Wednesday, October 31, 2007

South Africa: Capping Off Our African Adventure in Cape Town

At long last, we reach the holy grail: Cape Town! Since we landed in Cairo on July 17, it has been the one assured spot of final destination (since we had airline tickets from here) and a city that everyone raves about. But as the milestone that would mark the end of our African adventure, it was simultaneously a place that we looked forward to but never really wanted to reach. But reach it we did, and loved it, too.
Like some strange amalgam of San Francisco and New Orleans, it made us a little homesick and yet felt like home. Cape Town offered up sunny happy hours in stunning colonial style buildings, fancy cuisine, stylish cafes and gorgeous waterfront scenery. We particularly liked the brightly colored homes of the historic Bo-Kaap neighborhood, where the city`s Muslim community rubs shoulders with local street artists.

Stunning geography meant fantastic sunsets after hiking up Lion`s head with a bottle of wine and some cheese to watch the magic of the city`s lights begin to twinkle from below. And the wildflowers and views from Table Mountain were incredible. And made all the more special by being shared with some friends from home (who have now relocated to South Africa). It was such a treat to see familiar faces after three months.

But as with all things South Africa, there was pondering as well. On all of our glorious hikes, we never saw anyone of color. And a tour of the townships (which stretch for miles) brought to life some of the city`s not-so-distant past. We had mixed feelings about doing a township tour (as it felt like a bit of a human zoo experience or a poverty tour), but we wanted to learn more about South Africa`s history, and they came highly recommended. One stop was at a township shebeen (a quasi-legal drinking establishment where they make their own corn based beer). Not above trying every different beer he can find, Eric quickly took a hold of the bucket. Of particular interest on our tour was the District Six museum, which detailed forced removal of black citizens from town to the townships in the 1960s and 1970s. Despite repeated attempts, we were never able to secure reservations to see Robben Island, Cape Town`s Alcatraz, where Nelson Mandela was imprisoned. We`ll have to see that next time. On a positive note, friends who had been to Cape Town throughout the past decade spoke optimistically about how much more diverse the town center is and that progress was being made daily to integrate various communities.

And finally, we were able to seek out some African music. This was something we`d hoped to find all over Africa, but was less accessible than we`d hoped. Live music venues were few and far between, and many of them were playing American hits anyway. All of the young Africans we met professed their love for Tupak and 50 cent. Perhaps West Africa is the place to hit for the more African music experience.

We spent a day tooling around the Cape of Good Hope, which was beautiful. Cappuccino and florentines in Kalk Bay, penguin viewing (and impersonating) at Boulder Beach, and miles and miles of gorgeous coastline. A highlight was on a crazily windy (we can`t believe they don`t have more tourists blown off the trail) hike from the point, when we turned a corner and practically tripped over a mama ostrich protecting her eggs. And she had a LOT of eggs. She started hissing at us, and we backed away, not entirely sure what sort of damage an angry ostrich could inflict, but not wanting to find out. We capped off the day with sundowners at Camp`s Bay. No matter how many times we see an African sunset, we can`t stop snapping photos. At least we`re getting a tad more creative at times...

Our final days in Africa were spent in completely ridiculous splendor thanks to some wonderful friends from home. We enjoyed a truly dreamy place with views of table mountain, roses in the room, and champagne in the courtyard. Oh la la. The only thing that would have made the whole thing better would to have been to have had our friends whooping it up in Cape Town with us!

No comments: