A peek into the southern most tip of AFRICA
I would like to introduce, Gowri Shenbagaraman. Hostel and College days brought us together and life from then on, stuck us together for ever. Gowri is an MBA professional, graduated from TAPMI with specialization in Human Resource. He is in Zambia working for Konkola Copper Mines, a part of The Vedanta Group of Companies.
The following is a travelogue, as penned by him based on his experience from his recent visit to South Africa.
Myself, my wife Laxmi and parents visited Cape Town & oudtshorn in SA on Nov 09. Our first stop was Cape Town,”The mother city” widely considered to be one of the most beautiful cities in the world and a must see for any visitor to this part of the world.
The first things that hits you as you move into cape town is whether you have taken a wrong flight and landed somewhere in Europe, yes it is completely a white dominated area. As you travel into the city from airport “We can’t wait, Lets Go 2010” boards dot the skyline showing SAs much advanced preparation for 2010 trying to do a Beijing 08 out here. Infact in FIFA 2010 ,it is pride of Africa that is at stake and all African countries are upbeat about that with record 6 African teams participating and Ghana and Ivory Coast having a chance to cause major upsets.
We stayed at a place called Camps Bay .Most accommodations here are self catering .I realized later why it became like that. The first day morning mother woke us up to see that majestic table mountain right next to our place. Cape Town is actually a peninsula. Table Mountain is the one that adds additional beauty to this city compared to other sea side cities. This mountain bisects the city and wherever you go you could see the mountain staring in front of you. (Remember Newlands Cricket stadium) .Much of the Porsche localities are nestled in between the mountain and the Atlantic. We first went to camps bay beach called as the “Other LA”… the best beach in the city with lot of places to hangout. We took the Hop on Hop off Bus and there we had our first look at this beautiful city. We were bowled over by the beauty. May be had we visited Europe or US before the excitement could have been less. For the next 15 Kms or so, with Atlantic on one side,sea side, joggers, pet dogs, surfers, swimmers along the entire coast and beautiful resorts and cottages dotting the other side. Unlike India though there is commercial exploitation they have done it beautifully hence converted all olden houses into modern accommodations without altering the skyline. Then I got to see what I have been waiting for , The green point Stadium, right next to the sea , the Venue where I will be coming to see the Quarter finals next years. FIFA has gone on record that this would be the most spectacular foot ball stadium in the world for its superb location.
The best thing about this bus, you get commentary about the history of the city as you cross each location.
We got down at the Victoria & Alfred Waterfront, one of the most sought after holiday locations in Africa and it is a place for the rich- star hotels, luxury yachts and boutique shops. We visited two oceans aquarium to see plenty of sea creatures including sharks and the sting ray that killed Steve Irwin .We got on the bus for Table Mountain and on the way it stopped in the Cape Town international convention Centre where million of eyes will be glued next Friday as that is the venue for FIFA 2010 draw. We reached the top of the mountain in cable car to get a beautiful view of all the beaches, sports facilities and the waterfront from here including the green point stadium and of course the most important Robben island where Nelson Mandela was kept for 2 decades. To me the best view is to see the Atlantic merging with the clouds and disappearing into the horizon.
Day 2 The main thing on agenda was to visit the Apartheid museum called District 6 museum and the Groote Schuur Hospital where Dr Christian Bernard performed the first heart transplant in 1967. We did some shopping and mind you Africa is not the place to shop. But the beauty of these guys is the tourism infrastructure is of so high standards that they make money out of everything. There are 100s of brochures where ever you go on various tourists spots, curio shops, restaurants and guided tours. So the only thing to buy is T shirts and other souvenirs depicting the particular spot. We took a snap in the Nobel square with life-size statues of SAs fab 4(Nobel Prize winners), Nelson Mandela, Desmond Tutu, Clark (last apartheid prime minister) Albert Luthuli.
Due to time constraint we couldn’t see the Robben Island and unfortunately the District 6 museum was closed. Some of the history we managed to pick on the way was how the blacks were systematically eliminated between 1960s and the 1980 s. The Groote schuur hospital was a great experience and was much more important for Dad, being a doctor. The block where the first operation was conducted is now just an academic block and they have converted the first 2 floors into a museum. We were welcome by a blown up picture of the accident spot which killed a young girl who then became the first donor. The casualty dept where she was brought that day in 1967, the operation theatre, the heart lung machine used for that operation, wax statutes of the doctor and first patient are all kept.
Day 3, Nov 24, our first wedding anniversary and mom’s bday. big day and big place. We were about to go for the drive of our lifetime to cape point and the Cape of Good Hope. The 40 km drive through the hill with Atlantic following you is a photographer’s delight. First you hit Hout bay where the sea has come inwards and is between the hill and the white sandy beaches. Next is Chapmans peak a cyclist paradise and a great drive through the feeble hill. The last stop before the cape point is boulders beach where we saw African Dolphins. Finally we entered Table Mountain National park and after few kms we were there in the Cape Point, the edge of the cape peninsula. Cape of Good Hope is a few hundred mts towards the west and the board says you are in south-western edge of Africa. The southernmost tip of Africa is Cape Agulhas where the Atlantic and Indian oceans meet but Cape of Good Hope has stolen the limelight, I don’t know why. After enough photos we headed for the wine lands as SA is home to some of the best wines. Most of these winelands were owned by Dutch settlers who built beautiful homesteads and made great wines. There is an activity called wine tasting where for 5 dollars you can taste 6 wines in the traditional wine lands. Cape Town sea front was largely reclaimed land from sea and since Dutch were expert in that and hence more of them came here during 19 Th centuries. Infact the local Language Afrikaans is a combination of English and Dutch.
After a great Cape Town visit we headed to Oudtshorn, the feather capital of the world. Oudtshorn is on Route R 62 a scenic route from Cape Town to Port Elizabeth and running parallel to this along the coast is the garden route famous for the beautiful beaches and stunning passes and bridges along the road. Dutch settlers have set up huge ostrich farms here and the feathers farmers made a huge mullah in pre world war days. A small town of 12000 people but extremely beautiful. The biggest attraction however is the cango caves. An hour’s guided tour of this stalacite and stalagmite formations was an awesome experience. The cango wildlife ranch is pioneering cheetah conservation and houses lots of endangered species including Madagascar meerkat, pygmy hippos, white tigers, and cheetahs. The specialty of this farm is the croc cage diving where they take you inside a cage under the water and you can come face to face with the crocs. We didn’t do that anyhow. We winded of our tour in the ostrich farm. Lots of activities here including ostrich feeding, ostrich neck massage, standing on top of the egg and the ostrich ride. I managed to stay on the bird for 10 seconds,
I didn’t expect SA to have such high standards of living .Thanks to the imperial rule so much has come in. Of course that doesn’t justify the deeds of the past. Cape Town definitely makes u feel to come back again and again and you need a good 5 days to enjoy it.
But FIFA world cup is planning to change all this . The final sign board as you enter the Joburg airport says “Thank you but Be here in June 2010”.
Going by what I experienced made me really feel bad about how little our administration had done in promoting tourism. May be I am thinking of writing a mail to Mr Irai Anbu, one of the reputed IAS officers in TN and currently the tourism secretary.