Sixteen of us "rocked-up" in Cape Town on Wednesday. That means we arrived -- jet lagged but jubilant. For Susie and I this was a long-awaited return. For the rest of the troopers, it was an exciting new adventure.
South Africa for us, represents the best kind of kite trip. The country is spectacular with a dramatic and compelling history. The people are warm, friendly, and caring. And we're here not just to sight-see and fly, but also to support a worthy cause.
The kite "troopers" this year included Kevin and Linda Sanders, Sam and Anne Huston, Kurt and Faye Lisk, Cheryl and Virginia Hempfleng, Barbara Hall, Jo Barbur, Darryl and Mandy Waters, Linda Hankins, and Susan's Mother, Carole Oswald. We had plans for a week in Cape Town, then off on Safari, and conclude with a historical tour of the Zulu Battlefields.
Cape Town is an amazing city. The skyline is dominated by Table Mountain and we couldn't resist a gondola ride to the top our first morning there. We spent that afternoon in the rambling Kirshtenbosch Botanical Gardens.
Our Cape Town base is the Breakwater Lodge. This re-furbished hotel was once a notorious prison and bars can still be seen at some of the doors. The punishment "treadmill" is still on display and isolation cells are available. It is definitely one of the best jails I've ever stayed in.
Much darker was our visit to Robben Island where anti-apartheid activists and political prisoners were held. Our guide was a former inmate who detailed daily life and the efforts of prisoners to maintain their spirit and hope for the future. In 1994, Nelson Mandela ended 20 years of incarceration there and began a new era in South Africa by urging reconciliation and forgiveness as a new government formed.
Our first formal kite fly of the trip was with the children of the Kyalisha Township. This had been a highlight of our 2001 visit and we were determined to return here.
For ten years, the Cape Mental Health Association has organized the South Africa festivals. The joyful and carefree aspects of kiting are an important part of their mental health message. But in Kyalisha, the situation is a bit more intense. Severely disabled children, living in the most unimaginative conditions, receive support and care from the local CMH facility. And our kiting visit brings a spark of imagination, excitement, fun, and equally important, media attention. After touring the care center, we move to Peace Park for a blustery kite show.
Children who have never seen anything like what we have in our bags flock to the site. It is emotional for them, and for us as well. And afterwards, it is hard to say who is more affected by the experience.
Our tour of Cape Town continued with a traditional African luncheon in the Township, a visit to the nearby wine country, bargaining in the craft markets, a drive to the Cape of Good Hope, and a rapid-fire rotation of food, shopping, food, shopping, food and .... shopping.
On Saturday, we joined local kiters at Dolphin Beach for our largest flying event. The formal festival, after ten successful years, had lost their sponsor and been cancelled. But we had come anyway to help maintain momentum, media attention, and make an important statement of support for the event and Cape Mental Health. Besides, it is always more fun to share a field with friends. The beach overlooked the bay with a stunning vista of Table Mountain across the water.
That night, our group joined fliers and CMH supporters for a 'braai' in a lovely private home in the Cape Town suburbs. In the warm starry sky, they pointed out the Southern Cross. We ate, drank the wine we had bought the day before, and strengthened new friendships until late into the South African night.
As I said before, Cape Town is an amazing city. And in five days, we'd endeavored to see as much as we could of the vistas, the history, the drama, and the people. Susan and I had fallen in love with the country when we came two years before. Now we were watching others in our group do the same. And the best was yet to come! We packed our bags and headed to the airport. We were leaving the city and going on Safari!!
This is very important. The 'intellectually disabled' children supported by Cape Mental Health in Kyalisha live in unimaginable conditions. But with the help of the Association, they receive support, care and nutrition. Unfortunately, CMH has just lost one of the two buses they need to bring kids to the center each day.
What this means is that half the kids in need must be left at home. Their parents - usually a single parent - are forced to leave them alone while working. There are no other alternatives for transportation or special-needs care.
Our group was determined to help in some small way, and we invite you to be a part of this show of support from the kiting community. If you can send a small check to GKPI, or authorize a deduction from your credit card, we'll forward the donations. We want to gather as many small contributors as possible. I'm sure our collection will not pay for a bus. But it will show the broader support that exists for this important program and surely draw significant local matching funds. Thank you.
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