Cape Town: A Tale of Two Cities

Cape Town, South AfricaVictoria and Alfred Basin. Waterfront.

We’ve been on the road for six months now, and South Africa is the first country where we’ve felt the need to be hyper-aware.

Our first stop was Cape Town, and as expected, it is a stunningly beautiful city worthy of its high accolades. What we didn’t expect was the constant reminders from taxi drivers, reception clerks, friendly waiters, and total strangers to be ‘SAFE’. We were told that muggings and violent crimes are rampant. White tourists are prime targets. We were even discouraged from taking public transportation, at the very least, only during the day.

Security guards man entrances to grocery stores, laundry mats, to roadside parking lots. During the day, access to small businesses and local restaurants have locked wrought iron gates, and you need to buzz to get in.

Outside of Cape Town, we were instructed with similar comments, “The front door locks at six, make sure to be back by then!”

So it goes to say that travelling around was a bit unnerving. Unlike our movement in South America where we used local transport, we went by Uber from our hotel to desired destinations and back. Once the sun set, we mostly stayed indoors.

A night out in Observatory, playing pool at Stones. IMG_3315

Whether this fear instilled in tourists is justified, we can’t say for sure. We don’t have statistics to support it nor will we research it. But we can tell you, after three weeks travelling in South Africa, the country’s past history can be felt everywhere. There is an uneasiness that lingers in the air.

Most travellers will only glimpse at the poverty from a car or bus window. Bordering the highways, you can see densely built communities hidden behind continuous fences that spread out over lengthy distances on the outskirts of towns. These slums or ghettos are referred to locally as townships.

Photographer and drone journalist Johnny Miller’s project, Unequal Scenes captures the disparity between the wealthy suburbs and the city’s poorest side-by-side.b1d8f537411801-57642161b70a55b723a37411647-57642067454a9Photos: Johnny Miller

That being said, we can see Cape Town’s appeal, and we enjoyed the cosmopolitan ambience of the city, it’s trendy Victoria and Alfred waterfront restaurants, and a day trip to the nearby wine country.

When it comes to wine tasting, it is best to hop on an organised tour and leave the driving to a prudent guide. We joined Wine Flies and our knowledgeable guide, Ian for a visit through Stellenbosch, stopping at five vineyards of the region with a diverse group of people from, Brazil, Russia, England, Norway, and the US.

In beautiful surroundings, we shared glasses of wine with our new friends, wine pairing with locally produced cheese and artisanal chocolate, and a delicious African Braai. What a barrel of fun, and we found the South African wine superb and very reasonably priced.DSC_0163

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No visit to Cape Town is complete without seeing the stunning views from the New 7 Wonders of Nature. There are numerous routes up Table Mountain, including taking the Cableway. In the company of Dutch friends, Nadia and Tom from our hostel, we elected to hike up the Platteklip Gorge trail. Two and a half hours later after leaving the trams parking lot, we reached the top, and were treated to fabulous views in all directions.  Platteklip Gorge trailPlatteklip Gorge trailDSC_0249DSC_0287DSC_0262

Cape Town has many sides, but we didn’t expect it to be so affluent. Evident in the white neighbourhoods that expand out from the City Bowl towards the slopes of Table Mountain; full of German cars, million-dollar condos, gated communities, fine retail outlets, and trendy bars and clubs. DSC_0322Sending LOVE to South Africa, on its long road to equality.
Peace out!

Opulent living or Boho travel, spread the LOVE. Kloof Street, Cape Town.

 

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6 thoughts on “Cape Town: A Tale of Two Cities

  1. Beautiful views. Thank you for sharing. So many different sounds and smells as you travel. The people are often the treasure. Have fun but do stay safe!

  2. Those views are magnificent, but I’m not sure I’d want to visit. I’ve long felt this about South Africa – that it’s past has not been (and probably never will be) resolved. I’m not surprised to hear it doesn’t feel safe there.
    Alison

    • Alison, we travelled outside of Cape Town along the Garden Route and we received the same safety advice. However, we never once felt in any danger, but it’s the constant warnings that are unnerving. Overcoming apartheid will take happen over many generations. South Africa is beautiful, and clean:) – Ginette

  3. I am European and live in Cape Town have lived in Europe and Asia and am a frequent traveller. While it is true to be vigilant and safe, I feel that you feeling scared and hyper aware is a bit exaggerated. In any big city across Europe and the US you have to be careful of pick pockets etc. We often go into town, to the Waterfront, etc. There are bad neighbourhoods in every city around the world and Cape Town is no different. “Security guards man entrances to grocery stores, laundry mats, to roadside parking lots. During the day, access to small businesses and local restaurants have locked wrought iron gates, and you need to buzz to get in.” That is not true, not in my suburb and every other suburb around mine. Houses do have more security than in Europe and the US but this is Africa. In my opinion Cape Town is the most beautiful, vibrant, friendliest city in the world.

    • Hello Dominique,

      Thank you for comment. While I agree that Cape Town is a beautiful city, the post reflects our view from a tourist’s perspective.

      As for feeling ‘scared and hyper aware’, it is honestly the emotions I sensed as a traveller, not so much because of any actual threats, but in response to the constant verbal warnings we received from white South Africans. The continuous advise, although
      well meaning, plays on ones mind and is stressful. And while it is true to be vigilant and safe, no where in the world have we received so many warnings from the locals.
      To add to this, in one incidence, another guest at our hostel was mugged in the Bo-Kaap neighbourhood at two pm in the afternoon.
      With this said, my husband and I discussed how we felt the warnings are over-rated, and that for the most parts a vigilant visitor (as in any major urban centre) should have no worries.

      Perhaps, since you live in Cape Town, you have become de-sensitized to being cautioned, or don’t realize the effect this has on tourists. As for the high security, it was what we witnessed in the neighbourhoods we visited, namely Observatory, Green Point, Long-Street, and other sections of the City Bowl.

      It is refreshing to hear from someone who lives in Cape Town that it is not as bad as we were led to believe. – Ginette

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