Thursday, May 31, 2012

Continent #6: A RADIKL South African Journey: Part 1 of 3/Capetown

Goeiemôre! (This means Good Morning in Afrikans; a main language spoken in South Africa)

Five years ago, I set a goal to visit the 7 continents of the world by age 30. Africa makes 6 and for all intensive purposes, I've met my goal. (Antarctica while not impossible will take a lot more planning and a lot more money). Tomorrow, I turn South Africa! Even with this goal in view, I hadn't imagined turning a new decade in a continent different than the USA.

aboard the flight to South Africa, first stop Amsterdam
The true hero of this journey is my husband Richard. The goal was mine, but the flawless planning was all his. For someone who has never been to Africa, he figured out the most important targets to hit. I'm forever grateful to all the love and care he took making sure this trip was unforgettable.

With all the traveling I've been fortunate to experience, this trip ranks #1. From New York, through Amsterdam we arrived in Capetown last Friday, and stayed through Monday. The greatest highlights of our stay was the service, view of Capetown and other parts of South Africa even to the direction of Antarctica from Table Mountain and the lessons learned. But, I'll get back to that shortly.

living room in the suite in Cape Royale
For about two weeks, I've grown increasingly excited about this trip. So much so, I lost my appetite and couldn't sleep. By the time we arrived in our 2 bedroom, 2 bathroom ultra contemporary, luxurious suite
at the Cape Royale that Richard selected, I was through the roof. This may sound strange, but in my mind I prepared myself for one argument between my sweetie and I on this trip. Not the end of the world, but 9 days in a foreign place and two strong, very different, yet similar personalities, passion and could happen. And it did, shortly after we arrived. It stung for both of us into the next day, but we tried to shake it off. My feeling was now that, that was out of way, the rest of this trip would be amazing...and it has been.

Africa is currently in Winter. The mornings can be very cold, nearing 40 degrees and highs of 65. We spent the second, first full day in the city center. The colors, beautiful people, shopping and laid back pace reminded me a lot of Rio, Brazil. We ate lunch at a cute restaurant called 'Roberto's' on Long Street. The waiter was from Jo' Burg (Johannesburg) our final leg on this trip. His level of service was top notch and the food was a great start to our ethnic endeavor.

a sign in the Capetown airport fitting for this trip
During our walk through the streets of the city center we were approached by people asking for money and food. We took one woman asking, grocery shopping. She picked out whatever she needed and we took care of the bill. She was extremely grateful and respectful. We all hugged and Richard and I went a separate way. For one or two more we gave some small bills and to others we declined and kept going.

outdoor market shopping
After lots of pictures, sight seeing and outdoor market shopping, we walked to the convention center where they were hosting a Food and Wine Festival. The CC was packed! Local vendors, international retailers and television networks with cooking shows all had booths. We tried everything from African mineral salt to loose leaf tea. Once we had our fill, we made it back to the hotel to pick a place for dinner. We chose the waterfront, which has shopping, restaurants, boating of course and other tourist attractions. Instead of taking the complimentary shuttle provided by our hotel, we decided to walk the 10 minutes.

Food and Wine Festival
The area we stayed in Capetown is statistically the safest with little to no crime. Unfortunately, we became part of an almost non existent statistic. On our walk to the waterfront, we were approached by a young man who asked Richard to give him some money, specifically a small bill. Richard gave him the smallest bill he had, 100R (Rand) bill. That equals about $12. He then asked for all of our money and flashed a knife at Richard. He continued to say, 'don't try to run.' I never took my eyes off of him or his red book bag. It was happening so fast, it seemed like time stood still. So fast that until he said don't try to run, I didn't differentiate this occurrence from the previous encounters when people asked for money. Richard gave him the rest of what he had and still he didn't believe it was everything. Richard showed him the inside of his wallet repeating he had no more money. Finally, the mugger walked away.

picture of Nelson Mandela in a storefront window
Richard and I continued our walk to the waterfront, visibly shaken up. We stopped at a hotel a short distance away to explain what happened. Their desk attendants were shocked by our story. The area has hidden cameras lining the street and armed police patrolling the block. Technically, this shouldn't have happened, here.The hotel called one of their cars to drive us the rest of the way. We went to the ATM, sat down to dine and shared our feelings about the incident. All we could think about were the people we told no who asked for money or food for money. We said no to people in need and someone came and took what we chose not to give. That broke our hearts the most. God had spared us, kept us safe and we were thankful. Any remnant of the argument we previously had was gone immediately. The lessons were clear and deep.

We reported the mugging to our hotel who were also shocked and terribly sorry it happened. The police were made aware and we moved on.

Richard atop Table Mountain
We spent the next day exploring Table Mountain and the surrounding area. The Mountain looks over the city, the ocean and the neighboring islands. It looked like the sun and the sky had no endpoints. One begins where the other ends. The remainder of the day we took advantage of our expansive hotel services. I enjoyed the spa and Richard rested in the room. With a 6am flight the following day to our next destination, we stopped by the lounge next door, ordered room service and called it a night.

Our driver upon arrival into Capetown airport returned the following morning to take us back and we bid farewell to the beautiful city. Now off to an unparallelled retreat of total seclusion, nature, wildlife, history and culture, our adventure was just getting started!

Stay tuned for Part 2 of 3 in Kruger Park!


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