CAPE TOWN, SOUTH AFRICA: First Impressions
From much of the literature, and conversations with Cape Town locals on our 22-hour flight, we deplane expecting to get robbed and stabbed. Arriving at the hostel too early to check-in, a young man with an “I Dream of Jeannie” hairstyle and a nose ring looks up from smoking a joint. “Leave those backpacks here or they’ll rip them from your back.” We relax with a brew and dine on ostrich burgers tonight. Our travel plan for the next three months includes renting a car to explore South Africa and neighboring countries. (And move to a different hostel)
Let’s walk Cape Town for a week…
Shops, restaurants, and yachts larger than our house line the Waterfront. Fresh seafood is plentiful, from delectable sushi to Mozambique shrimp. We get lost near Sea Point along the Atlantic shore. White folks with pepper spray strapped around their wrists are walking their Jack Russell Terriers, and we ask a man for directions. “Stay away from the blacks,” he advises. “They will knife you even after you’re robbed.” Hmm…it’s time for a beer! Mitchell’s Scottish Ale House seems appropriate.
Televised NFL is out of the question, so we hop a train to what many call the world’s most spectacular Cricket venue. Not understanding the game, $2.00 beers and hot dogs win us over. The athleticism of Cricket players surprises me.
The proprietor at hostel “Atlantic Point” cooks-up a traditional Braai, a South African “meat grill” of beef, lamb, chicken, boerewors (farmer’s sausage), with beers.
We meet Shannon at the Braai, a thirty-one year old geophysicist from Houston who works on a gas/oil exploration ship. The next day we hike with her up the steep, high-stepping Platteklip Gorge Trail.
This trail gains 2300 feet in elevation up Table Mountain in under two miles. At the top, views of Cape Town and numerous bays blow us away. We are happy to take the cable car back down.
In the morning, barricaded streets give us the impression that a “fun run” is getting started. Turns out to be a massive march of black people celebrating the 103rd anniversary of the ANC (African National Congress).
The ANC is a social democratic party founded in 1912 to unite Africans against white majority rule. Supported by the communist party, it has been in power since the establishment of multi-racial democracy in 1994. Ironically, we pick this day to visit the District Six Museum, which powerfully displays how apartheid affected the daily lives of regular folks being forcefully removed from their homes and segregated. I’ll bet that the Sea Point folks are nervous today. We’re starting to question our travel plans as well.
The proprietor at our hostel relaxes us. “Don’t worry, the Sea Point and Cape Town locals are neurotic paranoid about danger,” he says. “The best way to see South Africa is to drive, and the only way to do Kruger National Park is to camp.”
Feeling a range of emotions from paranoid to safe (alcohol helps) the amazing beauty and fresh air of South Africa wins out over our fears. We purchase a tent and sleeping bags and rent a car. After all, we’re here to explore South Africa and neighboring countries.