Cape Town, South Africa

22 July 2012

My safari or journey in Swahili began in the lovingly called Mother City of Cape Town. This colourful city is sandwiched between the Atlantic and as  a backdrop, the iconic and dominant Table Mountain. I am staying a The Backpack in the Gardens and Tamboerskloof area close to the city centre. This city is rich with history, most of which is best remembered in the museums – colonisation by the Dutch and English, slave trade, then followed up by apartheid rule and today struggling to provide to the black South Africans. I arrived late Saturday night. Early Sunday morning, I headed into the city to get my bearing and feel the city. On Long Street, most shops were closed. Some building were decorated in Victorian architecture and designs. I walked nearly the length of the street and entered into the Green Square Market where artisans and stalls displayed and sold local handicrafts – from wood carvings to paintings to printed T-shirts. Nearly if not all of the sellers were black. not all are locals. Near the square, I ended up in a Kurdish restaurant for branch. There are a variety of foreign entries Zimbabwean, Indian, Western side by side with Pizza and Nandos outlets along Long Street.

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Being Sunday, all the museums were closed. I headed up along Longmarket Street onto a cobbled stoned street. It was steep and uphill. This area was dominated by Cape Malays. Minarets from mosque rose above colorfully painted houses which is a norm here. The Cape Malays were brought in mainly from Indonesia and enslaved in South Africa in the 18th and 19th century. Nowadays, it is rare to meet someone whom spoke Malay. However, their Islamic culture and cuisine survived and is thriving. The locality, however, is fantastic overlooking the city from homes built on hill slopes with Signal Hill in the background. Minarets from mosques stretched above the colourful buildings. The people I met on the streets were friendly and welcoming. Some women wore the purdah. The Cape Malays were classified as coloured people during the Apartheid days together with the Indians. I walked to the top of the road to Noon Gun Restaurant. It was also closed. My walk continued into an area with cannons and guns. But just beyond this, I walked on treks that skirted along the hill with the sprawling city and it working harbour spread below. Apartment and home lined along the western coast towards Sea Point. I walked alone only with the sound of the waves and chirping birds. Bagpipe music echoed from the purpose-built stadium. Robbin Island and the entire northern coastline was clearly visible. The vista was magnificent. The last hundred meters, I scrambled up towards Signal Hill. The day was hot with excellent views of Table Mountain and Lion head. I continued my walk towards Lion Mountain. The vegetation here is unique – the endemic Peninsula Shale Renosterveld. This vegetation merged with the fynbos vegetation on the slopes. Apparently, black maned lions used to roam these mountains. The are none anymore. At the valley below surrounded by green shrubs and flowering plants, a green and white Keramat or tomb had been erected. The Cape Malays have long live here since the slave days. Beyond this tomb, the trek headed uphill. Flowering protea and native fynbos plants together with pine trees were scattered on this valley and hill slopes. Fires had destroyed some part of the vegetation. Lion Head looked menacing and seemed unattainable. The mountains formations became defined as I walked up slowly. I did not bring any water to drink . I was thirsty and dehydrated. I was not prepared as did not plan to hike today. The sandstone formations were stacked like pancakes and rich in colour. The views of the west coast townships and coast were pleasing. The Atlantic waves crashed onto the coastline. Thirsty, I drank water that dripped from the wall of the stone mountain. Reaching the top was tricky as it involved climbing with the aid of chains and vertical ladders. Physically demanding but manageable. The mountain was reduced to a collectionof fallen rocks. The weather changed to a slight drizzle. I decided to turn and descend just 50m from the top. The decent was on the western side of the mountain with views of Clifton Beach and Camps Bays suburbs. Table Mountain was clear and the earth track ended at Kloof Nek Road. It had been a long days’ walk. It had taken about 5 hours. With no transport available, I walked all the way back to my hostel at Tamboerskloof  neighbourhood. Finally a cold drink. The fine weather prevailed and the three mountains – Table Mountain, Lion Head and distant Signal Hill all remained visible. The views of the City Bowl, its suburbs, port and the coastlines gave me a wonderful perpespective of this beautiful city.

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