Day 21: Klawer - Cape Town

Cape Town Travel Blog

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last day on the truck

And so we headed out to Cape Town, the last day of our tour. We woke up at the crack of dawn and after a quick breakfast and a final group photo we set out. The three hour drive down to Cape Town was quite spectacular. There were ragged mountains all around us. Also I was surprised at how green everything was. After a week and half in Namibia I'd almost forgotten what grass looked like.

We arrived in the outskirts of Cape Town just before 11 o'clock. The point where we stopped, at Bloubergstrand, boasts great views over Cape Town and the famous Table Mountain in the back.

first view on Cape Town
Unfortunately for us Table Mountain is shrouded in thick clouds (dubbed table cloth) for about 250 days of the year, and today was one of those 250.

We were picked up for the last excursion of the tour and with a little van we drove all the way to the other end of the city, which gave us a great little lesson in meteorology: At the coast the cold sea current causes clouds to form, which clot around Table Mountain, whereas at the other side of the mountain the sky was entirely clear, and a bright morning sun shone. Even though the Table Mountain range is only 1000 metres high, it forms a natural barrier for the clouds and the temperature difference between one side of the mountain and the other can differ up to 10 degrees! We're talking about completely different weather patterns *within* the same city!

We were driven to one of Cape Town's townships, Langa, for a guided tour.

Guga S'Thebe Arts & Cultural Centre in Langa township
The townships were created in the apartheid era to segregate the different races living in South Africa (white, black, coloured/mixed and Asian). And while apartheid is supposedly long over, segregation is still order of the day in South Africa. Though this is no longer based on race, there is still a strong divide between rich and poor, and as it just happens the poorest people are all black.

I must say I had serious doubts about the ethics of doing a paid guided tour into the slums of Cape Town. Apartheid is an awful yet important part of the history of South Africa, and I agree there are valuable lessons to be taught. Just like a visit to Hitler's bunker in Berlin, or the Cu-Chi tunnels in Vietnam. But unlike those the townships of Cape Town are still very much part of present day life.

Langa township
And there just seems to be something horridly wrong about a group of tourists going watching people live in abominable circumstances and pity their poorness, before going back to their luxury 5-star hotels to spend the rest of the day at the pool or bar and blow more money in a night than the people they've just visited make in a year.

It's a double edged sword, really, because there are many good reasons for doing such a tour too; Plenty a tourist dollar flows into Langa, which enables the community centre to thrive and teach people all sorts of arts, from pottery to painting to music to dance.
As our guide happily explained: "you need to make sure people have something to do, people who get bored resort to crime and we don't want crime here in Langa."

Normally I hate tours that stop at a curio place where you are almost obliged to buy souvenirs, but I really liked the visit to the community centre.

room in which three families live together
You really need to have a heart of stone not to buy something from these people.

After the visit to the community centre we went deeper into the township where we visited the public housing. These apartment blocks were constructed in the fifties, originally to only house male working population, but gradually whole families moved in. The people live in tiny rooms, about 10 square metres, in which they live with three families, sometimes up to 18 people in a room. And four of such rooms have to share two bathrooms and one kitchen.

The government is gradually upgrading these public housing blocks, and slowly people are moving to new shiny buildings where they have a lot more room and privacy.
Another thing you don't want in townships is jealousy or any sense of ownership.

contrast between different types of housing in the township
The selection of who gets to move to a new house seems to be completely random and it is hard to fathom there are no disgruntled people when someone doesn't get selected to move to a new home, but his neighbours are.

The amount of tourists visiting Langa have undoubtedly resulted in that this is one of the wealthier townships. As a result the streets and buildings were cleaner and neater than I would have expected. I mean, this was nothing like the townships you usually see on TV, like Soweto. In fact, I have seen far worse slums in South America for example.
And it did make me wonder again, these tours seem to concentrate on two or three townships in Cape Town, which pride themselves on their strong community and low crime rate. But what about all the other townships? The tour did seem a bit like township propaganda at times.

Mzoli's (photo taken from Wikipedia)

At the end of the tour we stopped for lunch at Mzoli's Meat. Mzoli's is an institution in Cape Town. Basically it is no more than a butcher shop in the Gugulethu township where you can have your meat barbecued on the spot. All around it other establishments have sprung up, selling bread, salads or drinks, and basically the whole block has been converted into one large outdoor restaurant.
This is the where blacks, whites, tourists and expats all mingle. Today was a Sunday, the busiest day of the week, and the place was absolutely packed. There was a DJ playing and the atmosphere was terrific. And the food, ah, barbecued ribs and chicken wings were just finger-licking delicious!

After the tour we rendezvoused with Riaan and Juliana who dropped us off at a hostel.

going up Table Mountain
It was a bit weird. Many of our group stayed in different places around Cape Town, so everybody just quickly buggered off to their respective hostels and we didn't get to say goodbye to half of them.
Fortunately we did get to say goodbye to Riaan and Juliana who I can say I will truly miss. They had played a pivotal role in making the trip the fantastic experience it had been.

The hostel where we had been dropped off, the Ashanti Lodge, also had a second building a block away, with nice and quiet luxury en-suite rooms. After three weeks of tents, dorms, or sleeping outside this was exactly what Robbel and I needed and we decided to splurge a little. Well, splurge, sure it was expensive for a hostel, but I would still say it was cheap compared to an average hotel!

After checking in, unpacking and relaxing a bit it was time for some sightseeing.

At Table Mountain
Apparently there's this mountain here in Cape Town. I wouldn't know, because you couldn't see it for the clouds, but it is one of those must-see things when you are in Cape Town. So we'd agreed to meet up with Rudy, Sally and Paola to go up Table Mountain together.

We were in luck, when we arrived at the cable car which goes up to the mountain the clouds seemed to have lifted and as it turned out we were lucky enough to spend the only thirty minutes that day that the clouds lifted at the top of Table Mountain.
The views from the mountain are stunning, looking down over central Cape Town and the Table Bay.

A short walk and a cup of coffee later we took the cable car down again. By now the sun was setting and the mountain was completely shrouded in clouds again.

The Africa Café

We went for dinner at the Africa Café, a restaurant that specialises in food from all over the African continent. So we had things like Zambian bean pies, Ethiopian chic pea bites and Moroccan Zielook.
The Africa Café also has a very nice 'all-you-can-eat' concept. Rather than presenting the food on a buffet, you get 20 dishes served at your table. After this you can order more of whichever one you liked best.

It was a nice and fitting farewell dinner. Sally and Paola were flying home tomorrow, while Rudy was leaving on another tour. Robbel and I would have two more days to entertain ourselved in Cape Town.

We also had something to celebrate today. Today Robbel and I celebrated our 10th anniversary. No, she's been my sister for longer than that, but today it was exactly 10 years to the date that we first went travelling together.

Table mountain seen on the way to Langa
10 years ago we were sitting on a plane from London to Buenos Aires; my second trip, Robbel's first, for a five week journey through South America.
To coin a couple of clichés: Blimey, time flies! Where did all the hair go? And who would have guessed that 10 years later we would be doing our sixth trip together?

Number seven is already being planned!

vinniegill says:
Lovely !! thanks for sharing !
Posted on: Jul 14, 2010
Ape says:
Yeh fair enough then
Posted on: Oct 24, 2009
Biedjee says:
'snot finished mate :-)
Posted on: Oct 24, 2009
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last day on the truck
last day on the truck
first view on Cape Town
first view on Cape Town
Guga SThebe Arts & Cultural Centr…
Guga S'Thebe Arts & Cultural Cent…
Langa township
Langa township
room in which three families live …
room in which three families live…
contrast between different types o…
contrast between different types …
Mzolis (photo taken from Wikipedi…
Mzoli's (photo taken from Wikiped…
going up Table Mountain
going up Table Mountain
At Table Mountain
At Table Mountain
The Africa Café
The Africa Café
Table mountain seen on the way to …
Table mountain seen on the way to…
on the road to Cape Town
on the road to Cape Town
Guga SThebe Arts & Cultural Centr…
Guga S'Thebe Arts & Cultural Cent…
Happy Feet Dancers giving a little…
Happy Feet Dancers giving a littl…
Happy Feet Dancer taking a break
Happy Feet Dancer taking a break
Happy Feet Dancers
Happy Feet Dancers
Langa township
Langa township
Langa township
Langa township
public housing in Langa township
public housing in Langa township
public housing in Langa township
public housing in Langa township
public housing in Langa township
public housing in Langa township
kitchen in one of the public houses
kitchen in one of the public houses
shower block
shower block
public housing in Langa township
public housing in Langa township
African Gospel Church in Langa tow…
African Gospel Church in Langa to…
African Gospel Church in Langa tow…
African Gospel Church in Langa to…
African Gospel Church in Langa tow…
African Gospel Church in Langa to…
shanty town in Langa township
shanty town in Langa township
shanty town in Langa township
shanty town in Langa township
shanty town in Langa township
shanty town in Langa township
I wouldnt have mind getting anoth…
I wouldn't have mind getting anot…
anyone for some sheeps head?
anyone for some sheep's head?
Mzolis Meat
Mzoli's Meat
having lunch at Mzolis
having lunch at Mzoli's
going up Table Mountain
going up Table Mountain
going up Table Mountain
going up Table Mountain
going up Table Mountain
going up Table Mountain
view from Table Mountain
view from Table Mountain
view from Table Mountain
view from Table Mountain
view from Table Mountain
view from Table Mountain
view from Table Mountain
view from Table Mountain
view from Table Mountain
view from Table Mountain
one of the stadiums that is being …
one of the stadiums that is being…
table mountain in the clouds
table mountain in the clouds
Table Mountain
Table Mountain
Cape Town at dusk
Cape Town at dusk
Cape Town Hostels review
Affordable and central
The Ashanti Lodge is a combination of a hostel, hotel and travel agency. The place has several different types of accommodation: camping, 6 and 8 bed … read entire review
Cape Town Restaurants, Cafes & Food review
All you can eat traditional cuisine with a twist
The Africa Café specialises in food from all over the African continent. It has a very nice 'all-you-can-eat' concept. Rather than presenting the … read entire review
Cape Town
photo by: v10