Tuesday, April 1, 2008

Cape Town-April '04

Our travels to Cape Town come after our trip to Malawi (see previous post), which means flying into Joburg to connect. Long lines again at customs and after walking to the domestic terminal, we encountered another long line, checking in just at the deadline to check luggage. We hustled over to security where there was a huge line. We (and others) had to cut the line in order to make our flight. Security at Joburg opened up another line just as we reached the x-ray machine and people were throwing bags onto the conveyor and walking thought the metal detector as fast as possible. Security were not even looking at the baggage. Obviously,someone decided having people make their flights was more important than security.

We arrived in Cape Town late at night but Judith's bag did not. She and several others had to filled out reports, then we found a taxi and soon arrived at our hotel, the Mount Nelson. Judith's love of nice hotels was evidenced again. The pink stucco Mount Nelson opened its doors in 1899. This is where the most preeminent clientele stay and it is the focal point of the city's social life. I have to say that some very important looking people could be evidenced. And the Mount Nelson had high tea at 4 o'clock with an elaborate spread.

Below is a picture of the breakfast area. (Note some photos can be enlarged by clicking on them.)

From our balcony

From our window, a picture of the "table cloth effect". The moisture-laden south-easter blows against Table Mountain from over the False Bay and rises. At a height of approximately 900 meters the winds reach the colder layers of air and thick clouds form. These clouds roll over the mountain and down towards the City Bowl. The characteristic tablecloth forms when the clouds reach the warmer, lower air layers and dissolve once more.

This is an overview of Cape Town and the path down to the Cape of Good Hope and Cape Point.
Judith's luggage arrived in the morning before we were picked up for a tour down to the cape. We stopped at Camps Bay.

Then we stopped at Haut Bay. Some in the tour took a boat out to see some seals but Judith and I stayed ashore, had some coffee, browsed the shops and fishing village. We both have seen plenty of seals before.
This is the Cape of Good hope, one of the corners of the world. Just walk down to the rock in the distance.
We drive near Cape Point and park in the lot and noticed an attendant there with a big long stick. His job was to keep the aggressive baboons out. The baboons are nothing to adore, believe me. We can look out onto Cape Good Hope in one direction and see False Bay in the other direction. It is called False Bay because sometimes sailors would get confused in the fog/mist and think they had rounded Cape Hope only to find themselves in the bay. The photo of False Bay was taken as we sat having a relaxing lunch in the warm sun.

We drove around the other side of the cape peninsula and came upon a colony of penguins at Simon's Town. I took a lot of penguin photos but these are some of the best. They like to borrow into the sand after a dip in the ocean and sun themselves out of the wind.
All in all, it was a pretty spectacular day. The tour stopped at some botanical gardens also but it was Autumn there and the flowers were not in bloom.

The next day we went down to Victoria Harbor to take a ride over to Robben Island, but there were no tickets left for the rest of the day. So we bought tickets for the next day and stayed at the harbor for the morning and lunch. The harbor is very clean and attractive. There is a big shopping mall there and lots of other shops and restaurants and street entertainers.
After lunch we taxi up to the Table Mountain cable car tram and up be go, rising about 1100 feet.

Table Mountain is home to a rich fauna and flora, many species of which are endemic and survive only in the mountain's unique ecosystem. There are approximately 1470 species of plants, including over 250 different species of daisies! Examples of endemic plants are the rare Silver Tree and the wild orchid Disa Uniflora. Animals such as baboons and porcupines live here freely, as well as furry rodents called Rock Dassies. These little creatures look like plump rabbits without ears - incredibly, their closest living relative is the elephant! The Table Mountain Ghost Frog is an example of an animal found in no other place on the world.

There are some awesome views from Table Mountain. This is looking down on the town and harbor with a lichen covered rock in the foreground.
Our final day we travel over to Robben Island where Nelson Mandela was imprisoned. The guides on the island are former inmates. According to our guide, the prisoners worked in shallow quarries to mine limestone, used for island roads. They dug a hole in the quarry wall to use as a toilet and because of the foul order, the prisoner guards stayed away. The prisoners used that to their advantage and would meet inside to socialize and hold school inside. After apartheid was finished, the prisoners had a reunion there and they all grabbed a rock, putting it on a common pile to symbolize their common unity. I took pictures of the cave and pile of rocks but they're not enough of interest to show. We visited the cells Mandela called home and our guide's. We learned a lot of history about race relations in South Africa.

To prove its a small world, we ran into some women from Skokie, one of whom I knew from my tennis club.
This picture was taken from Robben Island as indicated from the sign at the left. This is a good view of Table Mountain and the city. No one ever escaped from the island due to the currents and distance to land.
We left Cape Town early morning the next day to Buenos Aires through Joburg and Sao Paulo arriving late, late at night. We checked into the Crillon Hotel more centrally located in part of the city we had not seen. We took a tour through the Opera House which has a long and colorful history. Lots of marble, chandeliers, tapestries were brought in from Europe. We were able to see dance rehearsals, set construction, and costume-making in progress adding to the tour's dimension.

On the first leg of our trip, I cracked my molar eating a tough piece of chicken. After 5 days I was in a lot of pain and I went to Alec's dentist in Lilongwe, an Indian . He looked at my x-ray and said I needed a root canal because of the infection Not really trusting this opinion simply because he was in a third world country, I was skeptical. There was no time for treatment anyway. I saw a young dentist in Cape Town who had all the latest equipment and he found a cracked filing and a cracked tooth. He replaced he filling and fixed the cracked tooth as well as possible. Although I was still in some pain, I was able to make it home with the help of some pain killers. Once home, I ended up with a root canal ($1000), just like the Malawi dentist said, and a gold cap ($1550).

This was a fantastic trip!


GETkristiLOVE said...

So... did you walk down to that rock in the distance to be at the exact point? Kind of like driving to the end of Highway 1 on Key West and making me take your photo?!

BTW, I love my penguin photo.

Dad E said...

No I didn't. Two reasons. I was with a group and had limited time. I was sure Judith didn't want to go, so who would take my picture. Close enough I reasoned. I am standing my the sign that says Cape of Good Hope.

vikkitikkitavi said...

Penguins! I want to see penguins in the wild!