Day 2. Fast Facts
• Population of South Africa 49 million.
• Population of Cape Town 3.1 million.
• Percentage of South Africa by colour:
– White 7%
– Coloured 18% (I’ll explain later)
Wake up to a gorgeous sunny day. And it’s going to be a busy one. Our tour guy, Graham Bell, (phone home!) picks us up and we join a couple from Dallas. (Speaking of Graham Bell, my email is blocked here and I have to get that sorted out.) A short drive away we get in line to go up Table Mountain. Table Mountain has just been picked as one of the New 7 wonders of nature. Apparently there weren’t enough 7 wonders of the world to go around so in 2011 a number of 7 best” of categories were added. Table mountain was in the same category as one of the 7 wonders of nature. We take the gondola to the top (I know; been there done that but this one is slightly different in that the floor rotated 360 degrees on the way up (and down) so that everyone got the whole view deal.) It was worth the trip. Spectacular views and unique topographical elements. (that means different kind of rocks)
The tour continues (Bo-Kaap, Castle of Good Hope, ya da ya da) while we get a sense of Cape Town and how it fits into South Africa and its history. A couple of unique expressions. When you’re walking along the strip between the road and the buildings you’re not walking on a sidewalk, you’re walking on the asphalt. When you’re in the car and you need to get someone’s attention you don’t blow your horn, you sound your hooter. Later on in a car park I asked a couple of girls to show me their hooters but they didn’t seem familiar with the local jargon.
We’re dropped off at the waterfront where we grab a quick lunch before catching a ferry to Robben Island. Before we go there however, we have to get back to our history refresher.
You remember the Boers, the descendants of the original Dutch settlers. Well, the white population can broadly be categorized as Boer heritage and British (& other European heritage). Many in the Boer contingent had some pretty strange and strong opinions about race and government. Think Tea Party on steroids. This group, in the form of the National Party, found themselves “democratically” elected in 1948. The next 40 odd years will run together here but under their regime citizens were formally categorized as white, black or coloured. And you had certain privileges and restrictions associated with each. Whites were white; usually. Blacks were native Africans. And coloureds were everyone else, whether immigrants, intermarried and so on. Non-whites were denied the vote, iInteracial marriages were illegal, and property rights for non-whites were distorted. For example, although blacks represented 75% of the population, they were restricted to 13% of the land availability, and that land was the least desirable, of course. Thousands of blacks and coloured had their homes taken from them and were relocated. You know how all this goes. And because they couldn’t vote, the National Party had a good chance of staying in power for ever. This became known as the Apartheid period. (Coming together now isn’t it? There’s one more shoe to drop.) In the 60s peaceful activities to promote change escalated to more radical means. The National Party began identifying the activists, and one way or the other taking them as prisoners. (Here comes the other shoe) One of these prisoners was the Morgan Freeman look alike, Nelson Mandela. Morgan, I mean, Mandela, along with his fellow political prisoners was imprisoned on Robben Island for 18 of his 27 years of imprisonment. Finally, around 1990 reason began to prevail, the political landscape evolved, restrictions were repealed and political leaders were freed. Nelson Mandela was released and a new era began including the Truth & Reconciliation healing process.
So off we go to Robben Island. Great visit. A 30 minute boat ride away, the island was originally used for provisioning sailing ships, then for a variety of purposes, including a leper colony. First argument of the trip with Claire when I asked if leprosy was contagious. She maintained the answer was yes, then no. Over the years she’s taught me it’s difficult to be wrong when you take both sides of the argument. (The answer by the way is yes, but not to everybody and only with the exchange of bodily fluids.) It was a military outpost during the second world war featuring three large guns for defense against an attack that never came. Good thing too since they didn’t arrive until 1948. (You remember the Dutch efficiency don’t you?) .The prison was closed after the last prisoners’ release in the early 90s and is now operated as a tourist destination focussing on its history. Tours are conducted by former prisoners. Our guide Thomas, spent 7 years here in a communal cell with 39 other prisoners.
OK Got to wrap this up. Claire has promised me a cold beer at a waterfront bar before dinner. Back to Cape Town and choose from about 50 bustling restaurants. Have dinner at the Harbour House. As you might expect there are some great views at the Harbour House. However it could have been called the Pillar House as far as we were concerned. (I’ll have to explain that to my sister later.) I splurged on the famous native grilled crayfish and for $34 got about 4 oz of famous native grilled crayfish. All good though. Food was decent enough and besides, we had lots to celebrate. 1) We live in a county where we can afford to take freedom and rights and privileges for granted and 2) our luggage has arrived.
After a cab ride home during which we get ripped for an extra $20, we’re down for the count. Big day tomorrow. Penguin day.