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AVA- Cape Town was a total blast! We had a beautiful view of the ocean, and went on a bunch of fun hikes. The mountains make all of your problems feel small (in a good way), and the clouds where a blanket over the whole city.We climbed Table Mountain and Lion’s Head, and while both challenging in their own aspects, the view from the top was well worth it. Whale watching took my breath away. I truly can’t believe there is a creature that large just casually swimming in the ocean right now. I learned they sleep vertical! It was beautiful. Going to Robben Island was an eye opening experience. I learned about some really horrible things that humans can do, but that also comes with the inspiring resistance that some of the prisoners upheld. Our tour was guided by a former prisoner of “only 5 years” (he said), and to see the day to day life of the prison was truly mind blowing. We even saw Nelson Mandela’s cell. The beach had the most beautiful sand I have ever seen, but the day we where there the wind was blowing so hard they where blowing into us like little spikes. I really enjoyed playing with a local band for a bit. I tipped them and they told me to come join them! I did my best, but I was no professional for sure.
DAN- In the heart of Cape Town there is a lovely park called The Company’s Garden, originally created in the 1650s for the Dutch East India Company. Directly across from the park is the old entrance to a government building used during the apartheid era to officially categorize the race of South Africans. One of the many wonderful people we met during our time in Cape Town described his mother’s horrific and demorilizing experience of being classified there.
Cape Town and the rest of the South Africa we spent time in, has a way of looking at its past more directly than we are used to in the US. It appears to me, that because of this painful, but clear-eyed view of history, they are more clearly able to envision the country they want to become.
You simply cannot help but to be taken in by this wonderful city and its people. I was only sorry that we had to leave it so soon.
CARMEN- My favorite thing about Cape Town was the beach, and finding snails on the rocks. Another thing we did in Cape Town was going to Robben Island, where a lot of political prisoners such as Nelson Mandela were held. Going there was an interesting experience, and a little hard to comprehend. On another day we hiked up Table Mountain. It was extremely steep, hot, and at one point it was all zigzag. We also went whale watching in Hermanus, which was it was really fun . We saw a few really cool whales that jumped so high out of the water. Cape Town was amazing.
TUCKER- Cape Town was a great place to stay. It had a great location and was very chill. Our house had a pool and lots of room. We did so many things but one of my favorites was hiking Lion’s Head mountain. To start the hike there is a long path that circles the mountain at a small incline. You then start hiking along the cliffs edge and get to do some rock climbing. It is really fun and I loved the hike. Before we hiked Lion’s Head, we also hiked Table Mountain, it was very steep and we saw dozens of hikers on the trail. It was really challenging, but it was fun in the end. In Cape Town, we took a ferry to Robin Island, and then we had a tour of the island and our guide was a former prisoner on the island. It was a interesting and informative tour and was a good experience. I also really liked going whale watching. While we were out on the water, we saw a (metric) ton of whales. They are massive. It was really cool. Then we went and saw African penguins. They were so small and cute, people there had made artificial houses to protect them from the weather. This is what we did in South Africa.
TERESA- We spent about 3 weeks in South Africa. After our safari in the North, we rented an Airbnb in Cape Town. The sunsets were stunning and the places worked great for school and work but, it was a little too far up a hill in Camps Bay for us to drop into anywhere without an Uber. When traveling with a family, having a place within walking distance is important.
Getting into our first taxi from the airport, we received multiple warnings from our driver about robberies and personal safety. We proceeded with caution but we spent the time there exploring and enjoying walking around the city.
We booked our tickets to Robben Island ahead of time and enjoyed walking around the area near the ferry. We spent a lot of time in South Africa learning about the end of apartheid, Nelson Mandela, Desmond Tutu and other political prisoners. The Robben Island tour is guided by former prisoners who explain what it was like surviving in that time. It was humbling and impressive. Learning what they went through and how they moved forward in their lives with grace is a testament to the human spirit.
Table Mountain: what a hike and a view! Recommendations- start early, hike up and take the gondola down. Do not underestimate how much water you need as there are no facilities on the hike. It was beautiful and I am so glad we did it.
Day trip to Hermanus for whale watching: Going whale watching was a bucket list item for me. I had never seen them in the wild and was awed by the experience. Our weather was not ideal but we really enjoyed the tour, a visit to see wild penguins and getting to know our driver, Hilton. He and his wife would later find us walking to a restaurant, but headed towards a less then optimal area, and offered us a ride we were not allowed to refuse. The kindness of others is a recurrent theme on our trip.
Wander the streets- we walked from the District 6 Museum to the painted houses and into the Company Park. Nearby, the kids found a bench in front of the courthouse for “whites only.” Our driver, Hilton, had informed us that people would come to the courthouse to try to have their race reclassified. People were classified into 7 races- from White (affording full citizenship rights) to Bantu (people with the least amount of rights). They would complete arbitrary tests to determine race. One was the “pencil test,” in which a pencil was placed in the subjects hair and whether or not it fell out when they shook their head could impact the determination. Happening upon the a place where lives hung in the balance was informative and sobering.
In Johannesburg, we took a tour of the prison and learned about their new justice system. It was heavy and disheartening. So heavy that when we arrived as a family, the tour guide exhaled, “kids, what a shame.” 😬. Our tour though Johannesburg included a trip around the Soweto Township and a tour of Mandela’s previous home.
South Africa was beautiful, challenging, and thought provoking. Having the opportunity to stand in a piece of history that you read about in books has heightened my understanding of complex social and political issues.
(Johannesburg pictures are not included in the video.)