Gardens, Cable Cars, Castles and Prisons

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


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What I did
Castle, Table Mtn, Robben Island

Flag of South Africa  ,
Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Day 3 in Cape Town commenced late and slow – just as I wanted. Another spectacular breakfast down on the water terrace overlooking Table Mountain – something I intended to travel to the top of later that day. But first, I took the City Sightseeing tour cruise to the convention centre. This was included free in my 2 day pass and a nice way to start the day cruising past the million dollar apartments where apparently Oprah has a pad. I was the only one on the boat and following my exclusive tour I boarded the blue bus to Kirstenbosch Botanical Gardens. I had agonised over whether to do this first or Table Mountain. My observations of the weather patterns were that the afternoons are better for the Mtn, so I set off for the Gardens.

The Botanical Gardens have a setting that must be hard to beat. Showcasing the best flora or 'fynbos' of South Africa and looking always towards the mountains that surround Cape Town. This land was purchased by Cecil Rhodes (of Rhodes Scholar fame) in the late 1800’s to keep this area out of bounds from urbanisation. It made me want a garden. A massive garden, with waterfalls and otters and mountains and statues.

After a couple hrs at the gardens, I boarded the bus to take me all the way back around the coast to central Cape Town. It took an hour and a half – not the most efficient way to get back, but the easiest. Nice to see the beach areas; although no one swims because it is Antarctic cold. Once back in the city I switched buses and headed towards the Table Mtn cable car launch point. At 4:45pm I had thought twice about doing this, but had plenty of time. The ride to the top was smooth and fast. Although I had to look to the floor when we approached the top...the cable car slowed and I suddenly thought we would plunge to our death. So I was glad to reach the summit and look out at the incredible views. Smile on my face and feeling very happy to be here.

Day 4 was my first taxi trip. I wanted to meet the 11am tour at the Castle of Good Hope which is in the centre of the city. A castle – more so a fort – that was built in the mid 1600’s by the Dutch to defend their Dutch East India Trading Company. Much of the city has been built on reclaimed land and this castle used to be on the ocean front, but is now very much in-land. The castle itself is not that special compared to European equivalents, but the Governor’s apartments are very special with furniture from the 1700’s and all laid out as if it were that period. The midday key-change ceremony and gun-fire is rather humorous for its insignificance, but interesting to see nonetheless. Despite being a tiny gun, it still made me jump!

I left the castle and followed a walking tour that is in my lonely planet book. I ended up in Long Street where shops and cafes abound. Found myself at the Grand Daddy Hotel where I had a beer and waited for my taxi driver to collect me. The wind was howling. Honestly the worst wind I have been in – my cap blew off twice. I had a pre-booked tour out to Robben Island where Nelson Mandela was imprisoned for most of his 27 years - I was worried that the wind would cause cancellation of the ferry. But I phoned the operators and it was a go. The ferry out was surprisingly smooth, but very rough coming back. The tour itself was unremarkable. A bunch of big coach buses take people around the island to look at the limestone quarry where Mandela worked and then to the prison itself where a former inmate takes u on a tour. It was so windy and cold that I was distracted. Plus my guide was not that engaging...as if he had done the tour so many times that he was reading from a script. But still it was worth seeing, but could be so much better.
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