With the day confirmed, I was all set for my City Cycle Tour with AWOL Tours.
After meeting the team at AWOL’s HQ at the Victoria and Alfred (V&A) Waterfront, I was supplied with a helmet, as well as my glorious green steed for the day.
Truth be told, I wasn’t overly worried about the fact that I hadn’t been on a bicycle for years. It’s the thing you never forget, as the saying goes. I am sad to report that I was an exception to this, as my brain took a good long while to compute what I was attempting to do.
A few shaky circles later and, thankfully, no face-planting on the V&A’s cobblestone walkways, we were on our way.
Despite Cape Town’s at-times rather terrifying traffic situation, our guide for the day, Mark, constantly checked on all of us and made sure that we were safe at the trickier crossings.
The Waterfront itself was our first stop, where Mark explained the history of the area, its significance in modern tourism, as well as the origin of its name. Since Queen Victoria was married to Albert, it would seem that this would be the logical name. But, since it was Alfred, their son, who actually visited Cape Town, it’s his name that was chosen in the end.
|The V&A Waterfront, with the iconic Table Mountain in the background.|
|Mark recounts the history of the Waterfront.|
It was this mix of history as well as the quirkier facts about the city that made the tour so interesting. I grew up in Cape Town and lived there up until two years ago – yet there were so many things that I hadn’t heard before I went on the tour.
Over the next three hours, we covered a lot of ground.
We paused at historical spots, including the Castle of Good Hope, City Hall (the site of Nelson Mandela’s 1990 speech following his release from prison), the Houses of Parliament and, the city’s main thoroughfare for food and nightlife, Long Street.
|In front of the Castle of Good Hope.|
|The setting for Cape Town’s City Hall.|
The most positive aspect about AWOL Tours, apart from the sheer enjoyment of being out and about in the city, is the variety of places we saw on the tour. Yes, we paid a visit to the well-known attractions listed above, but Mark also gave us an insider’s perspective into the city.
We walked our bicycles through Cape Town station to see the different ways that locals travel to and from work every day, we heard how most wedding parties land up taking their official photographs in the Company Gardens, and we gave our legs a workout by cycling up the steep roads into the Bo-Kaap area.
|Tree tunnel in the Company Gardens – home to the world’s friendliest squirrels!|
|Colourful exteriors of the Bo-Kaap neighbourhood.|
The latter was my favourite location of the entire tour. Formerly known as the Malay quarter, the Bo-Kaap is the epicentre of the city’s Cape Malay culture. The residents here aren’t shy when it comes to their paint options, with each house bearing a shade brighter than the next. There are also several hostels in the area; if I was a backpacker in Cape Town, this vibrant neighbourhood would definitely be my top choice.
For those thinking ahead, Mark also made a point of mentioning recommendations for good restaurants and cafes, as well as other worthy attractions and day trips.
As we made our way to the last section of the tour, which took us past De Waterkant area towards Green Point, I remember thinking that cycling to all of these places really showed just how close each part of Cape Town really is. I’ve driven on and walked the streets of the city my entire life yet I loved being able to experience it all in this new way.
We cycled past Cape Town Stadium, which was built when South Africa hosted the FIFA World Cup in 2010, and had a brief stop in the new and beautiful Green Point Urban Park.
|On our bikes!|
|Cape Town Stadium in the distance.|
|Green Point Urban Park.|
Our excursion at an end, we went back to the Waterfront and said our goodbyes. With a tour that was simultaneously active yet relaxed, AWOL Tours gave me one of my favourite sightseeing days in Cape Town; I couldn’t recommend them highly enough. Regardless of whether you’re a visitor or a local who wants to see the city in a different way, taking the City Cycle Tour should be on your agenda.
If cycling isn’t your thing though, AWOL does a multitude of other tours, including hiking trips, township visits and tours of the Winelands. Contact the AWOL team to find out more.
As for me, I think my day out on the bicycle in the Mother City may have just converted me enough to buy my own such steed here in London.
I was a guest of AWOL Tours, but, as always, opinions and photos are entirely my own.