Until the end of January, there was still one continent left untouched (except of course Antarctica. But I don’t plan on visiting that anytime soon. For obvious reasons).
Africa is my home country’s closest continent and yet I never had the occasion to cross the short distance south and venture beyond. That was why, when I first had the chance, I bid for Cape Town. Cape Town may not be the first place to come to mind when we think AFRICA. We tend to think of rainforests, glaring heat and tribes living off the produce of the land. Cape Town is different but it is no less dazzling in its display of natural beauty. It took my breath away.
We landed at Cape Town early in the afternoon. It was a gorgeous day, tampered slightly by the fact that there seemed to be this dense cloud hanging on top of Table Mountain. Our plan was to visit the top and enjoy the sights but with the thick fog which seemed bent on sticking to the top, there wouldn’t be much to see. But being fearless and bold and maybe a little bit stupid, we went anyway. Let’s just say that the top was, well, foggy, to say the least. There wasn’t much we could see except patches which the obstinate cloud would allow us to see of the beautiful view below. Nevertheless, the ride in the cable car was enough to send my adventurous streak in a frenzy.
The slopes of the mountain gave way to a sprawling city, which in turn gave way to the coast and the aquamarine sea. It seemed to me as if nature had allowed man to reside in its embrace and they were living in harmony side by side. Civilisation had in no way lessened the beauty of the landscape. On the contrary, it gave us visitors the chance to appreciate it even more. Through the hum of the cable car, we made our ascent on to what was now one of the 7 Natural Wonders of the world. We meandered through the stony paths, getting to know my new colleagues better, listening to their life stories so different and yet so similar to mine. We made acquaintance with the local beaver inhabitants who were cheeky enough to pose for photos before disappearing into cracks and shrubs. Like I’ve already mentioned, we were not given much of a view but I’ve learnt to do much with the little I’m given and this made the patches we could see all the more precious and in some way even more beautiful. It’s hard to explain. It’s very much like when you’re not offered anything, when you know you could be offered so much but through a twist of fate you’re still given something. And that makes all the difference in the world. And finally, when we were done wandering on the withered heath of the mountain top, we headed inside a small cafeteria and sipped on coffee, 3.558 feet above sea level.
That evening we went for dinner at Camps Bay, where the street was lined with tall palm trees on one side and a peaked mountainous horizon on the other, where the sand on the beach was pearly white and the sun set where the sea kissed the sky goodnight. The food was amazing and the wine was, well, South African, and that’s the best compliment in itself. I still believe Cape Town has been one of my best layovers to date. A beautiful city, breathtaking scenery, exceptional food and good company. And when the first stars appeared in the sky, an Italian, a Polish, a Romanian and a Maltese sat outside an ice cream parlour and talked and talked about life.
Honestly, that topic is just inexhaustible.
Post Scriptum: When I first drafted this piece I wasn’t going to include what I am about to mention now but I realised it is as important as mentioning Table Mountain. Upon exiting the airport, we were met by hundreds of houses, for want of a better word, made out of scraps of metal. Headlights were wired together, ensconcing the place, making it look like anyone living there was under constant scrutiny. If you’ve ever seen District Nine, you have a very clear picture of what I’m talking about. People forced to live in squalid conditions in huts ready to fall apart with the slightest wind, amassed together like chickens in a coop. I could look upon it for the briefest of minutes and then it was gone. I do not mean to be judgemental. I do not know the how or the why or what is currently being done about it. All I know is that for a short moment I looked upon something I thought I’d never see, not in Cape Town, a civilised hub. No one should live in those conditions and maybe some things are being done to amend the situation. That is what I hope.
Not giving it a mention made me feel like I was not giving the situation any worth and that did not feel right. Cape Town is a beautiful city, but like every beautiful thing it has its own dark side, the thorn in the stem. If only we could learn from the pricking of our fingers that something needs to be done. Maybe something is, but it’s not happening fast enough. And in the meantime, our finger bleeds.