Jill's African Adventure
* Adventures in Oudtshoorn
* Cape Town
* The Problems of Zimbabwe
* Visiting Isabel
* A Day by the River
* Practical Stuff (But please read!)
* The Elephants Don't Want Me to Eat
* Its a Small World (Blantyre and Beyond)
* The Night Bus: From Nkhata Bay to Zomba
* Lake Malawi
* Reflections on East Africa
* The Long Road to Malawi: Part 2
* The Long Road to Malawi: Part 1
* Parc National des Volcans
* Kibale Forest
* Back and Forth from Kampala
* Rafting the Nile
* Murchison Falls
October 06, 2005
After I left Zimbabwe, I headed into Botswana. My plan was to visit the Makgadikgadi Pans and then the Okavango Delta before heading into Namibia. This didn't quite work out. When I got to Botswana I was just really tired of travelling. I kept thinking about going home and the thought of yet another bus ride just sounded terrible. I really did want to go home, but had this feeling that if I went home at this point I would regret it. After about two days of thinking about what to do I finally decided to skip the pans, just go to the Delta and then see how I felt. I made a reservation at a camp, checked out of my guest house, and walked to the bus station.
And could not make myself get on the bus to Maun, near the Delta.
I went into the lounge, sat down for a few minutes, and decided to fly home which meant getting either to Botswana's capital, Gaborone or Johannesburg, South Africa. Made in reservation for Gaborone for that night. Cancelled my reservation in Maun. Got on the bus to Gaborone. It was crazy and it was sad. I knew that I had made the right decision to not go to Maun, but the thought that my trip was just so suddenly over did not seem right. About an hour or two into the bus ride I came up with a third option: instead of going to the Delta or flying home, I could find a nice cosy hostel in Cape Town and stay there until I felt like travelling again or until I was sure that I wanted to go home.
This meant a few days of hard travelling. The ride to Gaborone was about six hours long and was followed the next day by another 6 or so hour long ride to Pretoria. I then gave myself a day off of travelling to sit around and do pretty much nothing before the really long twenty hour, extremely over-air-conditioned overnight bus ride from Pretoria to Cape Town.
As it turned out, going to Cape Town was an excellent decision. Cape Town is a wonderful, beautiful city situated around Table Mountain. It has a harbor, beautiful beaches, good restaurants, and lots of good hiking areas. Penguin viewing and whale watching could be done on day trips. In short, Cape Town was the perfect place to relax and recharge. I ended up staying for three weeks. Mostly I just relaxed, but I did get out a little. Here are a few highlights:
Happy Birthday to Me
Prisoners generally didn't have sufficient clothing or food. (Black prisoners anyway. White, Indian, and Colored prisoners actually got more provisions.) Visits from family were limited to thirty minutes once every six months and only domestic issues could be discussed. The prisoners worked most days in a quarry, often just moving a pile of rocks from point A to point B to point C and then back to point A again.
The most thought provoking fact to me, though, was why our guide had been in prison. He said he had been convicted of sabotage for burning down a government building, but that he should have been convicted of arson. This was more than a bit surprising to hear. I think most people generally have a glorified view of political prisoners. My "image" of political prisoners had previously been been that of someone leading protests or writing subversive literature. But in fact, many political prisoners (Mandela included) actually commited violent acts that would be severly punished in almost any society. Under almost any circumstances what our guide did would have been wrong. Which begs the question: was it wrong for him to have burnt down the government building? And to that question, I do not have an answer. What no one asked our guide, was: Were there any people in the building? Was it part of a larger organized plan? Or was it something he did on his own, caught up in the times? It may be that he was just convicted of sabotage rather than arson because sabotage carried a heavier penalty and the government wanted to put him away for a long time.
When we reached the top of the mountain we were treated to beautiful views of the western (I think) side of the city and the realization that although the top of Table Mountain looks flat from below in the city, in reality, it is not. We were still going up, although at a bit less of a steep angle. The top of the mountain was covered with heath and wildflowers, mostly fynbos, which are a type of plant endemic to the Cape region. Very beautiful. When Angela and I reached one of the lookout points we stopped for lunch. As we were eating the clouds started rolling in. As we walked over to the other side of the mountain all was foggy. We could only see a little ways in front of us and the views disappeared. At one viewpoint we stopped and looked down into endless nothingness. At that point we were at the upper cable car station and agreed that we had hiked up the mountain and that there was really no need to hike down when we could just take the cable car.
Posted by Jillian on October 6, 2005 06:39 AM
Category: Southern Africa
Email this page