Cape Town --- South Africa
We flew from Douala, Cameroon, to Cape Town, South Africa, on June 8th, 2002, with two stops in between, namely Kinshasa, Rep of Congo, and Johannesburg, S.A. It was a total of about 12 hours on the "road". We took the recommendation from the local tourist officer at the airport to check into a B & B in the Victoria and Alfred Waterfront area. We liked the place so much, we stayed there all four nights while we took tours to visit the area. It was the beginning of the winter season in South Africa - the temperatures ranged from 50 to 65 most of the time.
On Sunday, June 9th, we got a chance to browse through the open market, held only once a week, right in front of the street where our B & B was located. It has arts and crafts on sale from all over Africa, plus a lot of junk as well. In the afternoon, we took a city tour to learn a bit of the history and the present situation of this city. We also got to a chance to drive up past Lion's Head to the top of Signal Mountain. Near the city center, there is still an empty area (District 6), which is a vivid reminder of the Apartheid years. In 1966, all the colored people were forced to move out of this bustling and heavily populated district when it was declared a whites-only area. In S.A. there are three recognized races: white, black, and colored. "White" refers to the descendents of people of European background, "blacks" are native Africans, and "colored" includes those who immigrated from Asia, primarily, from India and Indonesia, as well as those people of mixed race. (Needless to say it is often difficult to tell who is who, which made some of the Apartheid rules pretty silly.)
On Monday, we went to a travel agent near by and purchased air tickets for the rest of our trips in SA. We also made the arrangements for hiring a car and a guide for the next leg of our trip. In the afternoon, we took the Robben Inland tour. Robben Island is located 17 miles away on the northwest coast of Cape Town. It was an easy 30 minute boat ride to the island. The tour continued with a bus ride to see the whole island, including the limestone quarry where prisoners worked, which took about 20 minutes. The main attraction was the maximum security prison which was completed in 1964. Our guide who was a prisoner there for 7 years, beginning at the age of 17, was released in 1994. He gave a balanced talk about his experience there, without bitterness and hatred. We later heard that this was not the usual case, as some of the guides would let out their frustration using this platform.
The third day, we took a whole day tour of the Cape peninsula. We went to see seals just outside Hout Bay, had lunch with local dishes at Fish Hoek, saw hundreds of penguins near Simons Town, and drove through the Cape of Hope Nature Reserve all the way to Cape Point. We took a lot of pictures, as this is truly a beautiful area. On this trip, we also stopped at Kirstenbosch National Botanical Gardens, which is one of the best in the world, including some trails labeled in brail. Unfortunately, we did not spend enough time there to fully appreciate the garden. That's always the problem with tourists!