Cape Town, South Africa-Part 2

Cape Town, South Africa-Part 2

Table Mountain view across the Vineyard

Table Mountain view across the Vineyard

Table Mountain and the National Botanical Gardens

Next morning we took the hop-on and hop -off bus towards Table Mountain, a looming figure anywhere you go in Cape Town area. There is plenty wildlife here with many species of flora, porcupines, baboons and guinea-pigs or rodents called dassies who live among the rocks.

Kirstenbosch Botanical Gardens

Kirstenbosch Botanical Gardens

And many go up to watch the beautiful sunset. We were going to take the cable car up but when our bus got there, we encountered a long line. We were told that it would take a long while waiting to get in the cable car.

We decided instead to go to Kirstenbosch National Botanical Gardens in the southern suburbs, which formerly was a white-only residential area. A little further is Constantia Winelands, one of South Africa’s oldest wineries. Kirstenbosch Gardens is the oldest and largest botanical garden in South Africa, created in 1895 by Cecil Rhodes. table 1

Over 22,000 indigenous plants are located here. We walked along paved paths with signboards that guide you through its magnificent gardens, camphor trees and lush bushes and amazing sculptures! There were beautiful blooms everywhere we walked and it was truly a beautiful place! We walked to see the wild vegetation covering the eastern slopes of Table Mountainwhich was a beautiful presence as a backdrop to the garden. There was even guinea fowls roaming everywhere and people picnicking with families.

Sculpures in Garden

Sculpures in Garden

I sat on a bench to take in the breathtaking view of the gardens against Table Mountain. We saw some young adventurous hikers walking the meandering paths that lead to the slopes of Table Mountain, but we chose a more leisurely stroll through the art studio to look at some local paintings.

Cape Malay Quarters

Cape Malay Homes

Cape Malay Homes

Having a strong interest in food and culture, I wanted to explore the Cape Malay quarters at Bo-Kaap, located on Signal Hill. South Africans call the colored population collectively as Cape Malays. More correctly they should be referred as Cape Muslims as only a few slaves came from Indonesia and Malaya (now Malaysia). The slaves brought by the Dutch during the sixteenth and seventeenth century came from India, Indonesia, Malaya, Ceylon, Madagascar and East Africa.

Cape Malay Muslims

Cape Malay Muslims

Cape Malay Wedding, Bo-Kaap

Cape Malay Wedding, Bo-Kaap

This area has been home to the Muslim community who were taken from these distant places. Cape Malays make up about 50% of Cape Town, and are descendants of mostly the slaves, political prisoners and indigenous Khoisans. We hired a wonderful local guide from Cape Malay quarters, Shireen Narkedien, who first took us through the museum explaining their history,and walking us through their fascinating stories.

With Shireen, our guide

With Shireen, our guide

Bo-Kaap Mosque

Bo-Kaap Mosque

The museum is the family house of Abu Bakr Effendi, a 19th century religious leader from Turkey brought by the British as a mediator between the feuding Muslim groups. Then Shireen took us around the quarters explaining their landmarks, homes, mosques and kramats (shrines). These pastel coloredsmall mosques (11 in this area) with their pretty minarets against the skyline were also significant centers of religious education for the young. Auwal at Dorp Street. South Africa’s first official mosquefounded in late 18th century by a Moluccan prince and Muslim activist, Tuan Guru who was exiled to Robben Island for opposing Dutch rule in the East Indies. After 12 years he was released and he helped establish Islam among slaves in Cape Town.

Chicken tikka vendor

Chicken tikka vendor

Dried Chilies

Dried Chilies

We walked along alleyways, mosques, vegetable and spice shops and delis, and even came across a vendor selling tandoori chicken, local style. The neighborhood grocery store offered for sale to the local communityspices, vegetables, herbs, dried fruits, spice pastes, curry powder, frozen chicken and meats, rice, sweets, coconut milk and pickles.

Snacks at Biesmillah

Snacks at Biesmillah

We finally walked uphill to the local take-away-grocery store and restaurant, Biesmiellah, to try some local snacks including samosas, dhaltjies (deep-fried chickpea balls with potato, coriander and spinach similar to the Indian pakoras) and koeksisters (Dutch style cinnamon sugar coated deep fried cake-like dumplings covered in dried coconut).Later, after exploring more of Bo-Kaap, we returned to Biesmiellah restaurant to have lunch.The menu had mostly Indian Muslim dishes with a few Cape Malay dishes. Mutton, fish and chicken curries, beef, kebabs, steak platter, breyanis, butter chicken and chicken tikka were served.

Biryani and Lamb

Breyani and lamb denning vleis

Cape Malay dishes included dhaltjies (deep-fried chickpea balls with potato, coriander and spinach); bobotie (curried mince beef pie topped with egg custard); tomato bredie, slow cooked stew of fresh tomatoes with lamb or vegetables or waterblommetjie (water hyacinth) served with yellow rice; denningvleis (black pepper seasoned lamb chop with breyani, yellow rice or roti); and Pienang(Penang) a mild a sweet sour curry with beef cutlets(or lamb). We ordered the lamb dish, denning vleis, and chicken breyani. Cape Malay dishes are rather sweet and not spicy. So I was excited to see sambal on the menu to perk up my dishes. What came was a surprise to me…sliced onion with tomatoes and grated cucumber, a tamarind based sauce and a lime pickle (or acar), similar to what you get at Indian restaurants.

Condiments

Condiments

The sambal tasted sweet and sour and. It wasn’t the sambal that I am familiar with from Malaysia or Indonesia, but really a pickled relish. I found out unlike the traditional sambal from Southeast Asia, a Cape Malay sambal has cucumber, tomato, onion and coriander leaves with vinegar, sugar and salt and or chilies.

Other vegetables and fruits can be added including carrot, quince or onion. Sambals I am told are served with almost every Cape Malay meal, spicy sambals with bland dishes and non spicy sambals with spicy dishes.Like many other cultures, Cape Malays celebrate their ceremonies with a spread of food that the whole community takes part in whether births, weddings, or funerals.604aTheir cuisine took the spices of the East and the West and this mixing has brought about a unique amalgam of their heritage. So allspice and nutmeg are often blended with the spices that are commonly used by Asians. Many dishes served at Cape Malay homes are not featured at restaurants including fish or meat meatballs (frikkadels), koolfrikkalle (version of Turkish dolmas), mealie bread and samp (with beans and beef cuts as a stew, from the Xhosas of South Africa), pickled fish, braisnoek (fish grilled over hot coals), dhal curry, dhai and puri (from the Indians), curried mussel soup and vetkoek taken during Ramadan, fruity beef curry, sosaties (skewered chicken or meat) and sago pudding (from Indonesia,Malaya).

Greenmarket Area

Vendor

Vendor

Then we walked down to Greenmarket area and walked around the local artisans to get some local souvenirs. We bought some beaded necklace and ear-rings, a small carved wooden table (had elephant, tiger, rhinoceros, lion, leopard, finely carved on it), 2 metal candle holders with a male and female tribal figurines, a beautiful vibrant piece of art and a magnet.

Greenmarket Square markets

Greenmarket Square markets

It is a great place to buy African souvenirs and at great prices. Tired after shopping we sat down and had tea and more of the samosas while watching the crowd go by. When the markets closed we walked to Long Street and sat in a lively Cuban restaurant to listen to music and have some Cuban empanadas. Many local students and people were here and seemed a fun place to be. Then Geeta and John came and we scooted off to find another restaurant out of the many cafes and fine dining places in Cape Town.

The Vineyards

705After spending Christmas in Cape Town, we drove inland to the Vineyards in the Western Cape. South Africa is one of the world’s top winemaking regions. The vineyards were cultivated over several centuries by European settlers, who gave them names such as Stellenbosch, Franschhoek, Paarl and Somerset west. From Cape Town we drove for about an hour through pretty countryside to our guesthouse in Stellenbosch, the oldest European settlement in South Africa.

692aAfter we checked in we went wine tasting and ended up having a delicious lunch at a scenic winery. We had a delicious Asian inspired meal with great wine. The food was well presented and each dish was unique.

775Stellenbosch offers the visitor the Cape’s oldest wine route and one of its most attractive, with its spectacular surrounding mountain ranges and famous vinelands. In the evening, we walked towards the town to find something to eat. I was surprised the walk towards the town was not as pretty as I thought it would be and since many eateries closed in the early evening we ended up in a mediocre local joint where the food was a bit greasy and heavy.Since there are lot of students (University of Stellenbosch being here) and workers there are quite a few fast food eateries and delis. The town has couple of small museums,shops and pretty Cape Dutch style buildings.

684Next day after breakfast we drove around the rolling vineyards and picked a few wineries to do some wine tasting. These wineries had amazing views and beautifully landscaped gardens.  We also drove around Franschhoek (French corner) which has a beautiful setting… with wine farms, art galleries, coffee shops and guest houses. It is one of the oldest towns in South Africa and its atmosphere still reflects the history and influence of the French Huguenots who settled there in 1688. After a couple of wine tastings, we had a delicious lunch at a pretty vineyard.

681The vineyard had a spectacular view with vines along the mountain slopes and e grapes hanging from the vines. I loved to see the succulent purple and white grapes hanging from the vines! The vineyards we visited in South Africa are the best vineyards I have been to…so scenic and picture perfect with grape vines growing along the slopes of the magnificent Table Mountain.

Hout Bay

The next morning we packed and drove on the scenic route along the Atlantic seaboard with its pretty inland bays, to a lively coastal town called Hout Bay where we stayed in a guesthouse for few days to explore the bays and southern Cape area.

788Hout Bay was once a busy fishing port but now has become a sleepy village with a picturesque fishing harbor and swimming beach. Hout Bay, means “Wood Bay” as it was once filled with dense forests. Its protected bay lies between Chapman’s Peak and Mount Sentinel and is still the center of Cape Town’s crayfish industry. Nearby is Table Mountain National Park and the steep path up Chapman’s Peak is an exciting pathway to the mountain climber and hiker. Chapman’s Peak Drive is one of the most scenic marine drives in the world, with its 9km route and 114 twisted curves skirting the rocky coastline of Chapman’s Peak. Once up there, it has spectacular views of the towering mountains above you and the sea below. Hout Bay is also an easy drive from Cape Town city.

794In the evening, we went to Hout Bay’s Crafts Market checking out their locally made curios, artwork, tee-shirts, leather bags and antique jewelry. There were also shops offering pizzas, cakes and other foods and beverages including coffee, beer and wine. We walked along the harbor area feeling the chilly winds and taking in the beautiful sunset….it was gorgeous! Then we strolled along Mariner’s Wharf, a popular harbor- front emporium, which has been attracting visitors and local residents for more than 25 years. We enjoyed a fresh seafood meal of fish and chips, seafood bisque, calamari and prawns at the huge 350-seater Wharfside Grill. Its dining rooms had themes of famous ships with hooks, nets and chains and waiters and waitresses dressed as cabin crew. If you are interested in birds, Hout Bay has a privately funded World of Birds park. It also has art galleries for the art lovers and provides a lot of water sports as well as bike tours and hikes.

Imi Yethu shantytown

ImiZamo Yethu shantytown

At Hout Bay, there are a few shantytowns, Black and Colored townships, flowing down the mountainside among the wealthy homes. In the afternoon we took a walking tour with a local guide through the closest Black township, ImiZamo Yethu, which is in the middle of Hout Bay. This township was first settled in 1980s by Xhosa settlers from the Eastern Cape when apartheid was dying. The place truly shocked me in this day and era after Apartheid. It was a tightly packed settlement with no running water, only 2 public dirty toilets for the whole community and open gutters with sewage flowing down and whose stench filled the air. It was difficult to watch the children playing around the gutters. Yet when we stopped at a shack to be greeted by a smiling owner, I was impressed to see a cozily decorated and clean place that clearly reflected the owner’s pride.

860aChildren were out playing, women cooking and chatting and men at bars watching a game. We bought some snacks at a grocery store and walked by another bar that was blasting out some local music. An Irish millionaire, after seeing this township, built about 450 brick houses here with a playground for children. There is also a center nearby called the Original T-Bag Designs that provides employment for residents of ImiZamo Yethu Township. They make unique greeting cards, trays, candle holders, coasters and other stationery from recycled teabags.

Hout Bay also has a variety of other eateries, including pubs, coffee shops, Italian, pizza, creperies, Indian and other Asian restaurants. In the evening, we went to Kronenedal Kitima, an elegant Asian fusion restaurant in a typical Cape Dutch architecture at Hout Bay. The menu was mainly Thai, along with some Chinese and Japanese (lot of sushi) dishes. The desserts have Asian -European themes. It was the first farm in Hout Bay established in the 1670’s and its homestead changed ownerships many times throughout the centuries and was declared a National Monument in 1961.

The cocktails were so exotic and its wines were wonderful. We had ostrich satay and duck spring rolls as appetizers, roasted prawns with chili and basil, angry beef (beef sirloin stirred with herbs, lemongrass and chili), spicy pad Thai and chicken red curry. What a wonderful evening it was… beautiful atmosphere, great cocktails and wine, delicious food and scrumptious desserts! But as I left the place, and looked at the wealthy cars parked there, I could not help feeling guilty dining in style when only a few yards away is the shanty town, ImiZamo Yethu where there was not even running water! But, this is how living in South Africa is today…wealthy homes, boutiques and eateries…but around the corner, a shantytown!

Camp's Bay beach

Camp’s Bay beach

Next day we took the hop on and hop off bus at Hout Bay going north along the coast to Camps Bay located on the slopes of  Table Mountain. The main road, Victoria, skirts the coast and has trendy restaurants, hotels, boutiques, souvenir stores, ice cream palours and coffee shops. Families were enjoying the sandy beaches and peoples of all colors were having fun.Chicken BiryaniWe sat at an Indian restaurant facing the beach for lunch…a delicious chicken biryani and lamb curry, and watched people go by. Women were walking in sexy beach outfits and towels wrapped around their bathing suits while children in bathing suits were running barefoot. Then there were many others dressed in fancy summer attire…. and, for a moment, I felt I was at a beach town in Florida.

Lamb vindaloo

Lamb curry

After lunch we walked around a bit and took the bus towards Cape Town, passing by quaint little towns along the Atlantic seaboard. It was breathtaking scenery along the coastal highway.

False Bay Seaboard towards Cape Point and Cape of Good Hope

1106Next day we drove south to see Cape Point and Cape of Good Hope. First we drove across to False Bay seaboard and headed towards the south, making stops at interesting places along the coast.

909We drove by St. James and stopped to take photos of the colorful beach huts at the beach area, then stopped by Kalks Bay, a fishing village with aBohemian flair of cobbled streets.We walked above the harbor, looking at art studios, antiques stores and cafes. Then we stopped for lunch at Fish Hoek, where we sat in a picturesque seafood restaurant called Fish Hoek Galley on the beach, from where you can also spot whales. (Unfortunately we did not see any!)

Fish Hoek Galley view

Fish Hoek Galley view

Our next stop was Simon’s Town, a charming coastal town with sheltered coves and beaches. We passed by a mosque between buildings along cobbled stones, and stylish boutiques.  I read that the first Muslims were brought by the Dutch as slaves to build a naval base. The rich Muslim heritage here is told at the Heritage Museum.

960

We walked towards the African penguin colony at Boulder Beach, a fenced reserve of Table Mountain National Parkto watch the endangered penguins at close range in their natural environment.  I was really excited to spot a penguin as I had not seen one before. As we walked over the boardwalk, we saw two penguins next to each other and I just stood and stared at them…so big and yet so gentle!

Penguins, Boulder Beach

Penguins, Boulder Beach

Their heads were raised with their beaks to the sky…..they looked like humans! The big crowd of people excitedly talking and taking photos did not deter them. They just stood there as if no one was around them. They were in a world of their own, cozying up to each other, like ‘lovers’ or a ‘married couple’. Then as we approached towards the white sandy beach with its little coves, there were tons of black and white penguins everywhere! Wow! So many penguins, standing mostly in clusters apart from a few that stood in pairs. They looked gorgeous! And we were so close! I was lost observing them so intently.

Cape Of Good Hope

Cape Of Good Hope

Finally we came to the stretch of Table Mountain Park and drove towards the Cape Point and Cape of Good Hope. As a youth in Malaysia, I studied the history of Cape of Good Hope and Cape Point as being the most southernmost point where the Indian and Atlantic Ocean meet …but being here I found out that the southernmost point is 300 km further down the coast and is called Cape Agulhas.

Cape Point located atop sea cliffs has truly breathtaking views. We stood in line for about 40 minutes before we were able to take the cable car up to Cape Point, though many adventurous visitors hiked up. When we were up there…what amazing views! It was dizzying looking down as it was steep! And, I had to hold on to my cap and shawl as the strong winds were ready to blow them away!

Cape Point

Cape Point

It was just beautiful sitting there and feeling the strong breeze and looking down at the coastline where the strong seas were beating against the rocks. Above us and higher up the cliffs is the lighthouse. After 30 minutes we took the cable car down and met up with Geeta and John who had hiked up. There is a nice curio shop next to the cable car.

Then we drove to Cape of Good Hope, passing by birds, dassies, colorful lizards, tortoises, antelopes, mongoose and otters by the water. This area has a rich flora and fauna with a treasure trove of indigenous plants. Along the way there are vantage points for viewing whales. There is also a hiking trail through the reserve. Cape of Good Hope is perceived as the meeting point of the Atlantic and Indian oceans. It is situated at the junction of two differing water temperatures…the cold Benguela current on the West coast and the warm Agulhas current on the East coast.

Cape of Good Hope

Cape of Good Hope

I just sat on a rock near the water and looked at the Cape…and I was going down memory lane.  It was truly exciting and nostalgic to be here as I had read its history in my school years and I enjoyed imagining the many famous explorers who sailed around the Cape to get to India or South East Asia and their huge sailing  ships fighting the strong winds and storms to navigate around the Cape.

We drove back to Hout Bay along the West coast, the Atlantic seaboard and did not stop anywhere as it was already getting dark. But we did spot some ostriches on an ostrich farm along the way. They were huge!

Hiking to Cape Point

Hiking to Cape Point

A Sad Farewell

In the plane back home, I thought about the current atmosphere in South Africa, the ‘freedom’ era in post Apartheid. For me it is unsettling how liberated South Africa is today. The townships’ squatters and shantytowns are stark reminders that the effects of Apartheid have not been eradicated. The sewage flowing through their townships reminded me that the South African people are still trapped in pestilent existence. Poverty has not been eliminated and there is wide inequality. No jobs, or housing since ANC took over and abut 3 million people live on less than 3 pounds a day. To me, the ANC (South African government) has failed to deliver basic services to the underclass.

Mandela’s vision of ANC and of South Africa is lost and is on the back burner. ANC promised to help but has been nearly 20 years  and basic living has not been improved. What a disappointment with the ANC! While the leaders of ANC live on large estates and enjoy the privileges of so called freedom, they failed to deliver jobs or basic services (electricity, sanitation, running water, medical) to its peoples. AIDS is rampart in the townships and children whose mothers are inflicted with AIDS are dropping off from schools and taking care of their families…as young as 10 years old!   Women and young girls are the face of the AIDS pandemic…young girls are raped and sodomized a “cure” for AIDS by the community leaders. And the stigma of AIDS separates families and creates loneliness.  Where is the ANC with all this happening to their people? Taking care of the leaders and entertaining the world with hosting the Olympics! Corruption has become more serious since ANC came into power. The townships are stark reminders of this! Unemployment is rampant and people in townships walk long hours…up to even 3 hours to towns for work. And if the people, vineyard workers or miners riot for jobs, better living conditions or pay, ANC resorts to killings and torture.

Political freedom is useless without economic power. Hope this will change. Cape town is one of the richest nation in the world yet it is disheartening to see shantytowns next to huge wealthy homes, widespread unemployment  and children playing around filthy conditions and running sewage. To me South Africa has become more racist with the blacks inflicting such economic conditions among its own peoples.  It is disgraceful for the current Zumo’s government as this is not what Mandela envisioned for the ANC. I am wondering what he must be feeling! Fighting against Apartheid and being imprisoned for so many years to achieve freedom for his people…and yet… no freedom! And this is ANC’s definition of freedom?

Yes Cape Town is a great place to visit as it has such inherent beauty and wonder …and a great melting pot of immigrant population who have added color and flavor to it! But sad to say apartheid has not been eradicated with ANC taking over. For me this is a sad and disappointing as I am one of the many to help the ANC in New York eradicate Apartheid.  But Apartheid continues in South Africa…

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Categories: Africa, Cape Town, Featured, Journeys, South Africa, Tastes

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4 Comments on “Cape Town, South Africa-Part 2”

  1. maria mercedes bejarano
    March 27, 2013 at 1:04 pm #

    Your photos are award winning .. I followed you closely on this trip.. Thanks for being such a great guide on line ¡¡ ¡¡¡Penguins ¡¡ thanks for showing them so closely

  2. March 27, 2013 at 8:47 pm #

    You are welcome Maria…my ardent follower! Gracias para su comentarios

  3. April 4, 2013 at 4:14 pm #

    Hi Susheela,
    Thanks so much for sharing your beautiful photos and stories from your travels to South Africa! You really capture the richness and uniqueness of South Africa’s cultures, political history, food, and natural scenery so well in your photos and narrative.

    As a fellow Malaysian, I was intrigued to learn about the history of the Cape Malays and how they were brought to South Africa as slaves. What a treat for you to witness a Cape Malay wedding too, and what great shots you took!

    I was also touched by your account of connecting to South Africa in a special way because of your past social activism in fighting against the Apartheid regime. What a blessing for you to see the fruits of all your hard work, effort, and commitment to this cause, after these many years!

    Do keep up with your travel writing and photography…your passion for this is palpable and you truly have a gift for it!

    • April 12, 2013 at 9:34 am #

      Thanks for your wonderful feedback Karen! Yes South Africa was truly an amazing trip for me….its beauty, cultures and culinary delights. But the fact that I had worked here with the anti-Apartheid movement truly made this trip a memorable one for me! It was a touching and a beautiful visit. Do visit Capetown one day.

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