CT,Kirstenbosch,Cape Point,Boulder's Beach
Dec 16, 2018
Visit Kirstenbosch National Botanical Garden with an expert guide on a tour exclusively designed for our group the garden has been named one of the top gardens in the world by National Geographic Traveler magazine. Continue on to explore vibrant Cape Town and Cape Point, with a visit to the penguins at Boulders Beach. It's gonna be a big day! ... Just some small details abut South Africa: it has 9 provinces, 11 official languages, became a republic in 1961 and has a population of 57.7 million.
After breakfast our bus left with the 10 of us onboard (8 travellers, 1 guide and 1 bus driver). Our first stop was in the Malay quarters of Cape town where very bright coloured houses lined the streets. I asked myself how Malaysian peoples landed in Cape town and discovered it is pretty much a story of European settlers enslaving political exiles from the Dutch East Indies and transporting them to South Africa as cheap labor. It pretty much stared in 1652 when Van Riebeek arrived at the Cape to establish a trading post and supply station for ships travelling the Europe-East Indies route. Cheap labor was required by the Dutch settlers in order to produce enough food to fulfill the needs of the VOC (Dutch East India Company) as well as the Dutch settlement. Back in Dutch occupied Indonesia, the Indonesian Kingdom had just ended (early sixteenth century) and European military penetration and anti-Islamic persecution created resistance. The Dutch crushed the resistance and opponents of the Dutch were exiled to Cape of Good Hope. I understand the Afrikans language is really simplified Dutch and evolved so the slaves would be able to communicate with the Dutch. Cape Malay peoples follow Islamic living principles. The term "Cape Malay" (politically correct term would be Cape Muslim) loosely includes peoples from the Dutch East Indies, east Africa and Malaysia. Strictly speaking though 'Cape Malay" are Muslims who are descended from Eastern Malaysia. During our short stay in Malay quarters we saw many mosques, were educated on the historic significance of the homes which are hundreds of years old, how the exteriors of these homes cannot be changed (including doors and windows), the community is very close and everyone knows everyone. We stopped at a corner store where Gavin bought Koeksisters for us (basically an Afrikaner treat of fried dough infused with honey or syrup).
The history of European occupation leading to Apartheid
I was shocked to learn in my wonderful book called the South African Story that the Cape may have been reached by the Phoenicians in 600 B.C. This voyage was commissioned by Necho II King of Egypt. This expedition took 3 years since they had to stop and sow crops to replenish their stores. That is crazy! Upon their return, the men reported navigating westerly with the sun northward and on their right. The Greek historian Herodotus discredited this but it is very likely they were between Port Elizabeth and Cape town. Approximately 2080 years later safer ways to the spice world were sought since going through the Middle East was dangerous. More so than ever once the Turks captured Constantinople in 1453. King Henrique of Portugal's master plan was to explore Africa. In 1419 King Henrique set up a School of Navigation and proceeded with many expeditions. During his lifetime, expeditions reached as far as Sierra Leone (incidentally Africa is a huge continent and Sierra Leone is right around where Africa bulges). Henry died in 1460. His predecessor, Afonso V was not interested in exploration. This was left to private merchants and so in 1473 Lopes Goncalves managed to cross the equator. In 1482, 1 year after ascending the throne, Joao II sent Diogo Cao off to explore Africa. Cao reached the mouth of the Congo river on his first voyage. On his second voyage he reached Cape Cross in Namibia, just north of Walvis Bay and the Tropic of Capricorn. In August 1487 Bartolomeu Dias sailed from Lisbon. By Dec he reached Cape Cross and then Walvis Bay on December 4th. From this point his voyage went awry since he was now charting new territory. Although he was hugging the shoreline a storm drove him far south. After 13 days of battling these winds he sailed into the powerful west winds and was forced back on track towards the coast. When they found land it was running west to east which was strange. They landed at Mossel Bay on Feb 3 1488. They encountered the native Khoikhoi (Hottentots) as they filled their water casks from the stream. The Khoikhoi started throwing rocks at the sailors which provoked a panicked sailor to kill a native with an arrow from his crossbow. The natives fled. On the return trip Dias finally spotted what he thought was the true Cape. He called the Cape Vabo Tormentosa (Cape of Torment) but King Joao changed the name to Cabo de Boa Esperanca - Cape of Good Hope. In July 1497 da Gama, a Portugese nobleman, was appointed the pleasure of navigating a complete voyage to India. In November he rounded the Cape, on December 25th he was at an unknown coastline which he named Natal and then he continued on to India. The first time the British passed around the Cape was in 1580 as Francis Drake rounded the Cape. Drake did not consider erecting the British flag (dumb ass Buccaneer LOL). Later in 1591 the English East India company stopped by on its way to the East still not erecting the British flag. In 1615 the English East India company dumped a small group of condemned prisoners at Table Bay, essentially as an experiment to determine if the area was habitable. The experiment flopped - three were rescued by a ship returning to England and eventually went to the gallows for stealing, three were picked up by an English vessel heading for India, some were killed by the Hottentots, some drowned and some were taken away on a Portuguese ship. In 1620 the English East India Company landed at Table Bay again and proclaimed the land at the top of Signal Hill. Nothing came of this proclamation back in England where it gathered dust and cobwebs. Finally in 1647 the Haarlem of the Dutch East India Company shipwrecked in Table Bay. The castaways survived for more than a year with the help of the Khoikkoi. On return to Holland the leader of this group (Leendert Jansz) recommended a refreshment station be set up at the Cape. On April 6,1652 three ships anchored in Table Bay led by Jan Van Riebeeck and a botanist. The rest is pretty much history. So essentially the Cape might have been Egyptian, Portuguese or even British but they missed opportunities to proclaim the land as theirs. Instead the Dutch claimed the land as theirs over 2 millenium later. Eventually the British did take over in 1806 after two attempts in battles - The Battle of Muizenberg (hardly recorded in British history as a battle at all) and then the Battle of Baauwberg Strand. Both of these battles were a direct result of war between England and France (Holland was an ally of France and the British were not about to let France's ally maintain control of the important Cape). In 1814 the Dutch signed the Cape over to the British in a Treaty. The Dutch were compensated 2 million pounds for giving up South Africa. In 1931 South Africa abolished the powers of the British government and in 1934 the United Party was formed (a merger of the South African Party and the National Party). In 1939 this party split. In 1948 the National Party was formed, taking racial segregation further and using Canada's Indian Act as a framework ... Apartheid was born.
Gavin briefly reviewed the history of Apartheid in South Africa for us. It is hard to be brief on this topic I would say. I also refer to a book called the South African Story by Ron McGregor which Gavin bought me which is incredible and answers all things South African. Apartheid is most obviously a topic that not many like to talk about and can be a very volatile topic. I will say in my humble opinion that it doesn't matter which country you are from you will find stories of European settlers proclaiming land in the Other Worlds and hence various stories of how people were disadvantaged and affected. It has happened in Canada where we are going through our Truth and Reconciliation. So, here it goes ... in 1795 Dutch rule ended and the British took over. The British declared everyone equal. The Dutch broke away and moved inland. In 1835 Slavery was abolished. Apartheid truly has a long history in South Africa despite the fact you may learn it began in 1948. I feel the National Party, resurrected in 1934, was instrumental in the official implementation of Apartheid. At the time poor whites were competing with blacks for jobs in the cities. Apartheid resulted in segregation based on skin color - whites in one area, blacks in another area and coloreds in another area. There were two aspects of apartheid - petty and grand. The petty apartheid really did not seriously impact daily life and provided inconveniences while grand apartheid disadvantaged people immensely and had negative consequences for the disadvantaged in the end. Disadvantaged people lost out on good education and voting rights (just a few examples). Eventually South Africa became bankrupt largely due to sanctions implemented by other countries. Eventually the government was forced to abolish apartheid. Abolishment began in 1990. I do not profess to be a professor on this topic and refer you to readings on the topic for more details so you can learn more on the topic and form your own opinions.
We passed Desmond Tutu's church, a building used as a Slave Lodge centuries ago and the Dutch reform church where 8 governors are buried. Gavin explained the streets are often closed down for film shoots as this is cheaper than shooting in Europe (go figure 'cause getting here is not cheaper and takes bloody forever!!!). We stopped just outside of the Castle of Good Hope built in 1666-1679. The castle was originally on the coastline but is now inland due to land reclamation. Hotels in the area have pumps set up to pump water out from their lower floors. Gavin showed us City Hall and the site where Nelson Mandela delivered his speech in 1990 when he was released from prison. We also saw a flower market site that was 100 years old (of course the original people are not there but flowers are still being sold there). We saw the parade ground where decades ago slaves,fruits and veggies were sold. I really can't imagine what life was life back then. Can you? District 6 is an inner-city residential area that was originally established by freed slaves, merchants, artisans, labourers, immigrants. It was decimated by apartheid. Now, if you can prove your family lived there you can get social concessions such as the ability to move back and be taught how to run a business, or even receive a pay out. A lot of this reminds me of the current Truth and Reconciliation activity in Canada.
Today is the Day of the Vow or Reconciliation day and tomorrow is the stat holiday. It seems the day is celebrated for two reasons -The day of the Vow on Dec 16, 1864 when the Zulus were defeated by the Afrikaners (Voortrekker) at the Battle of Blood River and also the Day of Reconcilation when apartheid ended. It seems Dec 16th is significant for both factions and is really a great day to pick for such a national holiday! Yet again there is talk of a stat holiday just like this in Canada.
Gavin described some indigenous cultures such as the Zulus, Swazi and Xhosas. It appears the Swazis may be a Misogynistic culture since the women go down on hands and knees to present food to the men. I'm just saying ... Gavin told us the Swazis and Zulus are similar. The Xhosas believe in a circumcision right of passage ceremony at 16 years of age that may result in maiming and hospitalization. Yikes!!! The boys are expected to live in the bush and fight the elements at this time and are not considered a man if they land up in the hospital.
We learned about Nelson Mandela who was imprisoned for 27 years for political activism. 18 of these years were in Robben island (1964-1982), 6 years in Pollsmoor prison (1982-1988) and 2 years in Victor Verster Prison (1988-1990). Mandela was a Xhosa and a member of the Thembu Royal family. When he was released civil war was a reality but Mandela felt people needed to move forward rather than retaliate. Before the end of apartheid, South Africa was bankrupt and sanctions were in place by many countries. South Africa was basically forced into giving up Apartheid.
Poverty, Homelessness and markets
There are 57 million people in South Africa. 15,000 people became homeless last year alone due to fires in townships (a very rampant problem because of the close quarters, materials used and lack of electricity leading to combustible modes for lighting). Homeless people are offered social grants with mandatory counselling but due to the counselling many do not take up the offers. There are vast pop up markets everywhere. The men erect and dismantle the kiosks daily and the women operate the kiosks during the day. It is mandatory the kiosk is completely removed daily otherwise squatting would be rampant. People will do anything to earn a meager living. Electricity and food is expensive. more than 50% of the people live below 1000 Rand per month (100 Cdn per month). School kids get 1 meal per day at school.
A robot is the traffic light, a garage is where you park your vehicle and a Petro station is where you fuel up your vehicle. Unlike Canada where a garage can have many meanings - where you park your car, where you fuel up or even where your car is repaired. I am lost with the robot though Gavin. WTHeck? The city bowl is everything below the mountain.
Miscellaneous things we learned
We learned that Cape town residential areas can be incredibly windy and prime real estate is in the less windy areas. Property can go for a wide range of prices. We also learned on December 3 1967, Christian Barnard performed the first heart transplant at Groote Schuur Hospital. The first patient lived 18 days. In 1969 the surgery was attempted on another patient who lived for 19 months.
Our next stop was Kirstenbosch Gardens where we enjoyed a tour of the gardens by an expert guide. Kirstenbosch officially started at the point where Castle Rock looms in the background. It is 528 hectares of cultivated gardens and nature reserve with a collection of diverse fynbos flora and forest. The area is located in a wealthy area of the Cape and receives more rain that other areas. During the summer months there are musical sunset concerts in the gardens. There are 7 gardens on the property: the Peninsula Garden, Water-Wise Garden, Fragance Garden, Medicinal Garden, The Dell, The Protea Garden, The Restio Garden and The Useful Plants Garden. Kirstenbosch gardens are located on land donated to the people of South Africa by Cecile John Rhodes. This is the guy of the De Beers diamond empire, founder of the Rhodes Scholarship, founder if Rhodesia (now called Zimbabwe), and 7th prime minister of the Cape Colony. Under Rhodes ownership the gardens became very run down and basically a pig farm. In 1811 the land was originally purchased by Colonel in 1823 the Ecktein family, later the Cloete family and then lastly Rhodes. In 1911 the land was set aside to establish the National Botanic Garden at Kirstenbosch. Since 1913 the garden has been administered by 4 successive institutes/societies. It is now run by the South African Biodiversity Institute. We learned of and saw the following: Pine/Eucalptus trees imported from Australia; a skunky smell which apparently was a porcupine that ran through the garden; 90% of the plants are indigenous to South Africa; South Africa has 1/3 of the world's succulents and 10% of the world's plants on only 2.5% of the world's land surface; Agapanthus in colors of blue, royal Blue and white; a silver tree from the Protea family which flowers in Aug/Sept and has very soft leaves; star birds; moles; Cat's Tail Asparagus; Thatching reeds; Real Geranium;Pin Cushion plant; Southern BoBo bird; the fabulous Protea garden; Cancer Bush; Wild Cannnabis; Aloe Ferox (better than Aloe Vera); Cape Aloe; Wild Gardenia which flowers and then forms a hard fruit which elephants eat; 104 year old Yellow Wood tree which is the National tree; Cyclads; 105 year old Gingko tree; Fle and tick repellant plants; Hadeda bird which has sensors in his beak to detect worms in the soil; The Tree Canopy walk; Bees all over a Wild Pepper tree; Bloomed out Bird of Paradise; Gold Bird of Paradise planted by Nelson Mandela; Fig tree; Oak trees grew too quickly and not great for oak barrels; a Zulu hut; The Medical plant section with many plants used for common ailments such as ear infections/earaches; the Elephant tree; walking through a 358 year old Wild Almond tree. We stopped at the end of the tour at the Garden of Extinction where we met with Philip, Lynne, Pam and Gerhard to visit Daphne's final resting place. Many tears were shed!
The next part of our day involved heading to the Cape Peninsula. We drove through Constantia which is considered the most prestigious suburb in South Africa and is one of the oldest wine producing areas in the southern hemisphere. Gavin educated us on the history of wine in South Africa. The Dutch were apparently quite pathetic at making wine until they invited the persecuted French Hugenots to South Africa in 1685. The first attempts at wine resulted in something that was great to treat scurvy, nothing more, nothing less. Today, after 300 plus years, South Africa is considered the 8th largest wine producer in the world and exports over 1 billion litres of wine per year. Wow! Wine is a major part of the culture with food markets at Vineyards. Popsacks are wine boxes and you can get very good quality wines in this format. In the old days people would get paid with wine and FAS/FASD were pretty common.
Education is not free in South Africa but can be subsidized depending on the type of school.The schools are based on color - Black, Colored, Mixed, White (which are expensive). Private schools cost about $250,000 Rand per year (about $25,000 CDN). A Public school would cost about 40,000 Rand ($4000 CDN).
We drove Chapman's Peak Drive to get to the Cape Peninsula. The locals call this road Chappies. This is an interesting 45 Rand toll mountain road with rockfall shelters which I must say would be an interesting road construction feat in itself. We saw old canons along the route and followed a 9 km, 114 curved road to Chapman's Peak. Gavin informed us that there are many windy areas of the Cape, for example Hout Bay which is beautiful but very windy because most of the trees were cut down (I'm guessing by early settlers to cook and heat homes with). We learned of people being swept off the cliff and cars driving off the road. In fact one guy drove his car off the road, fell 100 meters and survived only to be offered a job in a Mercedes commercial decades later. Gavin told us about shark spotters who are employed to watch for sharks in the bay. A green flag is good to go, red is absolutely not good to go and black is not sure. We took a stop at Chapman's Peak and I have to say it was ridiculously windy. The area is well know for wind related sports. Along the way was Seal island which is a breeding ground for Great Whites.
Simonstown and Just Nuisance
Simonstown is a fishing village and British Naval base. Gavin shared with us many venues are pet friendly in the area. There are dog/cat hotels, dog friendly restaurants and doggie daycare. He told us about Just Nuisance, a Great Dane that was the only dog to be enlisted in the Royal Navy. Nuisance was born in 1937 and was Benjamin Chaney's dog. Benjamin moved to Simon's town to run the United Services Institute. The dog was very popular with the patrons including the boys in the Navy. They would feed him and he would follow them to the dockyards and the naval base. His favourite spot was on on the gangplanks of ships and he soon was nicknamed Nuisance since he was a pretty large obstacle to walk around. He was 6.6 ft tall standing on his hind legs. Geez! Nuisance was allowed to roam freely and it would be common for him to ride the train with the sailors to Cape town 22 miles away. The sailors would try to hide Nuisance, who took 3 seats, but you can imagine how challenging that could be. When discovered, the conductors would throw him off the train but this didn't make much of a difference since Nuisance would catch the next train or else walk to the next train station and catch a train there. Travellers offered to pay Nuisance's train fare but the railway company eventually warned Chaney that Nuisance would have to be put down if he continued. The sailors mounted a huge campaign to save Nuisance and eventually the naval command decided to enlist him in the Navy as Ordinary Seaman Just Nuisance. For the next several years Nuisance actually became a morale booster for troops serving in WWII. He was eventually promoted to Able Seaman and became entitled to free rations. Nuisance accompanied sailors to Capetown and back when the pubs closed. Head the subject of many promotional events and was married even married to another Great Dane (Adinda) in a promotional event. He fathered 5 pups of which two we're auctioned off to raise funds for the war effort. Eventually Nuisance was discharged from the Navy when his conditioned worsened after a car accident. On April 1 1944 he was put down by the naval veterinary surgeon. The next day he was buried with full naval donors. Even to this day Simonstown has an annual parade of Great Danes.
Our stop at Boulders Beach was beautiful. We walked along a boardwalk to the colony of free roaming African penguins. The bay looked pretty rough but despite this there were a handful of snorkelers bobbing around. I would think it was pretty cold. Boulders is set amongst a residential area and is one of the few places where the free endangered African penguins can be observed closely. In 1910 there were 1.5 million African Penguins and by the end of the 20th century only 10% remained. Penguin eggs were a source of food which almost drove the species to extinction. This colony has grown from just 2 breeding pairs in 1982 to the current count of 2200. They managed to grow to this size because commercial trawling in False bay has been reduced resulting in more food supply (anchovies and pilchards) for these penguins. Granite boulders that are 540 million years old enclose parts of the Bay. The African penguins are were known as Jackass penguins because they make donkey sounds. They have been renamed to the South African penguin since there are several species of South American penguins that also make this sound. They are black on top and white underneath to camouflage them from predators from the top as well as predators from below. Peak moulting time is December (at which time they don't eat). In January they return to mate and in February to August they begin nesting. These penguins can swim 7 km per hour and remain submerged for up to 2 minutes. Enemies of these penguins include mongoose, genet, cats and dogs, gulls, sharks, cape fur seals, and Orca. We actually saw some interesting penguin activity - there were actually quite a few penguins that were brooding eggs in rookeries. Apparently they lay two eggs - one female and one male. Penguins mate for life and migrate. We were told January is the season to lay eggs but depending on the age of the penguin they may lay eggs at different times. Many penguins were moulting. There were Cormorant birds amongst the penguins as well as gulls which can eat the eggs. Our next stop was Bertha's for lunch where Josie and I ate 1 kilo of prawns.
Along our drive in Cape Point reserve we encountered baboons. We took lots of photos, particularly of babies trying to hang onto to their moms. There are 11 troops of baboons in Table Mountain National park. As cute as baboons look it is best to stay away from them. They can be vicious and bite. One interesting tidbit we learned is that baboons are terrified of snakes. The guides use this information to their advantage and carry rubber snakes in their bags. Just a simple shake of a rubber snake is enough to make a baboon literally crap himself and run away. Slingshots also work. The Park employs Baboon monitors. If they notice a baboon is behaving dangerously they will move him away. The females are basically tarts as they will have intercourse with many males and then when they are are in estrus they mate with the alpha male. There are 1000 species of fynbos and protea in the reserve. Fynbos requires regular fires to persist due to the minerals the fires bring.
The Flying Dutchman Funicular at Cape Point
Our next stop was Cape Point 34 21 24 South latitude and 18 29 51 East latitude. The funicular took us up to the old lighthouse, officially the Cape of Good Hope. This is the southwestern point of Africa (but not the most southern point of Africa as that is reserved for Cape Agulhas). It was about 600 km to Antarctica. The cliffs are 200 meters above the ocean and there are three promontories - Cape of Good Hope, Cape Maclear and Cape Point. The Benguela and the Agulhus ocean currents meet at the Cape of Good Hope. The original lighthouse was built in 1859 but was pathetic and resulted in many shipwrecks including the Flying Dutchmen. Apparently in storms you can see the phantom ship thrashing in the waves. Sightings of the Flying Dutchmen is an omen of doom. Thankfully, a new lighthouse was built in 1919. Apparently there were shark nets 1 km out from the shore. Greattttt!
The Ostrich Farm
On our return trip to Cape town we stopped at an Ostrich farm for Lester, one of our travel mates. Lester was a young man from Singapore traveling with his brother David and mom Vivian. A few days earlier Lester and David opted for a shark dive and lived to tell about it LOL (seriously I think they were a bit disappointed by this since the water visibility was poor and I don't believe they saw a Great White). Lester was shopping for an Ostrich egg. To be honest I would not have learned as much about Ostrich if it wasn't for Lester's search for an Ostrich egg. We stopped at the Ostrich pens to visit the Ostriches. Geez those feet looked prehistoric! Ostriches can kill people so don't be fooled by them. One swift kick with those "dinosaur-like" feet and you are toast. Lester ended up finding his egg which cost 180 Rand (18 Cdn) plus 30 Rand (3 Cdn) for the box. It takes 3 hours to hard boil an Ostrich egg (2 hours for soft boiled). An Ostrich egg is equivalent to 24 chicken eggs - now that is insane! Ostrich egg is very rich and the yolk is very yellow. You can leave the egg at room temp for a max of 3 weeks and then it is probably really gross after that. Lester had three weeks to get home ... plenty of time! But only God knows how he would get that through customs. There was other shopping at the farm as well!!! Handbags, shoes, wallets - basically all sorts of leather goods. We had a mini lesson on how the skin of an ostrich becomes a handbag - the smooth parts of the leather will become the bag kept proximal (closest) to the lady carrying it. The crocodile leather goods were beautiful and of course the prices were insane! If you think Ostrich is pricey, check out Crocodile.
Car safety and Insurance
As we drove along the coast we realized just how windy it can be. This of course is great for wind sports and there were lots of windsurfers and parasailers along the way. Gavin told us about insurance and cars ... Astonishingly 70% of the cars on the road are not insured. Whaaat?? If you don't have insurance and you kill someone in an MVA it is automatic jail. Most vehicles are not road worthy and people pay off inspectors to get vehicles licensed to be road worthy. Vehicles driving sideways down the road are pretty common (bent frames) and they are nicknamed cockroaches. The speed limit on freeways is 120 km/hr. The Stats for fatalities related to car accidents are astounding-15 people per week are killed in car accidents and on a long weekend 1000 people can be killed.
Prisons, Royalty and Politics
Our route back included a drive by Pollsmoor prison where Mandela was incarcerated for 6 years. We saw a vast amount of gardens attached to the prison - prisoners produce vegetables in these gardens. There are 9 provinces in South Africa - Eastern Cape, Free State, Gauteng, KwaZulu Natal, Limpopo, Mpumalanga, North West, Northern Cape, and Western Cape. We learned about African royalty and the many wives and large families. For example the Zulu king of Durban has 6 wives. The king in Swaziland has 1000 children. There are 7 recognized traditional kingdoms (recently reduced from 13) and I believe this is a significant amount of salary paid by the South African government. The current president is Cyril Ramaphosa. The past president was Jacob Zuma who appears to have been very colorful and very corrupt. We drove past the cricket stadium and headed to our hotel. It was a long day. Gavin organized dinner at The Tiger's Milk which was fun. Unfortunately we learned eating out on a stat holiday yields very poor and slow service. Tomorrow is our free day in Cape Town.