Arrived in Cape Town – Best 28 hour trip in economy ever – Emirates is excellent. Somehow no jet lag for either of us. While we were there with the various people we met and in preparing for the trip we learned a lot about the history / politics / race/ colonialism – it’s complicated and continues to be.
We had an AirBNB in a great location – Clifton Beach just outside of the city center. Reminded us of LaJolla cove – would have been a good spot just to hang out on the beach. We were lucky to catch the first real warm day in a while and everyone was leaving the beach as we arrived about 8pm. Overall the food was good and reasonably priced – tried Ostrich steak, Warthog, Springbok, and Crocodile Strips. All good – any meat on the braai (local name for BBQ) was good.
For our first day, we had nothing planned and walked 4 miles along the coast to the Victoria and Alfred waterfront (nicer version of Inner Harbor). Very nice and although we were prepared for security concerns, there were none. Later we found out that 98% of the physical crime occurs in the suburbs – not suburbs as you think of them. First place was a upscale food market – first place I went for a coffee my credit card and ATM card swiped. Of course I didn’t know at the time that they been swiped and we took the hop on/off bus tour to table mountain. Finished the tour back at the waterfront and had dinner when a band from Argentina started to play – very festive. They wanted people to dance and I gave them a little sandpaper and the rotary water sprinkler – but then they then didn’t want people dancing.
Next day we went to wine country (next blog) and when we returned we were notified of suspicious charges on one card – cancelled no damage. Next morning I checked my bank account for another reason for another reason to see no money and about 80 small withdrawals. Much of next 2 days on phone – the local people in South Africa were more helpful than our banks back home. The issue was less money for travel (we had enough to get by) but real challenge was just managing normal life stuff as timing was such the account was cleared out just before my monthly sweep of autodebits for mortgage, electric bill, tuition, car payments, etc and figuring out how to get them paid or stopped and paid another way. US banks very unhelpful.
Intermixed with beautiful scenery, visit to police station to file a report, and on the phone to banks, we did see the other side. We heard that approximately 2 million people (out of 5 million total in Cape Town) live in squatter villages in the suburbs. Not all townships are squatter villages and some are middle class neighborhoods that are improving but much of the suburbs far away from the cliffside homes overlooking the sea are miles of corrugated tin houses. Many people living in the squatter villages aren’t South African, but from countries further north and another reason the situation is “complicated”. One of the middle class neighborhoods was “District 6” a mixed race neighborhood next to the downtown area – by was I mean that that is no longer exists. District 6 was comprised of descendants from the local Cape area and descendants of slaves from Malaysia. As it grew, in the 1960’s it was decided by the government it needed to be removed and the residents were “relocated” in the 1970’s. Pretty much a bare spot of land now but a museum was built and we spent some time there.
In the afternoon we took a boat ride to Robben Island where Nelson Mandela was held for 18 of his 28 years in prison. A ex-political prisoner provided the tour. The story told wasn’t from 100 years ago, or 50 years ago….but only just over 25. Very moving and reinforced that people can make a difference – although Mandela was the symbol and focal point, it also took external economic pressure to push the apartheid government to the table. So next time you hear about some far off place where people are trying to raise awareness – maybe stop and consider.