Back to Cape Town and the Legacy of Nelson Mandela
TR Robertson — Day 13 of our South African Adventure
and our time at Walvis Bay, Namibia, was drawing to a close. We set sail for another day at sea heading south, returning to Cape Town, for the final part of the cruise. The sail back was smooth and those on board found a number of things to do to pass the time. Our two guest lecturers, Professor Tim Hughes and Dr. Ken Beattie, wrapped up their presentations on Nelson Mandela and South African culture and geography. Many took part in the activities on board, all listed in our daily programs we received the night before. As usual the food on board was excellent and people could choose between the Waves Grill, The Terrace Café, The Grand Dining Room and in the evenings, if you signed up ahead of time, one of the restaurants located on Deck 9, The Polo Grill or The Toscano. There was always entertainment in the evenings. Before and after dinner, many would listen to a beautiful string quartet or take in the performances in the Nautica Lounge. The entertainment provided was different each night and ranged from shows provided by the Nautica Production Singers, or the Nautica Band, or guest performers like Artur Banaszkiewicz, an amazing violinist from Poland or Ian Von Memerty, a comedian, singer and pianist from South Africa, to name a few. There was always dancing for folks who wanted to stay up late into the evening. If you have never been on a cruise you are missing a wonderful experience and a great way to explore the world.
As we approached Cape Town our ship entered Table Bay where we would dock at the Marina port. Our tour would be ending covering 4,276 miles, not counting the miles we drove on our land tours in the various ports where we stopped. As the ship docked we would spend one more night on board through Day 15 and would be leaving the ship on Day 16. For Day 15, Carolyn had arranged a tour for us, using Springbok Tours, which would take us to some more incredible sites in the Cape Town area. Our guide, Dane, picked us up shortly after our arrival and we headed out to our first stop, a Table Mountain National Park Marine Protected Area at Boulders Beach in False Bay, home to over 2-3,000 African Penguins. These small endangered penguins are visible by walking out on a series of boardwalks that hug the coastline and meander through the shrubbery and rocks. The penguins can be seen waddling in the sand, nesting and swimming in the ocean, just off the coastline. This area receives over 60,000 visitors a year.
Next on our day around Cape Town, Dane took us to one of the most visited areas in the Cape Town area, the Table Mountain National Park and The Cape of Good Hope. This park was established in 1938 and now encompasses 19,150 acres. It is home to 1,100 species of indigenous plants. The National Park is home to a variety of animals like zebra, eland, antelope, water mongoose, Cape clawless otter and hundreds of extremely mischievous baboons. From various spots at the Cape you can occasionally spot humpback whales, Bryde’s whales along with seals and dolphins. When you have driven as far as you can drive, visitors can either walk up a pathway or grab a ride on the Flying Dutchman Funicular. This three minute ride will take you up to the lighthouse built in 1859. The Funicular is named after the mysterious ghost ship, The Flying Dutchman. South African folklore has it that in 1641, Captain Hendrik van der Decken, a ship’s captain from the Dutch East India Company, whose ship hit the rocks near the Cape of Good Hope and sunk with all on board. He and his ship now forever sail the ocean searching for the port they never reached. Vasco de Gama called this area The Cape of Storms. It is now said the Flying Dutchman’s ship can be seen in the mist of stormy days. After a visit to the lighthouse, we drove to Cape Point to get a picture by a sign stating this is the furthest southeastern point of Africa. Our trip to the Cape of Good Hope and back to the ship took us by incredible vistas and roads high above the ocean, amazing beaches, quaint coastal towns and beautiful landscapes.
On our final day in South Africa, Dane picked us up, along with our over-packed luggage, and we set off again for our final visits to new locations before arriving at the Cape Town International Airport. Our first stop was at Kirstenbosch National Botanical Garden, the largest of the country-wide network of eleven botanical gardens. This 1,304 acre garden was established in 1913 and has a magnificent collection of thousands of indigenous plants as well as many rare and endangered species. The huge botanical garden is divided into 29 separate areas connected by miles of trails. The garden has a large concert area where performances are held and a beautiful gift shop with many unusual gifts available for visitors. The garden also provides a number of educational programs for schools as well as university students. What made our visit to Kirstenbosch so amazing was that Dane had arranged for Carolyn and myself to get a private tour in an electric cart, taking us around the entire garden. Our guide, who worked for Kirstenbosch, was named George and he knew everything there was to know about every part of the botanical garden and everything growing in the garden. He was an absolute delight to meet and a wonderful way to help finish our tour in Cape Town.
After our garden tour ended, we had asked Dane to take us to a South African winery of his choosing. Since we were up against a time constraint for getting to the airport, he chose one of the many Constantia Wineries, Groot Constantia, which was closer to the route to the airport. This beautiful winery was established in 1685 and is one of eleven on the Constantia Wine Route. We had heard South African wines were becoming famous around the world. Their Pinots and Chardonnays are becoming world class. To our amazement, there are over 100 wineries in the Cape Town area alone. Along with the area we were in, the Stellenbosch and Somerset West Wineries are popular destinations. For our wine tasting, we chose a selection of 5 wines paired with some delicious chocolates. Of course we bought some to take back to the states as well as a specially packaged Grand Constantia wine, some of the oldest wine of this type made in South Africa. This wine was actually drunk by Napoleon when he was in exile on the island of Saint Helena in 1815. Wine and luggage in hand we made it to the airport on time, even having a little time to do a little more shopping in the gift shops at the airport.
Before ending this tour, I felt any article about South Africa would not be complete without telling readers a little about the most famous of all South Africans, Nelson Mandela, the man who sacrificed, struggled, persevered, and was an inspiration and political voice for the “new” South Africa. Volumes have been written about Mandela, documentaries and films have covered his life inside and out. I will simply give you some highlights of his life and the impact he had on the South Africa we were able to see and enjoy.
Mandela was born in the village of Mvezo in the Eastern Cape of South Africa, on July 18, 1918. His father died when he was 12 years old. He struggled as a student, especially as he became older and more active in student political movements. He was also an excellent runner and boxer in his younger years. Through perseverance he would eventually get a law degree and work in Johannesburg as a lawyer. Mandela was married three times, he fathered six children and had seventeen grandchildren seventeen great-grandchildren. In 1943 he joined the African National Congress and in 1944 he co-founded the Youth League. Mandela was repeatedly arrested as he demonstrated against the National Party’s white only government apartheid policies. Mandela secretly joined the banned South African Communist Party, although some believe this did not happen. In 1961 he led a sabotage campaign against the government, was arrested and imprisoned in 1962. He and others who helped him was sentenced to life imprisonment for conspiring to overthrow the state. Mandela would serve 27 years in prison split between 18 years in Robben Island, 6 years in Polismoor Prison and 3 years in Victor Verster Prison. Fear of growing domestic and international pressure of his continued imprisonment and fear of a racial civil war, South African President F W de Klerk ordered the release of Nelson Mandela in 1990. Upon release, Mandela would stay with Archbishop Desmond Tutu and he and Tutu would speak to over 100,000 people at Soccer City in Johannesburg as they pushed their efforts to end apartheid and bring about a multi-racial government. Mandela would be elected South Africa’s President in 1994 in the country’s first multi-racial general election. While in office, a new constitution and a Truth and Reconciliation Committee would be formed to establish and look at human rights abuses. Nelson Mandela was a controversial figure during his life and his personal life was met with many hardships, trials and tribulations. He would receive more than 250 honors including the Nobel Peace Prize. Mandela died on December 5, 2013. When many South Africans speak of Mandela today they refer to him with his Xhosa clan name, Madiba, Father of the Nation. Numerous books are available about the life and times of Nelson Mandela and there are two films that give a glimpse of his life. Idris Elba starred in “Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom” in 2013 and the 2009 film, “Invictus”, starring Matt Damon and Morgan Freeman, details the 1995 Rugby World Championship played in South Africa and won by South Africa.
Our trip to South Africa was a great learning experience for us as we were educated about a country we had heard of but knew little about. We found the people friendly, the country beautiful, and a country with problems like any other country growing and becoming a major player on the world scene economically, politically and socially. The country held many surprises for us and at times we saw things we never expected to see. Our feeling is if you get a chance to visit South Africa and their neighboring countries definitely take the opportunity, you will be pleasantly surprised — and by all means try the South African wines and impala stew is pretty good.