Gordon’s Bay-Tuesday-3/8

Robertson/Gordon’s Bay, Day 34- The owner-managers of De Oude Opstal, Henk and Mardi Botha were delightful, we had enjoyable conversations regarding Robertson wine farms and the world’s problems. As to the latter, no solutions were found. Mardi’s father has collected canes from around the world and they figure prominently in the reception area.

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One of the subjects covered with Henk was political correctness and how over the top it’s become. The featured photo is of Henk. Henk is African, his family has been in Africa for 8 generations, for him, African isn’t black or white. So it calls into question, what is African American?  To us in the US it’s about colour, to an African not necessarily. We hated to leave our wonderful accommodations and the care lavished on us by the Botha’s, but it was time to go. We have to make it to Kruger National Park on the other side of the country by 3/27.

Besides De Oude Opstal, another gem in Robertson is the Robertson Art Gallery. It draws clients from all over South Africa. We had noticed two special paintings in De Oude Opstal, now we know where they were purchased.

These paintings were some of our favorites. The figurative paintings are by a Black African, Makiwa Mutomba who is extremely successful. He has taken many awards for his work throughout Europe. The landscape painting is by Carla Bosch a South Africa that is now residing in Laguna Beach area. She is still painting South African scenes and shipping them home for exhibit and sale. She has won awards in South Africa and California.

Pete drove south out of Robertson to a winery, Viljoensdrift, that offers a boat trip down the Breede river, a picnic lunch and of course wine. It was absolutely beautiful!

Onward down the road to Gordon’s Bay where we are staying in the honeymoon suite at Gordon’s Bay Lodge, because it’s all that was left. Got to stretch our legs walking to the the Thirsty Oyster, where we had a light meal. Then back to blog with very bad wifi. So, that’s all for the night…

 

 

Robertson-Monday-3/7

Franschoek/Robertson, Day 33-If anyone had told me we would be driving through South Africa two years ago, I would have thought it a good joke. Well here we are, doing our best to get off the beaten tourist track.

The featured photo is goodbye to the Franschoek Valley. Had a wonderful stay at Goodings Groves, fabulous place. Susan filled me in on the employment laws this morning; 125/day Rand minimum wage, time & a third or half after 9 hours and two days off a week. It’s very confusing because different people give you different information. Sometimes it’s the same people giving different information. I think that some of the employers adhere to the laws and some don’t, and there isn’t much enforcement. When Susan and her husband John took over the running of the Groves, she was insistent of fair treatment of employees. She had been involved in community development for many years and saw the benefits for everyone involved when employees were treated fairly. She told the owners, the Goodings, that in order to make money on their Franschoek property that they had to live righteously, which meant treating the workers fairly. The place has been profitable since John and Susan have taken over management and the workers seem content with little turnover.

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Last night we decided to head north to Robertson, which is still wine country, but more of a working class town. They have tourists, but not nearly as many as wine areas closer to Cape Town. Other than getting away from the hoards of tourists, we were motivated by the scenic potential of the drive through the Haweqwas mountain passes.

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This is baboon country, but unfortunately we didn’t see any. Although it doesn’t show in the photo, there is a stream running through this gorge. Have never seen so many shades of green!

Found a room in De Oude Opstal a wonderful old Dutch B&B, the oldest house in Robinson. Our room is the top right, with Langeberg mountain views.

Some rain on the way into town. It’s much cooler at 65 degrees F. We were surprised to see the first ‘rest areas’ of the trip.

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Yup, that’s it….table, benches and garbage can. Sometimes there are several tables and garbage cans, but no restrooms.

The restauant tonight is owned by a woman from Oregon unfortunately tonight was her day off.

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Franschloek-Sunday-3/6

Wine Country, Franschloek, Day 32-We slept in this morning and were the last ones to breakfast. Pete had the full house and I had poached eggs, toast and bacon.

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Silly Americans, we didn’t think to ask if the wineries, or as the South Aricans call them, wine farms, would be open on Sunday. After all, the Capetonians drive out here to drink and eat during the weekends, why would they be closed? Well most of them are, as are many of the restaurants, just like Cape Town. Our hostess, Susan was so kind as to ferret out some rogue wineries that open on Sunday and are worth a visit. Map in hand we chose Glenwood as our first wine destination. This is a small gem of a vineyard accessible by dirt road. Charming tasting room,  gorgeous views (as you can see from the featured photo), and excellent Chardonnay, Merlot-Shiraz blend and Syrah. There were 6 wines to taste. It was a pity to take a few sips and pour the rest out, but at 11 am we felt we really must be careful and pace ourselves.

imageNext on the list was La Petite Ferme located south of Franschloek just before the mountain passes. This winery is the complete opposite of peaceful Glenwood. Think tour bus, kids running, car park attendant and people snapping photos everywhere. This is a large, well developed facility that serves meals, has lodging and requires guests to purchase full glasses of wine. Pete had orange juice as the designated driver and we ordered a Lebonese starter tray to keep some food on our stomachs. I had a flute of bubbly rosé that was delicious. Again spectacular views in every direction.

imageWe turned around and headed north to Paarl just to take a look at more of the wine country. The town has more Dutch architecture than the other towns and cities we’ve seen so far. Just couldn’t bring ourselves to drink more wine, definitely not use to daytime alcohol. All we wanted to do was take a nap, so we drove back to Gooding Groves to rest up for our big evening out at the French Connection Bistro in Franschloek. When we arrived yesterday, Susan asked if we had dinner reservations for both evenings we would be here. We told her we had made Saturday reservations at Ryan’s and she rushed off to call around to get us in for dinner at one of her favorite places this evening. Evidently between all the Cape visitors, tourists and closed restaurants prior reservations are a must. So, thank you, Susan!

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One of the things that has really bothered us are the deplorable conditions and wages of most of the farm workers, restaurant help and other people of colour. In Franshoeck workers are paid maybe 100 Rand/day. This amount is hardly enough to buy a meal, let alone support a family.  Workers are expected to bus or walk to work. This effectively reduces an already ridiculously low wage or they are tired and less productive from walking miles to work. This is all taking place while owners are charging 120 to 600 Rand for a meal, 1500 to 4000 Rand for a nights accommodation or 100 to 600 Rand for a bottle of wine. Plus there is no pension and workers are laid off during the slow season with no income at all, sometimes for as long as 6 months. The only safety net is if a farm worker has been employed at least 10 years on the same farm and turns 60, he or she is then allowed to stay on the land forever. Even though the wineries ‘Dop’system of paying workers in wine was legally abolished in 1994, the result is generations of farm workers addicted to alcohol. Fetal alcohol syndrome is one of the highest in the world at 11%. It is pressure and questions from tourists and the outside world that has and will continue to force change for people of colour in South Africa.

Back to more pleasant subjects, dinner at the French Connection was excellent.

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Franschloek-Saturday-3/5

Wine Country, Franschloek, Day 31-up early this morning to pack an go pick up our car. We accomplished all early, so decided to have a last breakfast at Euro Haus to say goodbye to PJ and staff. Christiaan and Trevor were there, as they were early also and killing time. We had a great visit at the restaurant and at the apartment. Lots of discussion on favorite places, dentist and routes. We absolutely love Cape Town!

Thought we were getting a SUV, but ended up with a sedan, so we could have a large trunk. Even with the large boot we could barely fit all our luggage. Pete drove like a champion for an hour to wine county, northeast of Cape Town. We are staying at Goodings Grove, a hobby farm with Olive trees, grape vines, figs and apricot trees.

This is a very affordable place to stay compared to most places in wine country. The owners are very pleasant and helpful. Pete asked about a tour of the property. There is no official tour and we were told that walking the property was welcome, but to stay on the paths. There are poisonous snakes, including Black Mambas and Cobras. We have decided that walking the estate isn’t something we needed to do. The Grove is 14 minutes out of Franschloek. We drove in to see all that the town has to offer, which includes art galleries, upscale clothing stores and restaurants.

I made reservations at Ryan’s Kitchen for dinner. We arrived at the restaurant at 7 pm and were the first customers; it doesn’t even open until 6:30 pm. This is a very highly rated place to eat. Pete’s Springbok was delicious. The starter fish in a bag was also very, very good, but I must say that the rest of the food didn’t compare to Chef’s Kitchen and it was much more expensive.

We had great views of the mountains while having dinner. When we got back to Goodings Grove we indulged in Hugeunot chocolates that we found in town from Belgium.

Fudge and Citrus marzipan.

Sunset (courtesy of Pete), Dutch church and Ryan’s Kitchen.

Cape Town-Friday-3/4o

Day 30, Cape Town- Last night we enjoyed one of the best burgers ever at Boston. The band consisted of two people instead of one. Had to smile about that! They were wedged into the area in front if the restrooms, which meant patrons had to wait for breaks to get to the facilities. You can get just a partial peek of Eric to the right in the white Tee shirt. He was so happy we came to give him an unqualified American opinion of his burgers. Have to say they were outstanding. Brioche buns with hand made, free range, organic beef patties….super yummy.

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What we forgot was First Thursday. Imagine Portland’s First Thursday, then multiply it by three. The crowds were unbelievable and everything stayed open late. Shops, art galleries, food trucks & stands, architectural firms, you name it. There usually aren’t food trucks or stands in downtown Cape Town. They only show up for First Thursday. This is the line waiting to get into a place called Arcade.

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Today was our last full day in Cape Town. I was successful in getting an appointment for a hair cut & color ( omg, yes I color, who would think it?) at Sword and Fern. Nice salon that really knows how to pamper a girl. Got a purplish Mani-Pedi after some convincing that it would look good. Pete walked me to my appointment and ran errands. I still wasn’t done, so he had to go to round the corner to the local pub and have a couple of beers, poor guy…

The hair stylist told me about a fish and chip place, so we tried it out for a late lunch. This is the first bad meal we’ve had. I mean practically inedible. The fish was Snoek, a local fish that looks something about a Barracuda. Very bony, with a good favor. The fish is related to the mackerel. Picked off the greasy coating and ate the fish. Also it was the only place where we were ripped off on our change.  I apologized to Pete, we threw everything in the garbage and headed home.

Thought I’d add a few random photos of Cape Town as a final Adieu.

Saint George’s cathedral is the only church I’ve ever seen with a bar and jazz club in the crypt.

The featured photo is one of several mosaic park benches we saw on our way to dinner one night.

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Spent the rest of the day packing. We are picking up the car at 10 am and hoping we can get everything in the trunk. Some of the areas we will be driving through it’s recommended to have an SUV for higher clearance. So, we went with one that has the covered luggage compartment. We really need to be able to keep everything out of sight. Smash and grab isn’t unusual.

Here’s a great example of old Dutch architecture that we saw on one of our walks.

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One last skyline photo to remember Cape Town. Such a beautiful city. Everywhere you look there is a gorgeous vista.

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Cape Town-Thursday-3/3

Day 29, Cape Town-Quick breakfast this morning at Euro Haus, before trying to get a hair appointment at Mop. No go, should have addressed this issue earlier. Just so much to do, that I let it slide. On the waiting list in case there’s a cancellation. I’m going to have to find another salon, if I don’t hear soon. Anyway, let it go for the day and grabbed a cab out of town to Kirstenbosch National Botanical Garden, the last of the sites to see on our list.

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The garden and nature reserve are about 1306 acres. The developed garden is about 89 acres. After 3 hours stumping up and down hills, it felt like we covered all 89 acres! It is the largest of 10 botanical gardens managed by the South African National Biodiversity Institute. The site was surveyed and administered by the VOC in 1652. After the British occupation in 1806 the land passed through several hands, the last being Cecil John Rhodes who bought it in 1895 for £9000 to protect the eastern slopes of Table Mountain from development. When Rhodes died in 1902, Kirstenbosch was left to the nation. It became a botanical garden in 1915.

Magnificent is a good word to describe this beautifully planned indigenous garden. There are areas with vegetation that has been unaltered by man that dates back to prehistoric times, areas with endangered plants, a tree canopy walk, stone sculpture garden, useful plants garden, fragrant garden and much, much more.

I can imagine the fantastic floral display that there must be in the spring and early summer.

We loved the stone sculpture garden. All the pieces were created by African artists.

Our cab drivers were interesting guys. By the way, we’ve yet to see a professional woman driver, in cabs or buses. The driver that took us out to the garden came here from Zimbabwe. He had a lot to say about Mugabe, the hero rebel leader, who went crazy with paranoia. He is thankful to SA for taking him as a political refugee, but is waiting for the day when he can go home. Our second driver was from the Congo. He had a lot to say about the dangers of living in SA, because of the resentment over jobs. He went on about the lack of education in the townships and how the inhabitants are not employable. This is all a repeat and confirmation of Laura’s views during our township tour.

When we got back into town there was excitement on Long Street. A fire had broken out in the backpackers hostel just down the street from us. We stopped for a drink and watched the action. The fire was out quickly and no one was injured.

We are going back to Boston for burgers tonight. We really like the owner, Eric and want to support him in his fledgling business. Plus he has a full band tonight, although I’m not sure where he’s going to put them. As you could see from the photo in yesterday’s blog, it’s not a very big place.

Cape Town-Wednesday-3/2

Day 28, Cape Town-Two and one half days left in Cape Town. We are scrambling to see, do and eat everything we want here.

Last night we finally were able to get seats at Chefs Warehouse, one of the top restaurants in Cape Town. It was a fixed, Tapas menu and other than the Tuna in Simon Town, the best meal so far. All of the food has been good, but this was superb. Cape Town is foodie heaven and the most sophisticated city in South Africa.

We have been told that our travels into the rest of South Africa will take us from first world to third world. We can’t wait to see for ourselves.

Today we bused down to the V & A and picked up a few things we are going to need for the rest of the trip.

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The Slave Lodge Museum was on our list of places we wanted to visit. So, we headed back uptown.

imageThe lodge was built as a fortress with a large center courtyard to hold slaves for the East India Company.

imageThere is a beautiful monument inscribed with the names of lodge slaves in the museum. Unlike most owners, the East India Company (VOC) allowed slaves to keep their own names. Most of the VOC slaves were from Eastern Africa and Asia. In early Cape Town there was a large disparity in the numbers of men (more) than women, so every night the lodge was opened as a brothel for one hour.  People became slaves in various ways: the desperately poor that sold family members as slaves, slave raiders, those enslaved as spoils of war and those enslaved because of debt. For those slaves transported in ships to Cape Town it wasn’t unusual for 20% to die in transit. Of those that made the transatlantic trip to the American colony, up to 35% could die in transit. The museum also addressed those citizens coloured, black and white that fought for the end of apartheid.  The fight continues as the townships, the agricultural workers and mine workers are still suffering from policies enacted prior to 1994, when apartheid was abolished.

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We had made reservations at the African Cafe days ago. We thought it would be fitting and fun to try food from the different countries in Africa. Again a fixed menu, only this time there was so much good food it was overwhelming. We couldn’t compare the meal to the one the night before, mostly because it was so completely different.

After dinner we decided to live it up and go listen to live music at a place called Boston. It’s pretty new and owned by a South African that worked in the US for 5 years. The musician was excellent, he played and sang 1960’s & 70’s hits.

imageWhile we were there the sports channel was on and I thought you’d want to know that Zimbabwe beat Australia in Cricket by 5 wickets. I have no idea what that means…..

On the walk home at about 10 pm the city was finally in full swing. Music blasting, restaurants filled and people laughing and shouting.

 

 

 

 

Cape Town-Tuesday-3/1

Day 27, Cape Town-Laura Ndukwana picked us up at 9 am sharp. She really doesn’t do tours anymore, but because Christina at Willamette Travel referred us she picked us up personally. Thank you, Christina! Christina has been a believer, encouraging Laura in her mission to help the children of the townships.

Laura is busy running her school for promising young children from the Gugulethu township. The government mandates schooling for all children through grade 12, but many black township parents don’t send their children to school. School starts at age 7, which is too late for many of the at risk kids. Laura’s school start’s children at age 4, hopefully before they have to many damaging experiences.

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Collin takes care of most of the tours now. He is a delightful young man that speaks great English and has a very extensive vocabulary, all of which he obtained by watching television, especially his favorite James Bond. Collin was forced to leave school in the 11th grade to go to work. So, in order to improve himself, he would stand in front of the mirror and repeat the English he heard on TV until he mastered the language.

Collin toured us through the women’s prison in Langa township, which is the oldest of the townships around Cape Town. Langa township originally consisted entirely of men. One of Apartheid’s aims was to break up the black or African nuclear family and to control the number of blacks actually in Cape Town. The women were left in villages while the men left to find work in the township. The men were allowed to visit their families once a year for 3 weeks. This was usually at the end of December or the beginning of January, a tradition that is carried on today when black families visit their villages or take their families to the beach. Otherwise the only time married couples saw each other was when the wife could get a visitation permit, was in the township for medical treatment or if a kind employer accompanied them. The police raided the men’s quarters frequently to find women that were there illegally. They were then put in the women’s prison. The women would frequently be raped there. When the husband found out he would abandon them.

Collin then took us on a walking tour of Langa.

imageThis is a hostel that housed the men that came to Langa for work. They were housed after registering and given 90 days to find employment. There were three men to a room. Today there are as many as three families to a room at 20 Rand/family.

One of the results of apartheid policy of tearing apart families, is that nuclear families with a mom and dad are still a rarity in the townships. The average income in the townships is 300 Rand/month. The equivalent of 18.56 US. This is what the government hands out per month, but only if you have a child. They will pay 300 rand per child, up to 3 children. Guess what this encourages? Most girls are mothers by 14 and have their 3 children by 19 years of age. There is child abuse, rape at the age of 5, and forced prostitution. Dad is not around and no one even asks who he is. There has been new housing built, the occupants have to pay 180 Rand/month for 5 years, then the house or apartment is deeded over to them. However, there are many people still living in temporary housing from 1994. There is no electricity, except what’s stolen from neighboring lines, no sewer or toilets and no running water.

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imageYup, that’s right, shipping containers. Broiling in the summer and freezing in the winter. And to top it off there are two families to a container.

I was mistaken in a previous blog, there are two million African refugees, not 200 million. Still, this has not helped the employment situation, although the refugees from Zimbabwe tend to be well educated. Laura, who has a university degree said, “that before Robert Mugabe went crazy, he made sure his people had an education.” There is a lot of resentment in the black community about jobs being taken by the refugees, but as Laura pointed out most of the blacks in the townships aren’t employable, because they don’t know how to do anything…no education. With 60% unemployment in just the Cape Town townships, which are home to about 2.2 million people, the government statistic of 24-35% unemployment is definitely questionable.

Here is a lady that is considered employed, even though she doesn’t pay taxes. Cooked sheep heads are sold to feed the local families. The yellow on the women’s face is a homemade sun screen. We walked past one of these enterprises, but I got this photo online, as I didn’t want to just start snapping away.

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There is a more affluent area in each of the townships where nurses, teachers, police and other professions live. Even though these people make good money 15,000 to 50,000 Rand/month, they still feel a need to have more. So, in the case of the nurses, they take all the drugs from the hospital and make people pay them extra to get what they need.

Laura has had her share of tragedy. Over the past 8 years she has pulled her life together and found a new start with Glenn. They have been married now for just three months. Glenn is half Malay and half black. He and Laura have moved to a small Malay community very close to Gugulethu township. She has started a new school in her home, as the only way to get government assistance is to be in a permanent structure. Laura’s prior school was in a shack, these type of schools aren’t recognized officially, so are on their own financially unless they can find sponsors. Laura has been busy creating a classroom, kitchen, toilets, bathing facilities and garden for the children. Eventually she will turn her entire home over to the school. Her young German teacher, Benjamin, is free because he is fulfilling his country’s three month requirement of volunteer service after secondary school.  This is supposed to help young people in Germany decide what they want to do before starting university. Laura has been working on publicity and is now working with politicians to be able to obtain government legitimacy.

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Laura and Glenn, the newlyweds!

Fifth birthday party at school. This little boy has been praying for a birthday cake everyday for a month. He was so overwhelmed that he could hardly bring himself to blow out the candle.

imageThe children get breakfast and lunch at school. Laura picks them up in the morning and takes them home in the afternoon. These meals would not necessarily be available to the children at home.

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Benjamin, he lives with Glenn and Laura. They are expecting another volunteer from Switzerland shortly.

imageGlenn with their new puppy, watching the birthday festivities.