As the plane came in, I looked out the window and exclaimed, Jislaaik! That's a hang of a mountain, hey!". Susan looked up sleepily and replied, "Jawelnofine". We had been traveling for more than 36 hours -- Portland to LA - to Frankfurt -- an eight hour wait -- then down to Jo-Burg and finally Cape Town. Eina!
We've just been here in Cape Town three days. The people are remarkable and the city amazing.
We are guests of the Cape Mental Health Society and their 9th annual International Kite Festival. The event itself is next weekend but we came a few days early to try and get better acquainted with this intriguing country.
Our base will be the delightful Homestead House in the Pinelands Garden District. It seems the B&B has seen the likes of Craig and Betsy Wilson, Scott Skinner, Anne Harris and Jos and Kaatje Valke in past years. Our hostess Ann gave us our first lessons in Afrikaans.
Sunday, we flew near the waterfront as part of a promotional event for the press. The launch site was a small rocky bluff in the center of the shopping area. But we were focused on the majestic vista of Table Mountain in the background.
It seems we are scheduled all week with different guides and different agendas. We've seen the master plan, but don't actually have a copy. Our itinerary includes a trip to the Wine Lands, visits to the cheetah breeding facility, a short speech to Rotary, a fun fly at the penguin colony, tours of the botanical gardens, a radio interview for Susie with the regional woman's network, a cable car trip to the top of the mountain, a children's fly in one of the neighboring townships, visits to facilities for disabled kids, press flies, an authentic African braai, and a bit of local shopping. Whew!!
Not knowing for sure when you are doing what and with whom is all part of the fun. But this excitement does tend to wear one out!
BTW -- Did you know that the African Cheetah is the only large cat that can be domesticated?? I wonder how long it took them to cross all the others off the list!
Kiting and travel is all about the people, and the people here are open, friendly, and engaging. We feel privileged to be invited into their homes and their lives and to learn more about this fascinating place.
There is an unfortunate underside to the South African mystique that is as stark as the protective garden walls, guard dogs, barbed wire, and omnipresent security alarms.
Our hosts for dinner reminded us that ten years ago, they lacked the right to vote or use public facilities because of their color. We know that 40% of the population is unemployed and dismally poor, that millions suffer from Aids, and that violent crime is common. Security, crime, and poverty is a part of daily life. We've just learned that a kiter from the north was wounded in a carjacking on his way to the festival.
Still, there is a spirit of optimism that has grown from the amazing ability to undertake historic change in just a few years. There are good people here, of all cultures and races working hard to make things better. And while Susie and I try always to stay acutely aware of our surroundings whenever we travel, we do not feel unusually vulnerable in any way.
The venue is breathtaking. We've been to many beautiful places on our travels, but South Africa is simply stunning. Last night we watched the sun set over the convergence of the Pacific and Indian Oceans at the very southern tip of the continent.
I'm very glad we are in South Africa. And we still have a week to go!
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