Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Capetown holiday in the sunshine

We’ve just had 10 days in Capetown, a lovely city with lots to see and experience. What is striking is that the influence of the former British and Dutch colonialists as well as of the India/East Indies, are still much in evidence. We had come not to 'black' Africa, but to a ‘white’ corner of South Africa. It felt like a mixture of Sydney, Los Angeles, Hawaii and the Mediterranean.

The famous Table Mountain was visible from many parts of the city, notably from the V&A (Victoria and Alfred!) harbour. We enjoyed walking round the city and seeing its local markets and ‘robots’ (i.e. traffic lights). The city is getting ready for the World Cup next June.

We stayed at a friend’s home which overlooked the bay of Simonstown, one of many picturesque bays in the region. The restored buildings of the main street contrast sharply with those in the local townships.

 We took the chance to eat as much local produce as possible, including ostrich meat and prawns which were a bargain at the local seafront restaurant.

We drove down to the Cape of Good Hope. Since we had just come from London, it didn’t feel strange to be driving on the left, but seeing the noonday sun in the north rather than the south took some getting used to! I had learnt about the Cape many years ago in my school geography lessons, but I never dreamt I would visit here one day. The only problem is that there were so many other tourists there, especially Chinese.

We passed by beautiful penguins and beautiful scenery as well.  We also passed by not-so-beautiful baboons, as you can see in the photo. They behave just like humans! Do you know the name of S. Africa’s national flower shown in the photo?

We also made a one day trip round the wine country, visiting the vineyards around the old towns of Stellenbosch and Franshoek, where wine has been produced for centuries, almost as long as in France.

We sampled many different wines and also visited a local crafts shop. The local people are so friendly! We didn’t bring any wine back to London because they said prices were similar in Tesco.

We were privileged to visit some local residents’ homes and see the diversity of artistic influences, including Chinese, Georgian, Zulu and Xhosa.

However, there are many not so privileged, and the huge gap between rich and poor left us feeling uncomfortable. We heard that the problem of Aids is so serious (one study estimates that 1 in 10 of S. Africans over 2 yrs old are living with HIV) that Africans especially are dying younger and in greater numbers (average life expectancy is falling fast, and is already less than 50 yrs). Even with a per capita GDP 70% higher than that of China, it made me think how lucky we all are.

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