I survived South Africa =D
Trip Start Aug 27, 2007
67Trip End Jan 30, 2008
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Where I stayed
Ashanti was a good choice for accomodation it was recommended to me by Meegan and I was sold on it when she showed me the picture she took out the bathroom window, a perfect view of Table Mountain! It's a big old two story mansion type of place, high cielings, a friendly staff, fun bar, pool...I spent 5 nights here, I think the longest I've ever stayed at one hostel, it starts to feel like home after that many days! Unfortunatly I didn't meet many new friends, there was 2 people staying in my room but I think they were Brazilian and didn't speak much English, just said Hello everyday and that's about it
On my first night I popped into the bar for a bit to have some dinner and got to chatting with a girl from Northern Ireland, I had heard how difficult it was to get tickets to Robben Island and that they were fully booked for the next 5 days. She suggest I book a combination Township tour and Robben Island trip and to go speak with the travel desk in the morning about it. So that's what I did, they happen to have room for me that very day, so I was really really lucky!!
The morning began with a quick visit to the District 6 museum. It used to be an area of the city where thousands of colored and black people lived and it was declared a white only area and the governentment kicked everyone out and demolished their homes, shops, everything. I would have liked to have spent more time here but we only had about 20 minutes. Next we spent a couple hours spent touring one of the nearby townships. The guide actually lives in the township so it was like we were visiting his friends. We first stopped in front of an area that looked like just an area where junk is dumped, but some women were doing some cooking outside. They were cooking sheeps heads, yes, just the head! So there were a bunch of heads lying around and some in a fire. A man was cooking them in the fire, he'd toss one in and move it around a bit, careful not to let it burn
In the afternoon we were dropped off at the waterfront to board the ferry to Robben Island. Which is like Alcatraz, an old prison on an island and it is where Nelson Mandela was imprisoned for 27 years. We were guided around the prison by an ex-prisoner who explained to us the conditions and what it was like being in prison there. Prisoners were also treated according to 'race', the white and coloureds received more/better food then the blacks. We got to see Mandela's cell, but it wasn't anything extraordinary, but looked exactly like every other cell. While the tour was very interesting, I was hoping to hear more about the prisoners personal stories. The other half of the tour was a drive on a bus around the island. Nice scenery and tons of rabbits and penguins everywhere!
The next day I did a day tour of the Cape Pennisula. This tour had some very interesting people on it. One man was an aids research doctor from Pennsylvania here for a conference, a guy from New York doing research for graduate studies, and a girl from Boston who lives in Zimbabwe and works for the Clinton Aids Foundation
Back to the day... It started off cold and raining, we stopped at a beach to go down and see all the penguins. Strange to see penguins out of an icy snowy environment! These are African Peguins apparently this colony started with just a pair brought over from another country in the 80's. Next we stopped for lunch and then picked out some bicylces. We cycled a couple of miles to the Cape of Good Hope. I hadn't ever ridden a mountain bike, and i'm in no hurry to do so again. My butt was soar for two days from that tiny seat, and it wasn't exactly an easy ride, I was last, very very last. But the road was right along the ocean and there were baboons and ostrichages to look at along the way
We all had to fight 30 or so Chinese men to get our turn to take a photo with the Cape of Good Hope sign, it's the furthest south point on the African continent. Next we drove a few minutes down the coast to climb up another massive hill to get to the lighthouse and a beautiful view.
I spent another day visiting the Jewish museum and the Holocaust Center. The Jewish museum went through the cronology of Jews migrating to South Africa and their experiences there over the years and some of the history of the people and the religion. Most of the South African Jews came from Lithuania before 1930. The Holocaust center was very good, nothing really on display as far as artifacts, but well documents the holocaust through pictures and storyboards. Since visiting the death camp of Aushwitz a few years ago, I've had an overwhelmingly strong interest in everything related to the holocaust, judiaism, history of the Jewish people, Nazi Germany and Hitler etc etc.. I've probably read dozens of books and rented every documentary out there, watching one almost every night for months and I'd just sit there and cry and cry. I don't know why i feel such a strong connection, but perhaps I was Jewish in another lifetime. Who knows.
I rode the hop on hop off siteseeing bus one morning, got off to go up to Table Mountain. Before I actually saw it in person, I was thinking I would climb it
For my last day I did something really exciting, cage shark diving!!! I watch the travel channel all the time and saw it on an episode of "A Thousand Places to See Before You Die" and I said that I have to do that when i get to Capetown! The tour bus picked me up at 6am for a 2 hour ride to Hermanus, it's a town known for whale watching, especially this time of year you can see them right off the coast. We had a very nice continental breakfast and then debriefed us about what would happen. It was a half an hour or so ride out to see, then they threw some "chum" into the water, it's like tuna fish oil and it spreads really far and attracks the sharks. Then we played the waiting game, and we waited and waited but were finally rewarded with the Biiiiggest monster of a shark!! These are Great White Sharks by the way, you know as in Jaws! This one was awesome! So they said who's first to go in... no one responds.. i look around and see everyone hesitating so I said 'I'll go!!" These are wild animals and you can't control what they will do or where they will go, so i didn't want to miss seeing this guy in case another one didn't come around. Me and a couple other American girls got into our wetsuits and goggles and got into the cage tied to the side of the boat
I didn't get to have a big party night in South Africa, I never really met a group of people to go out with, sure i met people but they were usually leaving the next day or something. I chatted with a Scottish guy one night for quite a bit and then realized he was holding a girls hand behind his back! haha But him and his English friend Jimbo (James) were a good laugh and we closed the hostel bar down one night. We befriended Karl the bartender who was drinking with us and thought it was a good idea to let me be DJ, couldn't tell ya what I put on, but I know someone told me to change the song at least twice. Two nights I also spent a few hours talking to a very handsome but boring English guy, well most of the conversation was ok, until he casually mentioned he goes for petit 5'3" little blonde girls and also never heard of Sublime and dissed them when I played them, so he was on my bad side after that
The first two guys I mentioned when out with Karl and Simon, another guy who works at the hostel, they went clubbing the next night and I heared that Karl got so drunk and felll off something and hurt his lip, and Simon got mugged. Fun night!
I got dropped off at the airport with plenty of time to spare because I had about 30 pounds of crap i wanted to mail home. I spent about an hour chatting to the ladies who worked there, one white women in her approximate 40's, and a black woman in her 60's or so. I asked them about the usual issues that i ask every local person i have the opportunity to talk to, crime, aids, life in general, traveling, wages, etc etc... The white woman mentioned something how the black woman barely makes 200 rand a week, which is about 30 bucks. People are so so poor. The white woman said that she had never even been to Robben Island or up Table Mountain because it was so expensive for them. I had some South African money left, and seeing as I would probably just spend it on candy and chips or some junk like that, I gave it to the women. I gave them 50 Rand each, so around 7 dollars or so, not much to me, but I think it meant more to them and they were very appriciative. I felt good doing this tiny bit of good, not a whole lot but it was something at least. I'm very interested in returning Africa to help work for an charity organization and also to see more of this facinating country learn more about it's many cultures and peoples.