Alex from a nearby hill: Who needs food when you’ve got satellite TV!!??
We just completed the last two days of the trip in Johannesburg, or Jo’Burg.
On the first day here, we visited the Apartheid Museum. That was a five-hour deal and it explained the events that led to the Apartheid era in South Africa and then offered an overwhelming amount of information about that period, how it came to an end and the fallout.
We had learned a lot over the past month and this summed everything up nicely. But in a lot of ways, it left us asking a whole new batch of questions about the present and uncertain future of the country.
On the second day, we went on a long tour of the Alexandra and Soweto townships. These areas are basically slums where black South Africans were forced to relocate when they we driven from the city centre and when Apartheid came into effect.
A woman named Mandy took us into the homes of some of her friends, we attended church for a bit, saw where Mandela lived in both places, saw Bishop Tutu’s old house, walked around the communities and just hung out with people. Alexandra is far less affected by outside/American influences and has a “lot more soul,” as Mandy put it. Soweto is much better known and is a hot tourist stop - not so much in Alex. There was an amazing sense of community and brotherhood in Alexandra. One woman we visited wasn’t feeling well when we got there, so someone went out and fetched a doctor, who made a casual house call just because it was the way people look after their neighbours. The whole vibe was one of open doors and comfort….all in the midst of a difficult slum setting.
We visited a 65-year-old woman who used to be the mafia queen in Alexandra. She’s quite elegant, eccentric and witty and the folks refer to her as Diana Ross. She was really cool and genuinely seemed happy to have us over.
Anyway, the trip basically concluded with a cram session of culture and education in Jo’Burg.
Photo above is just a typical street - the morning that garbage had been picked up off the street, so it was shockingly clean!!
A lot of houses in Ba Koop area are colourfully painted like these. We never got a firm reason as to why..
We were feeling kinda pooped by the time we got to Cape Town. The last few days of any long-ish trip tend to be challenging because you’re tired, you start thinking about work, start thinking about going home and it can sometimes be hard to find the energy and focus to make the most of your final time.
Fortunately, Cape Town is a modern city that’s pretty safe, interesting and easy to navigate. We pretty much knew what we wanted to do, and we did it.
The highlights included:
-Robben Island - this is where Nelson Mandela was for 18 of his 27 years in prison. It’s an island 12 kilometres from Cape Town where political prisoners were banished during apartheid. It also was the dumping ground for lepers and serious criminals during its “glory” days. Disturbing, sickening and fascinating history.
-District Six museum - documents the area in Cape Town from which blacks were forced out during apartheid years. They were forced to townships, while their homes were levelled and replaced by various buildings that fit the white-man plans for the area. Again, sickening.
-Table Mountain - self-proclaimed one of the seven wonders of the world … it’s a huge, flat mountain that towers over Cape Town. The views are amazing (photo above).
-Ba Koop - an important Indian neighbourhood. (We didn’t mention Durban’s cool Indian flavour - the largest Indian population of any city outside of India).
-Waterfront - a developed area at the main harbour that might be the nicest waterfront development we’ve ever seen. Different from anything in Seattle, San Fran, San Diego, Florida, Singapore, Europe or wherever else.
-Music stores - bought too many CDs.
-General wandering was interesting.
Not exactly sure what this was … Pyramiding practice? Mating? The bottom one was injured and the other one was pushing it to the water?
We spent last night in Simon’s Town, which is just south of Cape Town. A 10-minute walk from our guest house lives a big colony of African penguins. We could have watched these things for hours, if not for a blistering south wind sandblasting our faces and the penguins’ backs.
As it was, we hung out for an hour and observed these fascinating guys.
That point in the top-left corner of the photo is the southwestern most piece of land in Africa.
Note the lighthouse at the very top of the rocks. It’s so high that it is practically a speck in the photo. In fact, it’s so high that in 1911 it no longer could serve as the main Cape lighthouse because it was always in the clouds. A major, fatal shipwreck in 1911 confirmed the need for change when a big ship failed to see its warnings.
We went to the southwestern tip of the Cape peninsula to breathe in some of the cleanest air on Earth, right off the Antarctic ice cap, and frolic in the fynbos - an interesting vegetation found abundantly in SA.
While out there, we also saw tourists sparring with baboons (who had taken over their cars on the road side), ostriches, tortoises and some incredible rocky-cliff vistas.
If you defied all logic and read the Sugar Man post below, you’ll be interested to know that we made our way to the now legendary Mabu Vinyl record store in Cape Town today.
We bought Rodriguez’s first album, Cold Facts, and bought the token t-shirt.
Of course, after I explained that I used to work at A&A Records in Lawson Heights and HMV at Sunridge and Westbrook, they asked me to work a few hours behind the counter. As the photoshop above proves, I obliged.
Small bummer of the day: Rodriguez is playing a show here the day after we leave!!
Wonder if Huff is a Rodriguez fan…maybe he’ll understand if I stay a while longer!?