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Southern Africa Trip: South Africa

Home : Articles : Southern Africa, 2002 : Southern Africa Photo Safari: South Africa

Thursday, Oct. 31, 2002 - Camps Bay, Cape Town, South Africa - We left the Rivendell Guest House in Windhoek early this morning for our flight to Cape Town via Johannesburg. We touched down in a sunny, blustery Cape Town around 1 pm, picked up our car and drove to Camps Bay, a little seaside village a few minutes outside of the city where we are to stay for the next two nights. Camps Bay lies on the opposite side of Table Mountain and the Lion's Head from Cape Town, directly below the famous cliffs known as the Twelve Apostles. There is a very nice white sand beach and the hillside is covered with opulent homes and condos and in some ways it reminds one of parts of the California coast or the French Riviera.

After checking into our condo, we spent the afternoon and sunset hours at a cafe on the beachfront. It was nice to relax just a little after our nonstop adventure in Namibia. We drove into the city for dinner at a great Indian restaurant, Bukhara.

Friday, Nov. 1, 2002 - Camps Bay, Cape Town, South Africa - This morning we drove to Boulders Beach at Simon's Town. A colony of African Penguins, formerly known as Jackass Penguins, have taken up residence here. There is a little beach amongst the eponymous granite boulders where penguins and people alike swim, play and sun themselves. They seem fairly oblivious of our presence on their beach, except when children try to chase them in the surf.

Nicci and penguins at Boulders Beach

Later, we drove along the coast through picturesque resort towns and fishing villages to the Cape Point nature reserve. It is spring here and the wildflowers are in bloom covering the rocky hills and cliffs with bursts of color - purples, blues, yellows, reds and white. Protea bushes, a characteristically South African flowering plant, are blooming in all shapes and colors. The hillsides are covered with a thick carpet of fynbos, Afrikaans for fine bush, the endemic mixture of low trees and flowering bushes, succulents, fragrant buchu shrubs and grasses. As we drove out to the tip of the Cape of Good Hope we passed ostrich and antelope grazing in the fynbos.

Cape mountains and wildflowers

Probably one of the most popular attractions of the Cape Point reserve is actually a real nuisance to those trying to picnic here. The baboons are notorious food bandits and will unfailingly locate and attempt to steal anything edible on your person, in your bags and even in your car. We must have spent an hour or so watching a troop of them repeatedly rushing the tourists, teeth bared and growling, who were carrying any sort of food. It was astonishing how they could discriminate between a camera or a water bottle or a hat in your hand versus a candy bar or a picnic basket. And edibles are not safe in your vehicle either. As soon as someone cracked the door to their car in the parking lot at the Cape Point funicular the baboons were on alert, and if there was something to eat in that car, more often than not a raging beast charged the hapless victim, threw open the door and dived into the car to fetch its prize. We couldn't stop laughing at one proud thief who had managed to grab a leftover container of pasta (a ragout it appeared) from one couple's trunk and then proceeded to eat it very messily while sitting on the car's hood. By the time she finished her meal, the windshield was covered in noodle scraps and sauce!

Cape Point baboons enjoying pasta Apple thief

Eventually, a park ranger arrived with a slingshot and scared the troop into the bush, but not ten minutes after he walked away, they were back, roaming the parking lot and searching for victims. There are signs all over the park warning against feeding the baboons, but we honestly did not see anyone willingly feed them. When the ranger with the slingshot came back again to chase them away, I asked if the baboons ever hurt anyone and if they ever had to remove any or, worse, put one down. He claimed that they never actually bite or scratch when they steal your food. He also said that they can't do anything to them other than scare them off when they start harassing tourists too much. "Besides", he said, "People would really be upset if we got rid of the baboons altogether." We agreed - they are great fun to watch in action!

Clouds on the Twelve Apostles of Table Mountain

Just before sunset we rode up to the top of Table Mountain on the rotating cable car. The view from the top was quite dramatically spectacular. As the sun set off the coast, a blank of clouds began literally spilling over the Table and the Twelve Apostles. The wind picked up and streaming tendrils of vapor whipped over the mountain and then dissolved, leaving the sky over Camps Bay clear. Rock Dassies scurried around the granite cliffs and boulders and opposite the Apostles, the lights of Cape Town twinkled on.

Table Mountain cableway

Saturday, Nov. 2, 2002 - Buchu Bush Camp, De Hoop Nature Reserve, South Africa - From June through November, Southern Right Whales come to the shallow coastal waters of Southern Africa to mate and one of the best places to see these leviathans is from the cliffs at the village of Hermanus. Virtually no boats are allowed in the bay here and without the harassment of whale-watching boats found elsewhere along the coast of the Western Cape, many of the whales swim past within twenty or thirty yards of the cliffs. On our way to Buchu Bush Camp at the De Hoop Nature Reserve, we stopped for a few hours in Hermanus around lunch time and were rewarded with dozens of whale sightings. We stood on the rocky cliffs and watched as the whales surfaced with a quick blast of spray and gulp of air. Others floated head down with their massive tails held up out of the water in a maneuver known as tail sailing. Mothers paraded by the cliffs with their calves as if proud to show us their new additions to the pod. And the ubiquitous Rock Dassies scampered around us on the rocks, probably disappointed they were not getting nearly the attention from us tourists as the whales were.

Breede River Valley

After lunch we drove on to Buchu Bush Camp just outside the De Hoop Nature Reserve. The scenic drive took us through rolling hills of wheat and grass. Herds of sheep and ostrich grazed in the fields of this most bucolic landscape. It reminded us of the bread-basket countryside in the south of Tuscany, except for the ostriches, of course.

Our a-frame thatched cottage at Buchu Bush Camp was quite nice, especially considering the price, but the fresh creosote that coated the beams and woodwork created a nearly overpowering stench. The odor permeated our clothes and for days afterwards we could still smell it in them.

Sunday, Nov. 3, 2002 - Wilderness, South Africa - We rose early again this morning intending to catch the sunrise at the white sand dunes in the De Hoop Nature Reserve, but the weather refused to cooperate and instead gave us overcast skies until nearly noon. We nonetheless had fun exploring the dunes and tidal pools and watching for whales in the bay. The whales here didn't swim as close to shore as at Hermanus, but we saw literally dozens of them tail sailing. At Hermanus, the few time we saw this stunt performed it lasted only a few seconds, but here the whales' tales remained aloft for two or three minutes at a time.

Dunes at De Hoop Nature Reserve, South Africa

After a nice lunch of bobotie, a sort of savory, curried bread pudding served over rice with spicy fruit chutney, a dish which came to South Africa via Malaysia, Rory took us on a fascinating nature walk through the fynbos around the lodge. We learned, among other things, that the lodge takes is name from the endemic buchu bushes that grow here. Buchus are potently aromatic and each species has a unique melange of citrus and herbal scents. Rory has plans to market their essential oils for health and beauty products and has sent samples to a lab to be analyzed.

Malagas Ferry

On Rory's advice we drove to the tiny town of Malagas to cross the Breede River on the hand-powered car ferry. Up to three cars are ferried across the river by one or two men who pull the boat across by rope and brute force. The wind had picked up today and was causing the boatmen trouble on the river and slowing the crossings. Rather than wait possibly an hour for our turn, we decided to backtrack, cross the river by bridge, and join the N2 highway which would take us to Wilderness further east on the coast.

Monday, Nov. 4, 2002 - Wilderness, South Africa - We are staying at the elegant Wilderness Manor Guest House. We really can't say enough good things about this place. We just wish the weather was better. It seems our luck with the weather has finally run out. It has been cold and rainy off and on all day. So, rather than relaxing on the beach, we drove to the resort town of Knysna and spent the better part of the day there checking and sending email, shopping and strolling around the harbor.

Nicci and I both love to cook and if we ever decided to open a restaurant, I think we've discovered the perfect idea for one. Marianne at Wilderness Manor booked us one of the six tables at Serendipity for dinner. This gem of a restaurant is actually the living room of the restaurateur couple. The husband is the maî·tre d', head waiter and master of ceremonies, his wife is the chef and, tonight at least, a friend is helping them out as sommelier and waiter. Dining here is like attending a posh dinner party at a friend's beach house. We had one of the best meals of our trip here, with course after course of delicious food, and we left completely soused: chilled white port before dinner, a bottle of fine South African pinotage with dinner, a half-bottle of sweet muscat desert wine and a glass of South African grappa, which is even stronger, but smoother than the Italian variety, added insult to injury. We felt like gluttons after such a feast, but it was just so difficult to say no when the proprietor kept exclaiming, "Oh, you really must try this!", not to mention the great prices.

Tuesday, Nov. 5, 2002 - Wilderness, South Africa - The weather was fine this morning, so we planned a hike along one of the river valleys in the Wilderness National Park, but we hadn't walked more than 30 minutes and it began to rain. So, we hoofed it quickly back to our car and drove up the coast to Knysna in search of fish and chips. One hour, two satisfied diners and five dollars later we continued driving along the coast toward Plettenberg Bay, the rain having ceased. We stopped for a stroll on the beach at Swartvlei Beach, but it started raining again so it was back to the car again.

We reached Plettenberg Bay this afternoon and spent a couple hours on the beach watching the tremendous waves. The stormy weather had conspired with an unusually high tide to create some monster waves today. The surf had literally washed half the beach into the sea that morning. We chatted with the lifeguards who were keeping an eye out for one lone surfer who hadn't come in to shore after they had signaled the beach closed to swimmers. He still hadn't come in when we left, though the lifeguards were convinced that he must have swum around the rocky spit at the south end of the beach to reach the beaches on the other side. I hope so, for his sake!

Sunset on the beach, Wilderness, South Africa

Wednesday, Nov. 6, 2002 - Calitzdorp, South Africa - Of course, on the day we are to leave the coast, the weather is beautiful. After three days of cool, stormy weather, we woke up this morning to warm breezes and sunshine. Not to be discouraged, we decided to spend half the day driving back up the coast toward Plett Bay before heading over the mountains and driving to Calitzdorp, our overnight stop on the way to the winelands near Cape Town.

Under bright, sunny skies this coastal drive, which we had negotiated in fog and rain three times already, was quite spectacular. We turned off the highway at Harkerville, halfway between Knysna and Plett Bay, and drove down to the sea through pine and eucalyptus tree plantations. There are tall cliffs here and trails lead through a gorge, past a waterfall and to the water below.

We continued our drive past Plett Bay and just entered the Eastern Cape province before turning around and heading for Prince Alfred's Pass over the Outeniqua Range. The dirt and gravel road climbs up the mountains through logging forests and can be slow going at times, but the scenery and views are magnificent. At one point we came upon a roadblock and a huge logging truck being loaded up with timber and we thought we might have to turn back and take another route. I asked the lumberjacks if the road was really closed beyond and they told us that the pass is only closed for a few hours in the afternoon when the logging trucks are making their way down to the highway. The pass was to open again at 5 pm, though since it was already 4:30 pm they told us to go ahead but to watch out for trucks and equipment in the road.

Price Alfred's Pass

We drove on up the pass, but the only obstacles we encountered were cows and sheep in the road near one of the little mountain farming villages higher up the pass. On the other side of the pass we entered the Little Karoo, or Klein Karoo, the dry but fertile valley between the Outeniqua Range to the south and the Swartberg Range to the north. We passed quickly through Oudtshoorn, the touristy ostrich capital of South Africa, and on to Calitzdorp, South Africa's port wine capital. We arrived after sunset and just in time for dinner.

Across the Little Karoo toward Calitzdorp, South Africa

Like many of the guesthouses and lodges here, the Port Wine Guest House serves meals at communal tables and we sat with a couple our age from Belgium. Despite the less than stellar meal, we had a great time talking with Stijn and Hilde at dinner and we made plans to walk around the picturesque town the next morning and stop at a few wineries to taste their famous port.

Thursday, Nov. 7, 2002 - Franschhoek, South Africa - After breakfast, we met up with Stijn and Hilde and strolled around the back streets of Calitzdorp which are lined with quaint old houses and churches. Around 10 am we stopped at the Boplaas Cellars to taste their port, perhaps a little early to be drinking wine, but we had to start towards Franschhoek soon. A South African couple caught our American accents and the woman introduced herself and told us how very nice it was to see Americans here in such an out-of-the-way place as Calitzdorp. This wasn't the first, nor the last time we were so warmly received by a local and such encounters made our visit all the more special.

The port and desert wines at Boplaas and Die Krans Cellars were so good we bought nearly a case of the stuff. Stijn and Hilde did the same. I could see already that this was going to become a wine-buying spree that would end with a carload of wine much too heavy to carry on the plane back to the USA. It's just such good quality and, by our standards, so dirt cheap that it is hard not to buy a few bottles of each one we like.

Ronnie's Sex Shop, Little Karoo, South Africa

We said goodbye to Stijn and Hilde around 11 am and starting driving toward Franschhoek. Halfway between the pretty little towns of Ladismith and Barrydale, in the middle of the dry, dusty valley we passed a sign for the "World-Famous Ronnie's Sex Shop". The owner of the Port Wine Guest House had mentioned the place, but she didn't really explain what it was, other than to say that everyone driving the lonely R62 highway stops there for a drink. A few kilometers past the sign, in the middle of nowhere, we found Ronnie's Sex Shop, a whitewashed pub across the road from Ronnie's old farm and homestead. The bartender was Ronnie's son and he told us the story of how, years ago, some of Ronnie's mates decided to play a practical joke on him and add the word "Sex" to "Ronnie's Shop" which was painted on the side of his pub. As it turned out, business really picked up and Ronnie decided to keep the new, though perhaps misleading, name.

Late that afternoon we rolled into Robertson and stopped at Zandvliet vineyards for a quick tasting. The name jogged my memory, reminding us of the great bottle of Zandvliet Shiraz we drank at Serendipity in Wilderness. We drove into town to the tourist information center in hopes of getting some good recommendations for winery tours and tastings. Though it would be a long drive back here from Franschhoek tomorrow, where we were to stay for the next few days, we wanted to pick up a few more bottles of Robertson wine, considering our surname. The woman at the office this evening dismissed the idea of returning the next day and suggested that we just stay here tonight, but we explained that we already had reservations in Franschhoek. Not to be discouraged, she called up two of her favorite wineries and asked them if they wouldn't mind staying open a little late this evening to host two guests from the USA. We were most warmly received by both estates, virtually neighbors of one another it turns out, and we added another six or eight bottles to our collection.

Franschhoek Pass, South Africa

We made it to the summit of Franschhoek Pass just as the sun was setting and wound our way down into the valley below under a dramatic sky. We arrived at the Franschhoek Country House with only minutes to spare before our dinner reservations at their restaurant, Monneaux. I never imagined that nearly rare springbok could taste so good! Nicci and I went to bed tired and sated.

Friday, Nov. 8, 2002 - Franschhoek, South Africa - It seems that South Africans, and Namibians as well, really enjoy hearty English-style breakfasts. Nicci and I have never eaten so many eggs, sausages, bacon, pastries, grilled tomatoes and mushrooms. Or perhaps they only serve these massive breakfasts at guesthouses and lodges. In any case, here at the Franschhoek Country House, being the luxury guesthouse it is, we dined on luscious smoked salmon draped over perfect, truffled eggs Benedict. We rationalized our morning gluttony by telling each other that we needed real food in our bellies if we planned on hitting the wineries before noon.

Nicci and the farm's cat, Le Petite Ferme, Franschhoek, South Africa

The remains of the morning and the day were spent estate hopping, with an afternoon lunch break at Le Petite Ferme. Great food and dynamite wine were the order of the day. Bacchus himself could fall in love with this place! We even had the most incomparable meal at the bar at Le Quartier Francais, after failing to land a reservation in the dining room. We grazed on little plates of delectables and chatted with the young and friendly bar staff.

Saturday, Nov. 9, 2002 - Franschhoek, South Africa - Today was another marathon wine tasting day. We visited half a dozen estates in Stellenbosch, a larger university town near Franschhoek. Lost on foot in downtown Stellenbosch, trying to find the Wijnhuis restaurant for lunch, we asked directions from a passing group. As it turned out, the family were also heading to same restaurant and happily showed us the way. The parents were here visiting their daughter who had just started at Stellenbosch University. Later at the restaurant, the father came over to our table and told us that if we had any questions about the area or needed any advice about what to see or do, that they would be glad to help, especially since their daughter was now a local. This was really a nice gesture and one that now didn't surprise us, having been so warmly received by so many Southern Africans.

When we returned to our guesthouse in Franschhoek this evening we were quite pleasantly surprised to find a hand-written note in our room from Stijn and Hilde, the couple we had met earlier in Calitzdorp. We had told them that we were staying in the village of Franschhoek for a few days and I think we even joked that we might run into them again in the wine country since they were headed to Stellenbosch the day after we left for Franschhoek. It turns out that they were in Franschhoek today, and since the town is really quite small and there aren't too many guesthouses in the village itself, they asked around about us and found our address. We called their cell phone and made dinner plans at Topsy's in Franschhoek.

Sunday, Nov. 10, 2002 - Cape Town, South Africa - Since we hadn't spent enough time exploring Cape Town at the beginning of our visit to South Africa, we decided to try to change our plane tickets to return a day or two later. One of the benefits of traveling on frequent flyer miles tickets, which ours are, is that you can change your travel plans without penalty as long as seats are available. We did this yesterday, moving our return back to Atlanta from today to Tuesday, giving us two extra days in Cape Town, and this morning we arranged a room at a guest house in Sea Point, a suburb of Cape Town.

We spent the afternoon browsing the Sunday craft market at Green Market. These markets are rather ubiquitous here and after hitting a couple, they all start looking the same, but we bought a few souvenirs anyway, and a big, cheap duffel bag to stuff all of our clothes in for the return trip. We bought a cellar worth of wine over the last few days and our plan is to, hopefully, pack all of the wine into our emptied carryon luggage rather than risk breaking bottles in our checked luggage.

Fynbos blooms, Kirstenbosch Gardens, South Africa Protea, Kirstenbosch Gardens, South Africa

This evening we drove out to Kirstenbosch Gardens and had a nice stroll through the outdoor gardens, then we sat on the lawn to watch the sunset. Kirstenbosch showcases the flowers and vegetation endemic to Southern Africa and its paths and meadows climb up the lower slopes of Table Mountain. There are even hiking trails which start here and snake up to the cliffs and on to the summit of Table Mountain.

We ate dinner this evening at Marco's African Place on the suggestion of our guest house's owner. This restaurant is apparently on the tour bus circuit, often not a good indicator of quality in my opinion, but we had a surprisingly good time. The food was decent enough - we had chicken stewed in spicy sauces and samp, a local dish made from ground hominy, much like grits, a Southern US delicacy - but the real draw tonight was the house band. We had the best time listening to the music and watching the French, German and Dutch tour groups dancing in aisles, young and old alike, screaming and flailing their arms about with giddy abandon.

Monday, Nov. 11, 2002 - Cape Town, South Africa - Many port cities around the world have a pedestrian shopping zone on the waterfront and Cape Town is no exception. The Victoria & Alfred Waterfront is one of the nicer such developments, I think, because it is not just a shopping mall on the water, but a working port as well. The very fine Two Oceans Aquarium is here along with ferry service out to Robben Island where Nelson Mandela was imprisoned. We didn't do much shopping here ourselves but we did tour the aquarium and visit Robben Island.

Our tour of Robben Island was a particularly moving experience. The island sits in the middle of Table Bay and was for many years the site of a maximum security prison for political prisoners during South Africa's apartheid years. Nelson Mandela spent 17 of his 28 years of imprisonment on the island. Our tour began with a bus ride around the island to see the various former prison and military buildings with a brief stop to view the huge penguin colony on the island.

The most poignant part of the tour was visiting the maximum security prison where Nelson Mandela and other political prisoners were held. Our guide was Modise Phekonyane who spent some six years incarcerated here for his participation in a group opposed to the forced use of Afrikaans, as opposed to native languages, for all subjects in black primary schools, a policy designed to make learning as difficult as possible for black children, most of whom spoke no Afrikaans when entering school. Modise and several others were arrested as teenagers and sent to Robben Island to serve out their sentences. He explained how prisoners were brutally punished and tortured for the smallest infractions, how everyone able to stand and hold a pick or a shovel was forced to labor twelve hours a day in the lime pits on the island. And he told us how, in spite of these and other, worse hardships, the elder, educated prisoners, including Mandela himself, organized and operated a secret school to educate those who came to Robben Island with little or no education. In fact, Modise himself came to Robben Island basically illiterate but left six years later with the equivalent of a high school education. He went on to study at a university in Mississippi, USA before returning to South Africa after the fall of the apartheid government.

It is difficult to describe the sense of awe and guilt one feels when listening to someone like Modise. His personal triumphs over oppression inspire awe, but the tales of the trials and tribulations of his people instill in us a sense of guilt for our inability, for so long, to put and end to such treatment. We aren't South African ourselves, but witnessing all this makes us feel as though we could be. The progress and lack of violence in this country since the overthrow of the apartheid government is simply amazing and hearing Modise repeat Mandela's call for healing and reconciliation with white South Africa we can understand how many of the regrettably few white South Africans who come here break down in tears of grief and guilt after his speech.

Scott & Nicci on sunset cruise, Cape Town, South Africa Scott, Nicci, Hilde and Stijn, Table Bay Cruise

Upon returning to the Waterfront we made plans with Hilde and Stijn, who were in Cape Town today also, to take a sunset cruise on Table Bay and have dinner afterwards. We couldn't have asked for better weather for our catamaran sailing cruise. We all sat out front under the jib, South African sparkling wine in hand, cool breeze mussing our hair and watched our last spectacular African sunset over the waves.

Tuesday, Nov. 12, 2002 - Cape Town, South Africa - We had read about the various guided tourist visits to South Africa's black and colored townships in our guidebooks and guest house brochures and were alternately curious and apprehensive about joining one of the tours in Cape Town. Traveling around Southern Africa, we encountered these ramshackle shanty towns nearly everywhere and we were genuinely curious about the daily life of and concerned for the plight of the majority of South Africa's (new) citizens. Having had so many friendly interactions with blacks and coloreds, as the people of mixed race are known here, we were certainly not afraid to visit a township, but we were apprehensive for other reasons. How would we feel if mini buses packed with camera-toting foreigners regularly toured through our neighborhood to catch a glimpse of what our homes and lives are like? We didn't want to be packed on a big, safe, air-conditioned bus and driven through the townships on some sort of poverty safari, as some of the first such tours reportedly were conducted. Lonely Planet South Africa's author assured us that, with a conscientiously run tour operator, we would have a chance to get out and meet people and would very likely be welcomed by the townships' residents. Furthermore, we read, such visits were deemed quite beneficial to the townships on a number of levels: for their financial contributions (many, if not all, of the tour operators donate some of their earnings to township initiatives and tourists are spending more and more money at township businesses during their visits), but perhaps more importantly, for raising outsiders' awareness of the living conditions in the townships, showing them the new hope for improvement held by many of the residents and generally fostering good will and communication between cultures.

So, on the last morning of our trip, we had our guest house make reservations for a morning tour of Khyelitsha township on the outskirts of Cape Town. The owner of our guest house enthusiastically recommended this tour, but, ironically, when I asked him if he had been on the tour himself he said no. In fact, he had never visited any township, nor had he visited the Robben Island Museum, which really wasn't surprising considering Modise's comments about the shame of white South Africans. Our township tour guide, a colored township resident himself, later confirmed that few white South Africans had ever taken his tour.

After a brief detour - the tour company got confused and sent a Cape Town City Highlights tour to pick us up from our guest house - we joined the township tour group at the District Six Museum. District Six, the sixth municipal district of Cape Town, was historically a multicultural neighborhood of freed slaves, immigrants, merchants, artisans and laborers. In the 1900s the first forced removals and resettlements began here with the displacement of black Africans to other, less valuable land. In February 1966 District Six was declared a white area under the Group Areas Act and by 1982 the last of the area's colored residents had been forced to move to the shanty towns of the outlying Cape Flats area. During these years of forced removal, the former residents' houses and shops were razed to the ground by bulldozers, only the churches and mosques left standing. But the Apartheid government's plan to rebuild District Six as a white-only neighborhood never materialized. No one wanted to occupy the ground where so many had lost their homes, possessions and lives. In 1994 several organizations which had long fought the clearing of District Six opened a museum in the old Methodist church in Buitenkant Street to preserve the history and memory of South Africa's forced removals. Our visit here was in many ways as moving as our visit to Robben Island.

Riding in our minibus out of Cape Town to the aptly named Cape Flats we passed larger and larger shanty towns until we turned off the highway to enter Cape Towns largest township, Khyelitsha, home to more than one million black South Africans. As we passed unnamed streets and unnumbered houses, shacks literally constructed from salvaged materials by the residents themselves, our driver and guide talked about the history and genesis of the townships during the Apartheid period. Shops and businesses of all kinds, all built in the same makeshift manner as the homes, have colorful signs advertising "Grocery", "Bottle Shop", "Garage", "Hair Stylist" and even "Surgery". Khyelitsha is alive with people: old men sitting outside playing cards, women carrying home the day's laundry in baskets balanced on heads, children in school uniforms walking home for lunch. We were frankly quite relieved when adults and children alike smiled or waved to us rather than shot us resentful glares for our intrusiveness.

Nicci eating soup with Rosie and kids, Rosie's soup kitchen, Khyelitsha Township, South Africa School children and classrooms, Khyelitsha Township, South Africa

We made several stops during our visit, starting with a morning visit to a grammar school. A company in Liverpool, England had donated several shipping containers, those big, steel boxes that ride on trans-oceanic container ships and cargo planes, outfitted with desks, chairs and chalkboards and a local Catholic church donated uniforms, books and supplies to the school. We met and talked with teachers and students, many who were eager to practice their English with us. Then the children regaled us with a few traditional songs and dances, and we all sang to them as well so as not to leave everyone with the feeling that this is some sort of cultural performance. Yes, a cynic might view this as just a show for tourists, but, as our guide explained, these interactions do benefit both the children and the tourists. The kids have a chance to meet people outside their own community and are exposed to other races and cultures in a positive way, and we have a chance to learn about the history and culture of township life and see how volunteerism, donations and dialogue are helping to better the lives of the people here. I simply had to smile when one little girl told me that her goal was to go to one day graduate from college, get a good job and save enough money to travel the world and meet foreign people like we are doing. I think she can if she thinks she can.

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