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Last updated : Nov 2009
Cape Town, South Africa
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!