Saturday, 4 February 2012

Day 457 & 458 South Africa 03/02/2012 - 04/02/2012, Big Blue Backpackers, Cape Town. Sightseeing.

As an easy way of seeing Cape Town's main sites, we decided to take a trip on the sightseeing bus. Leaving from the V&A Waterfront we headed into the down town area, where we made our first stop. Following a walking route, we passed through Greenmarket square, stopping to have a look at the old town house and then onwards to St George's church.

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Greenmarket square is a good place to have a look at the stalls selling a variety of African crafts, that is provided you haven't already travelled through the rest of Africa. If you have, then all you will see is exactly the same stuff, with a huge price mark up. Any ideas we had about buying our souvenirs in Cape Town, have been ended by the fact that there is nothing we want; especially at the prices they are asking!

Following a walk round, we visited the first of three museums that we would see that day. The Slave lodge was built to house the slaves of the Dutch East India Company. It was an interesting place to walk round, but the displays are probably a little too wordy for some. Some of the impact of what should be a powerful exhibit has been taken away by the need to read very long information boards. From the Slave Lodge we visited the Jewish Museum which houses an excellent holocaust exhibit and did until recently have a Mandela exhibit. The Mandela one, seems to have been taken down to make way for a new installation. Quite by chance though, we stumbled upon an exhibit of Japanese carved miniatures that was definitely worth a look.

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Back firmly in the realms of South African history we visited the District 6 museum. District 6 was Cape Town's infamous inner city slum area, inhabited mainly by coloureds, but also by blacks and impoverished whites. It was once regarded by many as the soul of Cape Town, inspiring novels, poems and music. During the mid 1960's the Apartheid government declared it a white area, and the bulldozers moved in flattening the suburb. After 15 years there was nothing remaining of the area excepting the churches and mosques. The museum commemorates the area using a collection of documentary style photos and written memoirs. There is also a near complete set of street signs, saved from the rubble.

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Back on the bus and our next stop was at the colourful streets of Bo Kaap. One of Cape Town's oldest residential areas, Bo Kaap is home to descendants of the slaves who were imported by the Dutch in the 16th and 17th century. The colourfully painted houses were the antithesis of the drab clothes that slaves were forced to wear. It made for an interesting place to stroll round, not least as being Friday the resident Muslims were out visiting the mosques in their finery.

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From Bo Kaap we walked back to have a look at Long Street with its attractive balconied buildings and then stopped for lunch in Greenmarket. Lunch was taken to the accompaniment of some tribal dancers and a wandering musician.

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By now we were getting tired of the sightseeing, so boarded the bus for the longish journey back to the Waterfront. It would have been nice to have gone up Table Mountain as we passed the cable car station along the way. But due to the continuing high winds the cable car wasn't running. It had originally been our plan to walk up, but to the relief of Debbie's limbs we have decided to take the cable car. All we need now is a clear day with light winds; not the most common of occurrences in Cape Town it seems!

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Arriving back at the waterfront, we had a brief walk round the shops, a spot of dinner at a noodle bar and then headed back to the hostel exhausted. In our absence the hostel hadn't improved any, so we had a couple of drinks, served by the disinterested staff, and then called it a night.

The next day we left our rubbishy hostel early and had a day of visiting the Two Oceans Aquarium, strolling round the shops, eating, partaking of the odd beer and watching England's opening match of their six nations campaign.

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It was another good day that was only marred by having to return to the hostel. We have stayed in a few bad places over the years, but Big Blue is by far the worst place we have stayed in for quite some time. It is filthy and the staff are rubbish and unfriendly. The only thing going for it is its location, but there are plenty of other hostels nearby which must be better; unfortunately they were all booked up.

Tomorrow we move to Ron and Jo's house (we met in Liwonde national park, Malawi), for part two of our Cape Town stay.

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