Tuesday, March 22, 2011

West Coast Drive

21 March, Cape Town

Weather here is a little like Melbourne. Unpredictable! From 33C and sunny two days ago, it has been low 20s C for the past couple of days. Not complaining about the temperature- it is just right for us, but the clouds roll in in the morning and don't burn off until after lunch. Today we escaped the city because it was South African Human Rights Day and a public holiday. Last night, the band setting up in the square just below us did a sound check that almost blew us out of our apartment! From early morning, thousands of school kids in uniform began filing into the square. It was going to be big and LOUD, so we headed for the “West Coast”, the area of beaches to the north-west of the city. The date of Human Rights Day is, in fact, the anniversary of the Sharpeville Massacre, 21 March 1960, when police in the Sharpeville Township fired on a peaceful demonstration against the 'Pass Laws”. Sixty-nine protesters were killed and more than 180 seriously injured.

Cape Town has a population of about 3.5 million, but more than half of them live in the sprawling, crowded Cape Town Flats township. The rest of the city is strung out along the coast on either side of Table Mountain. Leafy suburbs merge into the wine belt to the inland eastern side of the city while Mediterranean/Californian beach-centred suburbs dominate on the coasts. These are affluent areas, but houses here are much more affordable than in Australia and so the quality of a normal middle to upper middle class home seems much higher than at home. Either that or there are one hell of a lot of very rich people in the Western Cape!

We headed for the 'quaint fishing village' of Paternoster. Quaint no more! The small cluster of whitewashed fisherman's huts has become more like a Greek Island, with pure white cottages
stretching for a couple of kilometres along the coast. Not what we expected, but very nice! Locals gather mussels from the rocky outcrops and sell them by the bag full on the roadside. We would have loved a couple of kilos, but who knows what 'fresh today' really means?

A bit of a boring route through the hinterland brought us home again. Boring, mainly because of its similarity to areas at home. It must be a southern hemisphere thing? Or the omnipresent eucalyptus trees, but as soon as we hit drier parts of SA, it looks just like Australia.

Good news was that the ear splitting concert that we had expected to last into the night was all packed up by the time we got home.

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