Cape Town Recap: Better late than never

Yep, it’s June. And, we are just getting around to completing our Cape Town blog. We have thoroughly enjoyed reliving our trip but I’m sure that we’re going to miss some fun details.

One Last Night Down Under

We had one more night in Sydney before we left Oz for South Africa. As Chris mentioned in an earlier post, I had been looking forward to staying at the Park Hyatt in Sydney which they were renovating. We had originally planned to stay there during our entire Sydney trip but they didn’t quite finish the renovations in time. They did, however, finish enough of the construction that they were able to open in time for us to spend our last night there – in luxury. We had one more meal at Pancakes on the Rocks (Chris’s pick, of course). Our best meal was at the hotel for dinner. Scrumptious.

**Chris Note**  Krystal was so eager to stay in this hotel, that when we checked in, there was a note on our reservation to contact the manager immediately, so that she could come and greet us.  And, Krystal had corresponded with her so many times that she greeted Krystal with a hug.  Not common in luxury hotels!  Another perk to being a “special guest” is that we received a complementary bottle of great champagne before dinner.  And, then after dinner, the same manager had arranged for us to have a “dessert tasting menu”.  That’s right.  EVERY DESSERT ON THE MENU!!    It was sooooo decadent.   **/Chris Note**

The view of the Sydney Opera House from our hotel room – complete with fireworks and a full moon. So sickeningly romantic.

Gotham Sydney….another view from our room.

Cape Town!!!

We flew Qantas from Sydney to South Africa. If you ever get the chance to spend some time in the Qantas First Class lounge, DO IT. You can get FREE SPA TREATMENTS. Of course, I didn’t find this out until 30 minutes before we had to leave. My big regret of the trip. I’m still pissed about this. Oh well. Next time!

Qantas flight was great. Not Cathay Pacific great but probably in the top four of first class travel on this trip. Our experience at the Johannesburg airport was…interesting. Total culture shock.  It was just large and hectic.  And, every person who approached offering “help” was just trying to get some cash money from you.

We finally made it to Cape Town after a long, exhausting day of travel. Luckily, we were upgraded to a suite but this Hilton hotel wasn’t the best in the world. But, it was free so I won’t complain much.

**Chris Note**  It was actually a very nice suite in a very nice Hilton, with what we would later discover was a fantastic view of Table Mountain.  When we arrived, we discovered that there was a wet spot on the mattress.  After being incredibly confused and disgusted, we determined that they may have spilled a vase of water on the bed when they were covering it in rose petals. It was after midnight, so housekeeping came and flipped the mattress and got us dry bedding.  The next day, they replaced the mattress.**/Chris Note**

Day One:

Our first view in the morning was of Table Mountain. It was a beautiful sight.

The view from our hotel suite!

The hotel is located in the city center about 15 minutes away from the famous Waterfront. The hotel provided a free shuttle so we hopped on to check out the Waterfront.

The Waterfront is a great place to hang out. Lots of shopping and restaurants on the water. My friend, Jan Richards, recommended a place to have a beer called Den Anker. We had lunch there and enjoyed some delicious (and STRONG!) Belgian Trappist beers.

Robben Island is the location where they kept prisoners during apartheid. Pre-Apartheid, the island was used as a leper colony and then later a maximum security prison for violent criminals.  But, from the time of Apartheid, it was primarily used to house political prisoners.  This is where Nelson Mandela was held. It was quite the sobering, moving experience.

**Chris Note**  This was a HEAVY experience.  Our guide was a former political prisoner.  His eyes were damaged from working in the quarries in the sun, with no shade and no protective clothing.  Even in this political prison, there was an added layer of discrimination against blacks.  There were two classes of prisoner:  Coloreds and Blacks.  Coloreds were typically of mixed and/or Asian heritage.  Coloreds received long pants, jackets, hats, and gloves.  Blacks worked in the quarries (digging by hand, no tools) in shorts, t-shirts, no shoes, and no gloves.  They were ALL crippled by the experience.  The chart below indicates the different diet considerations for the two classes of prisoner.  As you can see, blacks were even denied access to healthy food and were fed significantly less than other prisoners.

Nelson Mandela’s cell

Our guide. This was one of the large common cells where many men would spend their time when they weren’t working in the quarries. The windows had bars but no glass. They were exposed to the extremes of the weather. Rain, wind, cold…

It was really heartbreaking to be so face-to-face with the worst of human indecency.  My heart hurt so badly for what those men must’ve gone through.  What’s remarkable is that these prisoners, led by the example of Nelson Mandala, worked side-by-side with their former prison guards (who they also saw as “victims” of Apartheid) to end Apartheid and begin the unified healing of their nation.   Again, this was HEAVY SHIT.  **/Chris Note**

Day Two:

We took a private tour down the peninsula to Cape of Good Hope and Cape Point.   It was a lot of fun.  Our German tour guide, Helmut, was quite knowledgeable about Cape Town and the S. African peninsula.  Our first stop was for a ferry ride to Seal Island.  This isn’t the Seal Island that’s famous for the flying Great White Sharks, though we would see that Island from shore later in the tour.   This was another island where seals gathered.  It was a pretty cool sight!  From there, we set out for the Cape of Good Hope and Cape Point, which are both in a protected National Park.  It was hard not to imagine the tacky resort hotels and other commercial development that would exist here if not for the protections.  Not to mention the wildlife and other resources that would be plundered.  It’s nice that reasonable people still see value in protecting these things.   The Cape of Good Hope is not actually the southernmost tip of the African continent.  That’s a point several hundred Kilometers away.  The Cape of Good Hope is the southEASTERNmost tip of Africa.  We climbed a steep path up the side of a mountain to the light house.  The views were incredible!

Shark food!

Beautiful views!

While we were in the national park, we saw a couple of families of baboons.  These animals are supposed to be pretty dangerous if you’ve got food.  It’s best to not bring food out in the open.  And, if you do, and a baboon approaches, your best bet is to give up your food.  We saw these baboon families from the car.  But, it was really cool to see them approach us.  They were quite curious.  And, they had baboon babies!  We also saw cormorants.  Previously, the only cormorants we had seen were the flightless variety in Galapagos that had evolved to have no use for flying.  These S. African cormorants flew quite gracefully!  Score another one for Darwin and evolution!

Can’t get this monkey off my back!

Lots of baboons!

On the drive back up the coast on the other side of the peninsula, we stopped at a penguin colony.  Penguins are pretty much Chris’s favorite animal.  So, this was quite exciting.  We had swam with penguins in Galapagos.  But, this would be our first opportunity to witness a large colony on land.  And, there were TONS OF THEM!!!  They were so cute!

How could anyone possibly resist the temptation to follow this sign?!?!

Chris is pretty happy to be hangin’ with PENGUINS!!

Well, hello!

So many penguins!!

Day Three:

We spent more time on the Waterfront to do some shopping. Then, before dusk, we took the tram to the top of Table Mountain and did a little hiking. We thought we could make it all the way to the highest peak before it got dark.  We didn’t quite make it.  It’s a little scary being out of screaming range of other humans, on top of a mountain, when it’s getting dark.  So, we turned back, leaving us enough time to get back to the populated area before it got dark.   We saw lots of cool stuff.  We saw some birds who were so comfortable with humans that it seemed that they were posing for photos.  We also saw a cloud come over the top of the mountain and then spill down the side of a cliff.  It was so cool!  Obviously the views were spectacular.  And, we saw another beautiful sunset.  We’ve had opportunities to see some of the most beautiful sunsets the world has to offer.  And, this one did not disappoint.

Clouds spilling down the side of a cliff.

On top of the world!

Hiking on top of Table Mountain.

Great view of Cape Town from Table Mountain.

The sunset!

Day Four:

Wineries!  We did a private winery tour.  Our guide, (can’t remember her name), was quite knowledgeable about the region and the different wineries.  We visited two of them and sampled some fantastic wines and cheeses.  Our guide also gave us a tour of a very nice little college town and schooled us on racial identity in South Africa.  We had a really good time on this wine tour.

 

Left Cape Town and spent one day/night in J-Burg. We didn’t really have time to leave the hotel and explore Johannesburg. But, it was alright.  We were so ready to get home after seven fun-filled weeks of travel.  We got a good night’s rest and prepared for the trip back to Norman.

– KB + CH collaboration

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