Wednesday, April 30, 2008

I Dream of Africa part III

Cape Town was so stunningly beautiful, it's hard to put it into words. Thank goodness I bought a new camera before my trip and took hundreds of pictures. My pictures still don't do it justice, but they come close...

Bo-Kaap (Cape Malay)

Hout Bay

View of Hout Bay from Chapman's Peak

Lighthouse at Cape Point

Mandela's Gold
(A Bird of Paradise bred in honor of Nelson Mandela)

I also took lots of pictures of all the interesting animals we encountered during our stay...

1. Nice Kitty, 2. Lion, 3. Guinea fowl, 4. Simon's Town Penguin Colony, 5. Ostrich, 6. Duiker Island, 7. Giraffes, 8. Rainbow over the reserve, 9. Elephants, 10. Rhino, 11. Baboons, 12. Springbok

And just a short drive from Cape Town was the beautiful winelands. We spent most of our time in the Stellenbosch region, a quaint town with old Dutch architecture, sprawling vineyards, and hundreds of wine estates.

This was an amazing trip! South Africa has so much to offer...beaches, mountains, history/culture, cool wildlife, beautiful flora and great vino. I can't wait to visit again!


Tuesday, April 29, 2008

I Dream of Africa part II

South Africa is a beautiful, vibrant country that has struggled to overcome the dark history of apartheid. In planning my trip, I struggled with whether or not to take a tour of the townships. While township touring is very common and generate revenue for the people who live there, I didn't want to be a voyeur. I was reminded of the mixed feelings I had towards motorcoach tours through the devastated Ninth Ward of post-Katrina New Orleans. In the end I decided to go with a small black owned tour company with roots in the community for a more authentic, less invasive experience and deeper understanding of township life.

We began with a trip to the townships of Khayelistsha and Langa which sit in the Cape Flats, an area just outside the city center near the airport. From the outside the townships appear to be miles of tin shacks and poverty. Surprisingly, amidst the tin shanties were some modest brick homes and expensive cars; not all township residents live in extreme poverty. While many residents are poor, the townships are such vibrant communities with schools, churches, and businesses. We visited a local church and community center and a bed and breakfast where economic empowerment and education are encouraged. We drank homemade "beer" with some locals and played games with the children.

We also spent some time at the District Six Museum, a museum devoted to a once thriving multicultural area of Cape Town whose black and colored residents were forced out of their homes by the government into the townships. Family pictures, letters, street signs, and documents serve as a remembrance to the era of apartheid and to the people and cultures who lived in the area.

Overall I'm glad I chose to visit to the townships. I did at times feel somewhat like a voyeuristic tourist, but in the end it was an informative, interactive and socially conscious morning. After our morning in the township we boarded the ferry to Robben Island, where Nelson Mandela was imprisoned for 18 years. Today, the prison is no longer in use; instead it's a museum dedicated to the struggle for freedom. Some of the tour guides are former prisoners; some former guards. Our tour was given by an ex-political prisoner who was charged with treason and terrorism for opposing apartheid. He explained to us what life was like in the prison, where segregation and the rules of apartheid reached beyond the prison walls. We toured the grounds before visiting Mandela's cell.

At the end of the tour, he moved me to tears as he described his supreme respect for Mandela, his love of South Africa and his ultimate forgiveness of the government and the very guards who persecuted him. A moving experience and one of the highlights of my trip!


Monday, April 21, 2008

I Dream of Africa

I'm back from my whirlwind trip to South Africa. I had a fabulous time and enjoyed every minute of my brief time there. South Africa is such an amazing and diverse country and Cape Town is a beautiful city. We stayed in a condo in Camps Bay, an affluent suburb of Cape Town right on the beach. The early fall weather and cold ocean water kept us from spending a lot of time at beach, but we couldn't stay completely away; it was right outside our door! The views of the ocean and the mountains were amazing. We spent several evenings walking along the beach and watching the sun set over the African sky.

Camps Bay Beach

African Sunset

Twelve Apostles Sunset

The backdrop to Camps Bay is Table Mountain and the Twelve Apostles mountain range. The flat-topped Table mountain is a prominent landmark for Cape Town and I took pictures of it from just about every view point!

Table Mountain

back of table mountain

Table Mountain from Robben Island

We spent one morning actually hiking the mountain. Although we took the "easiest" trail up, it was still a challenge (at least for me!), but reaching the top was worth it. We walked along the trails at the top taking in the fynbos and the spectacular views from the top.

Table mountain flora

View from Table Mountain

After a morning of hiking we treated ourselves to high tea the Mount Nelson Hotel which sits on the slopes of Table Mountain. Voted "Best Tea in the World" it's grand and luxurious with an informal dress code.

High tea

We sat in the lush gardens of the hotel sipping tea and eating the buffet spread of scrumptious petit fours, cucumber sandwiches, eclairs, quiche, and cakes.

Bon appetit!
We even took in a beautiful afternoon wedding in the gardens. It was a fun, relaxing afternoon and much deserved after our hike.

More to come!