Monday, June 9, 2014

We visited Cape Town 03 to 05 May - Table Mountain,Cape of Good Hope, Robben Island,V and A waterfront

Cape Town 03 May.

Located on the shore of Table Bay, Cape Town was originally developed by the Dutch East India Company as a victualing (supply) station for Dutch ships sailing to East Africa, India, and the Far East. Jan Van Riebeeks' arrival on 6 April 1652 established the first permanent European settlement in South Africa. Cape Town is the second-most populous city in South Africa, after Johannesburg.

CT is an incredibly fascinating and really pretty city nestled between the fabled ‘Table Mountain’ and the great Atlantic and the Indian Oceans. The city is well laid out with broad roads, a bustling market place, city centre and a mesmerizing water front. Lovely huge bungalows with manicured gardens lie along the mountain side – each outdoing the other in architectural elegance. Driving around CT is a very pleasant experience. CT has a population of 3.9 million and yet the city looks devoid of people.

As we landed in CT we collected our car from Hertz. Initially they gave us an Etios with automatic gears. I was not used to automatic gears and was very uncomfortable. We changed it immediately to a manual gear Chevrolet Sonic sedan and reached ‘Best Western’ hotel.It is a very well appointed, reasonably priced and efficient hotel chain. We had stayed earlier in the same property in Santorini, Greece.

After a quick lunch we went off the see ‘Table Mountain’ which is a flat-topped mountain forming a prominent landmark overlooking the city of Cape Town. Table Mountain is about 260-million years old, starting at Signal Hill and ending at Cape Point. The main feature of Table Mountain is the level plateau approximately 3 km from side to side, edged by impressive cliffs. The drive from the hotel is lovely and as one climbs, the contours of the city come alive. Table Mountain is proud to be one of the official New 7 Wonders of Nature. We took a cable car to reach the top. The lower cable station is at an elevation of 302 mtr and the upper cable station on the western most end of the Table Mountain plateau, is at an elevation of 1,067 mtr. As we go up, the cabin rotates providing a panoramic view of the landscape below. The ride up is very fascinating but quick. One reaches the top in four minutes. Once on top you get to see the town and its surrounding in all its beauty. A must see for all visitors.

Figure 1 – Best Western Hotel CT – Efficient, Friendly, Neat and tidy.

Figure 2 – On the way to the cable car station

Figure 3 – View of the ‘Table Mountain’ from below

Figure 4 – Jai and Navin photo op

Figure 5 – Kats Navin and I

Figure 6 – Very interesting rock formations

Figure 7 – Sun set at Table Mountain

Figure 8 - Another view of sunset on reaching the base of Table Mountain

Figure 9 – The city below

Figure 10 – Navin with locals - bonding

Cape Town 04 May.

We drove around to see all the important sights of CT. The weather unfortunately let us down – it was wet, cold and cloudy throughout the day, accompanied by gusty winds and blinding rain. We went to Hout Bay and Chapman’s Peak. We had nicknamed the GPS, ‘Susan’. It was impossible to navigate within the city or outside without directions from Susan. The GPS is a life saver. Kats kept a very close eye on the GPS (no pun intended) and prodded me regularly. We later replaced Susan with Peter (on our second car trip) and it was truly ‘Peter the navigator’ (also Kats’ pet name with the senior military brass). We drove to the Cape of Good Hope and later on to Cape Point via the Western sea board and returned via the East. The drive along the coast is outstanding and prompted us to stop ever so often to enjoy the view and take photographs. One has heard so much about the ‘Cape of Good Hope’. It was a truly historic moment to be standing out there (in the pouring rain and cold)seeing the end of the African continent and wondering how scores of seafarers must have felt, rounding the point and heading towards India.

The next halt was Boulders Bay on the Eastern seaboard to watch the African Penguins (Sphenisus demersus). Boulders Beach is a sheltered beach made up of inlets between granite boulders, from which the name originated. It is located in the Cape Peninsula, near Simon's Town. From just two breeding pairs in 1982, the penguin colony has grown to about 3,000 birds in recent years. The Penguins are very cute and tiny, not more than 2 ft tall. The sight is simply captivating – a couple hugging each other, some standing as motionless as statues with only their eyes giving them away as they stared back at you. A few females were nesting in the sand and the rest swimming and generally having a great time in the cold water. It was a truly remarkable sight watching hundreds of Penguins (all in the pouring rain).

We then stopped for lunch at the exotic beach resort – Simon Town, home to the South African Navy. It is located on the shores of false Bay, on the Eastern side of the Cape Peninsula. Tucked away between the sea and the mountains, the village is very picturesque and a hot tourist destination. The late lunch at a restaurant called the ‘Quarterdeck’ was very appetizing. The German owner was extremely loquacious and very interested in Zodiac signs. He suggested where we could go the next day.

Figure 11 – Table Mountain covered by clouds. View from Hout Bay

Figure 12 – At Chapman’s Peak

Figure 13 – Approaching Simon Town – pristine beaches all along

Figure 14 – A typical fishing village

Figure 15 – Never ending stretches of flats.

Figure 16 - On the way to Cape Point at the very popular water front joint, the Dixie Café

Figure 17 – Eastern view of Cape of Good Hope with Cape Point in the distance.

Figure 18 – Kats and Navin all excited

Figure 19 – Jai and Naveen at Boulders Bay

Figure 20 – On a stroll

Figure 21 – Caught in the act

Figure 22 – A meeting of sorts

Figure 23 – Nesting

Figure 24 – Shelter inside cut drums

Figure 25 – A perfect statue

Figure 26 – Simon Town, Main Road.

Figure 27 – Outside the ‘Quarterdeck’ for lunch

Cape Town 05 May.

We set out early in the morning to the V and A Waterfront to catch a ferry to ‘Robben Island’. The name is Dutch for "Seal Island" and it is located 9 KM from CT. The former President of South Africa, the late Nelson Mandela was imprisoned on Robben Island for 18 of the 27 years that he served behind bars before the fall of apartheid. The island was also used as a leper colony and animal quarantine station. The men and women were kept separate but found a way to meet. J and they had healthy babies who were often adopted by the rich in town. The island houses a museum. The island was declared a World Heritage Site in 1999.

The ride on the ferry was uncomfortable for most of the tourist as the gusty winds had made the sea rough. It takes about an hour to reach the island. A photographer (ready to take photos for a fee) welcomes the tourist on board with a broad smile saying, “Welcome, my brother from another mother!”

Once on the island you are greeted by the local guide an ex-political prisoner. His briefing and narration of the events which took place on the island is charged with emotion. He mentioned that Mandela could not cry as his tear glands were badly affected by the harsh conditions in which he was made to work in the hot sun for years on end.Every day, the prisoners had to work in the lime quarry, breaking stones from dawn to dusk.

Ntando Mbatha spent 7 years in the prison and recalled his experience in the prison. He had the top bunk, but once slept on the floor when a hunger strike left him too weak to climb the ladder. He started the walk around by saying, “Your trip is unique- you pay money to get into a prison, whereas others pay to get out”. The walk takes you to the cell where Mandela was imprisoned, places where the prisoners worked and so on. Prisoners were confined to small cells with only a sleeping mat and a bucket toilet. Each morning they were roused at 5.30 am to empty their buckets and face a day of hard labour. Even worse, they were deprived of contact with their loved ones, and limited to a half-hour visit a year from a family member, and only two letters. It is very interesting to note that an Indian by the name of ‘Billy Nair’ was a political prisoner in 1964.  It was for these reasons that UNESCO's World Heritage Committee chose to mark this location for its 'triumph of the human spirit'. The island also has interesting bird and marine life. The island boasts of 2000 penguins and 132 types of birds

Today, only the staff stays on the island. It has a church which conducts weddings on Valentines Day.14 couples got married in 2013.The island has a 9 inch gun mount with a range of 50 KM - which was installed during WW II. Unfortunately it became operational 2 years after the war ended. In 2004, a ten-year-old boy from India became the youngest person to swim the 12km from Robben Island to Cape Town

The visit gives you a true insight into Nelson Mandela’s struggle against apartheid and the unimaginable sacrifice he made to free SA from it. He certainly towers above any human being – 27 years in prison, speaks volumes about his vision, tenacity and strength of mind.

Another interesting feature is the absence of any huge monument or memorial idolizing Mandela– the museum just spouts bare facts and the impact is strong and inspiring. When he visited the lime quarry where he did hard labour, many years later, he quietly went and placed a big stone in the middle. All the other former political prisoners and friends present, silently followed suit and one can see the pile even today which honours Mandela's release from prison, after 27 years behind bars. The pile consists of 1200 stones each brought by an ex-convict. This simple expression of solidarity, displays the struggle in its entirety. The guide also showed us a cave in the quarry which was nicknamed the Cave of Higher Education, as Mandela would discuss issues with the other prisoners there, whenever they were allowed to rest.

Later, we spent the whole day lazing in the sun on the Victoria and Alfred waterfront of CT. It is a favourite destination for locals and tourists alike; attracting more than 23-million visitors a year which makes it the most visited destination on the African continent. Sipping wine and relishing a chilled beer was the order of the day – a truly relaxing place with the sea constantly lapping the jetty, with innumerable birds flying around, the sun playing hide and seek, a gust of wind blowing in your face and exotic sea food to satisfy your gastronomical cravings.

Figure 28 - In the V and A mall

Figure 29 – V and A waterfront

Figure 30 – At the ferry ticketing booth

Figure 31 - A yacht ready to proceed on a coastal tour

Figure 32 – View of Table Mountain from the sea

Figure 33 – Cape Town from a distance

Figure 34 – Arrival

Figure 35 – Mr Ntando Mbatha political prisoner for 7 years as our guide

Figure 36 – Introduction to the prison

Figure 37 – Mr. Nelson Mandela’s cell 8 X 7 feet dimensions

Figure 38 – Barbed wire fencing and the watch tower.

Figure 39 - The pile of stones was erected in the lime quarry by a gathering of former political prisoners and friends to honour Mandela's release from prison, after 27 years behind bars.1200 stones.

Figure 39 A  - The cave where Nelson Mandela taught fellow prisoners

Figure 40 – Leper colony grave yard

Figure 41 – Church built in 1841 by the Commandant of the military force in the island

Figure 42 – Atlantic and the Indian oceans

Figure 43 – Looking as radiant as ever

Figure 44 – Photo op

Figure 45 – Unused 9 inch gun

Figure 46 – V and A waterfront

Figure 47 – Partners in crime

Figure 48 – V and A waterfront

Figure 49 – CT from top

Figure 50 – A visitation by a Seagull

1 comment:

  1. C S ChandramouliJune 10, 2014 at 6:56 AM

    Enjoyed the narrative and the pictures! Thanks for taking us there through your blog!!