Published: May 5th 2006May 5th 2006
This is actually in the wet season!
We leave the African continent tomorrow and this will be our last blog from Africa.
After leaving Swankopmund (Namibia), we drove past Walvis Bay, where Brad & Angie were staying, we craned our necks to spot them from the truck, but no luck!
We headed for Sossusvlei, the area renowned for beautiful red sand dunes. The dunes are amazing and I'm sure you get sick of us saying this, but the pictures don't capture the beauty. It is the coolest feeling to walk along the top ridge of the dunes and look out over the landscape.
We drove to Dune 45, one of the highest dunes at 150m and the most famous because of its perfect shape. As a group, we climbed to the top for some great views. I'm sure you can imagine how tiring it is to walk uphill in soft sand for 30+ minutes! We watched the sun set and then proceeded down the dune in many different fashions.
Fish River Canyon
We continued south through Namibia to Fish River Canyon near the South African/Namibia border. The canyon has a depth of 550m and is the 2nd biggest canyon in the world
(behind the Grand Canyon of course). The river often dries up, but because the wet season has been so wet, there was a fair bit of water in the river. We arrived just before sunset and it was a really pretty sight, although its hard to beat the Grand Canyon! We had a wine and cheese at the top of the canyon and then proceeded to the canyon bottom. There is a hot springs at the bottom and we swam in the hot springs under the stars with the canyon walls towering up beside us.
We crossed the border into South African (check, another stamp in the passport) and drove for another day and a half to Stellenbosch. We had done a ton of driving in the past few days and we were all pretty tired of the truck by the time we got to Stellenbosch. Stellenbosch is 40km outside Capetown and a beautiful wine region of rolling hills. The town is a university town and the second oldest town in South Africa (Capetown is the oldest). It is a really quaint town with beautiful old buildings and cafes on every corner.
We went on a full
day wine tour of the region with most people in our group. We visited four vineyards in Stellenbosch, Paarl, and Franschoek. We started at Simonsig (our fav) at 10:30 (a little early for wine!) and we got a tour of of their cellars and how they make wine. It's very similar to the tours you do in Niagara. They also uncorked wine the traditional way, but cutting off the cork with a sword (this involves cutting the glass, very impressive!). We then went to Fairview Vineyard and tasted some more wine and cheese. Had lunch and went to Dieu Donne and Delaire in the afternoon.
We spent our last hour on the truck driving to Capetown. Namibia was very hot and once we reached Stellenbosch it was quite a bit cooler, since it is winter in the southern hemisphere. We had to wear all our layers to keep warm - fleeces and socks!
We visited the waterfront, which has been redeveloped into a nice group of restaurants and shops. Stocked up on supplies for Asia. We had our last official dinner with our truck tour. It was really sad to say goodbye to everyone because when you
Dawn on the Dunes
Walking to Hidden Vlei
spend 54 days with people in close quarters, you become quite close.
We visited Robben Island early the next morning, which is where Mandela spent almost 30 years imprisoned. The island was used during the apartheid regime to jail political prisoners, as well as some common prisoners and contained a leprosy colony. You take a ferry over to the island and first tour the island's buildings by bus. The tour guides are all ex-political prisoners and it is interesting to hear the story through their voices. You also toured the prison and saw Nelson Madela's cell, which was extremely small. The prisoners were treated brutally, kept in their tiny cells for 23 hours a day, in isolation and held for decades. It is incredible that the world sat by and let this happen until 1991! Having read many books about apartheid, we found the tour very interesting, touching and somber. It is amazing to see the reconcilation that is going on and the focus on the future and moving forward.
We really wanted to either climb Table Mountain or take the cable car up, but unfortunately the whole time we were in Capetown, it was extremely cloudy and
The famous dune that every one climbs with a classic shape.
overcast. You couldn't even see the top of the mountain. Instead, we spent time wandering through the downtown area. Capetown is said to be one of the most beautiful cities in the world and it was too bad the weather didn't cooperate while we were here.
South Africa has a reputation for crime and although we have not been a victim of any crime (touch wood!), we weren't as comfortable here and did worry about safety. The disparity between blacks and whites is extremely visable resulting in higher crime. There are bars on all windows, electronic gates to enter stores, and you cannot walk around after dark. We missed the relatively safe streets of home. Capetown is very much a western city as first glance with all modern amenities, however, what the tourist does not see is the large area known as the Cape Flats, which are the black townships, where living conditions are extremely poor and slum like. We would have liked to have gone on a tour out there to see the whole Capetown, if we had, had more time.
We have been in Africa for almost three months and have really enjoyed
our time here. We saw quite a lot, but there is still much of Africa that remains to be seen. We loved the Africa up north (Kenya, Tanzania, Malawi, Zim) - extremely friendly people, beautiful scenery and the African you think of when you picture Africa. Botswana, Namibia and South Africa had many beautiful attractions, but we missed the friendly smiles and had trouble getting used to the relationships between blacks and whites. For us, the overland truck tour was the best way to travel Africa and Oasis was a great company to deal with. We met many new friends that we will keep in touch with.
We fly to Mauritius (an island in the Indian Ocean) tomorrow, stay a week, and then proceed to Singapore for three months of travelling Asia independently.
So long Africa, but not goodbye!
There are more photos below