To the Bottom of Africa
We have been to the northernmost tip of Africa in Tunisia, the westernmost in Senegal, and now the southernmost (well, almost; a point 200km east is slightly farther south, but the European history of this place grants the Cape of Good Hope much greater significance).
South Africa has extreme income inequality. After Khayelitsha yesterday, we got a bit queasy going through Camp’s Bay this morning. Filthy rich, flashy cars, chichi coffee shops crowded with ugly white people drinking soy lattes along the beachfront promenade, blithely ignorant or worse, intentionally ignorant of the world most people live in. Pathetic.
A little farther down the coast is Hout Bay, a beautiful, sheltered bay surrounded by mountains. As in so many places in South Africa, the desirable waterfront area was coveted by white people so they forcibly moved the black people living there up into the hills to a township that the people called Imizamo Yethu. After official apartheid ended, of course the land was not returned to the rightful owners. The same situation that exists all over southern Africa and the entirety of the Americas. For all of his faults, Robert Mugabe did confiscate the stolen land from the white farmers.
On we went with Wilson, our driver/guide for the day. Wilson is very tall, with a deep voice, sporting a white fedora, looking and sounding like Samuel L. Jackson with a strong African accent. Along the way, we drove along Chapman’s Peak Drive, a beautiful ride high along the cliffs over the South Atlantic. It used to be treacherous, but a thick stone wall now stands between the vehicles and certain death.
We stopped at an ostrich farm where we fed a couple of ostriches, one of which bit Maria’s finger in its zeal to get the feed pellets she was offering. Fortunately, birds don’t have teeth. After that, she held the bowl and let them eat from that.
Wilson motored on, farther and farther south. The entire Cape peninsula consists of a chain of sharp mountain peaks covered with scrubby bushes of various species, very few trees. Near the end, we saw a group of elands, the largest antelope, just hanging out by the side of the road.
Finally, at the Cape of Good Hope, we pulled into the crowded parking lot and were greeted with the sight of a baboon snatching a Gatorade-type drink from the hands of a 12 year old boy. Ha, ha, shouldn’t be drinking that poison! Ostriches and cormorants roamed the rocky beach.
The ocean was rough and the rocky outcrops where the land meets the sea rose to impressive heights, several hundred feet of sedimentary rock. It’s a beautiful, wild place even without the geographic and historic significance.
We had an excellent coffee (we have had lots of excellent coffee here, all Italian like Illy, expertly made on Italian machines) and drove on to Cape Point, the twin of the Cape of Good Hope, a few miles east. From there, on to Simon’s Town where we had lunch, fish and chips for Maria and a kudu burger for me. We invited Wilson to join us (most guides hang out with each other in the guides section of these places that cater to the tourist trade), and he took advantage, ordering the most expensive item on the menu, kingklip. Good for him to reach for the brass ring, and prices are so low for everything here, when we first arrived we thought we were doing the calculations wrong.
Simon’s Town is home to a colony of African Penguins. From a single pair in the 1980s, the colony had grown to over 1000 birds that live on the beach and occasionally wander into the town. They are used to humans and live their lives right in front of us. There were nests and chicks and juveniles and fledglings and parents coming in from the ocean regurgitating fish for their young and males braying to turn on their mates-for-life and abandoned chicks being cruelly chased away. And 30 humans five feet away snapping photos from a boardwalk. Just before coming to Africa, we watched Penguin Town, a Netflix series filmed here in Simon’s Town which follows the lives of several penguin families. Today, we meet the stars in person. Maria was in heaven.
On the way back, Wilson told us the story of how Mandala and de Klerk ended apartheid. Maria kept jabbing me to keep me awake, which action kept her awake.