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March 28 Time to relax a bit. The past several days have been very busy and, to use an overused word, hectic. But they have been busy with fun things and hectic because we have tried to fit in so many new things. Now we have a few days of light duty. But Melba is a "go-er". She is constantly perusing maps and brochures for more options. If there is a void in our schedule, she will want to fill it. Can't go to top of Table Mountain? Let's go shopping. Or Robben Island where Nelson Mandela and other political prisoners were held. Next boat is 11am. We need to go now! I was interested in Robben Island, but I was also interested in a break... And the aquarium was within walking distance.
The others elected to go to go to Robben Island and I held back. I started a load of wash and walked down to where I could get internet connectivity, returned to the apartment and went off to the aquarium.
This was the "Two Oceans Aquarium" and I was looking forward to seeing a nice display of fishes from the two oceans and some comparison of the two but it happened to be heavy on the Atlantic species and light on the Indian Ocean species and lighter still on the comparisons. That said, I did have a good experience and there were some very nice displays. It was so nice and so relaxing to just be able to take as much time as I wanted to just stand and look and think. It was refreshing to see many fishes that I have never seen and not see so many I am more familiar with. It was a letdown to not get to see the elusive preserved coelacanth so this was a nice relief.
The trip to Robben Island was a mixed result. All seemed pleased and happy to have seen and experienced the conditions and type of life of political prisoners, including Nelson Mandela. But when they trudged into the apartment all seemed a bit downcast and totally sodden. A rain had come up while they were there and they got very wet. Then they became even more wet after they got on the boat. And on the way back and on their way to and from a grocery store. Mavis missed the first boat with the others and was exposed to even more rain on site and on the boat. But all talked about the cells and the ways prisoners communicated and taught each other various subjects. Each had something to say about the limestone quarry and how terrible the working conditions must have been.
March 25. The Winelands. We had been scheduled to tour the "Winelands" yesterday but we rescheduled to go this day instead. We needed a break. Frank arrived to take us out for one last trip to the north and east of Cape Town. We were headed for a winery tasting and tour when someone asked about the Butterfly Farm. Frank immediately recalculated and reconfigured the trip. This butterfly farm was a bit amateurish for the butterflies (indeed, it may have been the wrong season and or a too cool day) but it included a small aviary a few snakes and some mammals, including the cute little duiker, a small dog sized antelope.
On to the winery. The Lanzerac Winery. Established in 1692. There is a very long tradition of raising grapes and making wine in this region of rolling hills and framed between tall rugged mountains. Towns and architecture are quite appealing. The setting for this winery was classic. The main entry as straight and narrow and framed by overlapping tree canopies. Just a very pleasant place. And the tasting was very good. A lunch break was La Petite Freme was nearby and just so relaxing and pleasant. I quizzed Frank about ancillary products beyond wine and very soon we ended up at Van Ryans brandy distillery where we enjoyed a tour of the facility and a tasting of their product which was really quite enjoyable.
March 26. Around Cape Town. A driver met us today to take us to several museums in different parts of Cape Town. First up was the District 6 Museum which documents an inhumane treatment of nonwhites in a section (i.e., District 6) of Cape Town in 1960s.
It seems that in many respects, the history of South Africa parallels that of our United States. The US had a slightly earlier start than SA but both entertained waves of immigrants from different parts of Europe as well as ship loads of slaves, mostly from other parts of Africa, Asia, Malasia, and India. Before long, segregation and separation became a reality based on color. Whites or Europeans held the status of control and management and nonwhites became servants and laborers.
Cape Town began as a walled city that included a fort. But as is so often the case, the population began to outgrow the available space and expand beyond the walls. Of course, the least desireable space became allocated to the least respected people, the nonwhites and this space became identified as District 6 of the city. By the mid 1900's, the white population had grown and needed more space. Suddenly, the land of District 6 became more valuable asset. But the structures were not acceptable for white inhabitants. The solution was simple. Families were forcibly removed from their homes and transported to new locations at least 500 km away. The structures were razed and proper homes were built for whites. Eventually, after numerous demonstrations and some riots, nonwhites were allowed back into District 6. This museum remembers that tragic time. In fact, our tour guide had lived the experience and was active in the fight to save the district for the nonwhites. The story was poignant and dramatic.
From the District 6 museum, we went to tour the fort; or, castle. Although the sturdy structure has been around for a very long time, little of the history was actually presented, but rather, the tourist became an observer of history through viewing the numerous historical objects and the many annotated paintings. It was most impressive to see the banquet table laid out carefully and majestically with 101 place settings. Each place setting was a one-of-a-kind, donated by a local potter or artist.
On to the Gold Museum. That is “gold" as a noun. A museum about gold. Not a golden museum. The story of gold begins thousands of years ago. Gold was mined and smelted and worked. It quickly became relegated to the powerful. It's importance and power expanded through time and it has been widely used to emphasize importance in many African cultures and this became the main focus of the museum. Displayed were innumerable objects of art and symbols of power and authority. Golden necklaces, crowns, knife handles, effigies, earrings, utensils, and so much more. The viewer could do little more than shake ones head in wonderment and awe. My favorite was a small fish, of course. It was repeated in several iterations, mainly as a pendant in several sizes. It was called a mudfish or a catfish and it represented responsibility.