Heading to South Africa? Why You Should Employ a Tour Guide
“Is it all right if I take a couple of minutes and offer you a little background about South African history? It’s not something most American schools teach.” That’s how Garth introduced himself and I bristled a bit. South Africa. I understand about South Africa. There’s apartheid, Oscar Pistorius, the Sugar Male, and the Lion King. Heck. I got involved in a sit-in throughout the 80’s to protest my college’s investments in South Africa, an effort that was deserted after a couple of hours due to the fact that I required to get back to my home to host a party.
I know nothing about South Africa.
I hoped my directed tour of Cape Town would alter that unfortunate reality.
Work With a Tourist Guide or Go it Alone?
I was hesitant. I’m a resourceful and adventurous traveler. My technique to a new city is to roam around on foot and by car, based on what I have actually read in manuals, online, or in the local paper. On this trip, however, I was prepared to deliver control. I was traveling a very long range and had valuable little time to check out. And, when I saw that they drive British-style– on the incorrect (left) side of the road– I was alleviated to leave the driving to somebody else.
Day One in Cape Town, South Africa
Upon arrival at the Cape Heritage Hotel, the manager offered us an emailed itinerary for the next two days from our guide. And, as guaranteed, he got to 9 a.m. the next morning and delivered some bad news. One of the signature activities in Cape Town is ascending to the top of Table Mountain via turning cable cars and truck and was our very first arranged event for the day. The cable vehicle was closed, and had been for days, since of high winds, with no relief in sight, according to the weather condition projections.
So, we regrouped and started with a walkabout in the Bo-Kaap, a neighborhood of vibrantly painted homes in the shadow of the mountain. Settled over 300 years back by freed servants from Southeast Asia, this is the heart of the city’s Muslim neighborhood. We popped into Atlas Trading to ferret out a few of the spices, like turmeric and coriander, used to season the abundant meals connected with the neighborhood’s Cape Malay cuisine. As we walked, Garth filled us in the timeline of South African history after its discovery by European explorers: from a business state operated by the Dutch East India Business, through the wars between the Brits, Boers, and Zulus, to apartheid and the current political unrest as the country continues to search for its method.
Visiting the Summit: Table Mountain
Next, we drove unfortunately past the “Closed” sign at the entryway to Table Mountain and as much as Signal Hill to have a look at two stunning vistas: the mountain and the view of the city down below. I moped in the rear seat and listened as our tour guide told us more about the British Boer Wars. The injuries from this dispute were borne personally by his household. During the war years, the British placed Boer and black women and kids in concentration camps, where thousands died. Displeasure existed for decades after the wars and the formation of the Republic of South Africa in 1910.
As we drove back down, I observed that the Table Mountain indication had altered. “It’s OPEN!” I squealed. Garth swerved right and my partner murmured “Invite to my world.” The winds need to have waned and we were able to ride the cable cars and truck and take a meandering walk throughout the tabletop as Garth explained the geology of the mountain and its distinctive groups of plants: protea, ericas, bulbs, and yards. Botanists just recognize 6 floral kingdoms on the planet, and the one on the Cape Peninsula is the tiniest. It reminded me of the heath found on the moors in England.
Cape Town’s Complicated Past
Our tour guide mentioned lunch and I recognized that my stomach had been grumbling because I sniffed those spices earlier in the day. He recommended the Mint restaurant in the Taj Hotel in downtown and I asked him to join us. We continued to listen attentively as he relayed the rise, fall, rise, and fall of Cecil Rhodes. I ‘d first become aware of Rhodes during the Rovos Rail train stop in Kimberley. Rhodes had made his fortune in diamonds as an extremely boy. He went on to act as Prime Minister of the Cape Colony and led a dreadful raid versus the Boers that led to his expulsion from South Africa. Throughout his exile, he worked up war eagerness and motivated the 2nd Anglo Boer War that raged from 1899-1902, the year that Rhodes passed away.
He passed away at his Cape beach home in Muizenberg and left no successors as he never married; he did have a series of live-in male buddies, so it’s presumed he was gay. Rhodes left a considerable tradition: the land he bestowed to South Africa is house to the University of Cape Town and Kirstenbosch, the magnificent arboretums, and nearly 8,000 students have actually gotten prominent Rhodes scholarships. His remains are buried in Zimbabwe, previously Southern Rhodesia (surrounding Zambia was Northern Rhodesia).
One Male’s Struggle: Nelson Mandela
I cut our tour short at this point in the afternoon. With minimal days in Cape Town, I truly desired to visit Mandela’s cell on Robben Island and I ‘d acquired ferry tickets for the 3 p.m. trip. Our tour guide took it in stride, provided us a remarkable restaurant suggestion for dinner, dropped us at the waterside, and confirmed a 9 a.m. pickup for the following morning.
Set adrift in Cape Town, I felt a bit lost, despite the fact that I normally take a trip unaccompanied. I already missed out on our tour guides entertaining narration. It was far better than much of the mumbled dialogues I have actually strained to understand during hop-on, hop-off bus trips in other cities. And he answered my concerns. I typically have a few … hundred.
I chose to reserve judgement about whether it’s better to assist or not to direct up until after Day Two and our trip of the Cape Peninsula since I truly didn’t wish to think that maybe, just possibly, I ‘d been traveling all incorrect previously.
Pictures: Cathy Bennett Kopf/The Open Suitcase