Our time in Cape Town is about to end. We are sad to leave and have been very happy to spend the past month here. It is the longest amount of time we have spent in one place - finally, we have spent one month in the same slip at the same marina without moving an inch. We have thoroughly enjoyed relaxing, sightseeing and learning so much about this interesting part of the world. We are adding South Africa to the list of places we would like to return - it is probably in our top five. I am quite certain though that the next trip will be by airplane not by boat!
The first thing that struck us when arriving in Cape Town was the incredible scenery. From the marina where we are staying, we have a spectacular view of Table Mountain (see the picture above). There are days where the mountain is covered by the clouds, there are days that it is too windy to take the cable car to the top of the mountain and then there are perfect days for seeing the views from the top. The weather was perfect when Grace, Mark and I visited. We enjoyed doing a bit of hiking on the top and the views were absolutely breathtaking.
Another incredibly scenic spot was Cape Point where the Indian and Atlantic Oceans meet. It is the south western most point in Africa. It was once named the Cape of Storms due to the many shipwrecks which have occurred there over the past 400 years - about 450 in total. The name was changed to Cape of Good Hope to encourage more ships to take this route and open up trade with India. We believe that the Cape of Storms is probably a more accurate description and we used our time during our visit to Cape Point to say good bye to the Indian Ocean. Mark and I agreed (as well as Britt and Shadow) that crossing the Indian Ocean once was certainly enough.
The second thing that was striking about South Africa would definitely have to be the wild life. We couldn't have Grace come to visit us in Africa without taking her on a safari. Mark and I were more than happy to go again. Instead of visiting a national park, we went to a privately owned Game Reserve called Inverdoorn. It was in the middle of nowhere - literally! The resort was in the middle of a 10,000 hectare (about 25,000 acres) valley surrounded by mountains. In addition to the animals we saw on the last safari, we saw two female and one male lions. We were completely unprepared for how big these grown adult cats were. The reserve was also known for their Cheetah Rehabilitation program. We were able to see a group of cheetah and they walked right up to the truck we were riding in. We were assured that the cheetah are not jumpers and thus would not be able to jump into the truck. We also were able to see them run a cheetah - it happened so fast we couldn't even take a good picture. We were also able to get out of the truck at one point and walk up to a giraffe. There is some debate amongst Mark, Grace and me about how close we were to the giraffe but let's just say it felt very close. We also had to pass by a herd of water buffalo that were in the middle of the road. Despite our ranger's best attempts to have them move, we ended up getting so close that that Eugene (our ranger) told us to all move over to one side of the truck as we passed. Grace has a great video of him say this and the commotion of an entire truck of people moving to one side of the truck - quite quickly. Luckily, we passed them without inciting them to charge the truck. We also saw a type of gazelle called Springbok which is the national animal of South Africa. Our guide told us that the springbok is the McDonalds of the wild because it is everywhere and it feeds everyone. We found that to be quite true when later that evening our appetizer was a springbok carpaccio. Although they are incredibly cute and I hate to think of them being killed, it was some of the best meat I have ever eaten. Lastly, we also continued our education about the problems with the poaching of rhinos for their horns. Currently, one can sell a rhino horn for $60,000 per kilogram (more than gold or cocaine). Approximately 600 rhinos were poached this year in South Africa where the total was 400 last year. At Inverdoorn, the rhino horns are filled with a poison which will make anyone who ingests it quite sick. The horns are also filled with a dye to discolor the inside. In addition, they are injected with a substance that will make them x-ray detectable for anyone trying to smuggle them through an airport. All of this is done to try to deter the poaching of the rhino. Some game reserves even go as far as to cut off the horns of their rhinos. As you can see our time at Inverdoon was incredibly exciting and educational, just staying at the resort was treat enough - beautiful pool, great food and exceptional service.
In our traveling around Cape Town, we also saw many animals out and about. The baboons on the way to Cape Point were happy to jump onto the top of your car. On the return from Cape Point, we also saw several ostrich by the side of the road. We stopped at a beach called Boulders Beach where we saw a large colony of penguins. I personally could have watched them for hours. They are adorable - we saw two lying side by side with one penguin's flipper placed lovingly over the back of the other penguin.
The third thing about South Africa which we found interesting was its history of apartheid and race relations. We took two tours to learn as much as we could. We visited Robben Island where for nearly 400 years the island was used to house political troublemakers and social outcasts. The island was home to mentally ill patients, leprosy sufferers, religious leaders, and was also used as a naval base during World War II. The island has four prisons in total and was used as a political prison from 1962 - 1991. We visited the prison cell where Nelson Mandela, the island's most famous inmate, was jailed for 18 of his 27 years in prison. Although less famous, Robert Sobukwe who was leader of the Pan African Congress was kept in solitary confinement on the island after leading a march against apartheid. He was imprisoned for three years and served his sentence but was then kept on the island for another six by the government. Our guide on the tour of the prisons was an ex-political prisoner whose name was Jama. He was an inmate in a group cell for five years and was sent to prison for opposing the apartheid regime.
Nelson Mandela's prison cell
We also went on a tour of the townships. The townships are urban living areas which were established in 1900 and ended with apartheid. The townships were designated as white only, black and colored and everyone in South Africa was placed into one of these designations. The black people had a particularly difficult time in that they needed to carry around a pass book 24 hours per day and could be arrested if they were found without it. The townships that we went into showcased the extreme poverty in South Africa. There is no welfare system so many poor people resort to crime, thus the difficulties with crime in South Africa. We were also amazed to learn that school is not compulsory for children and that it is difficult to motivate children to attend school.
Our guide's name for the township tour was Monkali. He grew up in one of the local townships and is currently living in the Langa Township, the smallest and oldest, built in 1927. He kindly shared his experiences with us as he gave us a walking tour around Lange Township. We went into multiple homes in the township to understand the living conditions. We also were taken to a local "pub" were we shared a traditional bucket of homemade beer with some of the local men. The experience felt so intimate that Grace as Monkali if people were offended by our presence. He responded that people were quite grateful to have us visit. Part of what ended apartheid was the rest of the world gaining the knowledge of what was happening in South Africa. Still today, the people in the townships believe that the more people understand, the better off they will be.
Part of the tour was of District Six, an inner city residential area which was turned into a white only district in 1966 as part of the apartheid regime. At the District 6 Museum, we learned that 60,000 people were forced out of their homes. Many of their homes were bulldozed down without notification to the occupants. Sadly, much of the land in the district was not redeveloped and it stands barren today. The only buildings that survived were government buildings, such as schools, and places of worship. There is an active plan to rebuild on some of the area in the district and allow those who were displaced to return. Unfortunately, many people do not have the appropriate documentation to prove their past residency in District 6 and thus some of the rebuilt housing remains unoccupied.
By the end of the day, we had visited a black township, a colored township and a mixed township which was built after South Africa became a democracy in 1994. The difference in the quality of housing in each of the townships is striking. The black township of Langa now has 70,000 people living in it despite it being built for 5,000 people. The township also has one entrance and one exit. During apartheid there were guards at each of these locations. It was a sobering day for Mark, Grace and me but we were so grateful for such an intimate view of the townships and their history. Hans from s/v Working on a Dream told us before we went on the tour, "If you don't go on a tour of the townships, you cannot understand South Africa." We could not agree more.
Shipping containers which have been turned into housing in the Langa Township
Honorable mention must be given to South Africa's interesting weather. Some of the variability and unpredictability we experienced at sea continued on land. There were days where it was extremely hot, it was extremely cool, it was windy, it wasn't windy, it was very foggy, it was perfectly clear and all of these could happen on the same day. The South Africans love of meat was also quite apparent wherever you went. We had a fantastic meal at Mama Africa where Mark ordered a meat plate. It had crocodile, springbok, ostrich, kudu, etc. Mark was in heaven.
I don't think we will ever forget spending our 2012 holiday season in South Africa. Christmas was spent on a beach in Camps Bay. We had a great day of swimming and playing bocce on the beach. We went swimming despite the water temperature being less than 60 degrees. It was so, so cold but the day was beautifully warm. For New Year's Eve we had a progressive dinner party starting with appetizers on s/v Southern Cross, dinner on s/v Anastasia, and ending with dessert on s/v Brizo. We watched fireworks at midnight from Brizo as we toasted with champagne.
The beach where we spent Christmas Day
I cannot end this blog without giving a special thanks to Grace for flying to Cape Town for the Christmas holiday. She was a great sport as we dragged her from one tour to the next not wanting her to miss anything in South Africa. We loved having her with us for Christmas and it meant so much to have family with us for the holiday.
In two days, we leave for Brazil. We will make a 72 hour stopover at the island of St. Helena along the way. We will have two rather long passages before and after the stopover, the first will be approximately 11 days and the second 13 days. All in all, we will spend January at sea. But, we have a lot to look forward to. Our friends Tony and Eileen are joining us in Brazil for Carnival! We can't wait to see them again.
A special thanks to Britt and Shadow for helping us cross the Indian Ocean safely and for making it so much fun. We will miss you both so much! Mark and I are back to double handing the boat and plan to for the rest of the trip. We are actually looking forward to the trip with just the two of us. I will certainly let you all know how it goes! We will be posting to the blog along the way.