Posted by: Gary Guertin | February 27, 2010

Cape Town, South Africa – Day 1

Hi All,

As I said in my Cape Town Update, this is going to be a long, long blog, so if you don’t have a lot of time now come back and read it when you do. I took about 300 photos during this day (Sunday, Feb. 21, 2010) and as you will see I needed 40 photos to really show you what Susy and I did. Cape Town is a city of three and a half million people and is the third largest in South Africa after Johannesburg and Durban. As with most of the African coast the Portuguese were the first ones to pass by the Cape area, but it wasn’t until 1652 that the Dutch East India Company (VOC) established a supply depot for ships sailing the Europe to Asia route around the Cape of Good Hope. The VOC was nearly bankrupt by the end of the 18th century and this led to the British imperialist moving against the Dutch and finally in 1814 the colony was ceded to the Crown. After 150 years of ruling this area, the Dutch influence is predominate. The Port of Cape Town thrived until the Suez Canal slowed harbor traffic. New commerce from South Africa has again driven exports and the old port area has been redeveloped into restaurants and shops, rivaling Sidney for its beauty and activity day and night.

I want to start by showing you in the first photo (see photo album above titled "Cape Town, South Africa – Day 1) the port of Cape Town. I’m really proud of this panoramic view because it shows Table Mountain (the large flat mountain on the left) with a slight cloud cover, looking like a table cloth on the table. This was actually how the mountain got its name (it is often covered with clouds). The pointed mountain in the center is called Lion’s Head, and the small mountain on the right is called Signal Hill. The city of Cape Town and its harbor sits in a bowl in front of these three mountains. If you want to study this photo hit the pause button below the photo and it will stay until you hit the play button. The second photo shows the ships port sign as we left the ship for the day. When we departed the ship about 8 AM (yes Susy was up and awake) we encountered three couples of our Latin friends and with Susy and Sergio leading the way we contracted a mini-bus and tour guide for the day to take us to the Cape of Good Hope. Now your really going to have to hit the pause button on the third photo because it is a map of the Cape Town/Good Hope area. I want to show you our route for the day so you can get an overall view of our tour. Look at the top of the map (north) and you will a black square at Cape Town. The first panoramic photo is taken from the top of that square looking south at Table Mountain. Now if you look slightly to the right (east) we drove through the town past Devil’s PK and "Uni of CT" on the map. From "Uni of CT" south draw a straight line to the water of "False Bay". This route took us through the major wine country of South Africa and mid morning we stopped in a typical winery (all photos of which you will see after I explain the day’s tour). After leaving the winery we followed the coast down through Simon’s Town and stopped for lunch at Boulders Beach. After lunch, we visited a large penguin area at Boulders Beach and then continued south to the Cape of Good Hope. After spending a good part of the afternoon at the Cape we headed back up the west coast through Scarborough, through Mout Bay around the west (your left) of Table Mountain and back to the ship.

OK! If your ready for the tour, let’s go. As I said we contracted a mini-bus and yours truly got to ride shotgun (passenger’s side). As you can see in the fourth photo we’re heading into the city, looking at Lion’s Head on the left and Signal Mountain on the right. On the far left you see the foothills of Table Mountain. Oh, by the way, if you feel strange sitting on the right hand side of the vehicle as a passenger it’s because the African’s drive on the left side of the road (like England and Japan).

Driving into the city in the fifth photo you note the wide avenues with statues and flags flying. South Africa is hosting the World Cup of soccer in June/July and the sixth photo shows their new stadium where the semi-finals will be held (the finals are held in Johannesburg, the largest city and capital of South Africa). As we climb into the east foothills of Table Mountain looking back north the seventh photo shows you our ship and the harbor.

I have to stop here and show you three photos of the housing we saw on this first day. The eighth photo shows you a close up of the slums/poverty villages. The ninth photo shows the vast dimension of these villages. They run for miles and miles. The tenth photo shows you some newly constructed houses with some slum shacks in the backyard. Again, I’ll have to stop here and explain. After apartheid South Africa faced two serious problems. First, of course, was the race problem, but also, the economic problem of the large number of "poor" people (an economic problem). The new government led by Nelson Mandela first tried to tackle the slums/poverty villages by building new housing and giving it to the slum dwellers provided they tore down their shacks. There was only so much money for this program and the demand is so high that the waiting list in some areas of South Africa is 50 (yes, I said 50) years. The slum dwellers are not stupid, however, so many were given their new homes and just turned around and sold them for a large profit (they got them free) and moved back to the slums. The government caught on to this and passed a law so that a person who got free housing had to live in it for at least 7 years before they could sell it. The slum dwellers, not to be outdone, just moved into their new home and build a shack in the backyard (the 10th photo) and rented it out to make money. This is all uncontrollable by the government because in spite of its efforts to help its own people, prosperous economic areas like Cape Town have an immigration rate of about 40,000 people a month (from North Africa, India, etc.).

As we headed south and rounded Table Mountain, by mid-morning we had entered the South African wine country. In the eleventh photo you see a winery’s main estate home across a beautiful lake with the vineyards in the hills behind and a large tent in the yard on the lake (probably for a wedding). We finally stopped at one of the better vineyards (sign in 12th photo), "Zevenwacht", which means "Seven Expectations" in Dutch. The thirteenth photo shows the gang, Sergio, Jorge, Diana, Jo-Ann, Leo in the back row, and Susy, Trish, and yours truly in the front row. In the fourteenth photo you see Susy listening intently to our winery guide (or is she wondering how to get her next glass of wine???). After a tour of the wine making facilities, we climbed back in our mini-bus and no sooner started for the coast then we saw our first animals. In the fifteenth photo you see two ostriches up close on an ostrich farm we passed. We finally arrived at the coast (False Bay) and in the sixteenth photo you see my view down the coast line. They say there is some wonderful surfing along here. As we passed through Simon’s Town and arrived at Boulders Beach you see in the seventeenth photo the restaurant on the beach where we had lunch. While having lunch Susy ordered a diet Coca Cola and when they brought the can we couldn’t believe the size, it was so tiny. In the eighteenth photo you see the can in Susy’s hand so you can get an idea of how small it is. After leaving the restaurant the nineteenth photo shows Susy and Ron (our guide for the day) in front of the Boulders sign on the walk to Boulders Beach. Nicholas and Teresa will love the twentieth photo which is of two penguins (male and female) setting on the beach. There was a whole colony of penguins along the beach as shown in the twenty first photo. Oh! as you can see Susy always has to stop and check out the stalls along the walk just in case?? (22nd photo). As we headed out again for the Cape of Good Hope our guide pointed out that it was a little windy along this coast. The twenty third photo shows how the trees have grown with the wind leaning them over all the time. The next animals we encountered along the coast were the baboons. The twenty-fourth photo shows a baboon (in a herd of about 10) walking along the road and the twenty-fifth photo shows a baby right in the middle of the road. Baboons in this part of the country are wild and dangerous. Our guide said that they attack humans, break into houses, and will do anything for food. Their numbers are growing and since they are very intelligent (they can open doors, windows, etc.) the government may have to take action in the near future.

As we drove further south along the beaches and begin to climb into the foothills we caught our first sighting of the Cape of Good Hope area (26th photo). Actually what you’re looking at is the Cape Point, but in order to explain, if you would move to the twenty-seventh photo and pause it you will see a good map of the area. The Table Mountain National Park is a large natural reservation which makes up the entire peninsula. At the left you see Cape Point, which is the highest point in the area, about 675 feet above sea level. Once you climb up Cape Point you look back to the west and see Cape Maclear and the Cape of Good Hope with the beautiful Dias Beach below. I have to clear up some geography at this point. The Cape of Good Hope is the most south-western point on the African continent, but Cape Agulhas (which is many miles further east) is the southernmost point on the African continent. Here’s where the controversy comes in as to where the Atlantic and Indian Oceans meet. The Atlantic has a cold current (Benguela) and the Indian Ocean has a warm current (Agulhas). The popular opinion is they meet at the Cape of Good Hope, while the official geographic position is they meet at Agulhas Point.

OK, now that we have our bearings let’s walk up to Cape Point and see the view. In the twenty-eighth photo you see Susy in front of the Cape Point sign and the beginning of the path to the Point. We could have taken a ride up to the top, but that was for old people and young children (there was a long wait) and Susy and I felt we would be cheating if we took it (ha, ha). As we got higher and looked back (29th photo) we wondered what we had gotten ourselves into. We finally got near the top and the 30th photo shows what I think is one of the best photos I took of Susy with the Cape of Good Hope in the far background. The thirty-first photo shows the Lighthouse up above as taken from the point where I took Susy’s photo. The thirty-second photo shows yours truly in front of the tip of Cape Point. The next shot (33rd photo) shows a beautiful view of the Cape of Good Hope with Diaz Beach in the middle. We made it almost to the top (we didn’t go up to the Lighthouse) and after taking many, many photos headed down (34th photo). Believe me it was a lot easier going down than up. We climbed into the mini-bus exhausted about 4 PM and started back to the ship via the Atlantic coast on the west (35th photo). The thirty-sixth photo shows a typical beach along the way. We finally arrived back at the ship and most ordinary people after a long day like this would have dinner and go to bed early, but not Susy and I. Since the boat was staying overnight and we had heard so much about the Cape Town harbor at night we jumped on a shuttle and headed to the Victoria & Albert Waterfront. The thirty-seventh photo shows the sun going down over the town and harbor. We had dinner at an Italian restaurant called Hilderbrand (the 38th photo is a bad shot from inside the restaurant). The meal was excellent and we had three waiters singing opera (almost as good as the three tenors). The thirty-ninth photo shows the outside of the shopping center/harbor at night and the last photo (40th photo) shows Susy inside the huge shopping center. Of course, Susy closed the place and we took a taxi back to the ship for a good nights sleep and the start of Day 2 in Cape Town.

Because of my external drive problem I’m now three days behind, so check in every few days and I’ll try to crank out a port.

Love you all,

Gary (alias Gagu)


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