Well, it certainly took a while to get here, almost 30 hours door to door. We are in Cape Town, South Africa. This is my first trip to this end of the African continent and we get to enjoy summer weather. In spite of living in a major “travel from” US city we still had to make several stops, including a “no you can not get off the plane” stop in Senegal. We left the morning of January 1 and arrived at almost 10 p.m. on the night of January 2. We enjoyed our first South African sunset in the Johannesburg airport before boarding the flight to Cape Town.
Our hotel, the Doubletree, is not in a tourist area, but we have this cool two-level loft room. There is a free shuttle to the Cape Town waterfront which we took advantage of today. Our shuttle driver went the extra mile and took us directly to the Hop On/Hop Off bus stop. The waterfront area is very large and he probably saved us 30 minutes of walking over and trying to locate the tour starting point. There were a lot of people in line for the blue line peninsula tour, but we were able to get right on for the red line city and surrounding tour and both grab “window” seats-actually outer edge seats since it is an open air double-decker bus. Plug in your headphones, select your language, and enjoy a guided tour timed to your position. Significantly, you can get off at any of the 18 stops on the route and re-board a later bus which run approximately every 15 minutes. Boris and I use these in lots of cities. We often do a complete circuit as an orientation and then get off and on the second time around. You can even start your tour at one of the other stops. (Our favorite Hop On/Hop Off is in Barcelona, Spain.)
After leaving the waterfront and passing by the Convention Center, we drove through Downtown Cape Town, a mix of old and new buildings and shops and street vendors. I was struck by the simplistic beauty of a brick church was I later learned was St. George’s Cathedral, home to Archbishop Desmond Tutu, a retired Anglican Bishop, social activist, and outspoken opponent of apartheid. Bishop Tutu won the Noble Peace Prize. At a time when churches were racial segregated, St. George’s famously advertised that they were open to persons of all races.
We drove through District Six where in the time of apartheid where no mixing of the races was allowed, varied races had made their homes and mixed harmoniously. In 1966, the Government declared the area “white only” under the Group Areas Act and bulldozed district six leaving over 60,000 people homeless. They left only places of worship standing. Today, most of the area is still fields of weeds, development blocked by those who used the area as a memorial to those who suffered under apartheid. The “white only” technical institute in district six was integrated in 1987.
Boris’ interest was peaked when we passed The Castle of Good Hope, really the remains of a fort. It was the one stop he was tempted by. From the castle we passed back through town on our way to Table Mountain. Signal Hill, Table Mountain, and Devil’s Peak created a bowl effect inside of which sits Cape Town. We went through the pass and up the winding room to the cable car station. It is summer vacation and the lines at the cable station were horrible. I wanted to go, but Boris really couldn’t stand the heat and the thought of the wait in the midday sun. The cable car ride looked fabulous. (It was on my “must do” list so I am hoping for another opportunity-promised by Boris-before we leave Cape Town. It is one of the top three tourist attractions of Cape Town, along the the waterfront and Robben Island where Nelson Mandela was held prisoner.
We returned once more to the pass and reached Camps Bay on the opposite side of Table Mountain where the ridged outcrops are referred to as the 12 apostles (although there are 17). We drove down to the shoreline enjoying gorgeous views and then drove along Beach Road. I could have spent the day at Camps Bay or one of the surrounding beach communities. The weather phenomenon created by the mountains means that the water here is actually colder in the summer than in the winter, but there were lots of people in the water today. We continued our trek along the shoreline, but as we got closer to Cape Town, the beaches were not as nice but the home still enjoyed spectacular views.
We returned to the Waterfront in Cape Town passing the lighthouse and catching a glimpse of Robben Island off in the distance. The maximum security prison was used primarily for political prisoners and has housed three of South Africa’s Presidents, including current President Jacob Zuma. The facility ceased operation as a prison in 1996 and is now a museum. If you want to visit in the summer months, you need to book early. We found this out the hard way.
At the waterfront, we passed through the crafts market with some really nice crafts. Boris found a wellness area where you could get a shoulder and neck massage and noted this for a later visit. The area reminded me of the waterfront in San Francisco, so I was not surprised to learn that waterfront development in Sydney, Australia and in San Francisco served as models for the Cape Town development. The Cape Town version offers a more working port experience with the dry docks and the swinging bridges (moved to allow the boats to pass).
We found a picturesque Belgium restaurant with lovely views of the harbor and Table Mountain and enjoyed a lunch of fries, mussels, and beer. His beer bottle carried a special warning label (added later) which I had never seen. I told Boris he needed to keep ordering different beers so I could see if this was a South Africa thing. He said he was happy to help with my project.
After our late lunch, there was more touring of the waterfront. I stopped into the sea rescue office and bought a hat and t-shirt for Rocky in support of their mission. This nonprofit, volunteer organizations rescues those stranded at sea. There motto is a quote from Theodore Roosevelt (Rocky is a big fan), “Do what you can, with what you have, where you are.”
There is lots of dining and even more shopping in the Waterfront development. Rocky’s souvenirs were all I got today because we spotted our ship, The Silver Wind, docked right in the area and know we’ll be back here the next two days. We grabbed the shuttle back to the hotel and I went straight to take a nap. Boris just wanted a light dinner in the room, so we didn’t go out even though it was Friday night and this is a party city. I am enjoying my last bit of internet before going onboard and have messed up my attempt at adjusting to the time change, but at least I got to submit a post before the internet gets limited or nonexistent (and very expensive).