Cape Town and Robben Island

Yesterday we arrived at the Cape Town airport without a booked hotel having changed from original plans to fly to Port Elizabeth when weather prevented us. The city is busy with a large mining conference but we were able to find a nice room online at the Hilton Hotel in the city centre. Great breakfasts and a bonus that it has a super sea salt outdoor pool which we have found delightful at the end of a hot day sightseeing. Weather is very warm – over 30 degrees and the sun is very strong on our pale Canadian winter skin. No complaints though – especially thinking of you braving the icy cold at home.

Yesterday (Saturday) we enjoyed a city tour which took us around the main downtown areas as well as up Table Mountain with its iconic views of the city, the harbor and the oceans, and through the beach communities – like Camps Bay – which stretch along the seashore at the foot of the Twelve Apostles. The beach area reminds me of Kitsilano in Vancouver. The city is as stunning as its reputation. Like all vibrant cities in the world it has it’s gritty areas as well – as we found out one night walking out to dinner on Long St – and it has a large shanty town with very small tin-roofed huts which must be unbearably hot in summer and cold in winter.

Today we had a very interesting trip to Robben Island. We’re so glad we read Mandela’s Long Walk to Freedom and reread Alan Paton’s Cry the Beloved Country before coming. Being aware of recent history and political events has made it much easier to understand many things and to appreciate where the country is at socially and where it intends to go. Mandela is honored everywhere for his courage, heart, vision and tenacity. He is a hero and a role model to the black population as one of their own who brought the world to South Africa. To whites he is a man who is much admired as a Nobel peace prize winner – one of 4 South Africans to do so (also Bishop Tutu, de Klerk and Albert Luthuli).

This country is a haven for all Africans. We hear reports that people stream across the border trying to get to a better life. And for those who know these things, they can have documents indicating their new citizenship overnight – a big problem for a country that wants to provide jobs, good health care and education to all its people. Apparently income taxes are only collected from a small part of the population either because the rest don’t earn enough or because they don’t know how to fill out the forms and have never had to do it??? – we need to understand this better……

We are also told this is the murder and rape capital of the world. Blacks have told us they know where people are from by their appearance and they will keep people out to protect their jobs. That said, tourists are very well treated. It is said that one tourist can create up to 10 jobs. People understand that jobs are what is needed to decrease poverty and open up opportunity. Working blacks are everywhere: In the restaurants, hotels, taxis, ticket booths for sightseeing, as well as driving the tour buses and boats and guiding tours on Robben Island (many political prisoner are now the guides) and some are the guests and tourists as well and of course they are the journalists, politicians and governors of this country and largely making a good job of it.

Today which is Monday Feb 6 we fly to Tswalu Game Reserve in the Kalahari. We have lots more observations and pictures to share and will do so as we can.