Sunday, August 24, 2008

Cape Town - Long Overdue

Again, it seems that time has slipped through my fingers. Looking back at recent posts I realize that, other than our weekly PNGC updates, I have not written since June. Over two months have passed and so many things have happened. I really do not know where to start, so I will go chronologically and start with our adventure in Cape Town. Future entries will catch everyone up on the rest of our life here.

It is hard to put down on paper (or onto a computer screen) exactly how interesting and incredible this trip was, so hopefully the pictures we have posted will help to show what I cannot explain.

At the end of June the second term of the school year came to an end. It also marked the close of our first full term of teaching. During the last week of school we, along with the other teachers, compiled each student's work, and signed report cards. The last day of school was a whirlwind of students running around with excitement at the dawn of a three week break as parents filed into the school grounds to collect their child's marks. Not only was the school buzzing with anticipation, but so were we. Our full-time teaching schedule coupled with the kickoff of PNGC had really kept us driving in high gear all term and we need a break. Physically, mentally and emotionally we were exhausted. It had been the most productive term of our service and also the most demanding.

Our relaxation came in the form of a two week road trip adventure with our friends Brandon and Rachel. Our destination was Cape Town and we took off with a full tank of petrol and empty memory cards in our cameras waiting to be filled up. Being on the road again in South Africa was a wonderful feeling. After a few months in Seleka, we begin to forget that there are places in this country that are not as dusty, dry and hot as our area. Though we have come to appreciate the beauty of the bushveld, we were excited about our opportunity to take in some new landscape. Driving south we passed through the rolling hills and fields near Bloomfontein, through the valleys and cliffs near Grahamstown, where we stopped for an afternoon at the annual National Arts Festival, and emerged on the coast of the Indian Ocean at Port Elizabeth. After a day of safari through Addo Elephant National Park we continued to make our way South and West along the Garden Route towards the Cape. Stops in Jeffrey's Bay, Mossel Bay, Cape Agulhas (the southernmost point of Africa) and Hermanus showed us incredible coastline landscapes. The Garden Route follows the highway as it winds its way between an impressive mountain range and the coast. Mountain peaks stand like infantry men, shoulder to shoulder, and march off into the distance as far as the eye can see. They are an imposing threat to anyone wanting to enter the interior of the continent. The coastline is just as rugged in some spots and strikingly beautiful with deep ravines carry water from the nearby peaks out to meet the waves crashing against the shore. One of the most breathtaking views (and harrowing when you are behind the steering wheel) was when we came through the last mountain pass leading to Cape Town. The sun was just setting on the Western horizon beyond the distant Atlantic, silhouetting Table Mountain and the city around it. The bays were a silvery grey dotted with ships and boats making their way to port for the night. Cape Point could be seen far off to our left and the city lights were beginning to pop on as daylight faded. The wind was whipping fiercely through the pass and it took careful maneuvering and steady nerves to navigate hairpin turns past semis and other vehicles on the descent down to the flats. It is hard to fathom how anyone every made it over the mountains before the road was built, but easy to see why someone would want to stand up there and look over this area.

Our time in Cape Town was magnificent. We took in sites like Cape Point, Table Mountain, Robben Island, and the Victoria and Alfred Waterfront, and also ate incredible food (which was actually what we had planned the entire trip around). Our evening at Anatoli Turkish restaurant was unmatched by anything else we indulged in for the two weeks on the road, even the fantastic dishes that we enjoyed in the Stellenbosch wine region. Despite some rainy days in the vineyards, we warmed ourselves with a taste or two of local wines and met wonderful people at all the local wineries. Nestled between the mountains and littered with vines as far as the eye can see, the Stellenbosch region is truly a place to come to stay for a long period of time. In fact, we found ourselves saying that about almost every place we visited. Frequently we caught each other expressing 'I wish we had an entire year to stay here and explore'.

As we made our way back from the Cape via Kimberley to complete our large circle of almost half of the country, we found it hard to describe in words how incredibly diverse this country is in people, culture, landscape, economy, and feel. Every corner we turned gave us something new to experience and yet oddly, it all still fits into an overall sense of still being South African. We met country farmers, retirees in a golf course community, Zulu dancers, Indian shop owners, villagers from rural areas, people from cramped townships, fishermen, surfers, and more, all of whom spoke different languages, were from different backgrounds, yet all call this corner of the world home. It is both a blessing and curse to a country newly reformed and working to re-imagine itself and it's place in the world.

1 comment:

Brandon & Rachel said...

Thanks for the memories guys! Now that it's nearing the 90s and the scorching heat of the bushveld is around the corner, I wish we could just take off again :)


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