Friday, July 1, 2016

South Africa 2016

Joburg to Cape Town

Our two days in Joburg, although interesting, were not much to comment on. It's a city of a downtown that's high rises and seedy looking outskirts, of high walls for the residential areas and the Soweto township. 

The only touristy thing we did there was hire a driver, Nelson, to take us on a tour of the Soweto township and the outlying areas. For what he had to work with, he did wonderfully. 

Soweto looked far less intimidating than I had envisioned. The streets were good, reasonably clean, had playgrounds for kids, shops, and looked safe. I had envisioned something far different.

                         This was Nelson Mandela's home during the Apartheid era. 


The most emotionally charged part of the tour was the Apartheid Museum. We easily could have spent the entire day there, but it was emotionally draining just going through it for three hours. 

There were lots of contrasts that were reminiscent of the days of the Third Reich. One can really understand the courage and determination Nelson Mandela had in pursuing his goals of self-rule for South Africa. He was willing to give up many years of his life for that struggle.

The rest of our visit to Joburg was through the downtown area, which was pretty much like any gritty downtown - cars, shops, high rise glass buildings and lots of people.

After our tour we were ready to move on to Cape Town.

The train from Joburg to Cape Town was delayed by well over two hours, which wouldn't have been so bad if we could have been waiting in a comfortable area. But where we had to wait, it was cool and breezy. Finally, word came that it was due to arrive in just a few minutes.

We boarded the train and found our cabin. We spread ourselves out and relaxed. Soon, a porter came by to offer us bedding for the night. We then went over to the dining car and had a beer and snacks as Joburg disappeared from our window seats.

After some more delays, the conductor announced that the train would be arriving in Cape Town three hours late. It didn't come unexpectedly. But in the end, we finally arrived in Cape Town - only two and half hours late - on time for Africa. 

During our 28 hour train adventure, we'd experienced mostly arid terrain. But as we closed in on Cape Town we began to see beautiful lush farms and vineyards. 

Upon arrival at the main train station in Cape Town, we took a taxi to our B&B in the Sea Point neighborhood of Cape Town. Stan, the manager, met us and showed us to our house with what seemed to be a dozen keys - each unlocking a separate door or gate. 

Security is key. All houses have their walls, electrified wires and signs that state "Armed Response". Not the way I'd want to live.

Our B&B consists of a series of small, colorful houses. At breakfast, the next day, we met a Dutch couple from Rotterdam who had lived in Cape Town years ago. 

The next day, after a big breakfast at the main house, we took a walk along the seaside boardwalk - the ocean was rough, the coastline beautiful.

After our walk, we took one of the local mini buses to pick up our rental car.  After getting the car and preparing myself for driving on the left side of the road, we navigated our way to the Cape of Good Hope. 

What a beautiful drive it was, going through Simons Town and Boulder Beach, a place full of penguins.  In fact, upon leaving, there's a sign that asks you to check under your car for penguins before driving off.

The walk to the light house at the Cape of Good Hope is nothing less than spectacular. The raw beauty is beyond words. We were at the end of a continent. Next was Antartica. 

On the way back to Cape Town, we drove along the western shore, which during sunset, was even more dramatic than the eastern side. It had been a very special day indeed.   

The following day, we toured the downtown area of Cape Town, walked through tthe Moslem neighborhood known as Bo-Kaap. The buildings are painted with vibrant colors. Afterwards we went on a shopping spree for African curious.

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