S: Cape Point, Robben Island, Capetown
Mar 16, 2004
First, I must start off by confessing that memory is not my strong suit. Thus, don't plan a travel itinerary based on my claims as to where I went and how splendid it is. There is definitely a splendid place like the one I describe, it just may go by a completely different name and be in a different place! Sorry.
The Armstrong Wheels:
On Sat and Sunday we decided to venture out in our rented Fiat Pialo which is basically a tin can on wheels supercharged with a tightly wound rubberband. I was pleased to find I could get a good tire squeal out of it on a roundabout. Getting used to driving in the right front seat and staying on the left side of the road takes a bit of time, cursing and panic. I kept trying to reach for the shifter with my right hand which would slap my knuckles against the door. Every turn, Dana would just whisper "stay left" which got us around town just fine.
We headed out to Cape Point in the Cape Peninsula National Park which was a beautiful and scenic drive out to the southern point of the Cape. At the lighthouse at the end of the drive, there were loads of tourists and baboons sitting atop tourists' cars. We road a tiny cable train up the last bit of hillside to the overlook where we enjoyed the view of the ocean and rocky coastline. The wind was whipping as all the tourists took out their cameras to capture the moment. One Japanese man peeled off his shirt for his trophy photo. Perhaps he has a picture of his cubical body standing shirtless at all of the globe's greatest Kodak Picture Spots. I kept my shirt on which I think time will tell was a wise move.
Robben Island is the island prison just off the coast of Capetown where Nelson Mandela (and many other political prisoners) was held for 18 years during apartheid. Today, the tourism office touts this site complete with fancy ferry terminal a la Alcatraz. The tours are guided by former political prisoners of Robben Island which makes for a moving experience. Our guide had spent 15 yrs in this prison in a solitary concrete cell. For me, the tour was much more about creating time to think, learn and reflect about apartheid than it was about seeing the concrete walls of a prison. South Africa is presenting this tour to the world so that we may all learn from the past and reflect on the change and progress that has been made in a relatively short time since the end of apartheid in the early 90s.
Our wonderful guide:
Dana and I spent today with Pieter, a South African who is a friend of the Howse family. It was a pleasure to spend the day with a local who was both knowledgable and proud of his country and the beauty of Capetown and its surrounding towns. There is no doubt that Capetown is strikingly beautiful with its coastal location, sweeping beaches, craggy rock peaks, and many, many vineyards tucked into the hillsides. At times, it reminded me of various California locations, both northern and southern California. It can often feel very American, at times European, and then other aspects are clearly uniquely African. We ate fish n chips at a local seaside outdoor picnic table restaurant. Thanks to Pieter for his generosity and eagerness to show us his home.
Dana and I are in the process of adjusting to life as travelers. We stayed 5 nights in the Zebra Crossing hostel, with a bathroom across the tile patio, and a common kitchen and picnic table. We made pasta with fresh mushrooms and onions last night as a trio of Germans made an equally simple meal of pasta and canned stroganoff. We waited patiently for our turn at the hot plate burner. It's pleasant enough but the Hilton it ain't. We met a Brit who just completed 2 yrs of teaching in Malawi and shared stories with her. Life in the hostel is not about privacy and all about openness and sharing. Takes a bit of adjustment I think.
We depart for our overland African camping adventure tomorrow so we'll see where the next Internet terminal is. I'm sure I'm spoiled by the XP, 512k terminal I'm using now. Had Matchbox Twenty and Dido on the radio here as I typed this. Far from home, but often doesn't feel that far.