Saturday, 23 March 2013

Cape Town: The End Times

Good morning, good day and good evening world,

So we're sad to say that we are writing this, our last post about South Africa, from our boring, cold Ottawa home. We do have to say that now that we are home, the motivation to write this final post is quickly dwindling. So let's treat this like a bandaid and pull it off as fast as possible, that way remembering we are no longer in Africa will hurt less, right?
Nelson Mandela serving hard time on Robben Island.
A lot of our last three days in Cape Town were spent shopping and gathering souvenirs for our friends back home, but Mike and Maja are not used to just standing around buying stuff so we still managed to cram a lot of activities amongst the shopping as well.
As you can tell, probably the most appropriate weather for a visit to a prison.
Monday was a really gloomy and rainy day, it almost felt perfect for our visit to Robben Island. This former prison is found just off the coast of the Cape and is famous for housing many of the anti-aparthied political prisoners of the day, including Nelson Mandela, who was imprisoned there for over 17 years of his life. This three and half our tour was very enlightening but was difficult to call a "pleasant experience." We had to take a thirty minute boat ride on some extremely choppy seas to reach the island and once there, we hopped on a bus which gave a tour of the island itself, which is still home to a small community who runs this world heritage site. Many of the former prisoners and former security guards who ran the prison live and work together to ensure the memory of this place lives on. In fact, one of our stops was at a cafe for refreshments (Tuck Shop) which was run by Nelson Mandela's former guard and the place was full of pictures of the two of them together post-apartheid (they became close friends during his incarceration there).  We were also shown the limestone mines where the political prisoners were forced to work all day. It was during this forced labour where the country's future political leaders discussed South Africa's post-apartheid future.
The lime quarry, the cave is where prisoners would meet to discuss politics. (NOTE: the maintenance staff pictured are not forced labourers)
We also made our way through the prison itself where we were lucky enough to have an actual former political prisoner guide us through our tour and explain what he went through during his time there. One of the most interesting things he mentioned to us was the slightly different treatment received by the black South Africans and their "coloured" counterparts ("coloured" is the official South African term for those who are "non-white" but are lighter in skin tone than regular black Africans). Prison officials would give slightly better clothes and food to the "coloured" prisoners in order to create a division between them and the black prisoners, hoping to squash any growing feeling of solidarity. We were also shown Nelson Mandela's prison cell, which must have been no larger than two and a half metres wide and two metres in length.
Madiba's (Mandela) cell
One last thing about Robben Island, there were penguins on it as well ;)
We used the rest of the day to explore the Cape Town waterfront which had excellent shops and atmosphere (luckily the weather had cleared up by the time we returned to the mainland). After catching up with one of Maja's former classmates over lunch, we headed out to the Two Oceans' Aquarium to take in the local sea life. There were plenty of strange creepy crawlies there and Mike practically had to drag Maja into the building as she had no interest in seeing what kind of company she has when she goes for a dip in the South African sea. Not much to really report here, it's your typical aquarium, but it did have our third penguin sighting of the trip, so there's that.
Giant African Spider crabs. Probably the biggest, most disgusting crabs we've ever seen. If you can't tell, Maja was forced into this picture...
Hope you like PINK!
We started our next day with an impromptu walking tour of Cape Town, starting with the District Six museum. District Six was a famous neighbourhood in pre-aparthied Cape Town, where people of different religions, backgrounds, cultures and races lived and prospered together. It was a symbol of the melting pot that was Cape Town before the Nationalist Government came to power. Once apartheid came into affect, District Six was deemed an eyesore which prevented Cape Town's city planning to prosper. It became one of the largest incidents of forced migration known to man. All the homes were bulldozed and the land, which was never officially developed by the city government, was left to rot. Once apartheid was abolished, the land was once again developed but patches of land remained empty, full of dirt and weeds as a somber reminder of what had taken place there. The District Six museum offered insight into how this affected the people at the time as well as how they lived before the land was razed. We were also lucky enough to visit on the same day a class full of school children. We know, we know, how can we consider ourselves "lucky" in a museum packed full of noisy kids? Well, because of these children, the museum curator, a man well into his eighties, sat them down and offered them a first hand account of his experiences living in District Six, the forced migration and the apartheid government. We tried our best to sneak by and listen in. While we were in District Six, we also took the time to visit Cape Town's famous Charly's Bakery. Apparently there is a TV chronicling this bakery and it's amazing confectionary and, after trying some of it's amazing cupcakes, we can safely say that it is worthy of its fame! 
Probably the best cupcakes Mike has ever tasted
Changing of the guard
We also visited the Castle of Good Hope, which is one of the oldest buildings in all of Cape Town. This acted as a fort which housed the city's governor during the contentious time when South Africa was constantly switching hands between the United Kingdom and Holland. We arrived just in time to see the changing of the guard at the fort so time was one our side. The tour of the castle was interesting enough but we found the military museum outlining the Boer War, which was a huge gap in our historical knowledge, to be the definite highlight. We ended our day eating some excellent Mexican food with Sanjin and Amy, followed by a play about six traditional African stories put on by some of Sanjin's colleagues.
Mike being inappropriate outside the Castle of Good Hope
Our last day in Cape Town, which conveniently coincided with Mike's 31st birthday (urgh!), was spent with quite possibly the epitome of the Cape's tourist attractions, Table Mountain! After waiting over an hour in line, we took a tram ride up to the top of the mountain, which we are told is now one of the 7 new natural wonders of the world. While the wait was long, the view at the top of the mountain was totally worth it. You could see the entirety of Cape Town on one side of the mountain, and the entirety of the Cape peninsula on the other. The view was breathtakingly spectacular!
View of Cape Town from the top of Table Mountain

View of Camps Bay from the top of Table Mountain
Once we left table mountain, we decided that it might be time to finally enjoy some relaxation on this trip, so we headed down to Camp's Bay with Sanjin and spent some quality time just lounging on the beach. It was a nice time to unwind before a crippling flight back home. Our final adventure in South Africa was at dinner, as Sanjin and Amy took us to Moyo, a restaurant that offers a traditional African experience. We were treated to a buffet with countless different African dishes, ranging from oxtail soup, potjie (which we had already experienced at Amy's parents house), springbok sausage, Moroccan tajines  and countless others. The atmosphere is what really sold the place though, as it was all housed outdoors, with traditional African entertainment (drum circles) and face painting. We even convinced the one hold out, Sanjin, to get his face painted so that we could all match. We decided to keep our face paint on throughout our entire plane trip in order to show it off to Mike's parents at the airport. The first words out of their mouths? "What the hell is that stuff on your faces?!?" 
Us with our gracious hosts, showing off our newly painted faces
And so we've come to the end of our magical trip to South Africa. We won't bore you with the frustrating details of our annoying trip through three airports on our way back home to Ottawa, but needless to say, it was not a pleasant experience!

We had an absolutely fabulous time and we truly hoped you enjoyed following along with us. We'd like to thank Amy, the Jephta family, and the Keevy family for being amazing hosts. In particular we have to extend our gratitude to Sanjin, without whom we wouldn't have had nearly this amazing of a time.  Having people to show us around, house us and feed us added a personal touch to this trip that made it special and we cannot thank you enough! 

Let us know if this blog is something you guys liked and whether we should continue with Baby's Got Backpack for future trips!

Until next time!
Bye Bye! Thanks for reading!

No comments:

Post a Comment