A Birthday For the Books in Cape Town

As I mentioned we only had a day in Johannesburg at the end, so we are skipping to Cape Town, where the trip started. Cape Town is far away from New York and the whole journey took 48 hours, including a long stop over in London. During the stop over I had the chance to briefly meet Hollie, our composer for “Lady Parts.” We had only talked via zoom until then and meeting in person was beyond incredible and unreal. I am still not over it!!

I landed in the afternoon and was able to check out the rooftop before a much needed shower and nap. Jet lag was very real very fast. Our first night was spent with dinner and drinks on the hotel roof, taking in the views of the city and Table Mountain.

Not too shabby for a hotel rooftop

This trip was conducted through For the Love of Travel. The first night our group of 8 women were all strangers to me. Usually trips are co-ed, but we had all women. Not mad about it. Soon the 8 of us would do things we dreamed of our whole lives and come together as a group quickly. I am so thankful to have traveled with a group who encouraged each other and never made anyone feel as if their passions or excitement was something to be dimmed. Also starting off with a huge shout out to our wonderful tour guide, Machiel, who made this trip perfect. Okay we get it, you all love each other, friends forever, etc…I’ll move on.

The first day we learned about the practice of load shedding in South Africa. Depending on where you are located in the country, you will have 2 hours of your day without any power, hence the shedding of the electric load. The South African government-owned national power utility and their primary power generator, Eskom, claim that these rolling-blackouts are due to insufficient generation capacity. After some research it seems there is a great deal of corruption within Eskom that has only made this energy crisis worse. As a traveler I only experienced the minor inconveniences of possibly not charging my phone, but living with it everyday is something I can’t start to imagine. I found this whole ordeal very interesting and plan to look into it further when I have the time. Also important to note that certain places such as hospitals are exceptions to load shedding. Now back to the fun.

Our first full day was actually my 29th birthday. I typically don’t tell people it’s my birthday or make a fuss. It’s exactly between Christmas and New Years and generally a day most people forget about or don’t want to celebrate since New Years Eve is around the corner. Most people are still with family. I decided to tell the group it was my birthday and I was blown away by how kind and generous a group of strangers was to me. Not only did people offer to buy me some birthday drinks, coffee, or penguin magnets, but they made me feel so special all day. It truly was a day I will never forget. 

The ending to the best birthday ever

We started the day with a walking tour of Cape Town. Again, I will not write a novel about the history of Cape Town, but just give some highlights. Like many nations, there were indigenous people living here and then the Europeans came. It’s giving Christopher Columbus if you know what I mean. Like the US, it has a colored and complex history that erases certain parts. With that in mind, let’s get into it. 

The first stop was the Company Gardens, the oldest gardens in Cape Town, and now a park and heritage site. The garden was established by the Dutch East India Company for the purpose of providing fresh vegetables to the settlements along with ships making stops. Cape Town was known as the cape of storms. It was not until 1488, when the Portugueses explorer Bartolomeu Dias became the first European mariner to round the southern tip of Africa, which opened the way for a sea route from Europe to Asia. It is crazy that these people used to kill and die for species, but now some people can’t even handle too much salt. Be thankful for your spices y’all!

In March of 1647, the Dutch ship Nieuwe Haarlem shipwrecked in South Africa and the victims built a small fort, where they stayed for a year. After their rescue and return to Holland, they started to persuade the Dutch East India Company to open a trading center at the Cape. Then in 1652, the first expeditions of 90 Calvinist settlers founded the first permanent settlement near the Cape of Good Hope (now known as Cape Town’s Table Bay). 

The Second Boer War, also known as the Anglo-Boer War, was a conflict between the British Empire and the two Boer Republics in South Africa in 1899 to 1902. The discovery of gold deposits in the Boer republics, caused a huge influx of British to come over to the Cape Colony. This was actually the first war that saw the use of concentration camps. Women and children were thrown into camps as they watched their farms burn in scorch campaigns. History is constantly repeating itself.

Although South Africa became a Union with its own white government in 1910, the country was still regarded as a colony of Britain till 1961. Like most of Africa, the Europeans all tried to control it. It was all about power and greed. There is a lot more obviously when it comes to the history of Cape Town and these wars, but this is just a little to set the scene. 

You may recognize the statue and name in the photo below, Cecil John Rhodes. At first all I really knew about him was the Rhodes scholarship, but there is way more to the story. Rhodes was a racist and an imperialist, who believed the British were superior and annexed vast areas of land. He is one of the people who helped prepare the way for apartheid. Also, ee claims to have founded Zimbabwe and Zambia, but it was simply a rich white man coming in trying to expand the British empire. He duped documents, took land, and left behind a path of ruin. It is said that later in his life he wanted to do right to make up for all the wrongs. In his will, he left a fortune in excess of £3 million to fund the famous Rhodes scholarships that enable students, primarily from former British territories, to study at Oxford University. Again, this was seen as a way to right his wrongs. Now it is feeling like an episode of The Good Place. Lastly he had a male friend that seemed to be more than just a friend. And they were room mates!!!

Another one of our stops was St George’s Cathedral. Inside is where the famous Anglican bishop and theologist Desmond Tutu is buried. Tutu became Bishop of Johannesburg in 1985 and the Archbishop of Cape Town in 1986, which is the most senior position in southern Africa’s Anglican hierarchy. In his position, he emphasized a consensus-building model of leadership and oversaw the introduction of female priests. He won the Nobel Peace Prize for his work involving anti-apartheid activism. There is so much to say about Tutu, and it is worth researching more on his books and sermons. He sadly passed away in December of 2021 and is buried inside St. George’s Cathedral.

The last part of our tour was the upper cape, known as Bo-Kaap, the outer valley that used to be the outskirts of town, where Malaysian and Indonesian slaves would be relocated to work in the city. There is no precise reason for the bright colored houses, but there are a few theories. One theory is that many slaves could not read or write, and these colors would help to identify who lived where. It is also said that the bright colors were painted by the owners of the homes to represent freedom. This part of town has a huge muslim community and home to the oldest mosque. 

During apartheid, anyone who was not considered white, had to live in a different part of town. They would only be permitted into white parts of town with a work permit. Lots of people were relocated against their will. The government would assign you a race on your identification papers. If you were mixed race, it could happen that one sibling would be considered white, while the other considered black. There were awful tests that would be conducted to determine your race, including the pencil test. This would involve sticking a pencil in an individual’s hair, and if the pencil stuck they would be considered black. Keep in mind that apartheid ended in the early 1990s, which is still not long ago. 

For lunch, we had a traditional Cape Malay meal, made by a local, Fatima, who actually lives in the beautiful pink house pictured below. Fatima welcomed us into her home and cooked us a homemade meal full of love and flavor. She heard it was my birthday and put up a birthday sign and even made some colorful cupcakes. It was beyond generous and something I will never forget. The Cape Malay cuisine is a cuisine distinctive to Cape Town and is typically a mix of traditional South African dishes, especially on the West Coast, with Malaysian, or Eastern influences. Fatima cooked us chili puffs, samosas, a Cape Malay chicken curry with rice and roti, as well as cupcakes, tea, and coconut donuts for dessert. She lives across the street from a spice store, where she gave us some tips for preparing our next curry. 

After lunch, we went back to our hotel to get ready for a sunset hike up Lion’s Head. The hike goes up the mountains overlooking Cape Town. Although I consider myself to be in decent shape, this was a hike that was challenging and included ladders, rocky terrain, and staples on the side of the mountain to climb up. It was all worth it to take in the beautiful views and watch the sunset over the iconic cityscapes and ocean. To say this was the best birthday of my entire life is an understatement. 

Before this post goes on too long, I’ll leave you here, but make sure to check back in for penguins, wine country, and shark cage diving. 

Until next time, please enjoy this photo of me playing in a snake head on the Company Garden’s children’s playground area near the bathrooms…




One response to “A Birthday For the Books in Cape Town”

  1. Great Pictures , enjoyed watching them !

    Like


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