May 16, 2023
First impressions of Cape Town in March, my first visit in 27 years. I spent three days in the Cape Province. My notes and musings were written in real-time:
The area’s astonishing natural beauty is breathtaking. Cape Town is like no other place, and it’s wonderful to be back here. The view from the base of Table Mountain in the two shots above and below says it all.
The picture below shows traveling companions Dane and Susan walking back from the cable car after going to the top of Table Mountain. The peak is in the background.
Our guide, Paul Hofman, showed us nearby Camp’s Bay, an enclave of billionaires and celebrities like Brad Pitt. Camp’s Bay is sort of a Beverly Hills on the beach. Parking places there are so hard to get they go for a million dollars each. We didn’t linger.
Cape Town’s San Francisco-like charm is marred by pervasive squalor and endemic poverty of the majority of its 4.6 million residents. Much like San Francisco, tents and makeshift huts line the sidewalks to provide shelter for the homeless. Elsewhere, massive townships of tin huts evince the deep poverty and hopelessness of most residents.
When I first came here in 1991, these same squalid conditions pervaded the landscape. 32 years later, nothing seems to have changed. No jobs, no money. The contrast between the haves and have-nots is stark and frightening. If anything, conditions appear shoddier than in 1991. I don’t see how this can continue.
Made worse by the Eskom power debacle. Rolling blackouts are routine and worsening. Cape Town was dark without electricity from 6-9pm and midnight to 5am overnight.
After a hearty breakfast at Hotel on the Promenade, our beautiful boutique hotel in Cape Town’s Sea Point, we made the most of our only full day in Cape Town: False Bay; lovely Kalk Bay; Cape of Good Hope; Simonstown, home to the South African Navy and the Boulder Penguin Colony; Chapman’s Peak Drive; and back to Cape Town. Photos in the city are of the makeshift sidewalk housing prevalent throughout the city–sadly, looks like San Francisco.
Our South African National Parks Wild Cards which we had purchased for the Kruger National Park saved us about $35 each in entrance fees to the penguin colony and the Cape of Good Hope Park. I didn’t realize that SANParks ran those sites—good to know for future visits.
Tomorrow we have a final day of touring before going to the Cape Town airport late afternoon for our flight home.
The day here in Cape Town began as usual with an unscheduled power blackout at 815am. No one knew it was coming. Eskom, the power company, calls it “load shedding.” It’s maddening.
That’s after blackouts last night 6-8pm and midnight to 340am. It was disconcerting last evening to walk dark streets (no street lights) and cross intersections with unlit stoplights.
We tooled around downtown Cape Town this morning and stopped at Kirstenbosch National Botanical Gardens in pouring rain. Then on to the beautiful wine country around Stellenbosch out in the country.
Photos were taken passing one of the many townships where half the population of Cape Town lives, a stark reminder of this government’s failure to provide jobs and improve living conditions for the majority of South Africans. Such squalor is pervasive and distressing.
Followed by photos of prosperity demonstrating the mood of the wineries and tasting rooms we visited in Stellenbosch.
It’s been a great trip, marred tonight by United Airlines once again late and threatening our connection at Newark tomorrow morning to Raleigh. We’re already an hour late and still sitting at the gate. I again recommend never to book United if you can help it. I certainly regret it.
But I highly recommend visiting the Kruger National Park and Cape Town in South Africa.