Rainy morning yesterday, and Table Mountain was completely covered in cloud. There’s an interesting cloud that forms around the mountain that the locals call ‘The Tablecloth’, although yesterday it was really just thick rain clouds and quite a bit of rain. Not good for seeing Cape Town’s most famous landmark, so we postponed it for another day.
It fined up in the afternoon and we went out and did stuff. I walked up to the local shops and got my hair cut. Cost me a third of what I pay at home, it’s very short and I’m very happy with it. Then we drove into the city to have a look at ‘downtown’. Parked in a parking station near the main railway station and walked a couple of streets to a mall. I took more care to be aware of my surroundings and my bag when we were walking around near the station … but then, city train stations around the world are like that – busy, full of people, some of whom are out to try their luck. There is an open air market nearby and as we were walking back to the car, a young boy spoke to Greg and stuck his hand out … a second before he spotted us 2 white people, he had been playing with a balloon near his parents’ market stall. Nice try, kid, but just sticking your hand out for money doesn’t work on us.
We walked up the Mall and stumbled upon a piece of the Berlin Wall. Very exciting as it’s the only piece in Africa. I knew it was somewhere in South Africa, but kept forgetting to find out where it was, so just coming aross it was very serendipitous. A couple of women walked past while we were looking at it and photographing it, and they doubled back when they realised what we were looking at.
We walked down Long Street, which is pretty touristy, full of souvenir and clothes shops. Stopped at a bakery for afternoon tea and to have a read of the map to see what we should see. It’s always interesting to see how a city utilises public spaces.
There’s a park called the Company’s Garden, named for the Dutch East India Company – a tree-lined green space that has museums, the library, a beautiful rose garden and potager and Parliament House. It has the country’s oldest cultivated tree in it – a pear that was planted around 1652 which still bears fruit. The Garden was originally a fruit, vegetable and medicinal herb garden that gradually expanded to 18ha, then became the city’s botanical garden. It finally became a public recreational space in 1913, when the Botanic Gardens were moved to Kirstenbosch, to an estate bequeathed by Cecil Rhodes. There is a statue of Rhodes in the Company’s Garden, and 2 statues of Jan Smuts, a military man, politician and supporter of segregation. There was also a statue of George Grey, who was a soldier, explorer, Governor of South Australia, twice Governor of New Zealand, Governor of Cape Colony (South Africa), the 11th Premier of New Zealand and a writer. So our home town and Cape Town have some shared history. Greg spotted the George Gray statue and remembered that ‘our’ SA had a governor by that name. Wikipedia told us the rest.
The Castle of Good Hope is the oldest existing colonial building in South Africa, and it located just a couple of blocks away from the Company Gardens and also from the railway station. We walked through a large open car park where stallholders were packing up for the day, and just looked at the castle walls. It was built by the Dutch East India Company between 1666 and 1679, originally on the coast of Table Bay, but is now located inland because of land reclamation that was undertaken in the 1930s & 1940s.
Crossing the Karoo a semi-desert area in southern South Africa on the way to Cape Town