Finally in March we escaped from frozen England and travelled to South Africa, thanks to Claire’s staff travel. We landed in Cape Town, and spent the first three days based in the downtown area. Cape Town is not unlike many European cities, although with an African flavour. We saw many global companies (McDonald’s, KFC etc) and also brand names familiar to us from Ghana: ShopRite, Game, DSTV and Savanna Dry (Ian’s favourite cider).
The first day we explored the city centre, including the Castle of Good Hope, where we watched the ‘ceremony of the keys’. The next day it rained, so we spent time in museums, including ones relating to slavery and the forced relocation of people during apartheid. When the sun shone briefly we looked round the Bo Kaap region, with its brightly coloured houses and large number of mosques. In the evening we enjoyed an ‘African Dance’ production, with a very enthusiastic cast of dancers and musicians.
On Saturday the sun came out bright and strong, and we went to the redeveloped Victoria and Alfred Waterfront area. On the way we encountered the Cape Town Naked Bike Ride, alternatively clad cyclists (some wearing only helmets) protesting about cars, renewable energy, etc. From the Waterfront we caught a boat out to Robben Island and had a tour which included the prison and the cell where Nelson Mandela lived for 18 years.
Back at the Waterfront, we went on the Big Wheel, with magnificent views of Table Mountain and the bay, and explored the shopping malls, bars and restaurants which have been built as a magnet for tourists.
On Sunday we picked up a hire car and drove to the foot of Table Mountain, and took the cablecar to the top. This rotates 360° during the trip so everyone gets a panoramic view. The weather was glorious, with clear skies, bright sun and little wind, and we walked right across the top as far as McClear’s Beacon, with amazing views all round.
That night, and the two following, we stayed in a spacious apartment on False Bay, near Simon’s Town. One day we drove down to Cape Point, and took the funicular up to the old lighthouse. It was extremely windy there at the tip of Africa, but the scenery was spectacular. We walked across the peninsula to the Cape of Good Hope, with a side-trip down to Dias Beach where we saw large numbers of ‘dassies’ (rock hyrax).
Another wildlife experience was seeing all the penguins that throng Boulders Beach, near Simon’s Town. They are oblivious to the human visitors, and some even share a beach with swimmers and sunbathers.