Day 21: Klawer - Cape Town
Cape Town Travel Blog› entry 28 of 34 › view all entries
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!