Cape Town

cape town sunsetSlowly I take a hearty swig of homemade maize beer. I’m in a township, a temporary collection of scrap metal shacks that is home to a hundreds thousand people. Behind me the imperious Table Mountain stands above the city, 260 million years of rock dominating the skyline. Yesterday I was dining beside luxurious yachts and locals in designer clothing. And tomorrow I going to learn to kite surf.

Many Faces of Cape Town

There are many sides to Cape Town. In one day you can experience poor and rich, active and sedentary, as well as nature and city streets. This morning I was lying on a beach and this evening I will be hitting the bars of raucous Long Street, Africa’s most energetic night out. But right now I’m on a township tour, exploring the dilapidated homes of the city’s poor. Women walk past with babies strapped to their backs, men shout hello and invite me for more maize beer, and inside a shack church a chorus of young voices welcome me to the Dunoon Township. My preconceptions told me to be scared. But that’s not what I’m experiencing.

Table Mountain

Cape Town’s beauty can be found in many places. On top of Table Mountain looking out at where the Indian and Atlantic oceans meet. Along the virgin coastline that sets off from South Africa’s south west corner and stretches 1000kms to Namibia. Or in the iconic skyline of vertical rock overlooking city lights. But most beautiful is how the city’s different people live harmoniously together. In the township I’m welcomed with no credence to my differing skin colour or origin. In bars and restaurants friendships are continually forged between those who had very different pasts.

Nelson Mandela and Robben Island

Everyone is indebted to the forefather of modern South Africa, Nelson Mandela. A short boat ride from Cape Town is Robben Island, home of the maximum security prison where Mandela was incarcerated in isolation for 20 years. Ex residents conduct tours of the prison, telling tales of the harsh conditions and their famous fellow prisoner. As one of the leaders of anti-apartheid party the ANC, Mandela spent 28 years as a political prisoner before being released and leading the country peacefully into a new age.

He ruled for only five years but his legacy lives on. South Africans are loaded full of a positivity I haven’t seen before. They’ve forgotten the past, and live for the now. Everywhere I go I’m greeted with “How are you and how is your family?” In most other countries there is a preoccupation with “where are you from and what do you do?”

Cape Towns People

Cape Town’s people are symptomatic of the city’s attractions; widely varied and unique, but neatly fitting together. Museums tell of the city’s past, forests leave me in the solitude of nature, and opulent restaurants serve up fresh seafood. Some days I spend learning to surf, while on others I explore vibrant food markets and colonial buildings. I sweat profusely on the two hour climb up Table Mountain but find Ethiopian coffee houses and Cuban cocktail bars to rest my legs. And I leave with a hundred new facebook friends, all offering a place to stay when I return…

About Stephen

Professional media consultant and writer.