Disclosure: There's a good chance this post contains affiliate links. Purchasing through my blog helps me stay on the road! So, thank you!(Last Updated On: October 24, 2018)
This Cape Town Adventure Guide might be the most comprehensive I have ever written, so buckle up folks, because it’s gonna be a wild (long) ride. Why so long? Because Cape Town has more adventure activities than I can damn accomplish, that’s why. I spent longer in Cape Town than I have traveling through any city in the last two and a half years, and it STILL was not nearly enough time to get all the extreme sports and outdoor adventures done while also getting enough sleep and leaving myself time to work and maintain my sanity. And watch sunsets from the good places.
I don’t want this to sound like a bad thing, though… we all know I love my adventures, and when a city challenges me so much to complete all the adventurous activities, I actually love it. You really showed me, Cape Town. I am not adventurously invincible like I once thought. I have been beaten. I could spend months (years?) here and still not do everything – not hike all the different routes up Table Mountain, discover all the hidden beaches along Cape Peninsula, or discover all the amazing coffee shops, eateries, and markets around here. This city is still full of so much wonder to me, which is why I know I need to return ASAP.
But anyways, even if I didn’t do everything, I’m still fairly sure I am aware of most adrenaline and non-adrenaline inducing adventures in this city, both of which there are dozens. And I haven’t even started to go into sunset spots…. I think I’ll save most of that for later. The peninsula faces mostly west, and you know what that means…. hint: it’s one of my favorite things in the world. No, not chocolate. It means sunsets over the ocean, which are visible from lots of different places that I will of course tell you when you scroll down. This city is what dreams are made of. Without further ado, let me attempt to put the splendor of Cape Town into actual words… forgive me if I sometimes fall short 😉
Pssssst: if you’re here for a good time but not a long time, check out my Cape Town’s 10 Best Adventures Post Here, which is a bit shorter and sweeter than this massive guide, or PIN this image to save it for later!
Cape Town Adventures
Hiking Activities in Cape Town
Because Cape Town is nestled ever-so-cozily right between the ocean and some massive rocky mountains that are also a National Park, you get LOADS of hiking, all of which which always have an ocean view. What could be better?! Here are some of the best hikes in Cape Town:
Table Mountain Hike
- Table Mountain is probably one of the most iconic landforms in Africa, and the defining landmark of Cape Town. Sitting over 1000m right above the town, you cannot miss going up to the top of this beauty. There are dozens of hiking routes up table mountain, from a more manageable “Patteklip’ to the much more extreme ‘India Venster.” (I am so bitter I didn’t get to do this route this time… I couldn’t find anyone to join me :’( #solotravelprobs ). So, depending on your level of fitness, there will definitely be a way for you to accomplish this important Cape Town adventure.
- This one is a bit farther back in Table Mountain National Park, and looks out over the sea! A Beautiful hike from what I have heard.
Lion’s Head Hike
- Lion’s head is the second most iconic part of Cape Town and an integral part of the defining mountainous skyline of the city. This hike is a lot more manageable than Table Mountain, and takes much less time (maybe 1-3 hours depending on speed). There’s a bit of fun rock scrambling at the top, and I would say this hike definitely has the best and most comprehensive view in all of CT. If you saw my instagram story when I hiked it, you will remember that I was having trouble deciding which direction to look because there was beauty LITERALLY 360 DEGREES around me – from the beaches of Camps Bay, Clifton, and Sea Point, to the Stadium, to the V&A Waterfront, to the city center, all the way up to Table Mountain itself. It was unreal, and one of my favorite hikes and essential Cape Town activities for sure.
- This one is also a but farther up in Table Mountain NP, and a bit more inland. There are lots of trails going up in the mountains here and it also looks out over the back of Table Mountain to the other side/Newlands area.
- Devil’s Peak, along with Lion’s Head and Table Mountain, completes Cape Town’s definitive skyline. This is another hike directly above the city with views over east as well.
If you would rather do a guided hike up Table Mountain, Devil’s Peak, or Lion’s Head, or are unsure which route to take, check out this massive variety of guided options for hiking in Cape Town. You can choose full day, half day, and a variety of easy and hard routes (some are even sunset hikes! Gasp, how perfect!)
CHOOSE YOUR CAPE TOWN HIKE
Table Mountain Cable Car
Skipped past the hiking section because hiking isn’t for you? All good, mate, I feel you. That’s why there is ever-so-conveniently a way to get up table mountain that requires almost no physical exertion whatsoever (besides maybe pushing past other tourists who forgot what personal space is. ugh). The Table Mountain Cable Car is probably one of the biggest tourist attractions in the city and has a nice rotating floor so you don’t have to run all over the place to get the good views. There’s a cafe at the top and lots of trails to explore, with completely panoramic views of the entire peninsula in every direction.
Explore the City
The city center is fantastic to explore, and no Cape Town guide could be complete without it. There are a few different sections of concentrated shops, hostels, markets, and restaurants.
- Kloof street is the northernmost bit, and is a very trendy bit of town with amazing cafe’s, bars, and eateries. (See below: Hudson’s burgers, Yours Truly/Once in Cape Town Hostel, Mustachio Cafe, Molten Toffee)
- Long, Loop, and Bree street are pretty much the center of town. There are even more cool places to eat and drink (91 Loop Hostel/Cafe, Greenmarket square markets, Ace of Spades, The Apartment, House of H… see below! ). You must check out the shops with classic African souvenirs and pop in some thrifty shops as well!
Cape Town Waterfront + Food Market
No trip to this city is complete without a trip to the V & A Waterfront – even if you only have one day in Cape Town! It’s the most touristy place in town, yes, but you must go have a wander around the mall, see some African dancers and musicians perform, maybe ride the ferris wheel, people watch, watch boats come in and out of the harbor, and check out the markets.
Just towards town from the Waterfront there is a wonderful food market (with lots of free samples!) and then an artisanal craft market as well. A morning or evening perusing the waterfront is a must, especially if you pair it with a boat cruise!
Boat Cruises with Waterfront Charters
Leaving right from the middle of the waterfront, Waterfront Charters has the largest fleet of boats in the area for all different purposes. They have a luxury catamaran (Sea Princess) available for cruises or private charter, which also helps ferry people to and from Robben Island.
They have a lovely sailing boat, Esperance, available for cruises throughout the day, a prior tug boat, Southern Cross, also available for different kinds and lengths of cruises, speedboats available for adventure outings around the harbor, and a catamaran called Serenity One available for lots of different cruises as well. I went on the 90 minute sunset cruise on this boat on my last night in Cape Town, drinking complimentary pink bubbly as I watched a spectacular sunset. I almost cried, not kidding. It was gorgeous.
Waterfront Charters does 30, 60, and 90 minute cruises throughout the day, and there are even options for dinner cruises, too. Boat cruises are a great way to check out Cape Town’s skyline from the water, and possibly see the sunset from a new angle! Check out all your options on their website.
Cape Town Paragliding
Cape Town is actually one of the best places in the world to go paragliding! Paragliders take off from Lion’s Head or Signal Hill, dependent on weather and wind, directly towards the sea. The flights are known for their unbelievable ocean views and for being one the the best outdoor extreme sports in Cape Town.
True story: I was in my uber 5 minutes away from Signal Hill, ready to go paragliding, when the wind changed direction and made it impossible to take off. Womp womp wommmmmp.
My paragliding got cancelled 2 days in a row because the wind decided to be a finicky little prick… And then I had to leave. Ah well, at least I got nice photos of other people paragliding earlier in my trip, and this gives me yet another reason to return ASAP!
Book Your Paragliding Adventure
There are tons of cool canyoning/abseiling things to do up in Table Mountain National Park for adventurers like me. I’m going next time I promise! It looks super cool.
Helicopter Ride with Helicopters Cape Town
Ok guys I am so not kidding when I say the best way to see Cape Town and actually get an amazing feel for the layout of the city, mountains, and surrounding peninsula is from THE SKY. My helicopter ride with Helicopters Cape Town was a highlight of my time in the city for sure, and really put the sheer size of the peninsula, height of the mountains, and amount of lovely little beaches into perspective for me.
From up here you can see over all angles of the city, the whole peninsula, and all flats and bays even on a pretty short ride. The pictures and views you get from the helicopter are the stuff of postcards and Pinterest.
Book Your Own Helicopter Ride
Great White Shark Cage Diving in Cape Town
The area surrounding Cape Town is home to some of the best shark diving sites in the world. I went with Marine Dynamics, an incredible conservation-focused, eco-friendly, and fair-trade tourism certified shark cage diving company. If you haven’t read my post about my… well…. interesting… story shark Diving in Gaansbai just outside Cape Town, click here. It’s an funny story, another extreme sport, and a company definitely worth checking out.
Wine Tasting in Cape Town
Just outside Cape Town is one of the most famous wine regions in the world, Stellenbosch. The region is home to 183 (!!!) wineries and some absolutely delectable wines. My tour Wine Flies Tours took our group to five different wineries over the day, pairing wines with biltong, cheese, a meal, and chocolate, and somehow I made it out alive!! Surprising, I know, after that much wine.
But really, a trip to Cape Town is not complete without checking out Stellenbosch. What better way than to have a lovely knowledgable human drive you and some new friends around, and inform you of all the history as you get tipsier and tipsier as the day goes on?! None, that’s how. There’s no way any of us would’ve been able to drive at the end of that tour 😛
This is the gloriously colorful part of Cape Town where most people take pictures in front of bright colored houses and walls. Bo Kaap used to be the place where ex-slaves would move after they had been freed, and to celebrate, they would paint their houses in vibrant colors (slaves were not allowed to wear colors before). Eventually the color of their house came to signify what trade the house owners had mastered, so that people knew where to go to hire a cook, tailor, carpenter, mechanic, etc!
Camps Bay view from Lion’s Head
Cape Town Beaches:
- Definitely a bougie part of Cape Town, Camps Bay is a lovely long white sand beach complimented by a super trendy strip of restaurants and shops right along the water.
- Juuuuust south of Camps Bay is a bit of a more ‘local’ spot (shown to me by my lovely friend who lives up the road!) called Bakoven Beach. There’s a tiny strip of sand and beautiful rocks you can lay on or kayak to, and swim if you are ready for a polar plunge! It’s a beautiful spot with a fantastic view of table mountain and the twelve apostles.
- Possibly even bougier than Camps Bay, we have Clifton, just a few minutes north. I could not keep my jaw off the floor driving through upper Clifton and looking at the massive, impressive houses people have there. There are 4 different Clifton beaches separated by little headlands, each of which are beautiful and lined with amazing beach cottages and houses.
Long Beach from the sky!
- This beach is farther south down the Cape Pinensula. I saw it from my helicopter and it looked amazing, but I didn’t get a chance to go! It would be fantastic for a sunset, also.
- Sea Point is mostly rocky, but has a few beachy areas where you can lay out and enjoy some African sun. There’s also a big outdoor lap pool if you want to do some swimming in a manageable temperature of water!
Long Beach, Kommetjie
- As it’s name suggests, this is a ‘long’ beach set within the little town of Kommetjie. WIth over 8km of white sand, you will surely find a quiet place to soak up some rays.
Boulder Beach – PENGUINS!
No Cape Town adventure guide is complete without including Boulder Beach, either! This beach is famous for having tons of adorable little penguins perusing its shore and relaxing under the shade of bushes. It’s honestly pretty surreal to see cute little penguins waddling around in front of some of the most beautiful blue water, in a fairly warm climate. But it’s amazing nonetheless! Check out Boulder Beach and a little beach trail just south to see some more of these lil guys.
Just up the east peninsula coast from Boulder beach is adorable little Simonstown, home to a little strip of shops and cafe’s that look out over an old navy base in the bay.
Surfing / Muizenberg Beach
Muizenberg is one of the best surf spots in Cape Town and also home to those iconic little colorful wooden houses that are the most insta-friendly things ever. Surf schools will go out here, or grab a local Capetownian and have him show you the ropes of some African surf!
This isn’t the only spot to surf, however – because Cape Town in situated on a huge peninsula that’s open on 3 sides, at least one place will be able to catch the waves no matter where they’re coming from. There are some breaks that can get massive, and even draw big wave surfers from all over the world.
Cape of Good Hope / Cape Point Adventure
So remember when we were in school learning about all the explorers who sailed around the Cape of Good Hope? Well, that’s right at the end of Cape Peninsula! For some reason I was always under the impression that this was the southernmost point of Africa, but I soon found out that is actually Cape Agulhas. This is where the Pacific and Indian Oceans really meet, a bit farther south. But the Cape of Good Hope is a really beautiful location to visit while you’re here, and you can stare out at open water that is pretty much uninterrupted all the way to Antarctica and South America.
Book Your Own Tour to the Cape of Good Hope
(Hint: This tour also includes multiple other adventure spots, including Boulder Beach and drives along scenic beaches! Kill a few birds with one stone?)
On the first Thursday of each month, the city center comes alive with art galleries, street vendors, trendy shops, and free booze. From about 5 or 6pm you can browse the streets, wandering through pop-up art galleries and checking out installations or street vendors selling everything from secondhand clothing to jewelry to burgers to wine (or you can get free wine at a lot of the galleries too. Free = good).
After about 9 or 10pm it turns into more of what the South Africans call a ‘jol,’ or a party. (That’s one of my favorite south african words, by the way.) Lots of bars come alive and are teeming with people on these Thursdays; it’s good fun.
Oranjezicht Farmer’s Market
On weekends there’s an adorable farmer’s market in Green Point that sells all the super organic and fair trade type stuff, like ‘gluten free quinoa flaxseed fair trade chocolate banana bread.’ I don’t know if that’s a real thing (I honestly got something like that and it was delish) but maybe you get the gist of what I mean. 😉
The food here is all very artisanal and unique, and you can also sample a lot of it – chocolates, spreads, dips, biltong, and juices. If you go, get the eggs benedict with spinach, mushrooms, and bacon on fresh hash browns – it’s amazing.
Kitesurfing in Cape Town
Depending one the time of year (summer, I believe) and wind levels, there are kite surfing schools that go out around Cape Town. I was juuuust too late for the season! Next time for sure.
Standup Paddle boarding is definitely a dominant activity in Cape Town. There are adventure companies who can take and teach you, or find a place to rent one and take it out yourself! Clifton, Camps Bay, or Bakoven would be perfect for this.
Rent a Bike
There are bikes to rent along the beach boardwalk that runs pretty much from the waterfront past Camp’s Bay (I specifically remember seeing some for rent by the pool in Sea Point). This is a LONG continuous boardwalk with great views, which is perfect for a bike ride or a run if you are so inclined.
Or, Book a 3-Hour Guided Bike Tour
Catch a Game at the Iconic Stadium
Depending what time of year you’re in the ‘mother city,’ you can try to catch a soccer game inside! You can take tours of the stadium always, and they often have big artists performing concerts inside as well. Might as well visit one of Cape Town’s most memorable landmarks!
Visit a Township in Cape Town and Learn More about the Culture and History
One of the best ways to learn about Cape Town’s recent and quite tumultuous history is by visiting a Township. Here you can see first hand the poverty that plagues the city, but also the incredible spirits of the township inhabitants. You can read a bit about my experience visiting a township in Cape Town here.
Book Your Own Township Tour
This tour will take you through District Six and the Langa and Khayelitsha Townships, just like the tour I did.
Don’t Have Much Time for Cape Town Adventures?
Check Out this Tour
Which encompasses Wine Tasting, Penguins, and Cape Point in the same day!
OR, Do You Have Extra Time?
If you have extra time for a massive Cape Town adventure, you might want to have a classic African experience and go on a safari. From Cape Town you can travel just a few short hours down a famous road called the Garden Route, and reach Game reserves where you can spot the Big Five. You will love the scenery down the stunning Garden Route and be able to experience some African animals up close, such as elephants and ostriches.
Check Out This 2-Day Safari to Outdshoorn
SUNSETS IN CAPE TOWN
Ah, we have finally arrived at the second half of an Adventure & Sunset Guide… sunsets. Aren’t sunsets just amazing? You can stop and enjoy them from no matter where you are on earth, but chances are that you will enjoy them just a little bit more if you are in Cape Town. This is because chances are you will see it set over the ocean, and chances are also that it will be absolutely stunning. Here are some of the best spots!
Table Mountain Sunset
Ah, an obvious choice. Try and synch up your ascension of Table mountain with the sunset in some way or another, because this will be the best spot in town! And no worries if you stay and savor the moment a little, you can always take the cable car back down as to not hike in the dark.
Signal Hill Sunset
This is one of the most popular and accessible sunset spots in town! Watch the last few paragliders of the day softly cut through the air as their parachutes become blurred in the soft evening light. It’s mesmerizing! This is a classic spot to see the sunset over the sea while also relishing in some fantastic Cape Town views.
Lion’s Head Sunset
This will be a phenomenal sunset spot as well as hiking spot, viewing spot, and everything spot, but just remember you’ll have to make the hike down as well!
Or, Book a Guided Sunset Hike
This hike uses headlamps to return down the mountain after sunset, so it would be a great idea for those who wouldn't be confident doing it alone!
Chapman’s Peak faces out over the sea as well, but just a bit more south of Table Mountain. The beach views will be a bit different but it will be an equally amazing ocean view. Aren’t cities on the mountains just wonderful?
Camps Bay Sunset
Sit on the beach, on the rocks, or in a restaurant along Camps Bay’s little boardwalk for a classic Cape Town sunset. The white sand beach faces pretty much due west, and is nestled right between Lion’s Head, Table Mountain, the Twelve Apostles, and the water. It might be another one of those “I’m-not-sure-where-to-look” situations. They happen a lot here.
Waterfront Ferris Wheel
If you want to be a tourist for a bit in the V&A Waterfront (you have to do it at least once), you may as well finish it off with a sunset from the ferris wheel. The waterfront doesn’t face a very desirable direction for the sunset, but you can fix that if you hop on the ferris wheel right in the center of the action. It’s not too expensive for what it is, either!
Sunset Helicopter Ride
Although I didn’t actually experience it at that time of day, this would probably be the pinnacle of Cape Town sunsets. Judging from how epic the views are not at sunset, can you imagine how epic they would be at sunset?
This is a bit out of the way, but if you make a little afternoon/evening trip out of heading up to Blouberg Beach and grabbing dinner, it would be a spectacular spot to watch the sunset and also be able to appreciate the Cape Town skyline from afar. There is a nice little strip of restaurants and shops (a few of which have been recommended to me but I haven’t tried…. Blue Peter and Eden on the Bay) and I’m sure it would be a nice evening relaxing on the beach, wandering around, and getting a meal for sunset.
Cape Town Sunset Cruise
As I mentioned above, a fantastic sunset on the water in Cape Town over a glass of bubbly is an actual ‘happy tears’ worthy situation. Just LOOK at this photo I took from my last sunset in the city. Un. Freaking. Real. Waterfront Charters is the way to go for any type of cruise in Cape Town, as they have the biggest fleet of boats in the entire waterfront and can cater to whichever type of boat ride you want. I do recommend them for sunset, though…. because, well, the photos say it all.
Possibly the Best Money-Saving Deal in Cape Town
Waterfont Charters comes as one of the 60 attractions you can get for free with an official Cape Town City Pass, which is quite possibly the best deal in the city.
Robben Island Sunset
Just a short boat ride from the harbor you have Robben Island, a nice little exploration excursion and fantastic positioning for the sunset.
Cape Town Accomodation
Trendy & Adventurous:
Once in Cape Town Hostel
Located in the heart of the trendy Kloof district, Once in Cape Town is central to the city’s young and hip culture. A hostel in the back and one of the city’s most frequented cafe/bars in the front, Once is the place to be.
Believe it or not, 12 hours prior, the cozy & cute little work spot in the photo above would have been one of the busiest bars in Cape Town! This trendy-as-ever hostel is an amazing space for backpackers, but doubles/triples/quadruples as a yummy cafe with fantastic strong (even for me) coffee, a quaint little restaurant with affordable and delicious options, AND no joke one of the coolest bars in the city. Like, my friends from Cape Town recommended a bar called ‘Yours Truly’ to me, and upon thinking it was super close to my hostel, I soon discovered it was INSIDE. Ha. I tried really hard not to go out one night, but as I walked up to my room, I heard a really good DJ playing at the balcony level of the bar and got sidetracked dancing for a good hour!
They have activities planned out each and every day, can book you into literally ANY Cape Town adventure tours your heart desires (they booked me onto a lot of my tours), and schedule group sunsets, hikes, movies, and other adventures on the reg. They have dorm options and private rooms, so there is pretty much something for everyone. (If anyone can remember my story from when I checked into my private room after sleeping in a tent for 6 weeks, you’ll remember that I was so happy I almost cried… I seem to do that a lot, don’t I?! 😉 ) But yeah, if you are planning to come through Cape Town and love a good trendy atmosphere, check out Once.
(Just type in Cape Town and your dates. Obviously.)
Affordable & Central:
91 Loop Hostel
91 Loop is located RIGHT in the center of Cape Town’s CBD, a short walk away from the big markets, walking tour meeting points, and and shops you would want to peruse. They have a super cool common area that also happens to be a coffee shop and restaurant (which seems to be a thing in Cape Town!), amazing free brekky, and a great social atmosphere.
I actually did a specific blog post on 91 Loop Hostel here, where I go into detail about the unique & affordable ‘pod experience’ I got to try! But they also have different sizes and types of dorms and private rooms for those of us who prefer our own space.
Check my post out for more info! 🙂
Origin Coffee Shop
Some amazing creations at the farmer’s market
Cape Town Food to Try
This is just a completely and utterly random list of cafe’s, bars, and restaurants I tried and liked enough to think they deserve a recommendation to future Cape Town travelers. I have also included some places I have heard were good, but not tried… similar to how I would recommend places to a friend (you’re all my friends, right?!?). Enjoy!
This is a South African cured & dried meat. Try it. Just do it. The biltong at the Waterfront market is fantastic.
Gibson’s Burgers in the Waterfront
If you peruse the food market next to the V & A Waterfront (after getting aforementioned biltong to snack on) and go upstairs to the second level, you will find a selection of bars and a burger place in the corner. GO TO THIS BURGER PLACE. It’s a bit hidden and not the most flash place in the world, but my gawd, these burgers are to die for.
There are a few of these in the city I believe, including one at the same market as the above two places. Amazing coffee.
Although they have multiple locations, the one I went to (pictured) is in the De Waterkant part of town, and is a fantastic authentic coffee shop. They do coffee tastings and have more coffee options than I even knew existed. I was pretty overwhelmed, but just smiled and nodded and pretended I knew what a ‘pourover’ was as the lady tried to help me decide what to get 😛 They also have amazing pastries. It’s a great place to work for a few hours.
Oranjezicht Farmer’s Market (Saturdays)
See above under ‘adventures!’ A lovely upmarket and upbeat food market in Green Point.
House of H’s amazing affordable meal
It might not be the prettiest, but it was R50 and it was 3am. Which, in itself, is beautiful. (Food Inn)
House of H
This place was just down the road from 91 Loop and was SO unique. It was apparently created by a really famous chef, but to cater to a more casual atmosphere. I think they did extremely well balancing the two! You walk in and get a card on a lanyard, and you can get drinks at the bar and food at the counter charged to it. When you are done you simply pay the card’s balance and walk out. Simple and easy within a really trendy atmosphere – no bill splitting needed!
A good mate took us to Jarryd’s the morning after a fairly big night out, and it was probably my saving grace. This place is pretty much the definition of brunch perfection, with a multiple-page menu of sweet and savory brunch goodness – served until the mid-afternoon on weekends. They have insanely good banana bread with espresso butter (!), and more variations of egg dishes than you can imagine. What could be better on a weekend afternoon?
There are multiple of these throughout Cape Town, and one pretty much right under Once in Cape Town. They do probably over 20 different kinds of creative and delectable burgers, along with amazing sides, drinks, and desserts. Quite affordable too!
Before I came to Cape Town, I had a friend recommend this bar to me. When I arrived at my first Hostel (Once in Cape Town), I discovered that this bar was actually part of my hostel! There were almost more locals here than backpackers, meeting each other for coffee as I ate my free breakfast in the morning, or partying together at night. It’s a cozy cafe during the day and a packed bar at night. The atmosphere is amazing (see my photo above under ‘accommodation’) and the food and drinks are great too.
Okay, this one might be the most important. Food Inn is in the center of town, mostly Indian food (but a zillion other types of food too), and it is OPEN 24 HOURS. You can order an entire massive thali for R50, which is hardly even $4. This is the late night haven where all the creatures of the night slither to try and recover a bit of their coherence before heading home.
A trendy, open cafe at the bottom of Kloof.
Another cute cafe on Kloof where I got a fantastic iced coffee.
I didn’t get a chance to go, but I have been told these are the best burgers in CT!
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Disclosure: Thanks to a lot of these companies for hosting me, but as always, all words are completely my own. Some of the links in this post are affiliate links, and will help me stay on the road at no extra cost to you.