Friday, April 11, 2008

Cape Town - Days 3 and 4

(photo in Franschhoek)

This email will be much lighter in spirit and will consist of yesterday and today....I type you now from a internet cafe located in the Victoria and Alfred waterfront.  Our surroundings are much different than the last cafe...nice restaurants, shops, galleries, and most of the things that tourist look for when on holiday.  The working harbor and shoping entertainment development that has become South Africa's most visited man made attraction.
Now for yesterday. It started with the ingestion of our first serious of Malaria and Vitamin B pills for our next adventure.  From now on, we will be taking the medication provided because after Cape Town, the next places are more remote and more adventerous and the opportunity for us to become ill due to water or bug bites are greater. 
Off to the Winelands....the ride begins with a view of the ghetto where most homes were built by tin and whatever the residence could find to put over their heads and in some cases, plastic.. too dangerous for us to enter but quiet shocking to see from afar.  It's always amazing to us to see how poor some people are and how lucky we are not to have known this type of life.  They are so poor that they make the southside ghetto look like Lincoln Park and most of the electricity (if they even have it) is shared or stolen among many from the government. 
The rest of the ride from there was spectacular!   About most of the views we have encountered...just when we think we have seen true, untouched beauty of the land, the next day surprises us with even more beauty with mountains throughout the land from one side to the other, and valleys and rivers and lakes with creatures that wander along the way.  Not the big game we are about the experience soon (where is it?!), but quail, and birds, rabbits and other small creatures that inhabit the land.  Most of the landscape has been untouched by man since the beginning so you can imagine how wonderful it is to us not to see buildings and the congestion of man...just simple beauty.  Mother Earth here is red, very similar to the Brazilian jungle (due to iron) and boulders and rocks as far as our eyes can see.  Shrubs cover the land and from time to time, river beds and creeks that water the animals and people who live in the towns. Water is seen running through some streets in canals that flows from the tops of the mountains....fresh, cool, and free for those who live near it.
The main attraction was the wine country.  We went to a town called Franschhoek that was a mixture of Sonoma and Napa but the views simply blow them away.  The landscape that surrounded this town was yet again spectacular and some of the most expensive real estate located in the Cape Town area.  Here we found little shops that more upscale and some of the best restaurants than in the city.  We met artist and crafters, farmers and farmworkers, adventurers and ordinary friendly, hospitable people.  The town is famous for its Cape Dutch architecture, extensive wine estates and oak lined streets.  It was a lazy town and perfect for what we wanted to do.
Last night ended with a dinner at "Mama Africa" where one could find true South African cuisine and an atmosphere that felt hippy and authentic.  The walls were fully covered with bamboo and the ceilings as well.  The bar was shaped like a snake, with tapestries and African art work displayed throughout.  Here they served alligator, ostorich, springbok, kudu and humans...o.k., not humans but almost anything else that they could hunt.  I had curry chicken, and Rhett had a stew with sprinbok and kudu...yuck for me, yummy for him. We were entertained by a band from the Congo that echoed throughout the restaurant...a very cool experience and just what the doctor ordered.    
We are busy today as well! We just returned from Robben Island where Nelson Mandela was incarcorated.  For those who don't know, he was imprisoned for fighting for black rights in South Africa and later became President of free South Africa in the mid 1990s - still alive today.  He was in jail for 24 years and for 18 years in one cell no bigger than most of our bathrooms.   
The only way on the island was a ferry boat from the waterfront and once on, the landscape was bleak with some vegitation brought over from the Australians long ago, bunny, wild ostriches, birds o'plenty, lizards and other creatures that were brought by man.  Oh, I forgot to mention one of the largest colonies of jackass penquins too!
Our tourguide was a political prisoner himself.  He told us that he was imprisoned in 1986 and was senteneced to 14 years, but was released in 1990 in the third wave of political prisoner releases as apartheid fell.   It was an emotional story.   He told us he was electrocuted and tortured but he felt his story could help him heal, and he appealed to his fellow countrymen to live in peace and harmony and to think about the future, not the past.   One final note, Rhett pulled him aside and asked him about the day of his arrest.  He was very reluctant to discuss anything personal as such.   It was an interesting moment.
We need to go now, almost done with my time on the to Table Moutain for the rest of the day's adventure.  A cable car will take us to the top of this big mountain that has a flat top like a table (duh) and overlooks much of the city of Cape Town.  We will share more once we discover it again.

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