Cape Town Part 5: Markets & Robben Island

We returned to Cape Town from Hermanus early Thursday afternoon, which gave us enough time to hop on a minibus and hit up Greenmarket Square again. Well, kind of. We were starving, so grabbed a late and leisurely lunch near the market, and wrapped up right around 4:30, which is when stuff starts shutting down. We were still able to score some good wares, and decided if we felt inclined surely we’d have enough time to return after visiting Robben Island the next day (we’d booked spots on Friday’s 11 o’clock boat earlier in the week). Wanting to take advantage of having made the trip downtown, we decided to walk over and check out the castle we noticed was nearby on the map, and which had piqued our interest.

lion's head playing peek-a-boo

lion’s head playing peek-a-boo

this was actually at a street parallel to the full-on market. he's resizing a belt for marlon and i bought one of those bags

this was actually at a street parallel to the full-on market. he’s resizing a belt for marlon and i bought one of those bags.

st george's mall

a delightfully bizarre sculpture

a delightfully bizarre sculpture

our tour guide for part of the walk

our tour guide for part of the walk

'this way, guys!'

‘this way, guys!’

city hall

city hall

table mountain and city hall

table mountain and city hall

shadows

made it to the castle

made it to the castle

castle of good hope 2 goofy lion castle of good hope plaquesAlas, we’d missed the Castle of Good Hope‘s last tour of the day, but it was about time for us to be heading back anyway. At Pat’s suggestion we headed over to Koi at the Ambassador Hotel for a pre-dinner drink– he said it was one of the best places to watch the sunset. Alas again– all the seating near the windows was taken and we didn’t have a great view from the bar, but the walk to the restaurant was pretty and the cocktails were good.

sunset walk sunset boats sunset walk 2 sunset walk 3Then yes, on Friday we went to Robben Island, the infamous home of the prison where Nelson Mandela spent eighteen of his 27 years in prison. (I was to learn that the current president, Jacob Zuma, as well as Thabo Mbeki [who served between Mandela and Zuma] had been prisoners on Robben Island as well.)

It’s perhaps needless to say that the visit was both emotional and thought-provoking, and I thought it was an important part of our trip. Though they really do try to make the experience one that celebrates the strength and power of the human spirit (which it does), it was hard not to feel just very sorrowful at times when thinking of the things that were endured there. It was all made so much more real by the fact that the tour guides are past prisoners themselves– the narratives are all in the first person. “We were given this much food,” and “The guards would do these things to us,” you know? When I learned that this was the arrangement I found myself a little surprised; it seemed like there would be too many bad memories there for anyone to care to return. Our guide (who, like Mandela and many others, was sent to the Island as an alternative to the death penalty after being sold out by a double agent for running  arms to Angola after being trained in Germany, if I heard and remember his story correctly) explained that in reality, it was the best therapy he could have asked for. He, like all (or at least most) of the museum staff, resides on the island now.

robben island quote free nelson mandela poster

right, so as i said our tickets were for 'the 11 o'clock boat.' but... there were actually three boats that loaded up and left one at a time, so it was probably closer to noon by the time we got out of there. also, our boat looked like a pirate ship (and, naturally, was blasting south african deep house), which felt a bit whimsical for the circumstances, but hey.

right, so as i said our tickets were for ‘the 11 o’clock boat.’ but… there were actually three boats that loaded up and left one at a time, so it was probably closer to noon by the time we got out of there. also, our boat looked like a pirate ship (and, naturally, was blasting south african deep house), which felt a bit whimsical for the circumstances, but hey.

oh right, and being one who doesn't take kindly to lessons, in spite of having been horribly sunburnt three days previous, i neglected to put on or bring sunscreen, so i had to cover my sunburnt forehead with a pirate-y scarf, and got to spend the whole day feeling like a big dork.

oh right, and being one who doesn’t take kindly to lessons, in spite of having been horribly sunburnt three days previous, i neglected to put on or bring sunscreen, so i had to cover my sunburnt forehead with a pirate-y scarf, and got to spend the whole day looking and feeling like a big dork.

south african flag

table mountain, lion's head, and the stadium

table mountain, lion’s head, and the stadium

roger ang mar boat

robben island and cape town

robben island and cape town

though hermanus is one of the whale-watching capitals of the world, we didn't even bother looking into it when we were there because it's the wrong season. so imagine our surprise when the captain announced there were two southern right whales traveling just ahead of us!

though hermanus is one of the whale-watching capitals of the world, we didn’t even bother looking into it when we were there because it’s the wrong season. so imagine our surprise when the captain announced there were two southern right whales traveling just ahead of us!

robben island port

'robben' does mean 'seals' in afrikaans, after all

‘robben’ does mean ‘seals’ in afrikaans, after all

seagulls roof freedom cannot be manacled robben island entrance

prisoners used to have secret meetings as they worked in that cave, mining out the rock. and that pile was made by former prisoners when they returned to the island after the prison shut down. i think mandela laid the first stone?

prisoners used to have secret meetings as they worked in that cave, mining out the rock. and that pile was made by former prisoners when they returned to the island after the prison shut down.

robben island tree robben island tree lighthouse robben island cape town swirling water guard tower

welp, took this photo before he gave permission and felt i got lightly chastised.

robben island door

where zuma was kept

where zuma was kept

robben island recreation area

a sample identification document. hindi and colored prisoners had different (more favorable) conditions than black prisoners.

a sample identification document. indian and coloured prisoners had different (more favorable) conditions than black prisoners.

robben island view robben island building leaf graffiti

in one of the wards you could enter each cell, where a first-hand testament from a prisoner who occupied that cell was presented.

in one of the wards you could enter each cell, where a first-hand testament from a prisoner who occupied that cell was presented.

This one reads:

As political prisoners we were denied something that people took for  granted around the world: Access to newspapers. It is not that we wanted to buy them, necessarily. We didn’t mind picking up a newspaper that you read last weekend, just to try and keep ourselves abreast with what was happening in the world. But that was not allowed. I remember an International Red Cross Committee representative saying, ‘South Africa is mad. Even Palestinian prisoners are allowed newspapers.’ That should tell you how backward South Africa was.

I remember the terrible risks we sometimes took in our attempts to lay our hands on the news. Of course, it was a pleasure to fall ill and land up in a hospital in Cape Town; we knew that the day of our return we would be mobbed for news from outside.

It is not as if we usually got the chance to read a newspaper, or even a page of a newspaper, because we were at all times escorted by warders. But they could not close our eyes; they could not stop us from reading the headlines and snatching a few words. One had to make do with the headlines and fill in the rest, right or wrong. It was better than no news, and it brought us a lot of satisfaction.

mandela's cell

mandela’s cell

robben island lock stadiumWith the late start and a 45-minute boat ride each way, we didn’t end up getting back until after four; it took much longer than we were thinking and we were a little disappointed that we didn’t have time to make it back to the market as planned.  Our guidebook thankfully notified us that the indoor Pan African Market was open a bit later, so we decided to give that a try. We also had a very late lunch at the Timbuktu Café located within the market, where we were surrounded by old Reader’s Digests and serenaded by Billie Holiday’s “I’ll Be Seeing You” on vinyl (on repeat, as it were).

timbuktu cafe artwork pan african marketWe balanced out the somewhat somber day by having a fun-filled Friday night on Long Street. Danced and laughed a lot with Pat and his friends Zingy, Lesogo, and Manny.

back of the cab

with zingy and lesogo in the cab

boys at joburg

there was a less-blurry photo, but there’s so much joy in this one!

Cape Town Part 2: Around Town & A Walk on the Promenade

Our first day on our own in Cape Town we kept busy by checking out a number of recommended sites around town. On the Atlantic side of South Africa, the sea water’s come straight from Antarctica and hasn’t warmed up quite enough to make for comfortable swimming without a wetsuit. However, there was an enormous and pristine public pool overlooking the frigid seas (its own water comfortably heated) at the end of Pat’s street, and we decided to start the day with a swim. With just a 20 Rand (<$2) entrance fee we were really impressed by the place. (Though admittedly we never made it back for a return visit haha.)sea point pool

sea point pool 2We dried off and caught a cab to check out the colorful houses in the historically Muslim neighborhood of Bo Kaap. In doing so, we learned Wale Street is like this, and not like this. Once there we walked around and took some pictures, only to realize we were without a guidebook and didn’t really know where we were in relation to anything else. Luckily a friendly café owner was happy to point us in the direction of the Company’s Garden on such a beautiful day. On the way we passed Greenmarket Square. They say this is one of the best markets in town, and we agreed. In fact, it was so good we ended up going back about four more times!!! (But that was mostly because we kept arriving right as it was closing: around 4:30-5 pm.)

bo kaap 1

bo kaap 2 bo kaap 3 bo kaap 4 bo kaap 6 bo kaap 7 green market square 1 green market square 2 company's garden 1 company's garden lotus

table mountain-- in all her glory! (and a rose garden that looks like it has seen times of much, much greater glory)

table mountain– in all her glory! (and a rose garden that looks like it has seen times of much, much greater glory)

we seriously saw so many funny little animals. stay tuned.

we seriously saw so many funny little animals. this, i’ve just learned, is an egyptian goose. (thanks marlon!)

those clouds roll visibly off table mountain and are known as the tablecloth.

those clouds roll visibly off table mountain and are known as the tablecloth.

We ate at a pizza place near the market, then made our way back to Pat’s. The 10-15 minute ride back to Sea Point was reliably 60 Rand (<$6), and we had a number of interesting conversations with our usually gregarious cab drivers. Getting around was always pretty cheap and interesting.

Even more cheap and interesting than the cabs, however, were the mini buses– at 7 Rand a head you could jump in and hop out again anywhere along the route. They were sure to be bumping some South African Deep House (though I guess the cabbies did too. Everyone, really.), and have no fewer than three languages being spoken at a time; the driver deep in click-flecked conversation with his partner while the woman next to you spoke quietly into her phone in Afrikaans and the men behind you chatted in an unidentifiable language (but one made so, perhaps, partially by the bottles of beer they kept extracting from a backpack). The rides always proved to be good people-watching opportunities.

On Tuesday we made a sort of impromptu decision to walk the promenade from Sea Point to the Waterfront. I got a little excited with my camera, what with the waves and boats and seagulls; and also a terrible sunburn, as I failed to apply sunscreen, even though I had two things of it in my bag. I’m actually still itchy as hell with sun poisoning, but all things considered it was worth it.

oliver street... obvi.

oliver road… obvi.

beach road sea gull boat boat waves waves reflection waves boat gull gull corner sailboat

these guys were coming down from lion's head all the time.

these guys were coming down from lion’s head all the time.

waves splash boat more waves more splash big splash street art cape town

another funny bird.

another funny bird.

lions head rusty rail marlon sea

funny bird drying himself

funny bird drying himself

and again

and again

kayak mural

green point lighthouse

green point lighthouse

view from wakame, where we got lunch http://www.wakame.co.za/

view from wakame, where we got lunch http://www.wakame.co.za/

palm tree glass

the stadium! we'd go to [half] a game later in the week.

the stadium! we’d go to [half] a game later in the week.

hahaha... for some promotion these little blue tuk tuks were giving free rides in january, and it was a goal of ours to get one. we'd kind of lost track of how far we'd gone and weren't sure how much longer we'd have to be walking, so imagine our delight when this guy came around the bend. we got in, told him, 'waterfront,' and roughly 33 seconds later, after making one turn, we found ourselves at our destination.

hahaha… for some promotion these little blue tuk tuks were giving free rides in january, and it was a goal of ours to get one. we’d kind of lost track of how far we’d gone and weren’t sure how much longer we’d have to be walking, so imagine our delight when this guy came around the bend. we got in, told him, ‘waterfront,’ and roughly 33 seconds later, after making just one turn, we found ourselves at our destination.

ferris wheel mountain boat waterfront

and just as my the shutter clicked on the photo of the 'what's hot' car, i became instantly aware of my new sun damage.

and as my the shutter clicked the photo of the ‘what’s hot’ car, i became instantly aware of my new sun damage.

While at the Waterfront we booked our trip to Gaansbai (for shark diving!) and Hermanus (to partake of the “champagne air” [still not exactly sure what that means, but Hermanus has it]), but I will tell you all about that at a later time.

Cape Town Part 1: Seaside Drives & Sunsets

Oh hey there! So much for that comprehensive music research initiative leading up to Gov Ball (not to mention Gov Ball itself… or any of the other million things that have happened in the eight months since my last post…). I guess I’m just not the blogger I once was. (Probably not a bad thing, really.)

I guess all it took was a tiny little excursion– involving neither Ollie nor America, as it happens– to get me to dust this old thing off. A few months back Marlon told me of a friend of his working in Cape Town who’d been strongly suggesting he come for a visit. Sure, it’s a little far and the ticket might be a bit expensive (it wasn’t even!), but he could get there and “live like a king on the Rand”; and he’d have a free place to stay and personal tour guide. Naturally I saw fit to invite myself (…kidding), and with some assistance from my parents in the form of an early Christmas gift we went ahead and booked our tickets in early November.

The two-and-a-half months between then and the trip flew right by, and before we knew it our departure date of January 17 had arrived. Turns out we picked just about the best possible time to go– not only was it the height of summer in Cape Town, we skipped out on a good portion of one of the worst winters our continent’s seen. Not to mention, the always favorable Rand was trading at a particularly good 11-to-the dollar during our stay (only for the interest rates to be adjusted and the exchange somewhat normalized the day that we left!).

We flew South African Airways, which not only offered the cheapest tickets, but at 21 hours provided the quickest flight available. The route took us first to Dakar, Senegal for a “technical stop;” which we learned entailed being stripped of your blankets for landing (no matter how deep your sleep) and then sitting around for approximately an hour while some passengers disembarked, others boarded, and the plane was refueled. This proved to be more vexing on the return trip, on account of exhaustion and foodlessness, but I suppose I’m getting ahead of myself. Oh and they’re required to spray a pretty terrible anti-yellow fever spray throughout the cabin before leaving Dakar that will be sure to penetrate any shirt or scarf you hastily try to put in place as a makeshift gas mask. Those Americentric maps will have you believe that once you’ve crossed the Atlantic the lion’s share of the journey is behind you, but the truth is that Africa’s enormous and the flight to Johannesburg takes just about as long as the first leg. The total journey from DC to Joburg takes 17 hours.

After clearing customs and rechecking your bags in the Joburg Airport (oh, and letting the poetry of these posters wash over you:)

it’s a quick two hour flight to Cape Town! Bada bing, bada boom. Pat was there to pick us up when we arrived just after 10 pm on the 18th, and he was able to keep us out late patronizing Tjing Tjing Bar then COCO as a clever and effective way of combating our jet lag.

tjing tjing

Pat lives in an area called Sea Point (technically a suburb lying just east of Cape Town, but for all intents and purposes part of Cape Town), and indeed we woke up to this gorgeous view:

sea point view cape town

We made the first of what would be many stops at the neighboring Bootlegger Café for a quick flat white and croissant, and then Pat whisked us off on a scenic coastline ride. We made a stop at the Hout Bay Market, continued along the beautiful Chapman’s Peak Drive, made a pitstop to sneak a peak of some penguins at Boulders Beach, checked out the colorful changing rooms in Muizenberg, then hurried home in time to rush off to Clifton Second beach for sunset. (Alas, I have only Instagram photos of that last bit, having been reluctant to get sand in my new camera. #sogauche.)

lion's head: the view from the other side of pat's apartment. we hiked this a few days later.

lion’s head: the view from the other side of pat’s apartment. we hiked this a few days later.

outside the hout bay market

outside the hout bay market

hout bay market sculpture

hout bay market snoekies hout bay market fish

at the biltong stand at the hout bay market. apparently the customer here is a famous rugby player haha. can anyone confirm/deny?!

at the biltong stand at the hout bay market. apparently the customer here is a famous rugby player haha. can anyone confirm/deny?!

biltong (far superior jerky [so i hear] made of exotic animals like kudu and ostrich) is one of the crown jewels of south african cuisine, it would seem. even i had a TINY piece of the ostrich biltong on offer here.

biltong (a type of jerky made of exotic animals like kudu and ostrich that allegedly puts anything found in the states to shame) is one of the crown jewels of south african cuisine, it would seem. even i had a TINY piece of the ostrich biltong on offer here.

hout bay flags hout bay market

making our way along chapman's peak drive

making our way along chapman’s peak drive

chapman's peak drive 2 chapman's peak drive panorama cape town mountainmar and ang chapman's peak drive chapman's peak drive 3 chapman's peak drive 4 chapman's peak drive 5 chapman's peak drive 6

taken from the car. word on the street is you can ride horses on that beach. chapman's peak drive 7

in search of penguins on boulders beach

in search of penguins on boulders beach

boulders beach flowers boulders beach flowers 2

true story, the official name for these guys is 'jackass penguin.'

true story, the official name for these guys is ‘jackass penguin.’

boulders beach 2 penguins marlon boulders beach

'heyyyyy!'

‘heyyyyy!’

boulder's beach 4 outside boulders beach

caught the slightest glimpse of a baboon from a bus later in the trip

caught the slightest glimpse of a baboon from a bus later in the trip

muizenberg beach-- a great place to surf and home to iconic colorful changing rooms.

muizenberg beach– a great place to surf and home to iconic colorful changing rooms.

pat mar and ang muizenberg

the three of us, complete with salad and wayfaring stranger

changing rooms 1 changing rooms 2 seagulls 1 muizenberg surfer muizenberg seagull

view from the car on the way home

view from the car on the way home

the clifton beaches are a perfect place to catch the sunset, with the majestic twelve apostles looming behind and the whole area taking on a yellow hue as the sun sinks lower and lower

the clifton beaches are a perfect place to catch the sunset, with the majestic twelve apostles looming behind and the whole area taking on a yellow hue as the sun sinks lower and lower

sunset stairs beach party

brought some virginia bubbly for the occasion.

brought some virginia bubbly for the occasion.

clifton 2nd 2 clifton second sunsetFrom there we grabbed a drink at Caprice before heading to a fantastic sushi dinner at Sevruga on the Waterfront.

waterfront ferris wheel