BootsnAll Travel Network

July 7th, 2008 – Cape town, South Africa

Today I had to wake up early yet again for a tour.  I decided to do a Township tour which is basically a tour around the poorer and segregated areas of Cape Town.  The tour picked us up at half past eight in the morning and Rusty, Helen and I went along for the ride.  The first stop on the tour was the District Six Museum.  District Six was an area of Cape Town that was heavily populated with Blacks up until the 1950’s when the government basically ordered them all out.  They demolished virtually all of District Six and put up some new structures, but this was basically a way to get all the blacks out of the city and away from the whites and others.

We spent about twenty five minutes in the museum and our second stop was our first township called Langha.  Here we visited a local illegal beer shop in the alleyway’s of the township.  It was dark, smoky and these women make this low yielding alcohol to sustain their livelihood in the township.  The original purpose was not to make this beer commercially but with the unemployment rate of the township at over 50% what choice do they have.  They poured the beer in to this metal bucket and we all took a taste.  To tell you the truth it tasted horrible.  I took a very little sip and did not enjoy it one bit.  From the beer shop we made our way on wooden planks above dark, black sludge that is supposed to be a road of some sort through the township and in to someone’s home.  Basically in this hostel type living accommodations, it is three family per room.  One family per bed, three to four beds per tiny room.  Some families can be up to eight people and our guide Djonga basically said that it is about 30 rand per month per family plus how much electricity they want to pay for.  He also said that these are popular with single males, as it is cheap, space is tight, but they get a bed for 30 rand a month which is roughly $3.35 per month.  Djonga also told us that a lot of these shared rooms are being converted in to slightly more expensive one family apartments.

After that we went to a local craft shop in the township where I purchased a bracelet made out of Elephant’s hair (don’t worry no animals were harmed in the making of this blog).  We got back in the van and were then taken to a children’s center that was built by the tour operators and others.  There we played with young kids and it was so much fun.  They were jumping on us, I was picking them up, sometimes two of them at a time. They were so happy to see us it was one of the best experiences of my entire trip hands down.  They didn’t speak a word of english, but that wasn’t necessary, since our actions spoke louder than our words.  Our next stop was to see this local medicine man.  The store had no lights, one area had candle light and basically this guy makes herbal local remedies using plants, roots, and animal skin.  He learned the trade through the spirits of his grandfather.  Apparently the ability to learn through spirits skips a generation and therefore skipped his father and went to him.  Truthfully it was nothing special and then it was back in the van for our final stop.  We went to a cooperative shop where local women have the ability to make crafts like handwoven rugs, mats and other sorts of things.  They are given 75% of the money made off of each item they make and 25% goes back to the NGO for supplies and other expenses they have.  It is a great system and here I bought a cool guitar made out of a recycled 7up soda can.  I doubt it will make it home as it is quite fragile but I will try my best to do so.  It went to a good cause so I didn’t mind how bad I was ripped off by it.

The rest of the tour was just driving by the rest of the townships and then we went home.  All of the townships are near the airport in the outskirts of Cape Town, just what the government and the white people wanted.  The government is trying to knock all the shanty’s and slums down and put up low income housing so your first impression of Cape town aren’t these townships.  It is really hard to describe with words these townships.  It is clear what has happened and how segregation between blacks, whites and coloured still very much exists in South Africa.  Oh “coloured” is a term which describes offspring from a white european and a black individual.  They are classified differently from whites, and blacks.  There were separate areas and there still are separate areas for coloureds, whites, and blacks.

I was dropped off on Long Street at my travel agency.  They told me the day before I could come and set up shop to try and get a plane ticket home.  After about two hours on the phone with Etihad airways and another travel agency I was able to secure a ticket home.  Unfortunately I was NOT able to get a refund on my previous ticket for some reason, and was forced to buy a one way ticket home for 6950 rand.  It is too painful to say in US dollars so you can convert it if you like.  To finalize the ticket I had to go to Flight Centre the travel agency and fill out some forms.  Of course it started to rain which made my life that much harder.  It ended up being about a fifteen minute walk since I wasn’t quite sure where to go and where I was.  I hadn’t spent much time in the centre of Cape Town so I had to do my best to find the place.  At around 315pm I got a taxi, who ripped me off, because I didn’t use a metered taxi, back to the hostel just in time to say goodbye to my new friend Nicola Day from the UK!

After she left, I basically bummed around the hostel the rest of the night.  Had a few drinks, played some ping pong, watched “I am Legend” which a bunch of people from the hostel and went to sleep.


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