Dear Family & Friends,
Hello from Capetown where we are enjoying being on our own now and exploring this beautiful city in a leisurely fashion. Two days ago David & Ann dropped us off at the Silver Lattice Guesthouse, where we have rented a one bedroom self-catering apartment until April 22. It is located on a small and quiet street in the part of Capetown called Gardens. We have all the comforts of home with plenty of good shopping and other amenities, such as a nearby theater, just a block or two away, all for about $45 per night. It is an easy walk to just about everything we want to see or do here, and we spent yesterday just exploring on foot. I am able to do this now that my knee has mostly healed, and so has my monkey bite.
Today we walked downtown and then caught a city bus to the Victoria and Alfred Waterfront. There are hundreds of stores there, plus entertainment, restaurants, etc. We looked at the exhibits at the Nelson Mandela Gateway to Robben Island. That is the place where he was imprisoned for most of the 27 years he was jailed, and it is located about 6 miles out on Table Bay. We decided not to go out to the island today because it is cooler and cloudy today with a chance of rain. We will go at a later time, when we can have sun for our boat trip out there. Because we are here after the major tourist time, and the school holidays will be over on the 15th, we will have a much easier time getting tickets for this. Some English girls on our first tour tried to get tickets several weeks before we arrived here and they couldn't get booked.
Ann and David took us to lots of the most beautiful areas around here where there are wineries and good restaurants. There are over 300 vineyards and wineries in this area! Wednesday we went to one in an affluent area very near Capetown called Constantia. We also drove the coast along False Bay, which was beautiful, and we passed a lot of the townships in the Cape Flats area. This is a huge flat area outside of Capetown where the black people were forced to live when they took their land away from them during apartheid and bulldozed their homes in District 6. They did this to about 60,000 people. Now they are starting to restore their land to them and helping them build better houses if they do have to stay in the Cape Flats area. Speaking of houses, we find it interesting that they do not use wood for framing houses here. Instead they build brick houses, often then covering the bricks with plaster and painting the plaster.
One thing I haven't explained before is that there is a language here called Afrikaans. Since South Africa was settled first by Dutch people starting in the 1600's, they spoke Dutch which has evolved and changed into a unique language called Afrikaans. Most people here speak English too because South Africa was eventually taken over by the British. There are also 9 other languages which were the ones of the African tribes living here: Bantu, Zulu, Xhosa, etc. So when we want to watch the TV news, often it is in Afrikaans with some English mixed in. Very confusing.
One thing I forgot to talk about in a previous letter was that we visited Addo Elephant Park on our way here. It started with only a few elephants and now there are thousands. We only saw 5-10, but they were big and right near the road. We also saw meerkats, a jackal, ostrich, lots of warthogs, various antelopes, monkeys, and some of our group saw lions eating at a kill. This park had really varied terrain and showed us how easy it is for elephants to hide when the foliage is thick and tall. It is also one of the closest parks for game viewing to Capetown.
More tales next week.
Love, Mary & Elaine