Our initial plan for South Africa called for around five days in Cape Town to get settled in and then hit the road in TianMa. Well, five days turned into 20 (of which four were spent in the atmospheric fishing village of Paternoster) and still we didn’t manage to see the Kirstenbosch Gardens, Haut Bay, the city’s Castle, Robben Island, Chapman’s Peak drive or even a single museum. The famous flower and craft markets? Forget about it – the closest we came to it was a day spent in a giant suburban mall.
And yet we don’t feel we “missed” anything at all. In fact, all but two of our days in CT were filled with activities and we were regularly out and about. In between meeting, socializing and staying with four wonderful couchsurfing hosts, eating extremely well (out and home-cooked), strolling neighborhoods, sampling great wines, learning Afrikaans catch-phrases and taking in the World Cup atmosphere we just didn’t get the time to do everything (or even most) on the tourist check-list. Which is exactly why Cape Town is our favorite city that we’ve visited on this trip and the only one we can imagine ourselves moving to. Sure, we did see some great tourist sights and were lucky enough to have great weather in wintertime but what we really loved was the simple and sincere comfort and happiness we felt there. There’s just something about the city and its people. Had we known this in advance, we wouldn’t have spent so much time resting and enjoying life in Buenos Aires – it’s now been over two months since we’ve done serious travels.
So it was more than a little difficult to finally make ourselves pack up and get on a bus to see some more of South Africa. “A bus?”, you ask “Where is TianMa?” Well, unfortunately, he is still in Buenos Aires and not due here until mid-July thanks to an unfortunately-timed port strike in South Africa that really delayed our plans to get him here. But we hold out hope that we will reunite soon and we are getting by without so far, even though public transport here is much worse than in South America, making budget-oriented backpacking difficult.
Which brings us to the reasons why we’re not yet abandoning our trip and just setting up shop in Cape Town even though we loved it. First, it’s just too car-oriented. Like in America, there’s way too much of a auto-freeway-suburbs-malls culture that we’re just not sure we want to be around long-term (although it’s much easier to deal with here because it lacks the “workaholic” element that we so often saw in California and the buildings and infrastructure are much newer and more pleasing to the eye, even if they are suburbs). More importantly, there’s clearly still a big gap in poverty and between the races here in South Africa. We can’t quite articulate what it is (certainly not overt racism) as all the locals we’ve met are extremely nice and welcoming, but there is some social tension that we can’t help but notice. Perhaps it’s a subject for another post… for now, we are just glad we’re here.