Sunday, February 10, 2008

Cape Town and Surrounding Areas, Part 1

When we drove into Cape Town, we didn't really know what to expect. The few glimpses we'd seen when flying over it before heading to Franschhoek weren't especially promising...townships, "informal settlements", slums, whatever you want to call them, were everywhere. From the air, the glitter of trash made it look almost like there were little ice puddles strewn over the streets and yards.

The drive in was a little more encouraging, at least once we got in towards the city center. Other than being our first in-city experience driving on the opposite side of the car and street, it didn't seem any harder to navigate than many other places we've been. We had made arrangements to stay in a small apartment in the Seapoint neighborhood, along the northwest shore of the city, facing the Atlantic Ocean. We found our apartment without too much difficulty, though after the lux accommodations we'd had in Franschhoek it was a bit of a letdown. Cheap though!!

[A small aside here, just because it doesn't really fit anywhere else. While in Cape Town, at one point I bought a local paper. I should have either kept it or taken a picture, but I forgot to do so. The price was printed across the top, of course, much like it is anywhere else. It cost 4 or 5 Rand, I think, (less than a US dollar) but the more interesting thing was the Zimbabwean price printed there as well -- Z$1,200,000. Yes, you read that right. Hyper-inflation is going crazy in that country, as the megalomaniacal Mugabe continues to wreak havoc on the economy, environment, and international standing of SA's northern neighbor. I had the privilege of being able to spend 3 weeks in Zimbabwe in 1999; it's really sad to know that almost every animal I saw then is dead now, because of a starving populace.]

We'd arrived fairly late in the evening. Forest was tired, so Wendy and I took a brief walk along the seawall that night, and stopped into a hotel bar for a quick bite and a drink before turning in. We noticed that one of the bartenders had his hand wrapped up; Wendy asked if he'd broken it. No, it turns out he was stabbed through the hand so he could be robbed!!! More than anything else we experienced on the entire trip, that single statement made me realize how potentially dangerous parts of the city were.

The next day, New Year's Eve, we were off to the Cape of Good Hope. After a crazy drive through the mountain roads,

and a stop to see penguins (they're funny!!!),

we entered the barrenness of the Cape. Wow, it was hot. Everything was washed out from the bright light; even the ostriches were a kind of dusty grey, and hard to see except that they were big moving blobs on an otherwise desolate landscape.



The Cape of Good Hope itself, and nearby Cape Point, were fabulous. There was a distinct line in the ocean where the warm Indian hit the cold Atlantic waters. Of course, being a major tourist destination, there was both a funicular (which we skipped, for once) and a pole with distances to major destinations.


Then it was back to Cape Town in preparation for New Year's Eve celebrations! [coming next post...]