We returned to Cape Town to a lovely two-bedroom apartment back in Constantia that exceeded all my expectations. Part of that might have been the contrast between it and the Backpackers on the Garden Route, but even discounting that, this place was one of my favorites of the places we’ve stayed – basically a 2-bedroom suite attached to a large and attractive home sitting on a lovely property with a pool, a gorgeous view, beautiful gardens and also, of all things, a trampoline. Needless to say the kids took good advantage of these amenities.
I had tried hard to get us accommodation inside the City Bowl, the better to enjoy the New Year festivities, but apparently that was everyone else’s plan as well because anything remotely in our budget was full up. Wilder’s fondest desire though was to spend the evening of the 31st on the waterfront with all the rest of Cape Town, and so that is what we did. At about 8pm on the 31st we drove the 30 minutes into town and got lucky with a free and well-located parking spot, which made for a not too painful exit after the festivities at about 1am. In between we participated in a whole lot of people watching, an interesting free concert and a fun firework show as midnight struck. It was nothing if not festive.
New Year’s day was more to my liking as we lounged around, went out for pasta lunch and were the lucky recipients of a wonderful chicken enchilada dinner cooked by Stevie for dinner. It turned out the homemade Mexican food was such a success that we hightailed it back to the store the next day so that she and Peyton could make it again. We are really going to miss that girl!
On January 2nd we wandered back through town to see the famous Minstrals – the singing groups that compete as they parade through town over the first days of the new year. We didn’t get to hear them sing, but we did catch a few glimpses of the gaily dressed fellows and also had some fun interactions with a few at the stop lights.
Stevie was supposed to leave us early on the morning of Jan 3rd. I made our onward travel arrangements for the 4th though just in case of unforeseen delays. That turned out to be brilliant of me as her flight was in fact delayed until 8:30 that night. The kids had reservations to go abseiling (the South African term for repelling) off the top of Table Mountain for the past couple of days, but they kept getting canceled due to bad weather. The fates aligned perfectly though as we squeezed this thrilling South African adventure in on our last day. That first step is a doozy!
Saying goodbye to Stevie was hard (especially for Wilder) but we didn’t have long to mourn as we hopped our own flight to Johannesburg, where we spent our scant 24 hours there visiting the Apartheid Museum, a local amusement park and, oddly enough, a casino.
South Africa’s history of legally condoned white oppression of blacks is of course similar to our own. Different though is how recent it feels. The apartheid laws were only repealed in 1991, the year Mark and I were married. Our driver from the airport was a lovely woman of Dutch descent (referred to locally as Afrikaaners -not to be confused with Africans who are decendants of the original black occupants of Africa). She told me she feels guilty when she goes to the museum. I understood her sentiments exactly, and responded that I feel guilty most everywhere we go in the world.
To recover from the tough lessons of the museum, the kids headed to a 6 Flags like park for a couple of hours while Mark and I south out a casino that turned out to be attached. Though we didn’t gamble, it was nice to sit in the bar and have a couple of drinks at old Las Vegas prices.
Our last night in African was spent in a quaint guesthouse in the suburbs of Johannesburg.
As I write this, we sit on a 12-hour direct flight to Hong Kong. It does feel like a new year, but just like at home, it also feels like we have quite a ways to go to finish our “school” year. Africa has been an amazing and soul stirring adventure, but Asia will no doubt be a different challenge and, as I’m afraid we’ve become a bit lazy this past month, I am eager, but also apprehensive, as we hit the road.