I felt a prick in my palm. It was a splinter and I could care less. The wooden floors felt cool on my perspiring skin. I stared-up at the bulbous clouds gliding along the crisp blue sky on my back, and although I couldn’t hear the ocean waves, I knew they weren’t too far. We had just finished doing yoga exercises on our private balcony of our B&B. “I could live here,” I told Dumpty. He agreed. We were silent again.
I was smitten by Cape Town’s beauty. There was so much raw beauty all around us and it was hard to believe it was a city of three and half million people. I couldn’t get over how clean all the streets were, how modern and nice most of the buildings were (even the public bathrooms were in tip-top condition), and the general efficiency of the city. Perhaps all the positives stood out more after leaving Istanbul, but still it was awesome and four days were too short.
Cape Town was completely surreal to me. I had to keep reminding myself this was real when we drove by Chapman’s Peak, False Bay and Muizenberg Beach. Just when I thought the view could not possibly get more beautiful, it does. Seriously. Cape Town, hands down, was more beautiful than any place I had seen in Turkey. Or perhaps any place I have ever seen.
The most memorable experience though had to be our visit to the Cape of Good Hope. It was an over drive from the city and the landscape gradually changed to flat yellowish planes overrun by wild flowers you can only find in South Africa. The first thing I noticed weren’t the angry crashing waves on the rocky shore, but rather a tall dark stranger I had only seen on TV. It was a wild male ostrich and he was literally two yards away from me. He definitely wasn’t shy. He kept his eyes on us while picking at stuff from the ground. After taking a gazillion pictures of the ostrich, I pealed away from the crowd of tourists and climbed up a small nearby cliff to get a better view of the ocean. Once again I was speechless by the beauty. I meditated for a couple of minutes and tried to capture the sensations of being perched on one of the most southern most parts of the world. This was something I did not want to forget. As much as I love the hustle bustle of New York, being close to raw nature was also pretty fantastic–perhaps more so.
That night Dumpty looked at me with concern. I had tears in my eyes while we were waiting for our entrées to arrive. I was just so overwhelmed with this happy feeling and was reminded of what we had gone through earlier this year. Life changes so quickly, doesn’t it? Most of the time I am too busy complaining or stressing about one thing or another but this time I had no complaints and no stresses. I was being. Now the question was how do I maintain it?
But Cape Town had a beastly side too. Each person and place always does. To Istanbul’s credit (and the whole of Turkey), I always felt safe. Even with my stuff. You would think there would be tension between the super modern and the super conservative, but no one ever gave me a funny look when I wore shorts. In Cape Town however, I was acutely aware that I wasn’t always safe. Every single house we passed by while staying at our B&B in Oranjezicht heavily advertised its security system and even the real estate magazine always highlighted the security surrounding the for-sale properties. We weren’t supposed to walk around at night either.
On one drizzly afternoon Dumpty and I had decided to walk to a tapas restaurant. I had my cell phone out while walking towards the place when two policemen stopped me. They warned me to keep my cell phone out of view and to be on guard—theft was rampant. That was discerning.
Pics from the Botanical Garden
The other ugly side was the damage left by apartheid. You can see it from the shacks lined up by the highways and by the direct conversations we had with the locals (read more about it here). Our guide openly told us that he doesn’t trust any Afrikans. We also met with some Afrikans and they were equally disgruntled. They complained about how the corrupt government was taking the country backwards and most of the officials now hired were unqualified to run the country. They were also frustrated with affirmative action rules in universities and job placement (such as airline industries are no longer accepting job applications from Afrikans). I didn’t quite know what to say. I could see both sides and both were messed-up.
So yes, South Africa was glorious and more than my words can describe. My eyes certainly got their fill of beauty, but they also caught the more sad and dark side of this great country too. It made me think about our own American history and we don’t have a pretty past either—nobody does. As I watched the sunset give its final warm embrace for the day, I wondered how many generations it would take for the bitterness to subside. I hope it’s in my lifetime.