Saturday, January 12, 2008


Today began with the sun beating down on the already-tender skin of my back so hard that after we left the lodge on foot, we were forced to make a pit-stop at the house to grab some sunscreen. Meritt, my other housemate was there when we arrived, and she too is equally lovely. Having just come in the night before at 11pm on a direct flight from JFK to Cape Town via Joburg, she was in the middle of preparing to spend the day rock climbing. Uh, yea.

Once sun-screened, we continued our walk en route to the waterfront area of the city, located in downtown Cape Town. As we walked along the lower main road of observatory, the quaint little shops and brightly-painted houses that we had become accustomed to in the area of the suburb that I live in, gave way to a clearly more run-down area, with abandoned houses and decrepit buildings. It was only after about 20 minutes on this same road that we realized we hadn’t seen a white person since we left the main drag. An observation more than anything, we continued on. Again, no white people in sight, though the streets were quite busy. People were very friendly, greeting us as we passed signs for halal meat shops, electronic stores with hand-painted signs, and massive piles of garbage on balconies above.

Going purely on my navigational instincts, we then turned onto Newmarket Street, in the direction that I believed (based on my drive into the city that first morning with T.), would take us to our goal end destination. At one point, we passed an area that resembled an old Hollywood movie lot, coupled with an endless stream of BMWs, Mercedes, Range Rovers and the like. All driven by white people. It appeared that the lot was some sort of craft fair with a fair share of tourist bargain hunters. Uninspired by what we saw, we continued on, and once again, I was the only white person in sight.

At this point, we reached a long stretch of road that was flanked on one side by barbed-wire enclosed railway tracks and industrial buildings for days on the other.

As it was just after midday at this point, the sun was beating down on us something fierce, but caught up on conversation and looking forward to our end destination, we soldiered on.

The road we were on ended at a freeway, with two options of continuing. One, around the side and through a dark tunnel, the other, hopping across two lanes of highway and hoping that the narrow patch of grass that we saw on the other side would lead us to where we wanted to go. As the dark tunnel was definitely not an option, we opted for the highway-hop. It was then that I began thinking that my aforementioned navigational skills had perhaps been a bit too hasty in their self-confidence. Regardless, away we went.

Thankfully this route took us to another sidewalk, this one passing the castle that finds itself in the middle of the city. Before long, the city hall lay before us, and to the right a large open space called the grand parade (which we later came to find out had once been used as a public space to flog slaves, but today exists as a parking lot). Past the parking lot there were stairs and a bridge, leading to an open air market. Forever a fan of markets, off we went.

It was in walking through this market – filled with a aromatic blend of sweet and savory scents, vendors selling everything from electronics to fresh fruit to made-in-china plastic goods and handmade textiles, and a din of music, laughter, yelling and a cornucopia of languages – that I remarked how despite the fact that we (or at least I), was clearly the odd one out, no one was really paying us any mind.

Out of the market, through the train station and out to Adderley Street, whose wide streets, fountains and tree-lined borders, could easily have been mistaken for a main avenue in any European city, and we were smack dab in the middle of the CBD.

Pass the Westin hotel and over yet another bridge, and finally we were at the waterfront. Although not the same part that I had been at with T., this area was a tourist Mecca. With local artisans selling their wares, buskers performing on command, and buildings that looked like they had been carbon cut from a cape cod-esque mold. After eating lunch, we walked over to get ice cream, and I could’ve sworn I was at Canada’s wonderland. Gross.

Exhausted after our long walk, lunch, and perhaps a bit too much local lager, we decided to take one of those hop on/hop off open-top double decker bus tours, which ended up being a fantastic decision. This two hour tour took us all over the downtown core, then up the mountain to the table mountain cable car station. As we rode up the mountain, we were privy to some incredible vistas of the city, with the ocean in the background and Table Bay surrounded by mountains. While perhaps not as breathtaking as the view from Corcovado in Rio, it is spectacular nonetheless.

Because of the high winds, the cable cars had been closed for the day, so we continued our tour back down the other side of the mountain, this time towards Camps Bay, which is overlooked by the 12 Apostle mountain range. Here is where the beaches are, as well as an insane number of multi-million dollar homes overlooking the ocean. It was INsane. While there have been a few times on our walks that I have felt like I was in Los Angeles, never was this more the case then at this point. The houses rivaled some of the nicest ones in the Hollywood hills and in Malibu, with better views. But oh the money. Because some of them are built on such a high angle, many of the owners have opted to build their own personal cable cars to scale the ascent, rather than climb the stairs.

As we drove by the beaches, our tour guide informed us that there were four separate beaches along camps bay, each with its own clientele. Beach 1 is designated for sports; beach two is frequented by the ‘celebrities’, beach 3 by the gays, and beach 4 by families.

Our tour came to an end at the waterfront where it had begun, and shattered, we cabbed it home. Auntie Anne went back to the lodge, and I to the house to do some unpacking and make my bed.

Excited about the adventures we had enjoyed on our jam-packed day, I animatedly told my roommate Catherine about our walk into town. Her eyes widened as I told her the route we had taken. Apparently, on that more barren stretch of lower main road in observatory, she knew of two people who had been mugged in broad daylight and in the Market by the grand parade, the one full of such energy and sights and sounds, her brother had been held up at knifepoint.


Tomorrow we will see what the day brings, and in the evening my new housemates and I are going to see some South African band play at a bar in the city. Gold-something they are called. Electro-funk-beats from the sounds of what karsten played for me. Should be fun plus new roommate bonding and live music are always a good time.

Dinner at a Thai restaurant in Mowbry and now bed. A full day activity in the sun and perhaps an averted mugging really takes it out of you.

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