The South African border was one of the most lax ones we crossed. This was unexpected for me because they are one of the more developed African countries so I assumed their Ebola scanning would be more stringent. If you enter South Africa you require a yellow fever certificate but they did not even ask to see it. This is probably a good thing because one of the people in our group forgot his certificate.
On our first day of arrival we camped at Orange River which separates South Africa from Namibia. The afternoon was filled with floating in the water, getting a thrill out of “illegally” being in Namibia when we swam across the river, many games of Danger Flunky Ball, and a limbo contest. It was our last afternoon together and we made it a good one!
For our next stop in South Africa we headed to the lush green landscape and the rolling hills of wine country. We set up our tent for the last time in the middle of a vineyard. That evening for $7 we sat in on a South African wine and cheese tasting. I’m not normally a wine drinker but I made an exception for the tastebud- tingling South African wine. The wine expert taught us how to look at the wine, swirl it for smell, and how to drink the wine while sucking air into your mouth to maximize the taste experience.
The next day after packing up our beloved tent for the last time we headed straight to Capetown. Technically our tour ended here but most of the group ended up hanging around Capetown for a few days. In true hobo style I had not prebooked any accommodations or departure flights. Fortunately my awesome roommate, Ling, offered that I stay in her room for the next 4 days and a newly engaged British couple offered that I could fly with them to Johannesberg and stay with them for a night. You can always depend on the kindness of strangers! … except these people weren’t strangers anymore, I had known them for 40+ days.
The first thing we did when we got to Capetown was head to Table Mountain. A group of 10 of us made the hour and a half climb to the top. The views were stunning but it was like being on the stairmaster for 90 minutes straight. Table Mountain offered a fantastic view of the coast as well as a look into the bowl of the city. We took the 360 degree rotating cable car back down to the bottom. Following our hike we went for dinner where I had the meal deal of some delightful pasta with South African white wine for $5.50. Capetown is known for their fantastic variety of delectable food, and I liked the prices. We stayed up late that night to say goodbye to a chunk of the group that would be leaving the next day and to celebrate Shane (an ex-Irish-army guy) on officially becoming a civilian at midnight.
The following day some of us took a tour down the twisting coastline of Capetown. First we took a boat out to see an island full of seals. I can see why Greenpeace gets mad about seal clubbing because they are really cute and super playful.
Next we continued onto Boulder Beach. Boulder Beach has lots of boulders (no surprise there) but it also has lots of penguins!
We continued onto the Cape of Hope National park where we had the chance to do some biking. Essentially you were just supposed to take a leisurely ride down the road until you reached the visitors centre where we would eat lunch. However, in true African style, the bikes they gave us were AWFUL! One girl fell off her bike and scraped up her face. As I was riding along my pedal fell off. I rode my bike like a scooter for awhile hoping I was not trespassing on baboon territory. Eventually the guide came along to replace my bike but the brakes were missing on my new one. Somehow we all made it to the visitor centre safe and sound except for one girl who was so bloody that she had to return to Capetown in a taxi.
Following the mayhem of the biking we visited a scenic lighthouse which is the spot where the Indian Ocean and the Atlantic Ocean meet. I was surprised by the number of tourists that were disappointed when they didn’t see a physical line separating the Oceans. This spot is also the most South Westerly point in Africa.
Our last stop was at the Cape of Good Hope but it was so windy that we couldn’t stay long and couldn’t climb the cliff without the probability of getting blown off.
Day three of Capetown involved a much safer day of street strolling and shopping. I also used this day to do errands such as find a computer store to fix my laptop and I was lucky that Hubby Hobo’s parents offered to buy me a new camera as an early Christmas present. We wandered through the markets and down to the Harbour. The Harbour did not look like it belonged in Africa at all! In fact, it looked more like Pleasure Island at Disneyworld. It was clean, there were little shops and restaurants everywhere, live musical acts would pop up every now and again, and for the first time in two months I was not the minority. Our guide Colleen said that 30 million people visit the Harbour to go shopping every year which is more than the amount of people that visit the pyramids in Egypt!
I wanted to take the ferry out to Robben Island which is the prison where Nelson Mandela was held for years but the tickets were all sold out. I met up with friends for dinner and we called it an early night because we had to wake up at 5 in the morning for ….
Shark Cage Diving! We chose to Shark Cage Dive with Marine Dynamics and I thought they were an extremely professional company. Upon they gave us a thorough safety debrief and a fabulous hot breakfast. We boarded the Slashfin (our boat) and started off into the Ocean. As the boat was driving we slowly released a mixture of chum, blood, and salt water into the Ocean so the sharks would pick up our scent and follow the boat. Once at our destination the first culprits climbed into the cage. One man held a line with a buoy and a bunch of chum attached to it and another man help a piece of wood painted black and in the shape of a seal fin. Together they would throw the “seal” and the chum out into the water to attract the sharks and lure them towards the cage. Unfortunately, we only saw a few sharks that day but we did see a lot of whales. If we had seen more sharks, the Shark Cage Dive day definitely had the potential to be one of the best days of my trip.
The following morning I ran downtown to pick up my laptop. It turns out that it did indeed melt in the desert so they replaced the wire that had melted. I shared a cab with Laura and Ben to the airport and we headed off for a night in Johannesburg. Johannesburg was the first spot in all of Africa where I did not feel comfortable. Someone tried to scam us while we were waiting for our pick up. When we made it to our hostel it was completely gated in. That evening we took a cab downtown (doors locked) to the Hard Rock Café. Laura collects Hard Rock glasses so it seemed like a good excuse to have some Western food. We took a cab back to the hostel as well …we took cabs everywhere.
The following day I went to the Apartheid Museum. When I got there I sat on a rock for 90 minutes before the museum opened. Apparently the power hadn’t come on yet so they didn’t open the museum. TIA, I suppose (This Is Africa). The museum was worth the wait though. When I paid my fee to get in I was given a “white ticket” so I had to enter through the white door. Black visitors were given “black tickets.” I didn’t know much about the Apartheid before going to the museum so I will give you a quick summary of what I learned based on my visit.
In the late 1800’s gold was discovered in Johannesburg. Many people came from the tribal villages to the city to work in the mines. During the great depression the price of gold went down. The owners of the mine still wanted to make a profit so they fired all the white workers (because they paid them the most) and cut all the black worker’s wages in half. Many black people refused to work for half the price so they imported Asian immigrants to work for the low wage. This was the introduction to the 4 categories of people that were segregated later on; the whites, the coloured, the asians, and the natives. As the rich got richer and the poor got poorer coloured and asians started moving into slums in Johannesburg. The white people feared that they would soon be outnumbered so they introduced a system of segregation. Everyone was given a certification labelling them into one of the four categories. The people in charge of labelling were unqualified white people. Some well to do coloured people who associated with white people were given white status and white people who worked with blacks could be demoted to coloured status. As the state of the slums got worse, the white politicians oppressed more. Asians, coloured, and natives could not vote. If the white politicians wanted the land that the slums were on they would displace all the people and destroy their homes. The minorities were given limited education so they would remain impoverished. Nelson Mandela spent 27 years as a prisoner for trying to lead a political party opposing the idea of apartheid.
Around 1990, the system of apartheid began to break down. Nelson Mandela was released and elected President in 1994. Many people died during the apartheid (mainly due to protesting) or were forced to work or live in horrendous conditions. I spent 3.5 hours in the museum but could have spent 5. It was incredibly fascinating. It was obvious to me that this system of segregation had not totally broken down. There were still huge slums outside of the city centres and it was obvious that white people were much wealthier. Upon speaking to people they admitted that the older generations are still extremely racist towards one another, but the younger generations are more accepting. Hopefully the situation will improve as time passes.
Later that day I met up with Laura and Ben and we all continued onto Abu Dhabi. From there I said goodbye to the last of the group of friends I had met 45 days earlier. I then hopped on a plane to Saigon, Vietnam. Goodbye Africa, Hello Asia!!!