South Africa pt 2 – Cape Town

So after our safari, we headed down to Cape Town for a few days. Although this was my 5th trip to South Africa, I had never been there before. One thing that was apparent immediately getting off the plane was the mix of cultures. The places I’d been before we’re pretty much white and black but in Cape Town, there is a large population of what they call Malays, people who were brought over by the Dutch from places in South East Asia, like Indonesia and Malaysia, to work as cheap labor, some claim as slaves. So because of the origins of the Malays, the Muslim culture is also very prevalent here.

On our first day, we took a Cape Point tour. Which included a stop at the Cape of Good Hope. Now if you all remember your grade school geography this is the southern most point of the African continent.If you jump in the water and swim, you might make it to Antartica from here. It’s also the point where the Atlantic and Indian Oceans meet. The Cape is extremely beautiful terrain, with crazy rocky flat topped mountains to one side and the ocean at the other. A key feature of the Cape of Good Hope are the penguins. Thousands of them everywhere. I’m not really sure why they congregate here because it’s not very cold but I guess if they want cooler weather they just take the swim to Antarctica. They are very cute but very smelly also.
There are also Baboons everywhere as well. An unlikely place for them to live but they seem to do well. They seem survive mostly by stealing food from the tourists. We were constantly warned not to carry anything edible on our bodies otherwise we might get jacked by one. Our guide had to chase after a baboon once who stole a woman’s purse with her passport, credit cards and plane tickets inside.
On our second day, we did a cultural tour of Cape Town itself. Cape Town looks and feels like a combination of San Francisco(4 seasons in one day weather) and Barcelona( beach city)but it has a vastly different history than either. We checked out the Malay Quarter first, the colorful part of town that the Malays settled. .The amazing thing about Cape Town is that no matter where you are you can see the famous Table Mountain. Named because of it’s flat top, the mountain looks different at all times of the day. Sometimes it is covered with a cascading blanket of fog, known as the table cloth, or sometimes it’s totally clear. At sunset, it reflects the rays of the setting sun and it becomes this glowing orange color.
We also went to District Six, which was a Malay and Coloured part of town that got wiped out so the Whites could take over during the 60′s, one of the most ruthless times of the Apartheid era. It was during the 60′s that Cape Town was being developed as a major international city. Part of the city planning was to relocate all non-Whites outside of the city center. Although they were cleared out, the residents resisted in their own way by disrupting any attempt at the whites of redeveloping the area. So to to this day, District Six reamains a wasteland.This is Noos, he works at the District Six museum. He grew up in District Six and wrote this book about life there before it got destroyed.

Afterwards, we headed out to the townships. Most tourists don’t usually go out here because these are the dangerous ghettos of South Africa but I felt it was necessary element to understanding this country. The townships are where poor Blacks who can’t afford proper housing settle in their ramshackle wood and corrugated steel boxes, a stark contrast to the cosmopolitan atmosphere of the Cape Town City center itself. People with jobs in the city spend over 70% of their monthly income just traveling to and from work, making it impossible to save enough money to get out. Along with the poverty, comes violence as as drug running gangs and other criminals rule the streets. Although Apartheid was abolished in 1994. The effects of it still present a very real problem to the South Africans of today. Only now economics is the excuse used to explain the racial divide. Although life here in the townships is poor and impoverished, somehow there is a vibrance and vitality in the air despite . Cape Town is an amazing city. Beautiful and rich in it’s history and culture. I will definitely look for a chance to go back!