Team Buff conquers the Cape

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August 24th 2009
Published: September 20th 2009
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The beautiful wineries at Stellenbosch
My organised overland trip will end in Cape Town, but before reaching the Cape, we stop off at Stellenbosch for a wine tour. Set amidst stunning mountains, Stellenbosch and neighbouring Franschoek transport us back to Europe, with elegant white-washed buildings and green squares. After consuming and buying a lot of vino and cheese, we make the final drive down to Cape Town for our last supper. But just before I say goodbye to the truck, I say hi to Anna and Ali, my sister and her partner, who are meeting me in Cape Town and travelling east along the Cape for a week. They join the truck for the farewell meal... I have zebra (sorry Sarah!), Ali has an interesting skewer (which is interesting, as you can see) and Anna has springbok... then we all get merrily hammered!

After 73 days, everyone heads off on their separate ways. It was an awesome group of people and I think I was lucky to be part of the adventure... so in no particular order (and hopefully I've got everyone!), thanks to Lina and Pete, Deano, Tim, Jen, Rich and Jeanie, Ollie and Leanne, Abel, Emily, Paul and Emilie, Aidan, Becky (hi Rhonda!),
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Our guide at Robben Island
Hannah, Matt, Dean, Julia, Shep, Ian and Julie, little Sarah, Brendy, Robbie, Ewan, Sarah, Tania, Marcus and Tav, Adam and Kylie, Rob and Becca, Mel, Amanda, Nicole and Karl... for a great trip!

My first morning off Hyena, Anna, Ali and me head to Robben Island - once prison, once lepper colony and known mainly for being the place of Nelson Mandela’s incarceration until his release in 1994. The island is just a short boat ride from Cape Town’s waterfront, but the contrast with the city is stark. We disembark straight onto a bus, which takes us on a guided tour of the island. We’re whisked through the village, past beaches with pounding surf and stunning views back to the mainland, and on to the quarry where prison inmates were put to work.

At the end of the brief drive, we’re deposited at the prison, where the main focus of the tour begins. We’re greeted by an ex-inmate, who does his best to inform us of this place’s extensive history in the hour or so he has available. The prison itself is a fairly bright place as far as prisons go, but the knowledge that many people were
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Cute little critter
interred here for political rather than criminal acts makes it much more sinister. Our guide tells of how political education was administered amongst the inmates in secret, through lessons at the quarry, noted hidden in tennis balls, and even manuscripts for biographies sewn into the soles of shoes. He adds to this his own tale of hiding documents from his warden for 20 years - all delivered with a smile and a joke. All tours are given by ex-inmates or ex-wardens, and I’m still to understand how they can return to a place that must have robbed them of so much of their lives. But thankfully they have, and the tour is made by our guide’s enthusiasm and character. Sadly, the tour is woefully short, and we’re ushered back onto the boat after a quick run to the penguin colony, without time to stop at the shop or really drill down into the role played by Robben Island in the apartheid era.

Back in the city the next day, we don our walking gear (replete with an array of stylish Buffs) and head to Table Mountain, the most potent symbol of Cape Town. Our aim is two-fold - firstly
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Top of the Table at McLear's Beacon
to walk off the delicious bacon sarnies we had for brekkie, but second and most importantly to locate and view a dassy, otherwise known as a rock hyrax - top of Ali’s wish list for the holiday and soon to become the overriding aim of ours too! Catching the rotating cable car up, we take in the stunning views then head to the back for views over Clifton and Camps Bay. With the help of two strangers, we unwittingly discover two dassies, lounging about on the rocks (as you’d expect from something called a rock hyrax...) just inches from a very long drop. Ali is ecstatic, and following a communal air-punch, Team Buff is ready to tackle the mountain.

Rather than climb up the mountain like foolish people, we figure we’ll save our strength and climb down, first traversing along the top to the highest point, McLear’s Beacon, then descending to Kirstenbosch Gardens to the south. Our plan works well until we realise about two thirds of the way down that the ‘path’ through Skeleton Gorge doubles as a river/waterfall... and that Ali is pretty scared of climbing down paths that double as rivers/waterfalls. After a few hours of coaxing and careful guidance, we make it to the bottom - totally knackered, hungry and just in time to see the last light of day disappear. Thankfully a taxi finally manages to locate the gardens (if Cape Town only has one botanical gardens, why was it so hard to understand where we were!!!), and we return to base, rewarding ourselves with a meal out at a traditional South African braai restaurant. All in all, a victory for the first part of Team Buff’s Cape Town adventure.

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