Location: Cape Town, a city at the southern tip of Africa, facing the Atlantic Ocean
Reason: GMC (kinda)
Weather: 65-75 degrees Fahrenheit and sunny all day long
Braai – The Afrikaans word for grill. Similar to a barbecue, a social meeting with grilled meat and alcoholic beverages.
It took countless Oscar-nominated movies, completing in-flight LGST 611 & MKTG 612 papers, and 28 hours to get us to Cape Town. Even though we were there for a GMC (#Mac), we knew that The Times had ranked it 2014’s top travel destination, and given this, our expectations were hovering between high and sky high.
We had planned to drive through the city before heading to our GMC accommodation, but unfortunately, this plan was scuppered by the largest cycling competition in the world. We were forced off the road by over 30,000 cyclists navigating their way through Cape Town. Now we know how cyclists in Philly feel… maybe… However, not to be defeated in our search for sun and sea, we drove to the nearest stretch of sand and like the sun-deprived people we were, just stood there basking in the warmth, forgetting the bitter Northeast cold of just a day ago.
The Spier Wine Farm in Stellenbosch (outside Cape Town) would be our home for the next three days. The scenery there was jaw-dropping. Imagine picturesque, rolling vineyards with lush African trees, and a view of Table Mountain (one of the new seven natural wonders of the world) in the distance. And to top it all off, we drank top quality vino for the price of box wine in the US, and had the first of many wonderful braais to welcome us. To give you some perspective, we overheard MBAs asking about summer internships opportunities on the farm, on that very first night. #springbreak4eva
Our most-treasured GMC experience was getting to know our counterparts at the University of Stellenbosch (fondly known as Maties). Our project team, which combined Wharton and USB students, enjoyed a fantastic night out in Stellenbosch, which turned out to be a quaint college town nestled between local vineyards and mountain ranges. There, we experienced the full extent of South African hospitality in a private dining room at The Big Easy, a restaurant named after and owned by the great South African golfer, Ernie Els. With the strength of the dollar behind us, we dined on fresh oysters, Ostrich steaks, and fine local wines and brandy.
That night, in the midst of copious drinking, our favorite hosts Lourens and Wilco gave us some perspective into South Africa’s two biggest cities, Cape Town and Johannesburg. The cities are on opposite ends of a 2×2 matrix comparing crime and economic activity. Joburg, the business center of South Africa, is plagued by high crime levels and subsequently, has a thriving private security market. Income and crime levels in Cape Town are lower, but in our opinion, if natural beauty could be valued monetarily, the residents of Cape Town would be considered among the wealthiest in the world.
After the GMC ended, we rented a beautiful house in Camps Bay (the St Tropez of South Africa) overlooking the Atlantic Ocean (thank you, Air BnB). And then, because we take YOLO seriously, decided to drive two hours to be lowered into a metal cage while chum — a mixture of fish blood and tuna bits — was tossed into the water around us to lure Great White Sharks to us.
Yup. We lured Great White Sharks towards us. YOLO.
Of course, there were a few wise guys humming the theme to Jaws, both in and out of the water. Thanks for the images, guys. Made clearer, when we lowered ourselves below water, and with hearts racing, looked a 12 feet, 5000 pound, hungry Great White in the eyes. Thankfully, we all made it back intact.
Our next adventure was to flat-topped Table Mountain. And what better to do after taking the cable car up, than to try rappelling down a 250 feet sheer rock face? Backing off the side of a cliff with little more than a couple of pieces of rope got everyone’s adrenaline pumping. And the “surprise” 100 feet down elicited everything from fearful shrieks (Ramie) to full on freak-outs (Ramie, again?).
Having had our fill of near death experiences, we opened up our Camp’s Bay pad to the larger group, intent on closing out the trip with a traditional braai. We assembled MBAs, EMBAs, undergrads, new local friends, and Maties to sample our home-cooked beef-ostrich burgers, and peri-peri lamb chops. Wilco (favorite Matie) completed the traditional South African braai experience with liver wrapped in a fat-net to ensure perfectly crunchy crust, and braaibroodjies — grilled tomato, onion, and cheese sandwiches. Simple, affordable, and delicious.
The finishing touch was when Trex Desai (WG ’15) and Adam Goers (EMBA ’15), brought cases of wines from the best local vineyards. Our South African braai had all the right ingredients: quality food, delicious drinks, and the most scenic vacation house we’ve ever stayed in; but the most important piece of the trip (as we’re sure it was for you) was the camaraderie built among our group and the group memories we’ll hold onto.