| Sep 2nd, 2003
Hello from Cape Town! This is our last day in Africa, and we are
seriously bummed. Before coming to Africa, I think we were fairly
nervous about what to expect, but hopeful that it would be a grand
adventure. It has definitely exceeded all of our expectations, and
is definitely somewhere we want to return to again. The people are
great, the food is excellent, and the scenery and wildlife is unbelievable.
Cape Town is an amazingly beautiful city perched on a small peninsula,
with the Atlantic Ocean on one side and the Indian Ocean on the
other. If that were not enough, there are mountains throughout the
area, the most important being 3000 foot Table Mountain which dominates
the skyline. We arrived in Cape Town a little over a week ago, and
the first impression we had is of complete and utter luxury. The
best comparison is really California, and it as modern as the cities
there, complete with million dollar homes overlooking the ocean.
But the second impression hits you quickly. On just the drive from
the airport to the main part of town, you pass by endless townships
full of shacks as far as the eye can see. Dropped in what looks
like sunny and green San Diego, it makes for a jarring contrast.
One of the best things we did before arriving in South Africa was
to read Nelson Mandela's autobiography "Long Walk to Freedom,"
in which he details his experiences with apartheid, his fight against
it and the resulting 27 years in prison, and finally the negotiations
he held with the white government from his jail cell. Accordingly,
one of the first things we did was to visit the prison at Robben
Island, where he was imprisoned for the majority of his confinement.
The tour guides are all former political prisoners who were also
imprisoned there, and the tour they led us on was chilling in its
graphic account of the brutal conditions. Despite this and South
Africa's apartheid recent past, we were struck with the optimism
and reconciliation that has occurred. Even the ex-political prisoners
we spoke to regularly have beers with their former jailors. Its
only been about a decade since the end of apartheid, and the transition
has been remarkably peaceful -- in contrast with recent events in
Zimbabwe. Even the tour of the townships we took was upbeat, if
that can be believed. While showing us the grim conditions people
live in now (such as three families sharing a 8 by 10 room), we
also saw the new housing across the street that was under construction.
Its obvious that South Africa is managing a potentially explosive
situation well, although there is a long way to go.
We also took advantage of the natural beauty of Cape Town, such
as doing a winelands tour, hiking on the slopes of Table Mountain,
and biking and hiking at the Cape of Good Hope. Its really a beautiful
city, perhaps the prettiest we have ever seen. And the food! Just
fantastic! It alone is a reason to come here.
Although we've had almost 10 days here, we're sad to go and feel
like we've barely scratched the surface of Cape Town, not to mention
South Africa. But the trip moves on, and we're off to France!