Welcome to the Mother City

Trip Start May 04, 2011
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Trip End Feb 20, 2014


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What I did
Waterfront, Slave Lodge, Night Tour

Flag of South Africa  ,
Monday, November 5, 2012

What a spectacular setting for a city! Table Mountain encompasses one side and Table Bay the other. I'm not usually an admirer of cities, but this one has such an array of natural beauty that after 2 days I am very much liking it.

My break really began in Accra. I was on the Saturday bus from site with a guy from work who has lived/worked in Ghana for 5 yrs now and is quite comfortable getting about in Accra (unlike me who has never left the Guesthouse barbed wire topped walls). He was heading off to the 3:30pm session of the new James Bond movie at the Accra Mall. Despite this technically being a work day, I figured I have done enough overtime in my 7.5 yrs with the company to warrant an arvo off at the movies and see a bit more of Accra. Great movie - the opening sequence is one of the best I’ve seen and set in Istanbul where I was thinking to myself "I’ve been there!" – and the mall is like a whole other world with 1st class shopping and a variety of people. But then I clambered back into a rusty taxi without seatbelts and quickly realised I was still in Ghana. Back to the guesthouse with an hour to spare until off to the airport for my 10:30pm flight on Sth African Airways to Johannesburg.

Only a 6 hr flight, so hardly any time to sleep, but I managed a few hrs and found the World Cup upgraded Jo’burg airport to be very easy to transfer to my budget domestic flight. After a 2 hr stopover and 2 hr flight, I landed in Cape Town and taxi’d to my hotel on the waterfront. My first impressions of Cape Town from the cab were a bit like Adelaide. A 70’s vibe with dull weathered buildings. Everything seemed to be beige. But crossing to the waterfront precinct saw a bit more colour and the glory of Table Mountain eyeing down from above was enough to change my impression. I arrived at the hotel about midday and had to wait an hour or so for my room to be available. Not a bad spot to wait about with a pot of tea to kill off the sleep deprivation. I wanted a mountain facing room, but booked too late and got a loft room. But after getting into the room and realising that the loft windows open with view of the mountain, I was ok...this room and view will do just fine.

Day 1 afternoon after checking in was spent wandering the waterfront precinct. It was built in the early 90’s and still developing with many buildings converted from old warehouses (my hotel was an old coal store), and an intricate complex of shopping malls and squares – much more complex than what Google maps alluded to. There are many bridges that all swing open and up for boats and it is very well integrated to take advantage of the water. I ate dinner in a pub where smoking is still permitted everywhere – yuk. And the live band finished at 6pm and they turned on the soccer commentary...!? buzz kill. With the favourable exchange rate I am finding it very cheap here. Meal plus 2 pints was $23 AUD. Given the location, very cheap.

After a very relaxing evening, I commenced Day 2 late enough to catch the very good breakfast before it closed at 11am. I had pre-booked a 2 day pass on the City Sightseeing bus which seemed like the best way to get around town and the main pick up point was 2 mins from my hotel. I jumped on this and did a loop of the city before getting off at the Gold of Africa museum. Sponsored and organised by AngloGold Ashanti, the museum is actually quite small but showcases gold jewels and artefacts from African (primarily Ghanaian!) Chiefs and Kings. From here I meandered my way through the city streets, malls and markets. I feel safe in the city and quite at ease with the culture; I think this owes to my time in Ghana, but overall I get the feeling that this is a safe city – at least during the daylight. I bought a few things from the markets. Again, very cheap – even before bartering – and I was surprised to see so many things from previous African travels that I have done. Stuff I have bought in Zanzibar or Kenya thinking that it was so unique and then here it is in Cape Town at half the price!

After my meandering, I found the Slave Lodge which was on my to-do list. I find the concept of slavery something unimaginable in today’s society and wanted to learn about it some more. Cape Town was a main hub for the import and trade of slaves around the world – imported from Bali, Malaysia, India, Mozambique and then they were traded to Britain, Europe and the America’s. This lodge was the main trading hub built in the 1700’s and is now a well restored building serving as a museum to its dark history. Hard to believe that slavery was only abolished in 1834 by the British Parliament (and therefore all her colonies, including Sth Africa). Even more astonishing is that slavery was partially abandoned because of economics – it was cheaper to pay the slaves a wage than provide them food and accommodation! This museum was good, but could’ve been better. The upper floors contained random items of pianos, silverware, a doll collection, and history of Afrikaans language that seemed at odds with the objective of the museum. Maybe I missed out on learning something, but it just seemed peculiar.

I refreshed my mind with a walk through Company Gardens which is a lush picturesque setting in the centre of the city bordered by Parliament, the Supreme Court and other white pillared colonial buildings that I was expecting of Cape Town. From here I caught the tour bus back to the waterfront (including a bit of walk because the tour bus is only one way... annoying) to set off on the night tour at 6pm. This night tour is advertised as a sunset tour that takes u up to Signal Hill overlooking the city and is free with the 2-day pass. Thank god I didn’t pay for it, cause it would be a rip. Supposed to go for 3 hrs, went for 1.45 hrs. Says bring a picnic basket (I took a roll and small bottle of red) and they give u 20 mins (!) at the summit to walk about and enjoy your 'picnic’. Silly. Bloody cold too. The days are warm, but once the sun is setting it gets chilly. Anyways, I was not impressed by the night tour, but u can’t win them all. At least the shops are open at the waterfront until 9pm each night and that is where Day 2 ended.
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