Cape Town, South Africa

August 29 - September 2, 2013

The conceptual meeting point of the Atlantic and Indian Oceans: Cape of Good Hope, South Africa.


In three weeks, Silversbok took us 4200 kilometers, north to Etosha NP and all the way south to the Cape of Good Hope (which lives in our imagination after reading so many round-the-world sailing books.) An epic road-trip indeed. In Windhoek, the Dollar car rental person said, without purchasing the expensive extra coverage, "If you get a flat, you will have to buy a new tire. If you get a chip on the windshield, you will have to buy a new one." Yikes! But we take the chance anyway.

At the Cape Town airport we drop off Silversbok and tell the rental car agent "Everything's good, no problems." He notes the thick layers of white and red dust, checks our mileage, looks at the spare tire in the trunk, then gazes down at our tires with zero tread and says, "Quite an excursion!" He couldn't believe we had managed to drive all that way (with hundreds of kilometers on rough gravel roads) without a flat or some other mechanical problem. We're just glad to get a pass on paying for a set of new tires, and head off for the next adventure...





A block from our Cape Town airbnb apartment, we discover the Iziko South African Museum with a stunning exhibit of rock art from South Africa.

Here we learn about the oldest known human art, an 80,000 year old piece of engraved ocher which was found in the Blombos cave along with shell beads and polished bone points.

Also there are some beautiful original San rock art panels depicting the spirit world journeys of the San shamans. The tradition involves trance dances that transport the shaman into an alternate reality, climbing up 'threads of light' that connect to the sky-world.

The 'Linton panel', whose central figure (minus the penis) was used on the South African coat of arms.

View of Cape Town and Table Mountain from the former prison at Robben Island.

While in Cape Town, we take the short ferry ride Robben Island, where Nelson Mandela and many other political prisoners spent years in small cells, imprisoned for their belief that South Africa's segregated society must end. Our guide, a former prisoner, is the same age as me. While I attended college, met Mark, built a career and socialized with friends, he was in this dreadful prison (from 1978 to 1992). Amazingly, he has returned to live on the island and give tours, along with several other former inmates. We sit silently, tears welling in our eyes as he describes his experience. He opens our hearts and minds to the injustices of the past and is an ambassador for tolerance and forgiveness. What a moving and unforgettable experience.

Nelson Mandela served 27 years in prison, the first 18 in this dismal cell on Robben Island. He was released in 1990 and, after the fall of apartheid, became the first black South African president, from 1994-1999. Mandela is now 95 years old and in ill health, his respiratory problems caused by working in the limestone mines on Robben Island. On the day we visited, the doctors decided there was nothing more they could do, and he was sent home to be with his family during his final days. "Tata", father of this complicated country, is a remarkable and inspiring man.

Photo of Nelson Mandela at the opening ceremony for the Robben Island Museum, in 1997. In the background are sketches of other anti-apartheid leaders: Govan Mbeki, Mandela, Steve Biko, Robert Sobukwe, and Walter Sisulu.