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First Stop Cape Town

Cape Town and South Africa are amazing - whether it’s the sunsets on the coastline bracketed by the imposing Table Mountain, the friendly fun loving people, or the vibrant colors of the Bo-Kap, it's exciting. After a long flight from JFK to Johannesburg, it was a short hop down to Cape Town, our hub for the next few weeks.  


Our Airbnb overlooking the Atlantic ocean - imagine sunsets over the Atlantic!  They were fantastic every evening.  Mark ran almost every night to the crashing waves and setting sun.


First stop was the Zeitz MOCAA museum  featuring contemporary African art.  The museum was constructed in an old 8 story grain silo with a circular staircase up the middle!  Unlike some museums, this one featured large exhibits by only a few artists.  It was really interesting to see their large bodies of work.  Not usually a contemporary art fan but these exhibits were striking, original and thought provoking.










Robben’s Island, where Nelson Mandela was imprisoned for 18 of his 27 years of behind bars,  lies about 3 miles off the coast of Cape Town.  He was one among many thousands of political prisoners held on the island over the course of over 200 years. Seeing the solitary cell where he lived for almost 2 decades while working to help abolish Apartheid was sobering.  Our guide, himself a former prisoner as the same time as Mandela talked about the harsh conditions and discrimination between different groups of prisoners.


V&A Waterfront, the hub for shops and restaurants, was a bustle of activity.  We paid a quick visit to the Two Oceans Aquarium to check out its sharks exhibit and the kelp forest.  Both very cool!


The food in Cape Town has been varied and delicious.   Good seafood is everywhere.  We found an amazing traditional African dinner at an Ethiopian restaurant.  The restaurant was filled with African art; our dinner, served on a single large plate, contained a variety of traditional Ethiopian beef dishes along with some vegies, lentils, spices and sauces.  You eat with your hands (washed prior)  tearing off a piece of injera, a soft flatbread and using it to scoop pieces of food.  Serious trip highlight! 


We arranged a private tour with an outstanding local guide, Cabelo, who grew up in Johannesburg but settled in Cape Town after traveling and a few degrees. Cabelo provided some great historical context to our visit as well as showing us some key sites and small museums.  As we understand it, Cape Town has had an extended history for a few thousand years as a tribal settlement.  The Dutch came along in the 1680s, established a way station on the way to the East Indies  After a war in the 1880s, the British took over and established much more of a presence and influence.  


Along the way the French Huguenots came over (and helped create the wine vineyards).  Though neither the Dutch nor the English were majorities their influence and culture are still very prevalent with Afrikaans being one of 11 official languages and required in all schools.  Though a relatively affluent country, there are definitely divisions between the haves and the have nots; and the country is still working through years of colonialism as well as decades of apartheid. Having 11 official languages (and many more in practice) along with dozens of different tribes makes the US issues seem easy.

Along the way we saw - 

Table Mountain.  Although we couldn’t get to the top (annual maintenance cable car) and the top was in the clouds, it is still impressive - a miles long flat topped 2000 ft mountain looming over Cape Town.  At one end is another impressive hill called Lions Head which we later hiked. The top part is climbed with ladders and chains.


The St. Georges Anglican Cathedral where Archbishop Desmond Tutu helped bring about the change to SA.  The Slave Lodge, a museum dedicated to the slave history in South Africa, the Company’s Garden - an oasis in the center of the city established as a replenishment garden for the trade route that rounded tip of Africa. Parliament building (fenced off due to an attack in early January 2022 man who tried to get into the building (way too many parallels).  Bo Kaap, a  muslim area with its brightly painted buildings that survived apartheid because the government could not tear down the mosques. 

Langa township - about 45 minutes out of Cape Town proper.  During apartheid the townships were created to segregate the races - blacks, colors, non-whites (Indian, Chinese, and others) forced into separate townships from wherever they were living at the time.  Though apartheid laws were repealed in June, 1991, much of the poverty it created remains.  Many still live in segregated townships and travel by private mini-bus each day to their jobs in the city (often at the minimum wage of 20 rand/hr about $1.20/hr).  Though the township we saw wasn’t a shanty town, it wasn’t far from it and it was one of the better ones.

From Cape Town we head off to the east and south in search of wines, whales and the capes.  Next installment!