Cape Town, South Africa

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Wednesday, May 6, 2009

On Saturday, May 2nd,  I sat down in my seat aboard South African Airline Flight S357 bound for Cape Town, South Africa.  For those of you who are familiar with my itinerary (Mom and Dad) this is a slight change from my original plans.  I simply decided I needed a little down time to collect my thoughts and to reflect on the past 4 weeks.  So, instead of arriving at the Meercat project today…I will arrive one week later and spend three weeks there instead of four.

With much thanks to the recommendations of tripadvisor…I am staying at a perfectly wonderful boutique hotel in a quiet neighborhood away from the hustle and bustle of a very large city!  It’s the The African Villa and I highly advise anyone coming to Cape Town to skip the large 5-star hotel downtown and stay here instead.  Really…check out their website…it’s gorgious!!!!

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It’a actually three townhouses together.

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This is the kitchen and hallway to the back yard.  The kitchen is stocked with all sorts of supplies that you can take with you for the day – snacks, water, wine and beer – it’s all on the honor system.

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I unpacked all my clothes, put them into a laundry bag and set them outside my door for pick up…whew!  Then unpacked the rest of my stuff and eyeballed it very critically with the goal of eliminating some of it.  I was charged a nice little fee for heavy luggage on this flight.

I slept late, showered and went down to a breakfast of WHATEVER I wanted.  They have fresh cereals, yogurt, granola, a lovely selection of cheeses, muffins, rolls, croissants, and mounds of fresh fruit that ranged from grapefruit to passion fruit!  Fresh juices were also available and coffee.  Then I was asked what type of hot food I would like…eggs any style, potatoes, french toast…whatever!  I stuck to the yogurt, granola and fruit…but this is going to get more difficult as the week goes on.

I explored the  V And A Waterfront – that’s Victoria and Albert.  Brought my own lunch and sat in the park across the street from the mall and wharf to just enjoy the view and being on the water.

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After lunch, I strolled through the mall, found an ESPIRIT and bought two shirts. Then I passed a salon. Oh yes…It be pedicure time. An hour later and my feet are brand new! Then out to the wharf where a young man was singing for the crowd.


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I stepped into an Ultimate Experience Shop in the plaza area and picked up a brochure for Shark Diving.  Thursday will be a good day to swim with the great whites!  Cape Town was originally developed by the Dutch East India Company as a supply station for Dutch ships sailing to Eastern Africa, India and the Far East.  With street names like Buitengracht, Heerengracht and Coen Steytle…one is constantly reminded that this remains very much a Dutch city.

I visited the Two Oceans Aquarium later in the afternoon and caught a glimpse of the smaller sharks that I would see on the shark dive.  This freaking shark actually turned in the tank to look at me. That is one cold eyeball.

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Back to the wharf for dinner at Mitchell’s Scottish Ale House.

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They’re a brew pub and make their own beers – one of which I enjoyed several times – Forrester’s Draught – a light and refreshing little pilsner.

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Mitchell’s is a typical tavern style pub…wide, worn wood plank floors and tables – stone walls – big heavy bar – 30 different whiskies and single malts to choose from and fish and chips!  That’s what I had for dinner and it was good!  They also have a half a dozen flat screen TV’s all around – each one airing a different sporting event.  My TV was offering Sunland vs Everton football (soccer).

An older couple, Sam and Jadine, from Cape Town asked if they could join me at my table – I had plenty of room – and who wants to eat alone?  I’ve been alternating telling people where I’m from –  Pennsylvania vs. Florida.  If Pennsylvania generates a blank look…I go for Florida because it seems that everyone has heard of Florida.

But this time the couple knew exactly where PA was and had a couple of questions for me.  First question: Those people who don’t have electricity and live in the country – who are they? The Amish.  Yes — interesting folk. Second question: Do they have a problem with in-breeding?  I mean – no one from the outside goes in and most of them never come out.

Hmmm…I’m stumped on this one.

Sam’s third question was whether or not people get Pennsylvania confused with Transylvania?  I replied that I didn’t think we had much of a problem with that…but who knows?  The burning questions of those who view America from a distance.

During the apartheid years, Cape Town became known to the rest of the world for the destruction of “District Six”. District Six was a community of black residents and apartheid was all about separating whites and blacks. It was declared to be a whites-only region and every single home within District Six was destroyed and all 60,000 residents were forced to leave – sent to a desolate place called the Cape Flats. The government said “interracial interaction breeds conflict, necessitating the separation of the races” but most people believed that the government wanted the land because of its proximity to the city centre, Table Mountain, and the harbour.

I learned this from Jadine. She told me the story of how her family had been forced to leave their home and how it had destroyed her parents.  She talked a lot about the years of apartheid and the people who had had an impact on her life in a very personal way –  Steve Bantu Biku, a young man who rebelled against the apartheid government – Malcom X and Nelson Mandela. She spoke as if she knew each of them personally. I went to the District Six Museum the next day. In one of the rooms, they had large poster sized photos of individuals who had made an impact on the apartheid movement – one of whom was the band I had been listening to in Zambia – Johnny Clegg and Savuka – I listened to Scatterings of Africa as I walked through the museum.

It was a good night in Cape Town. Dinner was delicious – the company was fascinating and my perspective of the world shifted just a little bit.

And so the week moved along at a lovely, sunny and slow pace.  I went out every day to see the sights of Cape Town.

Town Hall

Cape Town Town Hall

District Six Museum

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The district is laid out on the floor…

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One morning was spent on Table Mountain which, if the guidebook is to be believed, could be the world’s oldest mountain!  And although no one can be sure, the guidebook writers believe that it’s at least 6 times older then the Himalayas and 5 times older than the Rockies.  It’s 3560 ft high.

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I enjoyed the cable car ride up; took the long walk around the entire plateau of the mountain and practiced the selfie 🙂

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View of Cape Town – misty in the morning

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I’m really enjoying Cape Town and am glad I decided to come here for a few days.  I’ve been going through pictures of Lion encounter and painfully deleting some of them. I finally became concerned that after the first month of travel I could possibly use all of my available hard drive space!  There were over 3700 pictures and video of lions!  I have it down to 2000.

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I’m off to swim with the sharks tomorrow. If you don’t hear from me again…well you know what happened.

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