Visiting the DARK CONTINENT

Africa once was known as the “dark continent.’ It may have been called this because it was a land that was not well known.

In reality, the name came into use after 19th century European missionaries began working there. Africa was mysterious, savage and unknown; hence, the “DARK CONTINENT.”

And now it is a tourist jewel…

What a beautiful, awesome continent! It could only be Africa. After long preparations, both physical and psychological, and after 21 long hours of flight, we glimpsed from above, the dazzling lights of Cape Town, South Africa. A beautiful, well-organized, sprawling city at the foot of Table Mountain. However, on the highway leading into Cape Town, there were numerous illuminated signs warning travellers, such as us, that ” These Highways are in high Crime Areas!!! Do Not Stop on any of these Roads!” In spite of these warnings, our positive outlook remained in-tact and we were resolved to have a good time, and immerse ourselves in the environment, and learn as much as we could about the people, the culture and the history of South Africa.

In reality, South Africa has three capital cities; Cape Town, the legislative capital; Pretoria, the administrative capital; and Johannesburg, the financial capital. People travel from one capital city to another, depending on which city is most suitable to conduct their business. Cape Town has 11 official spoken languages, but English and Afrikaans (a mixture of English and Dutch) are spoken the most. Children are taught in both English and Afrikaans in school, but they also learn the language of their tribe at home from parents and grandparents. Cape Town was set to be a penal colony, inhabited by convicts transported from Asia. However, Sir Eggly, the governor at the time, protested their presence, so they could not be set free in Cape Town at the time. But, in time, as the land proved to be fertile for agriculture, and had an excellent climate for growing, more convicts arrived and were used by the rich, Dutch landlords to work their lands. These East Indian convicts were then referred to as “slaves” by their owners.

One cannot visit Cape Town, without taking a 45-minute cruise over choppy waters to Robben Island, the notorious prison where Nelson Mandela spent 18 of 27 incarcerated years. The prison today is a loving museum, a testimony to the 1940’s era of protests, killings, imprisonment and apartheid. His guards tried to brow-beat him, humiliate him, and demean him, but to no avail. He tirelessly continued to work towards peace, even in his darkest hours, of which there were many. He was a humble man who won the respect of the inmates through quiet determination, and through as many interactions he was allowed on any given day. For many years, he was not allowed books in his cell but was allowed a notebook and a pen or a pencil. It was in prison that he wrote his famous book Long Walk to Freedom.When he was released from prison in 1990, he went straight to the Town Square and gave a long, heartfelt speech in which he implored the people not to seek revenge for segregation, for the culture of apartheid, but to turn that energy into something positive; freedom.

When in Cape Town, one must navigate Ocean Drive to the Cape of Good Hope, home of the endangered African penguins. This area, the land, the sea, and the rugged coastline is referred to as the “roaring 40’s” because it lies on the 40th parallel which is often subjected to high winds, high surf and very low sun over the horizon. These conditions caused many shipwrecks, and many deaths thus the area is known as the “marine graveyard.” However, this area is also the home of the most amazing, cute, little creatures, the African penguins. They waddled to and from the icy ocean, to scatter only when the larger penguins came ashore and created a ruckus. The penguins live in colonies and enjoy a well-organized system of community. They chattered and nattered at each other constantly. When tourists passed by, they stopped their activity and appeared to be posing for the ever-present cameras, all the while impressing with their unique sounds. At the moment, it is climate change that is their enemy and this may be what will lead them to extinction.

Cape Town and area are truly a magnificent showcase of nature, humanity and urbanization working together to create a seemingly harmonious environment, and yet, one cannot escape the underlying social ills of the country. Cape Town has come a long way from the days of apartheid, but it still has many years of work ahead.

Cape Town, a 5-day visit which will last forever.

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