Well, after 73 days of overlanding from Kenya to South Africa, our life on the road has finally come to an end. 😢
We have sure been through quite the journey together. My friend Jackie even pinned all the places we visited in Africa on Google maps. 😮It was a combination of tears, laughs, and lots of wine, as we spent our final days together in the beautiful wine region of South Africa.
Anyway, I couldn’t imagine a better place to end this trip than in the stunning city of Cape Town, South Africa. ❤We had our first night’s accommodation in Cape Town provided by Absolute Africa, as well as, a final group meal.
From there I moved into a more budget-friendly hostel, Cat and Moose Backpackers Lodge, where my roommate has been an old Korean women who performs calisthenics in our room at 6 AM and farts likes nobody’s listening. Hah! 😛
Anyway, I only had four days to explore this vibrant and colorful city, and there was so much for me to see. From the gorgeous waterfront, home to many posh boutiques and seafood restaurants, to the modern and trendy marketplaces in the city center, Cape Town has truly surprised me to be a lot more fun and funky than I could have ever imagined!
Now after doing a bit of solo wandering, I decided to take a few free walking tours, to get better informed about the history of Cape Town, and the eclectic neighborhoods that make up this colorful city.
Cape Town Bo-Kaap Neighborhood Walking Tour
One of the first neighborhoods I explored was Bo-Kaap, which was formerly owned by ex-Malaysian slaves. After the slaves were freed in the late 19th century, their Dutch slave owners built these residence quarters, in Cape Dutch style, to accommodate these newly-freed citizens. The residents were primarily Muslim, so this is also where the first mosque was constructed in Cape Town.
Now the homes were originally white, but after the end of apartheid in South Africa, the homes were painted in vibrant colors, as a expression of freedom and individuality after a long history of suppression.The area is now highly-sought after, and there are problems with gentrification in the neighborhood, where poor residents are being slowly moved out to make room for expensive modern developments.What I found totally ironic about this incredibly photogenic neighborhood, is that it’s the only place with free parking in the city. Just try and get a good shot with all those cars lined up for a free spot. Hah! 😛
Anyway, our guide on the walking tour also talked to us about the subsequent Malaysian influence in Cape Town, primarily in regards to cuisine. One of the most popular Cape Malay dishes here is called bobotie. Bobotie is a curried minced meat baked with an egg topping, that is served with yellow rice and chutney. The flavors are a mix of spicy and sweet, with the incorporation of ingredients like chili pepper and curry powder, as well as, brown sugar and raisins.
There’s even a cooking class in Bo-Kaap called, Cooking with Love, where you learn to cook traditional dishes in the home of a local.
Now, one of my favorite parts of these walking tours is getting inside tips from local guides. For example, our guide pointed out his favorite coffee shop, which he said, displays some very useful advice. 😛
Cost: Free! (tips appreciated)
Cape Town District Six Walking Tour
Now for an inside perspective of the apartheid era of South Africa, where it was illegal for whites and blacks to mix, I took a walking tour in the District Six neighborhood of Cape Town.
District Six is simply the sixth district of Cape Town, which before the apartheid era, was home to primarily black and colored residents. For this reason, the government didn’t even bother to give the neighborhood a name, and simply called it, ‘District Six.’
Side note: Although the term ‘colored’ is not politically correct in the U.S., this term is fully accepted in South Africa, and the designation is worn with pride.
Anyway, when the law of apartheid was enforced (nationwide discrimination on grounds of race), the area of District Six was declared a whites-only area, and the homes of the black residents were burned to the ground, with the citizens forced to leave.
Now this system of institutionalized segregation lasted from 1948 until 1991, and now the former residents of District Six have come back to reclaim their land. Unfortunately, they are only able to do so if they can prove to the government that they once lived there, which is impossible considering their homes were reduced to rubble and ash. Currently only around 300 properties have been verified out of more than 60,000 residents which were forced to flee! Luckily, the local community has developed a ‘Hands Off District Six’ alliance, which has halted the gentrification of the area, and left it open to the returning impoverished residents. As I walked through District Six, I saw this mural of a women protesting, painted by internationally-known street artist, Faith 47. To me it symbolizes strength and pride, and citizens which are not willing to give up the fight against justice and equality. Now obviously this is a very complex issue, and one that I could not do justice with in this small paragraph. What I would recommend; however, is checking out a book that I read during my overland tour called, When She Was White: The True Story of a Family Divided By Race, by Judith Stone. It talks about a girl that had white parents, but because of her dark complexion, was constantly questioned about her race. This issue affected her throughout her life, and even became a well-known court case.
Cape Town Woodstock Street Art Tour
Now one of the last tours I went on in the city was in the Woodstock neighborhood of Cape Town, originally an area with high-crime, which thanks to the powers of inspirational street art, has since turned a new leaf.The change was made when residents began using street art as a way to express themselves. It has helped to invigorate the community, and redirected them towards a more useful purpose.The revolution began in 2010, when a local street artist asked residents if he could paint their empty walls. The completed street art was seen as inspiration to the residents of Woodstock, and now there are about a dozen local street artists creating pieces in Woodstock, each with their own unique design and message. For example, some of the pieces place emphasis on wildlife conservation. For many poor residents in South Africa, the luxury of a safari will never be feasible, and these images of wildlife are the closest they’ll ever get to the real thing. Now some of my favorite pieces were those that showed the equality between animals and man. For example, in this piece of a wolf, there is a similar profile of its human counterpart.
Another example of respect for wildlife looks at the idea of reincarnation. You never know what animal you may become in your next life, so treat all animals with kindness. Now some of the street art even touches on the idea of equality between races, and the history of apartheid in South Africa. For example, here is a mural of the Soweto Uprising, a student demonstration against the teachings of racist education, including lessons in Afrikaans, the language of the white oppressor. The pieces don’t always have to be painted either, like this beautiful installation piece I found on the back of a church door. ❤On a different spectrum, they also have some pieces, which are used as a method of peaceful resistance against the gentrification of Woodstock. This community, just like District Six and Bo-Kaap, have had issues with the government trying to create expensive new developments, and evict the poor residents from their homes.
They even have two common tags on the art pieces. One being of a cockroach, which symbolizes how these pieces will be everlasting. The second is of the phrase, ‘the time is !xnau’, which is the local Khoisan language, symbolizing how these pieces are unique and individual to this neighborhood.
This street art revolution has even attracted the likes of international street artists. For example, this foreign artist hand-drew this piece in only one day! 😮Speed is not necessary; however, since Woodstock has apartments available for both foreign and local artists, for use during the creation of their piece. Overall, these art pieces make the residents very proud of their neighborhood, and even happier when tourists come to visit their completed works of art.This excitement was very evident upon my arrival, as I was eagerly greeted by my guide, a local resident and current engineering student, who was beloved by everyone in the community. As we walked down the street, everyone said hello to the two of us, and we even ran into his uncle, who asked to take a photo with me, and welcomed me to Woodstock. 😀
To go above and beyond, he even invited me to tour his home, where I met his father, his cat, and his family’s treasured collection of rare canary birds! ❤
In the end, I found it to be a very personal experience, and highly recommended for anyone in the area. 😀
Cost: Free! (suggested tip ~5-10 USD)
Anyway, that wraps up my time in Cape Town. I was lucky to spend my last evening in South Africa with an old friend, a local resident, who I had previously taught with in Istanbul.
Now today I’ll be heading back to the States, to enjoy a bit a catch up with my family and some well-deserved R&R. Stay tuned for word on my next adventure. Until then. 😀