Follow our CNA LIFESTYLE page on Facebook for more travel stories and videos
JOHANNESBURG, South Africa: I was standing at the entrance of the Carlton Center in the Central Business District of Johannesburg when it came to me there was a clear possibility that I could be robbed.
First of all, I had just descended from the dilapidated observation platform of the shopping center, which did not inspire confidence, although, to be honest, it boasted in a breathtaking manner. views of the city as advertised.
Secondly, my traveling companion and I had difficulty finding transportation back to our hotel after three Uber drivers canceled us because nobody wanted to counteract the measured taxi drivers who had claimed the area.  And finally I felt that I was in danger of being deprived because a security guard in the shopping center told us not to cross the street to meet the only Uber driver who agreed to pick us up, or "you will steal to become".
Perhaps we felt our anxiety, the guard brought us generously to our Uber. When we walked back to our hotel, grateful for our happiness and the friendliness of the guard, I remembered the stories of previous drivers about how criminals often grab bags by breaking car windows on highways during peak hours, as well as our own distressing encounter earlier in the day. the day that three big men, unhappy with our Uber driver, jumped out of their car and circled ours and made threatening gestures.
Tired, we decided to spend the rest of our two-day stay in Johannesburg in the relative safety of museums and shopping centers near our hotel in the quiet up-market suburb of Rosebank.
I tried at least superficially to understand why South Africa is considered one of the most dangerous countries in the world. The Apartheid Museum in Johannesburg gave me an idea of how the effects of racial segregation during the apartheid of last century can still be felt.
Unemployment rates in South Africa are currently around 27 percent and inequality is huge. In Johannesburg we drove by beggars within walking distance of large gated estates patrolled by guards, while in Cape Town I saw two white men riding their horses to the beach, as a dozen people – probably illegal immigrants from neighboring countries, according to my guide – stood by the way to wait to find work as cleaners or gardeners.
Nevertheless, as a tourist it is difficult to focus on the problems of South Africa in the light of such a wonderful beauty. Cape Town, where I spent a week, is easily one of the most incredible places I have ever visited. My favorite experiences were the many mountain peaks, nature reserves and beaches of Cape Town – all within a 15 minute drive, or a comfortable Uber ride that cost less than S $ 10, from Long Street in the city center.
INSTRUCT YOUR WAY A MOUNTAIN
Like most visitors, we made the Table Mountain, the most striking landmark of the city, our first stop in Cape Town. We planned to stay for only about one hour, but the view of the city, the 12 Apostles Mountain Range and the beaches were so spectacular that we left only three hours later, with hundreds of photos and a flat camera battery.
Because it is rather difficult to see Table Mountain when it is under your feet, we also walked to the neighboring Lion's Head Mountain. The picturesque course lasted about four hours in total, and although it was not extremely difficult, some athletics required climbing on all fours to climb rocks and staples.
I became irrationally jealous of the many hikers who jumped with the agility of an impala and struck the mountain, while I clumsily clung like a seal. But the path offered so & # 39; s amazing views of the city that the Millennial in me could not do anything else but Instagram my way to the top.
Because neither my friend nor I have trusted ourselves to drive, we hired a local guide to take us around the Cape Peninsula for more nature-related sights. We drove through the beautiful Chapman's Peak Drive to Cape Point and the Cape of Good Hope in the most south-western corner of the African continent, which is as scenic and picturesque as its reputation suggests. We then took a nauseating 40-minute boat trip to watch hundreds of seals lying on a rock with the appropriate name Seal Island from False Bay.
AFRICAN PENGUINS AND STAMPS
But I was most excited about visiting the cute African penguins who ventured to Boulders Bay. Although the smell of penguin poo was ultimately to blame, I was delighted to observe the stupid-looking birds and their hairy offspring from so close.
Back in the city we spent most of our evenings chasing the glorious sunsets of Cape Town. We walked along the promenade at the Victoria & Alfred Waterfront, one of Cape Town's most popular destinations for dining and shopping, and pointed to (real) seals playing in the water.
We also spent an extraordinary afternoon asleep on a rock in Camps Bay, just a five minute drive from the city center, amid the spectacular views of Lion's Head Mountain and the 12 Apostles, where dogs and children jump around cheerfully.
As the sun set over the Atlantic, the skyline turned a magical pink-orange, I photographed the silhouette of passersby reflected in nearby tide pools, thankful for a day with clear skies and perfect weather.
What I found most surprising was that dining in Cape Town was not necessary to deprive unhappy tourists outside shopping centers. We ate seafood at Camps Bay and the V & A Waterfront, where the prices are comparable to regular restaurants in Singapore, and where a glass of wine only costs S $ 4.
But we found better deals closer to the city, along Long Street, known for its casual dining and nightlife, and the neighboring Bree Street, where the coolest restaurants in Cape Town are. My favorite find was the SeaBreeze Fish & Shell restaurant, where oysters each went for about S $ 1 during happy hour.
A WALK THROUGH HISTORY
I tried to reconcile all the beauty I saw with the problems I observed in the city by trying to become better acquainted with its history. Although the only time I felt really threatened in Cape Town was when a thick seagull screamed in my ear and tried to steal my fries, we were often approached by beggars in the city center, who felt troubling.
I joined a Free Walking Tour that took us to important historic locations such as District Six, where 60,000 residents were forcibly removed during the apartheid regime, and the Town Hall, where Nelson Mandela held his first speech as a free man. 250,000 people after being locked up for 27 years.
We also visited Bo Kaap, the Islamic enclave of the city. According to our guide, Bo Kaap was only recently safe for tourists, after violent protests in the area flared up about gentrification and rising cost of living. When we visited, however, we only met friendly residents who smiled while we photographed the distinctive brightly colored houses and cobblestone streets of Bo Kaap.
As I approached the end of my journey, I thought of all the other parts of South Africa that I failed to visit, even after spending 12 days in the country. I would like to see, with my own eyes, the natural beauty of the Drakensberg and the Valley of Desolation on the Eastern Cape. Perhaps next time I will have the courage to drive only to these areas – far away from the worries and concerns of the big cities, highways and shopping centers of South Africa.