Tag Archives: Cape Town

New love

10 Nov

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When I was a teenager I tend to fall in love with a different boy every week. One day my neighbour, the other day my classmate, a week later my sportsinstructor and ofcourse all big brothers of my friends were making me daydream. Nowadays that madness seems to have taken place for another obsession. Every week it is another country or city that takes my breath away. And just like 15 years ago, I try to convince you all that this time it is really love. This time it is ‘The One’ – no really the most amazing place I have ever visited…. But then a week later we cross the next border and a new place steals my heart.

But this time I can tell you guys it is REAL. I have found ‘The One and Only’ – the city of ‘my dreams’; Cape Town. And although all warnings and horror stories made me anxious and very suspicious, when driving into this thrilling city I would like to call it ‘love on first side’. As soon as the impressive Table Mountain cought my eye, when I saw the stunning and rough sea and their stunning beaches surrounding this metropolitain city, I knew…. One day I am going to live here. This city, being a kind of mixture of Miami, Sydney and San Fransisco got it all and does not feel dangerous at all…

It doesn’t matter who you are or what you like, there is a place for you in Cape Town. There is so much to do and see, getting bored is just impossible. For example drive the Chapmans Peak and spot the beautiful beaches and views, drive up to Cape Point National Park to spot stunning nature, ostriches and pinguins or get lost in the most beautiful botanical gardens in the world. Like your food and wine? Only a twenty minute drive away takes you into the wineries of Stellenbosh and Franshoek all hosting their own amazing restaurants that stand for quality, amazing service and VERY reasonable prices! Want to work on your bucketlist? Jump onto a catamaran from the exciting V&A Harbour and within 5 minutes you can take: 1) spotting dolphins 2) breaching whales 3) flapping seals 4) another incredible sunset off your list. If you like to move that body, Cape Town is the place. Go horseback riding on the white sand of Noordhoek, do one of the many hiking trails on the Table Mountain, surf the Indian or Atlantic Ocean while jumping over the ‘Great White’ or run another marathon every week. Capetonians love their sports, everywhere you look you see people running, surfing, biking and in every park a bootcamp is going on. What an energy! For some more adreanaline jump into a cage and watch a Great White Shark ripping a tuna apart right in front of your eyes or if it is fashion that makes your heart go faster, no worries either! After your (shopping) workout it is time to show that body and trendy style of yours at Campsbay… Miami right on the beach! Like to take it a bit easier? In long Street there are plenty of relaxing bars with good draught beer and live music. More of the romantic type? Take your honey up to Signal Hill and watch the billion lights of this city of my dreams…. ( When we were up there having a take away coffee and staring into the lights, Manengu made the comment: “Beautiful isn’t babe? Can you imagine that someone is being killed out there every half an hour…?” “Pffff, thank you Manengu, perfect timing for these romantic statistics”.)

Not only Cape Town made our trip through South Africa unforgetable. The South African hospitality was one of the most important ingredients. When I emailed my ex colleague Frank that I was visiting CT, the first thing he mentioned was: “Great, you guys can stay at mine and please stay a month as there is so much to do…..” Stay a month!? I think my best friends would not even have me a whole month! But that is South Africa for you. Everyone will make sure your long trip was worthwile the effort. When I was having a migraine, the hostel would not let me stay in my tent in the pouring rain, but checked me in an ensuite double room, no charge!! And after not having seen my old friend from London in 10 years, Thomas let us stay in his flat, took the day off from work and showed us around in Joburg for days!

Although South Africa is absolutely stunning and amazing, I did start to miss the rough Africa along the way. It did seem to be the weird one out in our itinerary. After all the places we visited, I would like to say that South Africa is not really Africa…. The perfect country for an amazing and complete holiday, but to get to know the real Africa? Everything was so well organised. The good roads, the nice car we were driving, the famous Route 62, The Wine and Garden Route that takes you too all the perfectly preserved National Parks with their perfectly kept camping spots. Everywhere along the road hostels and B&B’s, so never to worry where to sleep that night. Like I said, Cape Town is amazing, but has nothing to do with Africa. The fact that the country is so well organised and easy to travel also makes that the average traveler staying in the backpackers hostel is quite young. Which means happy hours, dreads, beer games, mini skirts and stoned surf dudes, apple sour shots and ‘Sex On The Beach cocktails, lots of shagging in the dorms and ‘who ever takes his shirt off gets a free drink’ behaviour. And although I like to deny the fact that I am almost thirty, I have to admit that dreads and beergames just do not do the trick for me anymore. Luckily Manengu totally disagrees with me on this subject and enjoyed miniskirts and apple sour all nights long….

Dear Frank, thank you again for your enormous generousity and for showing me my future city. Martijn, thank you, the wine tasting was devine, wish you were there though! Marije en Hein, It was so kind to have us at your amazing place in Herolds Bay; we have not often seen such a stunning place, enjoy! Dear Thomas, after all those years… Wow! Thank you again! In Joburg we could definitly ‘use somebody…someone like yououou….. !!!’ x

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The Rainbow State

7 Nov

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After Ethiopia, Tanzania, Zambia, Malawi and Zimbabwe traveling through Botswana was easy, Namibia even easier, but South Africa is a piece of cake. The border experience was again lovely. They were all proud and thankful we took the time and effort to visit their country. We entered South Africa through its northern border with Namibia after an amazing trip through Sossusvlei and its surroundings. I have rarely seen such dramatic scenery in my life. A couple of days in the Fish Canyon National Park in the lovely hot springs marked the beginning of our highly anticipated journey through South Africa.

Driving down the N7 through incredible mountains and passes we finally had our first sight of the Table Mountain. Its stunning plateau was visible, only just, covered in thick dark clouds. Getting closer we had glimpses of townships, neatly ordered small boxes and painted in different colours. The big port on our right hand sight was busy and indeed huge. Suddenly we were in the middle of a huge metropolitan. Have we finally arrived in one of the most dangerous cities in the world? A city where on average tens of people are murdered daily? Where armed robbery and carjacking is part of life? Where dozens of women are being sexualy molested on a daily basis?

After being warned by so many people and reading so many horrible stories, we were definitely tensed when driving through town and when stopping at trafficlights. We were pretty aware of our new dangerous surroundings and I was continiously looking for a suspicious looking person approaching our car when standing still.

Another red light. Hilje told me to check whether the doors are closed. I was not used to be this paranoia, but after so many stories, it was hard not to start to think; beter safe than sorry. Although I knew I didn’t have to check the doors, because of the automatic locks, I still had the urge to have a fast glance. A man approached our car, I tried to make eye contact with him to read his intentions. Under all circumstances I always try to be as personal as possible. Somehow, I tend to be confrontational, even if it would be a person with bad intensions. He looked away and started to poor water on the windscreen and took out a cloth to clean it. I made an automatic gesture to make him stop, but the windscreen was actually pretty dirty. So we let him, opened the window slighty and slid a two Rand coin in his hand. He smiled and said: “Thank you for your support, sir. You too madam and have a very nice day.” He walked off just in time to navigate through the excelerating cars.

Statistics don’t lie and bad things happen all the time and it could happen to you, but I did feel guilty and a little bit embarrased. I have been to many places in my life and have always trusted my instincts and common sense to be safe, but during the first couple of hours in South Africa it was the first time I was trying to seperate myself from the environment I was in. To create a gap between me and them. To have a safety buffer. To create a false sense of security. It didn’t feel good. I didn’t feel in control. I felt vulnerable because I was isolating myself from the real world around me. I was not part of it and therefore different. It did feel like I was disrespecting their welcome.

Is this attitude, the fear of the unknown and insecurity, part of the reason why segregation takes place in societies all over the world? Whether in form of class or even more dramatic as race and one’s skin colour. This human fear will guarantee that discrimination in whatever form will always exist, but being in South Africa you are just so aware it. For me however, the awareness is mostly influenced by the knowledge of the recent history of the horrofying Apartheid regime and not specifically by real life experiences in SA. As a visitor you can feel and see it but it is not extremely different than the experiences I had during the time I spent in the southern states of the USA or the shocking realisation that the fear of the unknown still has such a big impact on people in Europe and its political parties.

It was very interesting for us to follow some of the challenging political and economical issues SA is facing. In some cases even scary when you hear that for example many people started to criticize the appointment of a supreme judge, because he was not black enough. This kind of affirmative action exists everywhere, but the openess of the discussion is new to me.

During our trip we were lucky enough to meet a lot of local people who were extremely friendly and hospitable. They gave us a good insight of their country and the challenges they are facing. It is a complicated country and although people are definitely aware of the difficulties there is hope. There will be no quick fix and it will take generations to get rid of the fragmented past but as one of the local politician in Oudshoorn told us during a night with lots of beautiful local red wine: “You, and the world for that matter, are underestimating South Africa. You underestimate the people living here. There might be many different races, tribes and classes, but we have an extremely strong community life. You have been predicting a full blown civil war for years and it still hasn’t happened. I have been in involved in politics for 40 years and I can tell you, it will never happen. Not on a big scale.”

South Africa is one of the most beautiful countries I have ever visited. The variety of landscapes, the food, the wines, the people, the oceans, the flora and fauna, it is sometimes much more than what I can describe in words. The Cape is unique, the Wild Coast stunningly beautiful, the Karoo desert my dream rock garden, and the Drakensberg mountains just breathtaking. And we will need much more than five weeks to discover the rest of it. Watching the humpback whales in Fischoek and Hermanus and admiring the gorgeous Southern Right whales while eating a sandwich on the stunning white dunes of the De Hoop national reserve is maybe the most humbling experience of the trip, so I will definitely come back one day when I need to be in that state of mind again.

And did we feel safe? Yes! Are there places you cannot go? Yes! In the cities you have to use your common sense and be careful when needed, like any other big city in the world. The rest is fine. We even visited Soweto, the so called most dangerous township in SA where Nelson Mandela and Desmond Tutu once lived. Although clearly very poor with shocking unemployment rates you can feel it is alive. Like it has been in the past, it plays an important role in creating the South African urban identity and a clear breeding ground for artists, writers, musicians, fashionistas and athletes. Many white South Africans will never even visit that area. Talking about the unknown!

Coming back to some statistics. South Africa is the seventh most dangerous country in the world if you would go by the relative crime rate* which is based on data from police departments and insurance companies. It has six times less reported criminal incidents than the USA which is the leader of the list. The UK and Germany are the proud number two and three respectively with approximately three times more reported criminal incidents compared to South Africa. While I surely don’t want to downplay the level of violence in South Africa, it is good to have a complete view. And for my own experiences, the most unsafe moments for me were indeed in the USA.

*source: Maps of the World

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