I look over to my phone for perhaps the fiftieth time in the last few minutes, but the flashing LED that signals a message notification remains absent. From receiving corporate emails from all longitudes and latitudes, almost twenty-four hours a day for the past fourteen years, I am now a telecommunications pariah – a social status I am embracing with wholehearted delight. My primary objective on this discovery of the African continent, before I even begin to contemplate night safaris, canyon hikes and campfire barbecues, is to disconnect completely.

Back in September 2015, when the idea became reality and I set about the task of considering the logistical permutations of a voyage that was to traverse an entire continent, the only nailed-on certainty was its starting point. For Cape Town is a truly magical city. It has a cosmopolitan aura and vibe that only global cities with a defining geographical location or geological landmark possess. And the Mother City has both: straddling the nautical junction where two oceans meet and with a natural backdrop of such imposing grace as Table Mountain, it is jaw-droppingly beautiful.

From the stunning affluent western beach suburbs of Camps Bay, Clifton and Seapoint to the vibrant city centre, via the pastel-hued houses of Bo-Kaap, the former slave district, the city has enough attractions and culture to keep the freshly unemployed amply interested for four days. Further out of the city, but within easy reach, there are the delights of wine-tasting in Stellenbosch and Fransschoek (check), or a day at Newlands Cricket Stadium with the most incredible background scenery (check).

Most of all, however, I had been looking forward to rediscovering the multitude of cafés, bars and eateries on the three central parallel streets of Long, Loop and Bree. Having spent two glorious weeks of a South African winter in Cape Town during the 2010 World Cup, I was most curious to see how this kilometre-long grid of arty boutiques, hipster coffee shops and alternative cocktail bars would coexist in the southern hemisphere summer. The answer is an incredible display of good mood street life, with punters happily spilling onto pavements and intermingling with passers-by and office workers. I have lost count of the number of times I have been accosted by a random reveller asking whether I was having a good time, bru. Capetonians exude a pride for their city that stems from genuine appreciation rather than arrogance, and this is reflected in their everyday positive demeanor.

Today I implemented my meticulously conceived post-employment expedition strategy: waking up to the sound of no alarm clock; going for a run in improbably breath-taking scenery; enjoying a bourgeois seafront salad lunch involving multiple combinations of alfalfa sprouts, pumpkin seeds and rocket; strolling aimlessly and unhurried in the sunshine around whichever neighborhood catches my fancy; drinking coffee whilst attempting to resuscitate my near-defunct writing skills; and enjoying an absurdly affordable evening cocktail at one of the myriad rooftop bars this extraordinary city has to offer. At a quite ridiculous ZAR 24 to the Great British Pound, I am finding myself settling restaurant bills with an embarrassment only usually associated with stealing candy from children.

I am under no illusion that I have started this journey with the only element of luxury I am likely to encounter until the very end. Not only do the showers in my hostel work, but they are hot and powerful; towels are provided and I am yet to see my first cockroach; my shorts side pocket is yet to be stuffed with emergency toilet roll; and most importantly no animal has tried to kill me yet. This wonderful city has provided me with a soft landing from my former life as well as a warm continental hug in preparation for the rest of Africa. It is the perfect place to disconnect.

[Author’s note, 4 years on: how exciting to realise that I will be experiencing a very similar feeling in 6 weeks’ time…]

Camps Bay in the posh western suburbs

Newlands – is there a better place to watch cricket? (no)

Kleine Zalze vineyard in Stellenbosch

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