Sunday, March 20, 2011

Into Cape Town

17 March, Montagu

Into each life a little rain must fall” Henry Wadsworth Longfellow.

Both figuratively and literally, a little rain fell today. We have been blessed with great weather for most of our time in SA. Today started and ended well, but most of our travel time, it was glum, grey and rainy. The weather may have accounted for our disappointment in our trip down the 'world-renowned' Route 62, marketing rip-off of the truly world-renowned Route 66 in the USA.

With the exception of a couple of quite spectacular mountain passes, most of our journey was just so-so. We don't like to criticise, but to do justice to the places that have been really fantastic, we do need to be honest about those that just don't do it for us. The three major towns we passed through were Calitzdorp, Ladysmith and Barrydale. They are just small country towns that are trying to make it in the booming tourist industry. As we often find when we finally arrive at some obscure landmark, dead tree, or dusty monument that has been built up in the guide books and travel brochures as a 'not to be missed site', it has all been just a bit of a beat-up!

Make no mistake, though, about Montagu. It is “the goods”, a fantastic little town settled amongst towering mountains with country inns that could have been lifted from the Cotswalds and houses that retain the old Dutch influence of the early Afrikaner settlers. The town is the start of the winelands part of Route 62, so perhaps we will have more positive news tomorrow. Cape Town, here we come!

18 March, Cape Town

About 3.5 million people live in Cape Town, but it is a very manageable city. Traffic is reasonable and the central city is busy, but not difficult to negotiate. We found a street parking right in front of our building in minutes and drove down to the V&A Waterfront area with consummate ease. The V&A is a little like Darling Harbour in Sydney, bustling with busy restaurants and drinking holes as well as a big shopping centre and apartment blocks, all encircling a lovely harbour.

Our trip through the Western Cape has been extremely pleasant and easy going. For anybody looking for a real holiday in South Africa with minimum hassle, just do the Western Cape with a side trip by plane to the Kruger National Park. This is a very civilized and safe part of South Africa and it contains some spectacular scenery and great holiday resorts, both beach and game. But this is not the full story of this fantastic country. If this is all you do, you'll miss out on the 'real Africa'. Gauteng ( Johannesburg area) is 'edgy', KwaZulu-Natal and the Transkei are places where the real South Africa can be experienced. All are safe - with care. We would also suggest a trip through Swaziland to get a feel for some old African traditions.

People who only visit the Western Cape and Kruger may not believe a word of what we write in the final review if our visit to South Africa. But this area is quite different to much of the more rural parts of the country.

19 March, Cape Town

It's always great to stay right in the middle of a big city. Here in Cape Town, we are one block off the main street and we have a beautiful view of Table Mountain. The only draw back is that it is HOT at the moment and humid just like home. Worse still, our apartment isn't air-conditioned! Never mind, the forecast is for the temperature to drop from the low to mid 30s now to the low 20s by mid week.

Despite the heat – mad dogs and Australians – we spent most of the day strolling around the centre of the city, ducking in and out of air-conditioned museums and shops to keep comfortable. The find of the day was the Company Gardens, also just a block from our digs! Splendid colonial buildings set in lush tropical and sub-tropical gardens and people everywhere! What a truly cosmopolitan place. Whites, Africans, Coloureds and Indians (how we hate those tags!) all out enjoying themselves. Despite our strong feelings that the true 'Rainbow Nation' is still a long way off, we did see it here for the first time in 5 weeks.

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