Africa

Touring Cape Town

Thursday – August 26, 2010 –

Upon waking up on Thursday morning, I went to the window of our back-facing room and opened the curtains. I had never seen a more beautiful window view from a hotel room. Seemingly rising above the “backyard” of the hotel, we saw the 12 apostles – the mammoth peaks towering above Camps Bay. We also saw the back of Table Mountain, another famous landmark peak in Cape Town. The clouds and a southeaster added drama as they eveloped the back of Table Mountain and went in between the 12 Apostles. Surely this was one of the most beautiful beaches in the world! Unfortunately, the Table Mountain cableway was closed for annual maintenance from August 23-27, but we could only imagine how pretty it would be on top.

Did I mention how great the service was at the Bay Hotel at Camps Bay? The hotel’s fleet of drivers would take us wherever we wanted to go in the city. I have never had a private driver anywhere before, so this was special. We loaded up in a nice Mercedes S500 and our driver took us down to the V&A Waterfront in Cape Town.

Waterfront in Cape Town

Waterfront in Cape Town

We were excited to be visiting Robben Island – the infamous prison where African National Congress leaders such as Nelson Mandela – were imprisoned for lengthy and brutal prison sentences. Unfortunately, we were disappointed to learn all boats had been cancelled for the day due to rough waters. This was the only day we could had time allotted for the journey, so we wouldn’t be able to visit the island on this trip. However, the special World Cup exhibits in the building on Macana football association were interesting, especially since I had just seen the movie “Invictus” on the plane ride to Joburg.

Afterwards, we decided to tour the waterfront. Located as a strategic port between the Atlantic and Indian Ocean, Cape Town’s port is one of the most important in the world. We saw yachts, sailboats, barges and commercial ships from all over the world. We saw a South Korean corvair docked in the harbor that allowed visitors to tour the vessel. One Antarctic research vessel was docked at the Waterfront for the Antarctic winter. Also, we saw one of the Japanese whaling ships featured in the Animal Planet show “Whale Wars.” Coca-Cola sponsored a peculiar “man” sculpture made out of red crates. We walked by the bay near to observe a large seawall and ocean-breaking barriers. Nearby we saw the impressive glass façade of Greenpoint stadium, one of the important soccer venues for the World Cup.

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The beautiful port of Cape Town

Then we decided to tour the Two Oceans Aquarium, one of the world’s best aquariums. We particularly enjoyed walking under reef sharks and seeing the penguins exhibit with families of Magellanic and Cape penguins. This was truly one of the best aquariums I have ever toured.

Upon finishing the tour, we ate some fish and chips at the wharf in a nearby restaurant. Then we bought tickets to take the Scenic Red line bus around the city. We sat in the open-top of the red bus, which like a modern London city bus. Along the journey, we had the opportunity to get on and off at multiple stops while listening to headsets with narration in multiple languages.

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Distances of Cape Town to other cities in the world

We first disembarked to tour the Castle of Good Hope. There we walked along the walls on a self-tour. Although we were a long way from the bay, this castle had an old dry moat which was previously on the site of the ocean. The early Dutch settlers were proficient at reclaiming land from the sea, exactly what they did to all of these surrounding areas. We learned about how the Dutch were eventually usurped by the British when they lost the fort. We particularly enjoyed the amazing views of Lions Head and Table Mountain with clouds from the South Pacific rolling over them.

Castle of Good Hope

Castle of Good Hope

Afterwards, we boarded the next bus for a trip to the District 6 museum. The museum told the history of segregation and apartheid in the city. I could help but reflect on the same experiences that black people in the U.S. went through under racist governments and oppressive laws. Much like the Birmingham Civil Rights Museum, the exhibits were well presented. We then road around the city before disembarking at our stop, Camps Bay.

After relaxing for a little while and watching Travel Channel South Africa programs such as “Word Travels,” “Globe Trekker,” and “Top Travel,” we walked the main street and ate at Raj Indian restaurant. I had some terrific prawns and curry. Then we bought some souvenirs, food and ice cream at a nearby grocery store. We then returned and went to bed.

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