23 July 2012
The views of the flat top Table Mountain was clear as I peered through a window from my hostel at Tamboerkloof. Today the weather was clear and the sun was out. It would have been a perfect day to hike up Table Mountain today but I had made arrangements for it the following day. I decided to take the local tourist bus – City Sightseeing Red or Blue bus. Each colour took a specific route [ some cross-overs in places]. Both departed from the V and A Waterfront terminal. I walked through the rather busy Long Street. Some of the buildings here are decorated in Victorian style cast iron balcony railings. It is a colourful street and lively as well. Indian and African restaurants, clubs and cafes, book shops, curio retailers, antique stores and many more. It is one of the oldest streets in Cape Town and stretched a few kilometers. Today, the colonial architecture street thrived alongside modern steel and glass skyscrapers. People dressed in suits mingled with colorful casually dressed street vendors. In the evenings I noticed security guards in uniform were stationed a junctions all along the street. I felt very safe, day and night. No one hassled me for practically anything. No beggars either. At adjoining streets, mosques and museums added more appeal to the surrounding. I walked on Long Street everyday just to have a meal or enjoy the vibrant and ambient atmosphere which is essentially african. On Shortmarket Street, off Long Street, is the popular and colourful flea market in a cobbled Greenmarket Square. Wooden handmade curios to an assortment of clothing to costume jewellery to “antiques”. The atmospheric square is surrounded by restaurants and cafes. This provided a quiet corner to people watch and observe the going-ons at the market. Bargaining is common. Sometimes amusingly animated.
I reached the Victoria & Alfred Waterfront or simply called V & A Waterfront as people traffic began to pick up. This waterfront is prime real estate located on the Table Bay with a magnificent views of the iconic Devil’s Peak, Table Mountain , Lion Head and Signal Hill. Just off its shores is Robben Island, where Mr Mandela was imprisoned during the notorious apartheid days. It was a perfect day for viewing. I walked pass multistoried apartments towards the water. Workers were busily fitting and welding at the ship yard while on another corner, fisherman were preparing their vessels for the days’ work. This is a working harbour. Restaurants with outdoor seating under white parasols, purpose-built walkways, canals, elegant shopping malls, retail outlets occupied the marina with colonial buildings. Occasionally, ships sounded their horns as they departed the harbour. Catamaran and sailboat representatives sat behind small lecterns pitching to passerby for tours to the nearby islands and wildlife watching as the boats bobbed in the calm water behind them. A lone seal swam around without any care or concern. I loved the atmosphere, the location and the vibrancy. And the sun was shining. Only the sounds of a nearby construction was uncharacteristic.
Under the ancient but colourful looking clock tower, uniformed school children have a day out from school. Some with amazement expression on the faces. I could easily spend days wondering here. Nearby is the Two Oceans Aquarium and an indoor crafts market. I headed to the City Sightseeing Bus terminal which is located just opposite the aquarium. I decided to take advantage of the open top bus to get around Cape Town and the surroundings. I choose the Red Bus route.
22 July 2012
My safari or journey in Swahili began in the lovingly called Mother City of Cape Town. This colourful city is sandwiched between the Atlantic and as a backdrop, the iconic and dominant Table Mountain. I am staying a The Backpack in the Gardens and Tamboerskloof area close to the city centre. This city is rich with history, most of which is best remembered in the museums – colonisation by the Dutch and English, slave trade, then followed up by apartheid rule and today struggling to provide to the black South Africans. I arrived late Saturday night. Early Sunday morning, I headed into the city to get my bearing and feel the city. On Long Street, most shops were closed. Some building were decorated in Victorian architecture and designs. I walked nearly the length of the street and entered into the Green Square Market where artisans and stalls displayed and sold local handicrafts – from wood carvings to paintings to printed T-shirts. Nearly if not all of the sellers were black. not all are locals. Near the square, I ended up in a Kurdish restaurant for branch. There are a variety of foreign entries Zimbabwean, Indian, Western side by side with Pizza and Nandos outlets along Long Street.
Being Sunday, all the museums were closed. I headed up along Longmarket Street onto a cobbled stoned street. It was steep and uphill. This area was dominated by Cape Malays. Minarets from mosque rose above colorfully painted houses which is a norm here. The Cape Malays were brought in mainly from Indonesia and enslaved in South Africa in the 18th and 19th century. Nowadays, it is rare to meet someone whom spoke Malay. However, their Islamic culture and cuisine survived and is thriving. The locality, however, is fantastic overlooking the city from homes built on hill slopes with Signal Hill in the background. Minarets from mosques stretched above the colourful buildings. The people I met on the streets were friendly and welcoming. Some women wore the purdah. The Cape Malays were classified as coloured people during the Apartheid days together with the Indians. I walked to the top of the road to Noon Gun Restaurant. It was also closed. My walk continued into an area with cannons and guns. But just beyond this, I walked on treks that skirted along the hill with the sprawling city and it working harbour spread below. Apartment and home lined along the western coast towards Sea Point. I walked alone only with the sound of the waves and chirping birds. Bagpipe music echoed from the purpose-built stadium. Robbin Island and the entire northern coastline was clearly visible. The vista was magnificent. The last hundred meters, I scrambled up towards Signal Hill. The day was hot with excellent views of Table Mountain and Lion head. I continued my walk towards Lion Mountain. The vegetation here is unique – the endemic Peninsula Shale Renosterveld. This vegetation merged with the fynbos vegetation on the slopes. Apparently, black maned lions used to roam these mountains. The are none anymore. At the valley below surrounded by green shrubs and flowering plants, a green and white Keramat or tomb had been erected. The Cape Malays have long live here since the slave days. Beyond this tomb, the trek headed uphill. Flowering protea and native fynbos plants together with pine trees were scattered on this valley and hill slopes. Fires had destroyed some part of the vegetation. Lion Head looked menacing and seemed unattainable. The mountains formations became defined as I walked up slowly. I did not bring any water to drink . I was thirsty and dehydrated. I was not prepared as did not plan to hike today. The sandstone formations were stacked like pancakes and rich in colour. The views of the west coast townships and coast were pleasing. The Atlantic waves crashed onto the coastline. Thirsty, I drank water that dripped from the wall of the stone mountain. Reaching the top was tricky as it involved climbing with the aid of chains and vertical ladders. Physically demanding but manageable. The mountain was reduced to a collectionof fallen rocks. The weather changed to a slight drizzle. I decided to turn and descend just 50m from the top. The decent was on the western side of the mountain with views of Clifton Beach and Camps Bays suburbs. Table Mountain was clear and the earth track ended at Kloof Nek Road. It had been a long days’ walk. It had taken about 5 hours. With no transport available, I walked all the way back to my hostel at Tamboerskloof neighbourhood. Finally a cold drink. The fine weather prevailed and the three mountains – Table Mountain, Lion Head and distant Signal Hill all remained visible. The views of the City Bowl, its suburbs, port and the coastlines gave me a wonderful perpespective of this beautiful city.