Cape Town: Table Mountain, Kirstenbosch and Langa
Cape Town offers a wide range of attractions, sights and activities. One blog post is certainly not enough to describe all attractions, so I limit it to three spots I liked best: Table Mountain, Kirstenbosch and Langa.
Table Mountain is Cape Town's most prominent attraction and a world famous landmark. The top of Table Mountain offers breathtaking views in all directions. The mountain is often cloaked in magical mist and surealistic cloud formations, which have become famous as the 'tablecloth'. Sometimes it seems that the clouds are pouring or streaming like a viscous fluid over the ridge of the mountain. In November 2011 Table Mountain was nominated and announced as one of the 'New 7 Wonders of Nature', which is a campaign to promote the cultural and natural heritage of the earth. For the nomination billions of votes are selected through an international poll.
Hiking on Table Mountain is very popular, you can reach the top of the mountain either by cableway or by foot. The summit can be reached by foot in a time between 2.5 and 4 hours, depending on the chosen route. The best photo spot to get the typical famous silhouette of the Table Mountain is from Bloubergstrand which is located about 25 km to the north of Cape Town city centre.
Kirstenbosch is the name of a botanical garden located at the foot of the Table Mountain. From the garden several trails lead up to the summit. Kirstenbosch covers an area of 528 hectares with 36 hectares of cultivated gardens. It shows only indigenous South African plants. A great variety of birds inhabit Kirstenbosch and the view from the upper slopes is spectacular. The garden opens at 8:00 in the morning, unfortunatly a little bit too late for good photos right after sunrise. A tip: sneak in at 6:30 in the morning using a sideway, go to beautiful spots with all the flowers, birds and insects and get the perfect time for photos in the morning light. Of course you shouldn't forget to pay the entrance fee when you leave the garden ;-)
Langa is the oldest township in Cape Town. Established in 1927 it was designated for Black Africans long time before the apartheid era in South Africa. Langa was also a major location of resistance to the apartheid regime. In 1960 over 50 000 people burnt their pass books in defiance of the pass laws, which were designed to segregate the population and forced the black Africans over the age of 16 to carry their pass book at all times within white areas. At that time any white person could ask a black African to show them the pass book.
A lot of people in Europe think that the term 'township' nowadays is similar to a slum or a shanty town. When you visit a township in South Africa you will probably be surprised that it is not true at all. Primarily the term township in South Africa was generally associated with an 'urban area'. Under the apartheid, townships changed to areas with non-whites like Blacks, "coloureds" and Indians, living near white-only communities. Today a township is one of the many suburbs that an urban area like Cape Town might have, although in most cases still reservered for the non-white inhabitants. Some old townships have seen rapid development in the last decade. In fact, a part of Langa is called 'Beverly Hills' with beautiful small colorful houses and cars in front of the garden. Ironically 'Beverly Hills' is only a stone's throw away from the shanties of the poorest part of Langa, still a reality and maybe the reason that people mix up the terms 'township' and 'shanty town'. Surprisingly there is no tension between the rich and the poor people in Langa, all live in a community, the rich help the poor and the poor people respect the rich people. Actually the people in the shanties live in the hope of getting a job and soon move to the better part of Langa.
Visiting a township is a vibrant and lively experience (the portraits above are taken from people in Langa). A guide is mandatory and it is not advisable to visit a township alone at night. The unemployment rate is still high, crime is still a real threat and there are gangs around who most likely will rob you after nightfall. However by day with a guide Langa is secure and the people are very friendly. It certainly is a good idea staying for lunch in Langa, for instance in a family driven cooking place. But be careful, there is a certain chance to get fried worms served, which is a delicacy in some traditional families.