Thursday, July 9, 2009

A literal whirlwind

The day started at 8:30 when I met my driver, Santo and we headed to Cape Point. The drive reminded me of Big Sur with higher mountains. Santo had lots of information and stories to tell. He left Portugal in 1962 when he was 18 and arrived in Joberg. He had no skills or English so he stayed in the Portuguese community for a few years until he knew he had to learn English if he was to survive. He started working in a hotel where they had English classes for their employees. Hotel Management wanted “Europeans” to work in the hotels and not “Coloreds” (mixed race) or “Niggers” (blacks). The three classifications are still used today but not officially; no one needs to carry their “lifebook” as they did until the late 80’s showing their heritage.

We made a number of stops so I could walk and take photos. I went to the Penguin Beach and could not believe the noise they made…they are called Jackass Penguins because they bray just like donkeys.

At one stop I was taking a picture when Santo yelled for me to get in the car NOW and I jumped in just as a huge male baboon was coming toward the car. Santo clicked the locks immediately so when the baboon tried to open the car door, he couldn’t. After he could not get in, he ran and climbed over an eight foot barbed wire fence. I almost wet my pants because I looked out the window he had his face pressed against it making loud noises. Santo said Baboon attacks are happening more often because they are looking for food. After a few minutes to calm both of us, we drove a little farther and I saw the sign that said Danger: Baboons are not friendly and Do not feed; that was when I realized I did not have my camera (I dropped while jumping into the car). We back tracked and luckily the baboon had not stepped on it. By that time all I wanted to do was get away from there so we did not stop for me to take another picture until we got to the Cape of Good Hope. From there we went to Cape Point which was also very windy and desolate. They had a small museum under the lighthouse that talked about all the ship wrecks and lost sailors to the Point. We had a wonderful lunch overlooking the point of Kingklip a mild white fish.

There were fees to enter every section of the National Park and Santo said it has become cost prohibitive for the locals to take their families. They just increased the fees by 25% and will do the same amount in October. He said everything is going up because of the World Cup and by next summer and the fees will have doubled by then to milk the tourists. It was a total of $20.00 in fees (not counting the Funicular to the light house at Cape Point) for the day but I can understand why it was cost prohibitive for many South Africans.

We drove over the Mountains to Stellenbosch (wine country) to visit a few wineries and again the scenery was breathtaking. It reminded me of the wine tours I have taken around Santa Barbara and Monterey counties more that Napa or Sonoma. Being winter, the fields were grey but I could imagine coming in January and hopefully will be able to in 2011 (after the World Cup). We only had time for one stop at Simonsig and they had a 2006 Pinotage that was rated 5 star with multiple awards made by a female winemaker that was extraordinary. I bought several bottles and reloaded my luggage so they would fit and hopefully not break on the flight home.

We then headed to the airport where I saw a Township (this was a slum for coloreds). All I saw were shacks for over five km. I wanted to stop and take a picture but Santo said it was too dangerous. There were children playing on both sides of the highway and medium because it is the only grass. It was very depressing to see that at the end of a day of such beauty.

I want to come back to this beautiful country and spend more than 72 hours because I now have Africa in my blood and want to experience more of it.

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