A Travellerspoint blog

Catalyst

Strangely unsettling - that is how I must characterize this trip to Africa ... so many aspects of this continent have been amazing, yet it's the inequities here that have overwhelmed our senses, forever seared into our memories. For all the highs, there were also the lows ... though through sheer resiliency of the people, even in the depth of those lows, there is still hope.

Travel here was surreal and at times, it felt as if we were sitting atop a shiny luxurious skyscraper, separated by steel and glass from the poverty below, functioning as observers rather than participants in Africa, as we were so far removed from many of the realities of African life, sitting comfortably in our little tourist bubble. Often, there was an overwhelming sense of guilt as we lived the high life, drinking fine wine and dining on gourmet cuisine, before retreating to the sanctuary of our safe and sanitized guesthouses ... The feeling was worst in South Africa, as the life we were living was essentially that of the affluent side of Apartheid's binary World of black or white, poor or rich ... obviously, us tourists can't be held responsible for the history of a country we visit nor its ongoing challenges, but for some strange reason, at times even taking part in daily tourist life here makes you feel complicit in the crimes of the past. This sense of guilt really makes no sense, but it's still a real emotion, one that you wish you didn't feel.

Africa isn't for everybody, and a visit here takes a long time to digest, as sifting through all those emotions, both good and bad, is no small task. Witnessing life here provides a new perspective, causing you to re-evaluate what you thought were the realities of the World, and even the truths of your own existence. After observing the World of Black and White here, you realize that life isn't so black and white, after all - race relations no longer look quite the same, nor does the treatment of indigenous cultures. Life suddenly becomes more complicated, though you wish you could still hide in your little bubble of ignorance ... funny how much compassion you can have for the plight of people halfway around the World, yet ignore those in your own backyard.

Meaningful change is a slow process, but one that can often be traced back to a single incident that lit the fire of revolution. Since Apartheid was legislated, there were a number of instances of resistance to the regime, but the most infamous was the Soweto Uprising, which was perhaps the catalyst that eventually led to the demise of Apartheid. It's unfortunate that revolution and bloodshed go hand and hand, but ultimately, this sad reality is a necessary evil, even when it involved the death of hundreds of high school students, who were merely protesting legislation requiring that Afrikaans be taught in schools, which they viewed as being the ultimate insult, forced to learn the language of their oppressors.

One can only imagine the conditions and emotions pulsating in the powder keg that was Soweto during the summer of 1976 ... and though there could never be a single song that could completely crystallize those emotions into rational thoughts, perhaps there is a song that can speak towards the people's anger and their passion for change. <a href="http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=51iquRYKPbs" target="_blank">The Catalyst</a> - in the context of South Africa's struggle against Apartheid, it's a fittingly-named song, written in the voice of the oppressed. It's a rallying cry for change, something that takes place all too slowly in this country.

After all that has transpired in South Africa, finger pointing serves no purpose other than bringing the nation back closer to Apartheid, by further separating an already divided people. The challenges currently facing South Africa are enormous, and while it's easy to focus on only one side of Apartheid, it's important to remember that there is only way of moving toward a better future, and that's through collaboration. Perhaps it's over simplifying, but it can no longer be about <i>Us Versus Them</i> in South Africa, it now needs to be about the collective <i>Us</i> - blacks, whites, coloureds, and Asians. So is a return trip in the cards? Is it worthwhile going back to a place filled with such inequality, a place that draws such mixed emotions? Without hesitation and without a doubt, the answer is a resounding yes. You could take the approach of closing your eyes and plugging your ears, pretending that all is right in the World. Or you could acknowledge the World and human nature for all their flaws, see them firsthand, and hope that one day you will return to see not a perfect World, but one that is changing for the better.

Like Nelson Mandela, South Africa still has a long walk to freedom ahead of it, to a future hopefully free of racism and the problems of the past. As with any difficult journey, progress often seems insignificant as the destination remains nothing but a distant speck on the horizon, and motivation wanes. But you feel renewed after pausing to rest, reflecting back upon your progress and realizing exactly how far you have traveled, and that all that pain and effort wasn't all for naught. You continue trudging along, slowly taking one step after another until you get where you need to go ... so here's hoping that this trip is only the first of many steps back to this amazing continent, and that with each one, comes everlasting change.

View of Table Mountain From Our Guesthouse

View of Table Mountain From Our Guesthouse


Bo-Kaap ...

Bo-Kaap ...


Safety First in Africa

Safety First in Africa


South African Kebab ...

South African Kebab ...

Posted by vagabondvoyager 17:00 Archived in Canada Comments (0)

Rainbow Nation

Eighteen years ... it's the duration of one's life until they come of age, the age which the law considers a person to be an adult capable of making their own decisions. The first eighteen years of one's life mark the first of many phases in life, and for that person making the journey into adulthood, it feels like a lifetime. For the average Canadian, eighteen years is nearly a quarter of their entire life ...

Eighteen years ... referencing A Tale of Two Cities once more, it's also the amount of time Dr. Manette spent in the Bastille, unjustly imprisoned by a powerful French nobleman because of his knowledge of a secret that could destroy the nobleman's family. It's a brilliant story, but fantastic in the sense that it is so unbelievable, so far from reality that it could never happen in real life. Imagine a similar story taking place in South Africa, one in which a great man is wrongfully imprisoned for nearly two decades by powerful men, for fear that he could destroy the nation's way of life, reducing the governing regime to rubble. Something like this could never happen in real life, right?

Eighteen years ... it's not the number of years Nelson Mandela spent as a political prisoner; he actually spent 27 years in jail. But eighteen years is how long Nelson Mandela was incarcerated at Robben Island, South Africa's most infamous penitentiary during the Apartheid era. For all of Cape Town's beauty and must-see attractions like the V&A Waterfront, its beaches, and Table Mountain ... Robben Island is really the place every tourist here is obliged to visit, because it not only tells the story of a great man, but also the tale of the rebirth of a nation.

It's not easy visiting here, as the island is limited to only a small number of visitors per day, requiring that tickets be booked several days in advance, but it's well worth the effort. Though Mandela is its most famous past resident, the tour through the island tells the stories of many others, detailing their despair and the inhumane conditions they all suffered through. It's interesting to note that all the tour guides who walk you through the prison are actually former political prisoners, because it makes you wonder why anybody would want to return to a place filled with such horrific memories ... but that's how important the tales of Robben Island are, and how important it is for people to hear and learn from them.

Beyond the human rights violations, perhaps the most striking aspect of prison life here was that Apartheid still reared its ugly head at every opportunity. Daily rations were distinctly different depending on the prisoner's race - always less for Africans, and more for coloureds. Our guide told us that in the end, these rations didn't matter - the coloureds always shared whatever they had with the Africans, and it's a telling fact about the human spirit, that even in prison, government-mandated discrimination couldn't defeat the spirit of unity that the marginalized peoples of South Africa held in such high regard.

Rainbow Nation is a term used by Desmond Tutu to describe post-Apartheid South Africa - simple words conveying the idea of multiculturalism. Whether or not South Africa has achieved the ideals of the Rainbow Nation is debatable, as the racial divide is still far too blatant, at least, to the casual observer. But in some South African indigenous cultures, a rainbow represents hope and a bright future - who knows how long it will take for that future to become reality, but when it does, it's important to remember that the seeds were sown in, of all places, a prison.

Nobel Square ...

Nobel Square ...


Striking Contrast ...

Striking Contrast ...


Nelson Mandela ...

Nelson Mandela ...


Our Tour Guide For the Prison

Our Tour Guide For the Prison


Mandela's Prison Cell

Mandela's Prison Cell


The Highlight ...

The Highlight ...


Fear

Fear


Hope

Hope


World Cup Sculpture ...

World Cup Sculpture ...


Food Market at the V&A ...

Food Market at the V&A ...


Cape Malay Cuisine ...

Cape Malay Cuisine ...


Peaches and Cream Crepe

Peaches and Cream Crepe


La Boheme ...

La Boheme ...


Cajun Tomato and Herb Soup ...

Cajun Tomato and Herb Soup ...


Ostrich Meatballs ...

Ostrich Meatballs ...


Beef Malay Curry ...

Beef Malay Curry ...

Posted by vagabondvoyager 17:00 Archived in South Africa Comments (0)

Iconic

Table Mountain - the top tourist draw in Cape Town, with its unique silhouette slicing across the blue South African sky, visible from nearly anywhere in the city ... it's the most iconic image a traveler has of Cape Town, the image seen on countless postcards on display at countless souvenir shops, the one must-see attraction for tourists here.

Part of what makes Cape Town such a beautiful city is this mountain, especially when it stands watch over the deep blue of the Atlantic, continuing the theme of striking contrasts that we have experienced so far in South Africa. But in this case, it's a contrast that paints a beautiful landscape of stone and water, rather than one of exclusion and inequality ...

There is an ideal time to visit, though Mother Nature's fickle ways atop the mountain make it difficult to time perfectly, with conditions changing rapidly, often leading to closures of the cable car on a moment's notice. Sometimes this leads to a picture perfect moment when the Tablecloth rolls in, what Capetonians call the unique cloud that unfurls across the top of Table Mountain, gently rolling off the edge, like - a tablecloth ...

Of course, when Table Mountain is covered in cloud, you would see absolutely nothing up top, making a visit there pointless, leaving it better enjoyed by the masses sitting below at the V&A Waterfront, enjoying the vista over a sundowner. Though we never did get to see the Tablecloth today, nor during the rest of our time in Cape Town, but the conditions for our ride up the cable car were still far from ideal.

Cold, windy, with clouds blocking the sun - we knew it wasn't the best time to visit, but with only one more day in Cape Town, Table Mountain needed to happen today, or never. With storm clouds ominously creeping closer and closer overhead, we weren't able to complete the entire walking circuit up top, which would have afforded 360 views of Cape Town. But the experience was unforgettable, nonetheless - from the unique rock formations, to the views of the Mother City below, Table Mountain is one of those ultra-touristy things that you simply must do.

Table Mountain and The V&A Waterfront

Table Mountain and The V&A Waterfront


View From Table Mountain - The Lion's Head

View From Table Mountain - The Lion's Head


Sunset From Table Mountain

Sunset From Table Mountain


Photogenic ...

Photogenic ...


A Walk in the Clouds

A Walk in the Clouds


Popping Rocks

Popping Rocks


Cape Town Harbour

Cape Town Harbour


Our Cable Car

Our Cable Car


Too Little Time ...

Too Little Time ...


For the Birds ...

For the Birds ...


Chicken Pie ...

Chicken Pie ...


District 6 Museum ...

District 6 Museum ...


View From Our B&B On the Cape

View From Our B&B On the Cape


Kloof Street House ...

Kloof Street House ...


Lamb Shank ...

Lamb Shank ...

Posted by vagabondvoyager 17:00 Archived in South Africa Comments (0)

Duality

The Cape of Good Hope - another one of Cape Town's top tourist attractions, largely because of the misconception that it's the most southerly point in Africa. In fact, Cape Agulhas is the rightful holder of that distinction, and the Cape of Good Hope is now marketed only as the most southwesterly point of Africa. No matter, since scores of tour buses still arrive here each and every day, because it's much more convenient for visitors to make their way here, rather than Cape Agulhas.

Soon after arriving in Africa, it was apparent how two disparate Worlds existed here, Worlds that seemingly never intersected nor interacted in any meaningful way. It simply isn't possible for a person to cross over from one World into the other - once a foreigner, always a foreigner, and one could never be fully accepted by the others. It's a sad reality in this continent, a reality that was pounded deeper into our consciousness the closer we got to the Western Cape province the other day.

The Cape of Good Hope represents the World of the rich, of the tourists, a World that the majority of South Africans can never really become a part of. Tourists streaming off buses, happily snapping photos of ourselves in front of a sign showing that we are at the most southwesterly tip of Africa, buying a few souvenirs in the gift shop, having a coffee at the cafeteria, then hopping back on our buses in search of the next attraction.

But as we drove into the Western Cape, the sight was surreal along the beautiful coastal road of the region - on our left was kilometre after kilometre of beautiful beaches, a visual you'd normally associate with 5-star resorts in the tropics. But on the left was kilometre after kilometre of Khayelitsha, supposedly the largest township in all of South Africa, with a population of over 300,000. On one side the ocean stretched out to the horizon, while on the other, it was all shanty town, as far as the eye could see.

When poverty is all around, it's possible to become desensitized to it, as it begins to fade into the background as little more than white noise. But the constant reminders of the racial and financial inequalities everywhere in South Africa continually bring poverty to the forefront, with all the wrongs in the history of this country constantly resurfacing everywhere you look, like giant disgusting oil slicks blighting the sea of humanity. As amazing as our travels through South African have been thus far, this inequality constantly nags at you, digging into your subconsciousness, leaving you feeling a little disconcerted, even during the many moments of joy a traveler here will undoubtedly experience.

Here in the Western Cape, this disparity is far more pronounced than we have seen anywhere else in South Africa. For whatever reason, it got me thinking of Charles Dickens's A Tale of Two Cities, and the novel's themes of duality. Really, there are two different Cape Towns, two different Worlds, a situation that is a microcosm of the entire country, and perhaps even the entire continent. Even before Apartheid, decades of discrimination and marginalization planted the seeds that have grown into this current state of affairs, a tangled mess that cannot be easily undone.

Though most South Africans would agree that, since the end of Apartheid, life here has improved, and continues to improve, will the two disparate Worlds of South Africa ever be fully integrated? Even the most optimistic person knows that nothing short of a grand miracle can heal all that has transpired, a process that will take more than years - sadly, it will take generations ...

Cape Point Ostrich Farm

Cape Point Ostrich Farm


Cape of Good Hope

Cape of Good Hope


Cape Point Lighthouse

Cape Point Lighthouse


Tour Buses - Run!!! ...

Tour Buses - Run!!! ...


Cape Point ...

Cape Point ...


Chapman's Peak Drive ...

Chapman's Peak Drive ...


Old Tea Bags ...

Old Tea Bags ...


Kirstenbosch Botanical Gardens ...

Kirstenbosch Botanical Gardens ...


The L'il Buddhas Enjoyed Kirstenbosch More Than Us

The L'il Buddhas Enjoyed Kirstenbosch More Than Us


Interesting Tree ...

Interesting Tree ...


Fish On the Rocks ...

Fish On the Rocks ...


Yellowtail and Chips

Yellowtail and Chips


Kirstenbosch's Highlight ...

Kirstenbosch's Highlight ...


Cafe Pescado ...

Cafe Pescado ...


Chicken Peri Peri Pizza ...

Chicken Peri Peri Pizza ...

Posted by vagabondvoyager 17:00 Archived in South Africa Comments (0)

Penguin Porn

Boulders Beach - one of the most famous tourist sights in the entire Western Cape, because of the famous penguin colony that calls it home. Normally, I'm not a huge fan of attractions like this, finding them overly touristy and tacky, but animals in South Africa have a way of turning even the most cynical of people into a giggling little kid. I mean, come on - who doesn't love cute and cuddly penguins? Of course, all the signs warning not to pet the penguins because their sharp beaks can do significant damage to people suggest that maybe they aren't so cuddly after all ...

The penguin colony is a must see, one of the funnest things we've done on this trip, which says a lot as there have been so many highlights. Oohing and aahing over every little penguin movement, every little penguin noise, the way they waddle, even when they just sit there and do nothing (which they seem to do a lot of), as we snapped picture after picture. Completely mesmerized watching a penguin waddle three steps and stop, exhausted from the physical exertion, only to begin waddling another three steps after a lengthy rest, then stopping once more, until five minutes later, it manages to move a grand total of five feet ... South Africa, what have you done to us???

You can't help but wonder what the penguins really think of the busloads of tourists that arrive all day, every day, if in some small way, they find us as entertaining as we find them. Or do they simply get annoyed with us? It appears to be mating season, as we both saw and heard penguins, uh ... shall we say ... getting it on, and also a number of penguins laying eggs. How would people feel if penguins barged into our homes, snapping photos and filming videos, giggling at us while we have sex, or while we're sitting on the throne and dropping a stone? Would we be as accommodating?

At any rate, a little Penguin Porn was a nice cap to the day's sightseeing activities, which in an episode of deja vu, strangely seemed to revolve around wine tasting and excessive consumption of some more excellent food. Our time in Africa has been jam-packed up to now, and after a ton of driving the past few days, it'll be nice to spend a couple of nights in a small town overlooking the ocean on a quieter part of the cape. We need to recharge the batteries a bit for our upcoming time in Cape Town, the last few days of the trip - gotta make them count!

Twins

Twins


Delaire Graff Estate

Delaire Graff Estate


Redneck Picnic ...

Redneck Picnic ...


No Complaints ...

No Complaints ...


Penguin Beach Party

Penguin Beach Party


Privacy Please ...

Privacy Please ...


Penguin Contemplating Suicide

Penguin Contemplating Suicide


Basking in the Sun

Basking in the Sun


Penguins Enjoying the Sunset

Penguins Enjoying the Sunset


Leave Us Alone!!!

Leave Us Alone!!!


Potential Penguin Pancakes

Potential Penguin Pancakes


Franschhoek Motor Museum ...

Franschhoek Motor Museum ...


Desserts at Indochine ...

Desserts at Indochine ...


Coconut Air ...

Coconut Air ...


Harbour House in Kalk Bay ...

Harbour House in Kalk Bay ...


Fish Soup ...

Fish Soup ...


Crayfish Again ...

Crayfish Again ...


The King ...

The King ...

Posted by vagabondvoyager 17:00 Archived in South Africa Comments (0)

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