Monday, March 2, 2009

Splendid (and sick) South Africa

I'm sorry for not posting an update for so long, but I was sick last week and just haven't gotten around to it until now.  South Africa was awesome and I absolutely loved it even though I was getting a bad head cold toward the end.  I'll try and do a quick summary of the days with some pictures.  I highly recommend going to the World Cup in South Africa in 2010 and may even be going myself.   

Day 1:  Our ship docked at the V & A waterfront, which is upscale and fairly touristy.  It could be any coastal city in the US and reminds me particularly of San Francisco.  When we got off the ship, this was our view.  The very flat mountain a bit covered with clouds is the famous Table Mountain.

To the right of this picture is the main part of the waterfront with a huge mall, lots of nice restaurants (with cheap prices), a few pubs, street performers, and little shops.  The first day my friend Jill and I wandered around this area and I picked up a bunch of stuff I needed at the mall.  That night a bunch of my friends and I went out to dinner at one of these nice restaurants and then went to a pub.

Day 2: I had an all day trip through Semester at Sea called Cape Town, Apartheid and Robben Island.  In the morning we were going to go to two townships, which are at least 15 minutes outside the city.  It's pretty hard to describe a township and the size of them is astounding.  They are huge and hold hundred of thousands and even millions of residents.  It is basically the picture below stretching on for miles:

The houses are made mostly of these tin sheets usually have a dirt floor and running water shared at a common tap with neighbors.  There are projects going on to build stone houses for people, but you can imagine that the rate is at a snail's pace compared to the need.  The first township we visited is called Khayelitsha.  We stopped at a very nice bed a breakfast which was a triumph story of the townships.  Despite what we would consider destitute conditions, the people we met appeared happy.  There were a few kids hanging around and I went into a classroom of preschoolers at lunch and gave them all star stickers that I had brough along.  They were very cute.  Here is one little boy who didn't exactly get the smiling part of taking a picture:

Then we went to another township called Langa.  We had a very nice lunch at another oneo f the "triumphs" of the township, a restaurant called Lelapa.  There was a marimba band that played for us during lunch and I bought their CD.  Then we went to a cultural center in the township where people were selling some of the crafts they made, which were all very beautiful and I did buy a few things.  

Next we went to Robben Island, which is the famous prison where Nelson Mandela and other prisoners of the Apartheid served their time.  After a tour around the island by bus, we were given a tour of the prison.  All tour guides for the prison are former prisoners, which amazes me.  Our guide was there from 1983 through 1990 for being a part of Umkhonto we Sizwe, which was the military wing of the African National Congress.  The whole experience was very powerful.  

That night we went to Long Street (which we found out on our walk there was indeed very long) and had good pizza for dinner (which we all crave constantly along with many other American foods).  Then we went out to a bar and then a club.  The national animal of South Africa (a type of antelop) so of course they also have a Springbok Shot, which is amarula (kind of like Bailey's) and creme de menth and is absolutely delicious.

Day 3:  I slept in a bit and then went and used free internet on the waterfront for the rest of the morning.  It was so nice to visit any site that I wanted and not have to worry about usingup my internet minutes.  In the afternoon and couple of friends and I went down the coast a bit to a little beach town called Camp's bay, which is super cute.  We walked around, got an ice cream, sat on the beach and bought some curios, the South African word for all the crags and such that people sell in the street and in small stalls.

That night a bunch of us went to a rugby match, the Vodacom Stormers (the home team) vs. the Reds.  This was the professional league of South Africa, so something like the level of the NFL.  The game was very fun to watch and by the end I understood the scoring and could grasp what was going on.  The Stormers won 27-24.  This I learned is called a scrum.  This sort of pile is an organized one and the ball gets thrown in the middle and chaos ensues and the ball somehow pops out. 

The food at the game also served as entertainment.  Of course there was biltong, which is basically jerky and a South African staple.  There were also guys walking around with boxes of donuts and huge thermos backpacks of hot chocolate with basically a hose coming off the serve it into styrofoam cups.  After the game, I just went home and went to bed since I was starting to get a head cold at this point.  

Day 4:  First day of my full on head cold and also the day that my friends and I took a wine tour through Stellenbosch and Paarl.  We got taken out to a hotel where it was to start and we were driven around to five different wineries throughout the day where we got to taste a lot of delicious wines and have lunch all for 350 Rand, about 35 dollars.  Pretty good deal.  I actually poured out a great deal of my wine samples after tasting them, so I didn't end up drunk at the end of the day, which could not be said for everyone I was with.  At a vineyard called Fairview, they also made delicious cheeses and we got to try those as well.  The winelands are some of the most beautiful places I've ever seen with the vineyards and mountains in the background.  Her eis a picture from the yard in front of a vineyard called Dieu Donne.  

I went home and went to bed at 8[m while many of my friends went out because it was our last night in Cape Town.

Day 5:  My friends got up at the crack of dawn to hike Table Mountain and others went up at the cable car later, but I stayed home because I really wasn't feeling well.  I just wandered around the waterfront in the early afternoon and did some last minute shopping.  

The ship was supposed to set sail that evening at 8pm, but we didn't leave until the next morning because the winds were too high for us to navigate out of the narrow channel into the harbor.  Subsquently, we had to book it to get to Mauritius (which we did, more on that in a later entry).  We averaged about 27 knots for 4 days.  

During those four days, I was mostly sick and sleeping all day and night with a head cold and a fever for two days.  It was not very much fun, but at least it was while we were at sea, so I didn't miss anything in a port.  More on Mauritius though in a bit.  

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