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Cape Town - 2 August to 6 August

T.I.N.A.

all seasons in one day 15 °C

We’ve been in Africa for about three weeks now and during that time, we have used the acronym “T.I.A” to account for things not working quite as they should…… the Victoria Falls Park opening an hour later than they should…. Plans not going quite as smoothly as we had hoped entirely because 'This Is Africa'.

Cape Town is a whole new experience. At first glance, it could be any European or North American city. Fabulous restaurants and bars and shopping malls. We had to create a new acronym: T.I.N.A (this is NOT Africa).

After camping in Botswana, it was great to find a little haven called “An African Villa” from which we based ourselves for four nights (if you are planning a visit to Cape Town look no further! I’ll post a tripadvisor review in due course). We treated ourselves to a fabulous dinner at Belthazar at the V&A waterfront, where we could choose from 600 wines by the bottle and an impressive 190 by the glass!! (We stole a wine list for you D’ell as we think you’d find it interesting). Anyway, we are firm fans of the local Pinotage now.

The next day (Friday), we rented a car and drove out to Cape of Good Hope and Cape Point which was an incredibly scenic drive. On the way, we stopped at Boulders to admire the colony of about 3000 penguins which has grown from only two pairs in the early 80s! This was fabulous as we were able to walk freely among the penguins and check out the younger ones which still had fluffy hair around their necks!

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At the Cape of Good Hope, we did not discover the most southerly point of the African continent (as we had thought), nor had we found the point at which the Atlantic Ocean meets the Indian Ocean. Both these honours belong to Cape Agulhas which was visible from our vantage atop Cape Point. But nonetheless, we were blessed with glorious weather and spectacular scenery on the most 'south-western point' on the continent!

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On Saturday, we enjoyed a private township tour. We had planned to take the boat out to Robben Island which – prior to the last prisoner release in 1991 - had a 400 year history of use by colonial and apartheid leaders as a prison including, of course, Nelson Mandela who was on the island for 18 of his 27 years of imprisonment. However, several of the accommodation blocks (including Mandela’s) are closed for refurbishment, so we opted for the township tour instead. We’re glad we did.

With our guide, we visited the largest township which was about five miles or so from the city center. Kayelitsha covers more than 100km2 and houses more than a million people. The quality of housing varies dramatically, from tin shacks to one room homes built out of concrete blocks. In addition, we saw some government funded accommodation and some privately funded accommodation for those fortunate enough to afford a mortgage payment. Legal settlements might benefit from running water and electricity, but the illegal settlements could be operating without these basic amenities. What was interesting, however, is that the infrastructure is actually quite good – the roads we drove on were of surprisingly good quality, and if the electricity supply was not ‘formal’, most of the houses had found a way to tap into the local supply. The townships have their own schools and hospitals and playgrounds. Of interest, of course, is the continued lack of integration between peoples of different ethnic groups. Apartheid may be behind CapeTonians, but the township kids school with other township kids. And it was noticeable in Cape Town that there were few people of color enjoying the night life. At Belthazar, the service staff were African, but the customers were white across the board. I read a statistic somewhere that reported more than 80% of the African population in Cape Town had never shared a meal with non-Africans.

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It’s not clear if it will ever be possible to transition the township populations to permanent accommodation. It’s not even clear to me that that is what the township population wants. Certainly as soon as one area is ‘cleared’, another will spring up as more immigrants (many illegal) arrive in Cape Town. One area of keen interest is District Six which, prior to the 1900s, had accommodated a diverse mix of 60,000 people: immigrants, freed slaves, merchants and so on, from ten or so different races. District Six enjoyed enviable proximity to the center of Cape Town, so it’s easy to see how it became such a hive of activity for new arrivals seeking work. On the other hand, residents tended to move out of District Six if – through work – they were able to afford better accommodation in the suburbs, which meant that the area did not benefit from residents’ improving economic status. District Six is best known, however, for the 1966 declaration that the area was white-only, and the process of shipping out the ‘coloureds’ began, prompting townships to spring up around the city. In the late 1970s and early 1980s, the area was bulldozed, and the debate continues today as to what the land should be used for. More than 1800 former District Six families have their names on a waiting list to return home.

Posted by jacquiedro 12:53 Archived in South Africa Tagged round_the_world

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