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 ...