Saturday, July 30, 2016

Two Days in Cape Town

Cape Town and I had a rough start our first night with the whole problem of finding medical help, traffic jams, and scary homeless people on the streets at night. It is truly sad. I am certain that some of these street people may be mentally disabled and left to fend for themselves. 
Crime rates are high  here. Private security guards are plentiful. Every decent restaurant has a strong security presence at their entrances. 
The streets feel so much safer in the light of day.
 On Thursday morning My medication had kicked in and I was feeling much better.
Our plan for the morning had been to climb up Table Mountain ( the cable car is closed for two weeks).  Unfortunately the top of Table Mountain was covered in cloud. But the sun was shining so we decided to visit downtown.
First we checked out The Company Gardens which had been created by the East India company. There were some neat birds in the garden including some incredibly loud geese. The squirrels are so tame that they come right onto your lap if you let them.
We saw the old tool house which had been extensively renovated by the Dutch and was later used as the president's residence. When Nelson Mandela  lived there, he would go to the gate and speak to people who were passing by.  
We walked into more gardens flanked by museums. By this time the top of Table Top Mountain was covered in clouds but the middle to bottom was clear. It was sunny out so I was optimistic that I might see the whole thing. 
We walked over to the parliament building. A huge square is in front of it. When Nelson Mandela was released from prison, he spoke from the balcony of the parliament building. The square was so packed with people wanting to hear him, that people had even climbed to the tops of the palm trees.
Our next stop was the castle of Good Hope ( which is really more of a fort). Parts of it are under reconstruction. As seems to be the situation around the world, there were crews of workmen; one to work and four to supervise. 
We toured the castle. During our tour the clouds rolled in and totally obscured Table Top Mountain. It was amazing how fast they moved.
During the tour, I walked over and put my arm through what I thought was John's arm. The man shook off my arm as if I had leperosy. I let out a squawk of surprise and then the family next to me started to giggle, as did I. I've been very careful as to who I am grabbing onto now.
After stopping at a grocery store, we went back to our apartment to get the car.  
The ramp to get into and out of our apartment parking lot is quite extreme. It has a steep entrance/exit followed by eight narrow spirals to get to our spot. By the time you get up to the top you are totally dizzy and discombobulated.
Did I mention that you drive on the wrong side of the road here? 
We drove to the Victoria and Albert Waterfront. A lovely area. They have an amazing food hall. It is similar to St Lawrence market or Quincy Market in Boston. Our meals were all delicious. I want to go back because after I had eaten, I found a stall that sold zebra and warthog kabobs.

After exploring the wharf more, we got into our car and headed to Camps Bay which has one of the most gorgeous beaches I have ever seen. The sands are white white white.

It was overcast but the weather was just perfect for exploring the big rocks that embraced the myriads of tidal pools. There were communities of all sorts of sea life in these pools. There is a certain peace in just standing still and observing the sealife in its own little worlds. I saw numerous little red starfish, crabs and fish but for me, the most wonderous was a large golden starfish which slowly spread its arms in perfect formation.

It was late afternoon and the seabirds were winding down their activities. One large Cormerant stood on top of a tall rock and spread his wings as if to feel a breeze in his wing pits.

The boys enjoyed jumping from rock to rock. John watched the sun as it made short appearances through the clouds. The beginning of drizzle was our cue that it was time to leave.

We picked up my second prescription on our way to the apartment. Traffic was bad.

We went out to a lovely Tapas restaurant for supper. The boys went back to the apartment earlier than John and I.

Cape Town is a cosmopolitan town with a North American feel. There are many wonderful restaurants. 

There are a lot of homeless people on the streets. One young woman seemed particularly sad to me. She kept saying she was hungry. We asked her to wait and ran into a convenience store where I tried to search for some healthy food ( which was not easy to find).  Luckily there were hard boiled eggs and bananas. It was hard to tell if she appreciated receiving them. I didn't want to chance giving her the money and having her buy booze and chocolate bars with it. At least she had some protein and potassium that night.

This morning (Friday), we got up early and went to the V&A Wharf where we caught the boat to Robben Island where Nelson Mandela and many other political prisoners were held. 

The ferry ride there was rocky. A girl near us was really chucking her cookies.

The island has a long history. It had been a leper colony before the prison. 

After a bus ride around the island, we were given a tour of the maximum security prison by a past inmate. He really brought it to life. What was truly inspiring was that those political inmates created some good out of the horror of that time. They gave all the other inmates an level. Many of the inmates were illiterate when they arrived and most of them, including many of the guards had more than one university degree when they left.

There were also some really horrid stories.

After returning on the ferry, we had lunch again at the food hall. This time I had the zebra and warthog skewer. It was good...tasted like beef and pork.

We then drove to the beautiful Kirstenbosch National Botanical Gardens. It had a bridge walkway through the treetops which offered spectacular views. There were all kinds of neat gardens including medicinal and a garden of almost extinct plants. A definate must see. 

By this time the clouds had cleared from table top mountain.

Our last stop of the day was to Signal Hill where the views of Table Top Mountain and Cape Town below were truly spectacular. We watched the paragliders take off into the late afternoon sun and chuckled over the rotund chicken/ pheasant type birds that roamed around the area.

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