Sunday January 18th ~ Cape Town, SA (part 1)
Today was an included half day tour of Cape Town and Table Mountain, that we followed up with an optional cultural immersion tour that took us to the extremely poor section of Langa Township.
We start our day with fingers crossed as we headed toward Table Mountain. The top of the mountain was sitting under a cloud blanket as we left the hotel. If it did not clear, we were faced with two obstacles – little or limited visibility from the top, or the higher probability was that the high winds were in place which forces the cable car to shut down.
Our brilliant guide, Tesse, had a “plan B” in mind to take us to Signal Hill as a back-up, but as we got closer to the mountain the weather started to clear and we made a bee line toward the entrance.
The cable cars rotate as they ascend the mountain to just over 3,000 feet high, allowing every passenger to have a chance to see the breath-taking views. By the time we reached the top, it was still windy and anyone without a jacket was freezing cold. Our view was partially blocked by clouds and hazy conditions, but we were still excited to have been able to get up there.
We got to see several Rock Hyrax (Dassies), which are the closest living relative to the elephant. It is hard to believe the connection, as this small rodent looking creature appears more like an overgrown guinea pig, than a pachyderm.
We gladly escape into the coffee shop to try to warm up before it is time to meet up with the rest of the group for our descent back to the valley floor. Once again lady luck was smiling on us – as we exited the building, miraculously the weather had cleared and we got some amazing views on both sides of the mountain.
We can see Cape Point off of one side and then see the city stretched out below, Robben Island just off shore (where Nelson Mandela was imprisoned) on the other side. The stadium is where the 2010 FIFA World Cup (soccer) was played.
Table Mountain is part of the group that extends out to include Robben Island that has all been declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Just FYI, just a short time later the weather again shifted and for over three hours the mountain was socked in and the cable cars were shut down. I was thankful we got to experience the views, but certainly felt sad for others that had traveled so far and were not able to witness the beauty from on high.
After our descent, we continued our city tour where we next did a short walking tour through the Malay Quarter where we admired the brilliantly painted houses with each vying for attention.
Driving to the city center, we pass by famous landmarks such as the Castle of Good Hope which was constructed 1666 by the Dutch East India Company.
Next was City Hall, a splendid baroque building, where Nelson Mandela gave his first speech from the lower balcony after being released from prison.
We also passed by St.George’s Cathedral which is the Anglican Diocese of Nobel Peace Laureate Archbishop Desmond Tutu. Here are a couple more shots to give you some idea of the style and beauty of the downtown area.
The afternoon was our optional half day Cape Town Cultural Diversity Tour. The extreme contrast from the architectural gems in the center of town vs the extreme poverty will shock you. It was emotionally upsetting for some of our group members to see. We have witnessed some harsh conditions in 3rd world countries such as India and Guatemala, but the Township we visited had its own unique flavor and endemic problems.
I decided to post the afternoon part of our tour in a separate entry.
GRATITUDE MOMENT: Today I am grateful for growing up with unlimited opportunities. We witnessed the aftermath of a people whose life has been greatly affected by discrimination, and racial separation. Apartheid laws were abolished in 1994, yet there is still an entire culture of blacks living in squalor.
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