Friday, 6 January 2017

South Africa part two

So, after a bit of digression into other areas of life, a return to Africa and the urban part of our stay. 

We did a great deal of driving during the first part of the trip - it made me aware of how enormous the country must be, let alone the continent. As we drove, we passed through landscapes and human scapes for which I could not have prepared myself - there is astonishing poverty in Africa, as there is in many areas around the world, but seeing it go on for mile after mile after mile, either from the window of a plane, or close enough to touch as we drove along the unmade roads, is sobering. It made me aware of the great level of privilege we simply take for granted in this country - running water, affordable electricity, a house that is actually built when you move in, rather than work in progress for the next however many years it takes to scrape the money together for the cladding - enough bricks for the next room - a watertight roof. 

Once we got to Cape Town we were in the midst of a totally different Africa; vibrant, lively, full of light and energy. We stayed near the Victoria and Alfred (yes Alfred) Waterfront development, where daily music was just one of many treats.

We managed to do a lot in the few days we were there; touring the city on one of the open top buses to see the sights - this is the Bo Kaap area, a brief glimpse - I'd have seen more had we enough time

We also visited Robben Island, another intensely sobering experience, made more so by the fact that the gentleman who gave us a guided tour and told us his own story of being imprisoned there was the same age as me. It was both humbling and uplifting to hear him talk about letting the past go, not carrying all the baggage of the bad times forward into post apartheid South Africa

A trip down the Cape was also a must, the scenery was wonderful

and I loved these cairns of stones build by visitors to the beach

Then there was a helicopter ride over the bay - an enormous thrill, having never been in a helicopter. The views were glorious, the weather so good that one could see for miles. I was delighted that our pilot was a young woman, and delighted to be granted the front seat next to her, my comanions being happy to be together in the rear two seats

This gives you an idea of just how much building there is in the city; almost everywhere we went there were new shiny tower blocks going up or recently finished

and the see was so blue and clear that at one point I managed to spot a whale below us - not caught on camera, but I was, once again, very excited!

All too quickly it was time for us to leave. I came away with a slightly greater understanding of what Africa is like; a place of such beauty and contrasts that this brief but enjoyable journey was just a small glimpse, but a treasured one.

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