Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Cape Town, South Africa

 We spent three packed awesome days in Cape Town: day 1, a 12-hour bus ride from Port Elizabeth to along the Garden Route, with some of the most amazing scenery we have ever seen; day 2, hiking up Table Mountain; and day 3, a whirl wind tour of the Cape with Norman Marcuse, father of a good friend of ours who knows everything there is to know about this most picturesque city and its surroundings.
The immense Intercape Bus which was our
'mobile home' for the ride from PE to Cape Town.

This gives you some idea of the vastness of the landscape.  Sometimes reminiscent of Eastern Oregon, actually, but then nothing like it at all.
The mountains run east and west along the Garden Route, rising straight up from the farms and vineyards. There is a sense of "Lord of the Rings" about this landscape. To the south was the Indian Ocean, stretching out for miles and miles.

We stayed at a wonderful home that Carol found through airbnb, overlooking the Atlantic, with Robben Island just off to the right of this view
The view from our front terrace.
Along the city boardwalk.
We could hear the waves from the deck.  The owners were such gracious hosts.  And it was only a short walk to the eastern end of the promenade along the ocean - Atlantic Ocean at this point.  Naturally, John wanted to swim there, but it wasn't quite possible.  We easily walked from our room to the boardwalk of this beautiful city.  At the same time there was a tension in the air that we never felt in Botswana.  There were places we were warned not to go - in general we went anyway

It's a fortress mentality, where signs like this on the gates to people's houses are pretty common.  A lot of the whites we met weren't so sure we should go to places like Landsdowne, a suburb where we visited some people whom we'd met in Port Elizabeth.  Botswana never had apartheid, and there is a relaxed atmosphere around race relations that is very different from what we experienced in our short visit to Cape Town.  It will likely take generations for that to change.

After a day sitting on the bus, we wanted some exercise, and Table Mountain gave us that opportunity. Our bnb hostess drove us to the base of the tram, where we could have stood in line for 2 hours, but we walked on to the trail head and proceeded up an amazing, steep, and difficult trail.  We are used to switch-backs, but this trail went straight up.  The trail was a "stairway" of rough stones, every one different.  And well worth the hard work...
A moment of contemplation on the
ascent up Table Mountain.
I asked how often they have to make flights like this to recue a woman who became dehydrated. The answer:  three or four times a week!  The trail appears benign, but it is very steep, very dry, and treacherous in places. 

Exhausted and happy, enough rigor for one day!
On our final day in Cape Town, we were given an whirlwind tour by Norman Marcuse, the indefatigable father of a good friend of ours from Dickinson Law School days, Steve Marcuse. As a retired realtor, Norman knows every square cm of the Cape --- and it was a joy to see so much with someone who so loves the city and its environs.
The estate of Groot Constantia founded in '85 ---
that's 1865, and the oldest vineyard in South Africa.
 Like everywhere we stopped, this place is well worth a lot more time - which was at a premium as Norman packed in 8 hours of sights in about a half a day! Not sure which was more incredible, his energy or the most beautiful surroundings....
Carol and our wonderful host Norman.

It was hard to leave Cape Town after such a brief time and we felt much gratitude to have been there. South Africa is filled with much natural beauty, hospitable folks and is just a lot of fun. It was also hard to leave because we knew that our holiday was coming to an end and we would be returning to the challenges we have been experiencing at Goodhope Senior Secondary School as Term 2 commenced on April 17.

Sunday, May 06, 2012

Port Elizabeth and Addo National Park

                                                           Our first African holiday, a welcome respite and change of pace.
From Gaborone to Johannesburg
on Air Botswana....
and from Johannesburg to Port Elizabeth
on British Airways

 We first traveled to Port Elizabeth, South Africa in to attend the National AA/Al-Anon Convention. It was held at Nelson Mandela University in the historic city of Port Elizabeth on the Indian Ocean. Over seven hundred people from all over the continent, a few from Europe, and ourselves from the U.S. came together to join in recovery meetings and fellowship. We continue to discover here that our differences are always eclipsed by our shared humanity. After the convention we spent a rainy (yes, pula!) day on a game drive at Addo Elephant Reserve. Although African wildlife prefer to not be out in fields when the skies are opening, we did manage to see a few brave and beautiful creatures.  

Priscilla Pemba's father, George, was an artist
whose work was released on a set of South
African postage stamps.  We happened upon a
reception honoring Mr. Pemba at the Nelson
Mandela Museum of Art
God Save the Queen, Victoria, that is.  This is PE's city
hall, not far from the BnB where we stayed.  White residents
strongly suggested we stay out of this area.  It being on of
the more interesting parts of the city, we didn't listen, and
never felt uncomfortable. 
Another street in downtown PE.  Downtown is a bit
run-down, but very interesting and full of potential, with
a lot of renovation going on.
St. Georges Park not far from downtown or from our bed
and breakfast, is great for strolling or sitting and watching
the world go by.

The Lighthouse in PE, overlooking the Indian Ocean.
PE's most recognized landmark.
We were among almost 700 people, mostly from all over
South Africa, but also from the UK, US, Burundi, and Afghanistan.
The venue is Nelson Mandela University.  We met some
wonderful, amazing people.
Maybe this is what people do in PE when they retire.  This
Lawn Bowling Club is South Africa's oldest, founded way back in 1882.

Up the hill from the center of Port Elizabeth.  The vans
speak for themselves....

The weekend we were in PE there was a huge festival, with
music, sports competition, ethnic food
in a park on the Indian Ocean.
The water was chilly, but when am I going to get another
chance to swim in the Indian Ocean?
Carol's idea of what to do at the Indian Ocean...
This picture reminded me of something.....

This is one of the townships, where, in the apartheid
days, blacks were required to live.  Today, many residents
prefer to live here, and the quality of life seems far better
than our stereotype of the townships

It rained the entire time we were in Addo, but we saw
lots of animals.
This guy came so close to our car that we could have
touched him.  Our driver thought that to be a very
bad idea.

This is the biggest of the kudu we saw.  We also saw a herd
of eland, too much to squeeze in a photo....
So long, Addo, goodbye PE!

Next stop, Cape Town.  We traveled along the Garden Route,
a twelve hour ride with some of the most spectacular scenery
we have ever seen. To be continued....