This is a trip we’ve been looking forward to for what feels like a long time. After one short flight and two long ones, that didn’t go as smoothly as our previous very long trip in April (Elinka now happily says about this weekend’s journey: “I threw up on two planes! At the end and at the beginning!”); we had an amazing view of Cape Town and Table Mountain on Monday morning on approach to the airport. Where we’ll be staying for the next week is at the far right of the photo right along the sea below Lions Head, the prominent peak.
Our gracious AirBnB host was able to accomodate check-in at 9 am, which gave us the opportunity to finally stop moving after 36 hours on the go from our door. Two of us tried to take a nap – guess who didn’t – so we were still pretty tired for the rest of the day but we tried to go out and do something since it was so beautiful. We attempted to go on the Table Mountain Cableway but it was just too busy – estimated queue times in each direction were over 90 minutes – so we returned to our neighbourhood of Sea Point for a walk. Sea Point has a very picturesque public pool right above the waves of the Atlantic Ocean, which we hope to visit while we are here.
After an early night on Monday, we were up early Tuesday morning and spent some time at one of the many beaches – Cape Town takes pride in its marvelous seashore – even on beaches like this which were filled with seashells being washed ashore by the constant waves, there were city staff out picking trash that was mixed in amongst the shells and seaweed.
Once the bike rental shop opened (I told you we were out early!), we rented a couple of basic beach cruisers and a Chariot-style trailer to ride from Sea Point to Camps Bay, then all the way back to the V&A Waterfront (15 km). Elinka had a lot of people along the way admiring her arrangement, but it was tough pulling that precious cargo up the few hills with only a single speed!
The southern sections of Cape Town are stunning. We passed Clifton Beach (below) on our way to Camps Bay.
After returning the bikes at a very busy V&A Waterfront, we walked around a bit before settling down for a much needed lunch.
After lunch we made our way over to St. George’s Mall, a pedestrian zone in the Cape Town CBD. This was our meeting place for a walking tour of the colourful Bo Kaap district. The Bo Kaap was originally a settlement built to house primarily Muslim workers (more or less slaves) brought by the Dutch East India Company from Malaysia and Indonesia to work in the Cape. The houses were all white when they were owned by the company. Once the workers were given the freedom to work for other employers and purchase the houses, the story goes that a local paint company was offering new colours of paint at low prices, so the people of the area painted their homes all in different colours to stand out and show their pride in freedom. Unfortunately the weather this afternoon wasn’t as good as on Monday and we were glad that we’d brought rain jackets with us for a few intermittent moderate showers on this walk.
That evening, we headed to Langa Township for our Christmas Eve supper. I’d really wanted to get us a unique experience of the local people of Cape Town away from the touristy areas, yet still a safe place to go. South Africa in general, but specifically the townships have quite the reputation for being extremely dangerous with high levels of crime. I admit that I didn’t tell Blanka where exactly we were going, just that I knew we would all enjoy it. Our Uber driver spoiled it for me – as soon as we got in and he saw the destination, he asked if we were sure that we wanted to go to Langa. Again, on the way, he essentially asked if we knew what we were getting into and I could sense that he’d be glad to be done this trip and back to the city. I’m certainly not for living on the edge of risk when it comes to personal safety and I felt like I had done extensive enough research on this place to feel that we wouldn’t have any issues. We didn’t. There are high levels of crime in some of the township areas, but the restaurant we went to had their staff/family guiding vehicles in and out of the little street to keep everyone safe, especially after dark, and we had a magical evening at Mzansi’s Restaurant. It’s in the home of a very proud Langa family – the mother and owner, Nomonde, was even born in the home during the days of apartheid. The family members all participated in the service and entertainment. We had a delicious home cooked meal consisting of various South African dishes; accompanied by some story telling about life in the township, the family, and how the restaurant came to be. Last but not least our dinner was accompanied by a very lively marimba jazz band from just down the road! We also had a custom painting made out of coloured sand by a local artist to take home as a souvenir. It was an eye opening experience to hear from people who actually lived through the worst of all of the things you hear about from the apartheid days – forced relocation into tiny homes stacked one on top of each other, with no electricity or running water, the good luck (!) they had to only have 4 people in the one bedroom home; followed by their perseverance and hard work to create the success of a homegrown business to share the good side of the township people with tourists; and again the struggles with the corruption and problems of the modern day South African government. They’ve still got a lot of challenges ahead, evidenced by the initial hesitation of the Uber driver to take us into Langa. A visit here is a must for anyone who happens to go to Cape Town!
Christmas Lunch is the tradition in South Africa, so today we went to Jonkershuis restaurant on the Groot Constantia wine estate on the east side of Table Mountain. It wasn’t far as the crow flies, but as Table Mountain and its ridges split the city in two, it took us almost 40 minutes each way to get to there. Elinka wasn’t too impressed with the amazing food they brought out for us, except when it came to the desserts…
That’s it for today! Tomorrow is supposed to be last day that’s shaky for weather so we’re hoping to rest up and take in more for the rest of our time here. Even if the weather is grey, the people certainly are the opposite. Just about everyone we’ve had a personal interaction with, be it store or restaurant staff, parking attendants, or even the worker picking trash on the beach; and especially the people out in Langa, the warmth of the South African people is something special. We’re looking forward to experiencing a lot more of that. Merry Christmas from the Vizbars!!