Maputo, Republic of Mozambique

Monday, January 15, 2018

Formerly called Lourenço Marques, for a Portuguese trader believed to be the first European to explore the area in 1544, Maputo acquired its current name in 1976 following Mozambique’s independence from Portugal in 1975.

Responding to the state-wide discrimination by the Portuguese, the Mozambicans initiated a war for independence that lasted about ten years. Education of the native populations was focused on teaching them the Portuguese language and training them for what was considered suitable employment. After the war ended, most of the Portuguese fled the country, leaving a significant brain drain. They had not received the kind of education that would prepare them for self-government.

The first president of Mozambique was Samora Machel, who was supported by the communist regimes of Cuba and the Soviet Union. Machel died in an airplane accident in 1986.

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Just two years after independence was won, anti-communist forces started a violent civil war that lasted fifteen years, until 1992. The country has operated as a democracy since 1992, but is still experiencing political turmoil. The economy is very poor here which contributes to political instability.

We took a walking tour of Maputo in the morning. Our first stop was at the beautiful Central Railway Station, constructed in the early 1900’s in the Beaux-Arts style. It has been recognized by a few publications as one of the most beautiful train stations.

Near the railway station is a statue commemorating Mozambican soldiers who fell in the First World War. Popular legend holds that this statue is of a woman who had killed a large snake that had been terrorising the local population, dropping out of a tree and then attacking the villagers. The woman prepared a large pot of boiling porridge that she carried on her head. She stood under the tree where the snake was in residence and stood there until it dropped into the pot and was killed.

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We stopped at a local market, the Mercado Municipal, that has many stalls devoted to fish, meats, spices, fruits and vegetables as well as clothing and crafts.

We also visited Fortaleza da Nossa Senhora da Conceicao, a Portuguese fort built in the mid-1800’s to protect the town from pirates. The structure is used as a museum, primarily to teach about Ngungunhane, the last Emperor of Gaza, now part of Mozambique. He rebelled against the Portuguese in the late 1800’s, and was exiled to Lisbon, and then to the Azores, following his defeat. Some years later, his remains were returned to Mozambique and are now buried in an ornately carved coffin at the fort.

On our own, Mark and I visited an artist’s market, FEIMA, or Féria de Artesanato, Flores e Gastronomia de Maputo. I really did want to purchase some kind of memento from Mozambique, and there were some beautiful wood carvings of interest, but there was so much repetition that I had to question whether these vendors had actually created the items. Also, I really hate being pestered by everyone who has something to sell. I know that’s how it works, and they really are just trying to earn a living. It was just too hot to have to deal with today. I do feel guilty for not buying something to help the beleaguered economy here.

The longest suspension bridge in Africa, almost two miles, is being constructed here in Maputo, the Maputo-Catembe Bridge, which will cross the Maputo Bay to connect Catembe with Maputo. Currently, the only connection is by a 40-60 minute ferry ride. It is a beautiful structure that stretches three kilometers. The $725 million project was expected to be complete by December, 2017, but is not yet finished. It does look like it’s close to completion, though.

 

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Shakaland Village

Sunday, January 14, 2018

We docked this morning in Richards Bay, South Africa, and had signed up for an excursion to Shakaland Cultural Village. It’s part of a set for the mini-series, “Shaka Zulu,” which was filmed in the mid-1980’s. Shaka kaSenzangakhona, or Shaka Zulu was a strong leader who united several African tribes under his rule. As a warrior, he changed the method of battle from only using spears from a distance to also using daggers for close combat.

On the drive to Shakaland our guide tried to teach us a few words in Zulu. I think I can remember one – yay bo – which means yes. The Zulu language uses lots of clicks so it’s impossible for us to actually pronounce many of their names and words. Our guide’s name was Tomsana (or something like that.) He explained that a person’s name is based on what happens on the day of your birth, maybe a reflection of the weather or of your parents’ relationship or how they were feeling on that day. You don’t want to be born on a day when your parents are fighting with each other.

In the Zulu culture, you can have as many wives as you want, that is, if you can pay the dowry, which is eleven cows. The first cow is for the girl’s father, so it must be the biggest and best; the second is for the girl’s mother, and is the second best; the third for the girl’s virginity, and is the third best. The other eight cows can be smaller than the first three. A good cow is worth $800-$1,000.

There is a lot of sugar cane grown here. When this area was being developed by Portugal, the Zulus would not work for hire, so the Portuguese brought in Indians to work the sugar cane. Over the years, the government instituted a tax on cows which could only be paid in cash. That proved to be an incentive for the Zulus to work for hire in the urban areas. Unfortunately, as a man earned more money, he could afford more wives and have more children, and the growing population of Zulus was seen as a threat to the British, who had defeated the Portuguese for control of South Africa.

When we arrived at Shakaland, we were greeted by “villagers” in Zulu attire. They guided us into the site and offered some beverages, much appreciated on this hot day (about 90 degrees.)

While we were waiting for the tour, I saw several colorful insects flying around. I noticed one person run away from one of these insects, and thought she was being silly. Mark did comment that colorful insects are often poisonous. I looked it up – he was correct. It’s a CMR Bean Beetle, a variety of blister beetle. A blister beetle has a defensive secretion called cantharidin, a poisonous chemical that causes blistering of the skin, and is used to remove warts. The beetle was given the name “CMR” because its colors were the same as that used by the Cape Mounted Riflemen of the 1800’s.

We first needed to get permission to enter the village from the chief. We were treated to demonstrations of leather processing, wood carving, beer production, spear throwing, and more. There were shopping opportunities here, of course.

An unmarried Zulu woman wears a short skirt. When she marries, she wears a long skirt and a red hat that she never takes off. To take it off is the same as getting a divorce. Even when sleeping, she wears this hat, and we got to see the wooden “pillow” that a married woman would use to keep her head up.

Following this, we enjoyed a singing and dancing demonstration. There are several styles of Zulu dance, the most dramatic of which includes high kicks and foot stomps, and occasionally falling backward to the ground, landing on the rear end.

Lunch, then a bus ride back to the ship just in time to meet with customs people as we departed South Africa.

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Mark with his dance mates, Thee Legacy.

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Where’s My Mai Tai!?

Saturday, January 13, 2018

We decided we were thirsty for mai tais, but when we asked for them, we were told they couldn’t be served while we were in port in Durban. We asked several people why this was, even searched the internet for a reason, to no avail. Finally, we found a bartender who could give us an answer. The open bottles all had to be sealed and counted for tax purposes. Once we left the port, they could be opened up again. We haven’t encountered this in any other port, so it must be pertinent only to this area.

A friend sent me the following message the other day. I think it’s only right to pass it on. I wish I knew who to credit for it as I really don’t want to commit plagiarism.

“MY TRAVEL PLANS FOR 2018

I have been in many places, but I’ve never been in Kahoots. Apparently, you can’t go alone. You have to be in Kahoots with someone.

I’ve also never been in Cognito. I hear no one recognizes you there.

I have, however, been in Sane. They don’t have an airport; you have to be driven there. I have made several trips there, thanks to my children, friends, family and my retired military family.

I would like to go to Conclusions, but you have to jump, and I’m not too much on physical activity anymore.

I have also been in Doubt. It is a sad place to go, and I try not to visit there too often.

I’ve been in Flexible, but it was very important to stand up right and firm

Sometimes I’m in Capable, and I go there more often as I’m getting older.

One of my favorite places to be is in Suspense! This place really gets the adrenaline flowing and pumps up the old heart! At my age I need all the stimuli I can get!

I may have been in Continent, but I don’t remember what country I was in. It’s an age thing. They tell me it is very wet and damp there.”

I’d like to skip Continent for sure.

We took a bus tour of Durban this morning. My newest resolution is to never take another bus tour if I can help it. If you can see out the window, you generally miss the building/park/statue/whatever that the tour guide is pointing out to you. If you’re seated anywhere except in the front, you’ll be lucky to hear the monologue. When you have 15 minutes to get out of the bus for a photo op, it will take 10 minutes for the passengers in front of you to disembark. Then, one of your fellow travelers might ask the guide to take a poll of the group because she isn’t interested in one of the stops, and, if she isn’t interested, surely nobody else is either. Seriously!? OK, that’s enough whining for today.

Although not as large a port as Richards Bay, Durban handles 65% of all of the cargo that is shipped in and out of South Africa. Durban’s local hero is Dick King, who saved the town in 1842 during the Boer Wars. The town was under siege, and King rode 600 miles to Grahams Town for help. Most of the black people living in this region are Zulu. In fact, this region is called KwaZulu-Natal, or “a place of the Zulus in Natal.” The original name was Natal, Portuguese for Christmas, because they first landed here on Christmas Day, 1497.

Our first stop was at the Victoria Street Market, an indoor market with over 170 stalls where vendors sell spices, trinkets, clothing, arts and crafts, fish, etc. Open air markets were first establish in the 1870’s by the Indian population here. We had 30 minutes to experience the market, not nearly enough time to even see what was offered there. I loved the spice kiosks, with so many types of spice blends, including several hot ones named “Mother in Law.” Before getting off the bus, we were warned to stay away from the outside kiosks because of pickpockets on the streets. Really, that’s true almost anywhere, and this market did have a security presence.

Back on the bus, and our next stop was at Durban City Hall, a beautiful neo-Baroque style building built in the early 1900’s. Five minutes to take a photo and be sure to hang on tight to your camera. Also, there was a statue of Queen Victoria on the grounds commemorating the 60th year of her reign (it was a mere shadow of her normal self.)

Next stop was Durban Botanical Gardens, a lovely garden where we were allowed 60 minutes, still not enough. The gardens were developed in 1849 and are free to the public. We saw several groups meeting there, including a yoga class. We enjoyed the orchid house, the cycad garden, the ferns, the water lily display and all of the other lovely trees and plants there. By the way, this was the stop that the poll requesting traveler wanted to skip.

We then took a driving tour of the city, with a stop at the soccer and rugby stadiums, which are located next to each other. Kings Park Stadium was built for rugby; the Moses Mabhida Stadium, for soccer, is far more impressive, especially from a distance. The soccer stadium was built for the 2010 World Cup. It’s possible to take a rail car ride to the top for some amazing views of the area. Unfortunately, it wasn’t operating today, not that we would have had time in the 15 minutes that was alloted.

More driving around the town, but by this time, we were both feeling drowsy and had stopped paying attention. NO MORE BUS TOURS! (Oops, I did it again! Whine, that is.)

 

 

 

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South African Birds of Prey

According to my smart phone, today is Thursday, January 11, 2018

We’re sailing to Durban today, will dock tomorrow morning. The day is warm and sunny, also windy. We tried to walk on the Promenade Deck, but were blown so hard that it was difficult to remain standing. At one point, I was running, not intentionally. Yikes!

Friday, January 12

The countryside around Durban is beautiful, lush and green, as we could see when we drove through the farmland and mountains of the area. Sugar is big business here. The government has discouraged the automation of sugar harvesting, wanting to keep more jobs for the residents. On the other hand, the government decided last year to import chicken from South America, thus putting many local chicken farms out of business. I have to wonder if bribery was involved in the decision to import chicken.

The city of Durban was established in 1824, and was named for Sir Benjamin d’Urban, the governor of Cape Town at the time. It has the busiest harbor in South Africa, mostly because of its proximity to Johannesburg. We saw some wildlife on the drive, including kudu, wildebeest and zebra. By the way, while we from the US pronounce zebra with a long “e,” the South Africans pronounce it with a short “e.” Sounds like Debra with a “z.” I guess that must be correct since the debras, I mean zebras, are native to this country, so the South Africans named them.

We visited the African Bird of Prey Sanctuary, a few miles outside of Durban. The sanctuary opened in June, 2006, and cares for over 150 birds of prey. South Africa has 81 species of raptor, and about 1/4 of them are threatened or endangered.

Some of the birds rescued by the sanctuary can be released to the wild once they are healthy, but many cannot, perhaps their injuries have not healed properly, perhaps they have been kept as pets and thus think that humans are their family. Some of the birds that live here permanently are used for education purposes. There are 36 enclosures, containing one or another type of bird, such as vultures, buzzards, eagles, hawks, falcons, owls and kites.

We were treated to a short demonstration and education about five different birds: long-crested eagle; spotted eagle owl; yellow-billed kite; wood owl; and peregrine falcon. We learned that: eagles are the only raptors that have feathers on their legs; owls have 14 neck vertebrae (humans have only seven;) the peregrine falcon has been recorded at 242 miles per hour, the fastest creature on earth (take that, cheetah!)

Belinda demonstrated a feeding session with four Cape Vultures. She gave them ten pounds of horse meat, which lasted about 60 seconds. The vultures squabble with each other to get a good position, and also work together to tear the meat apart. Noisy and smelly!

After the tour, we visited Ushaka Beach and walked along the promenade. It was so windy we almost lost our hats. In spite of the high waves, the beach was full of people enjoying the sun. Some folks even waded into the water, it would have taken some strength to try to swim. I had expected to see some surfing, but the sea was too turbulent for that.

We enjoyed a show tonight by a local group called Thee Legacy, five young men who danced and sang. The group was formed in 2009 and it won The Sing Off South Africa 2015. Two of the members are related to members of the group Ladysmith Black Mambazo. If you are a fan of Paul Simon’s work, you may remember that he performed with Ladysmith Black Mambazo on his Graceland album. In fact, Thee Legacy performed one of the songs that was on that album: “She’s Got Diamonds on the Soles of Her Shoes.”

Thee Legacy’s singing style is termed Isicathamiya (or a cappella,) which originated with the South African Zulus. Towards the end of the show they looked for volunteers to come up on stage – they volunteered Mark, and I thought he did very well following their moves, which were quite energetic.

 

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The Friendly City of South Africa

Wednesday, January 10, 2018

We arrived at Port Elizabeth this morning. The town was named, not for British royalty, but for the wife of Sir Rufane Donkin, a governor of the port in the early 1800’s. Elizabeth had died in 1818 at the age of 28, leaving a seven month son. Sir Rufane mourned her passing until his death by suicide in 1844.

Port Elizabeth is called The Friendly City, and we have no reason to question that appellation. It’s also called The Windy City, and is favored by surfers, kiteboarders and sailors. It was windy today, helping to keep us cool on what would otherwise be a hot day. Port Elizabeth lies on the Algoa Bay and is the largest city in the Eastern Cape Province. The bay is home to half of the endangered African Penguin population. Sadly, we didn’t get to see any.

We took a shuttle bus to a shopping center and Hobie Beach so we could put our feet into the Indian Ocean. The water was lovely, as was the beach. The shopping center looked like Disney Springs in Orlando, though.

Then, we went on a walking tour of Port Elizabeth, giving us an opportunity to learn some of the history. Bartolomeu Dias was probably the first European to visit here, in 1488. The town was founded by the British in 1820. They brought over British citizens to help settle the land and protect the borders. The citizens were enticed by the promise of 100 acres of land.

The British established Fort Frederick in 1799 to protect the colony from a potential invasion by the French. Fortunately, there was no invasion, and no shots were ever fired from the fort.

As in Cape Town, blacks were dispossessed of their homes to build new homes for whites. Some of the foundations of the previous residences can still be viewed from Fort Frederick. These old foundations now provide canvases for graffiti art.

The beautiful Donkin Reserve was set aside early on to preserve open space in the city. The park has several art works commemorating Nelson Mandela’s struggle and that of the African people, from apartheid through to gaining the right to vote. The number “67” has great significance here, that being the number of years Nelson Mandela fought for social justice. There are 67 steps in the park, leading to a sculpture reflecting the long lines of people who waited to cast their first vote.

The Athenaeum Building hosts an exhibit of 67 beaded designs, each one representing a speech by Mandela (one per year.) The designs were made by 67 individuals. The Athenaeum also provides space for artists to do their work. In front of the building is an unusual mosaic. When looking directly at the mosaic, it is hard to picture what it represents, however, its reflection in the center metal pillar shows what is there. The artist was only 22 when she created this.

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At the Market Square, and in front of the Public Library stands a statue of Queen Victoria. According to our guide, she would not allow one to be put up unless it showed her as thinner than she was. She was a round little woman, not lacking in vanity, much like most of us.

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We have the opportunity to watch movies each day in Crystal’s  Hollywood Theatre. Today, we took in two. “Brad’s Status,” starring Ben Stiller, about a father making college visits with his son. He obsesses about how much he hasn’t achieved, especially compared to his college buddies. It’s sort of like Woody Allen meets Walter Mitty, or a coming of (middle) age movie.

The other was “Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri.” Depressing, but well done. Frances McDormand was brilliant, as were both Sam Rockwell and Woody Harrelson. I expect Harrelson to be brilliant, so that was no surprise. Rockwell’s performance was standout. I suspect the movie will receive several Academy Award nominations.

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The Ostrich Capital of the World

Tuesday, January 9, 2018

Our ship docked in Mossel Bay, the bay of mussels, this morning. The name dates back to 1595 or 1601, depending on which story you believe. Mossel Bay is part of the Garden Route, of South Africa, a World Heritage Site, and a region whose climate and soil are conducive to agriculture.

We tendered to shore (our ship could not dock near shore because the water isn’t deep enough,) then took a bus ride up to Oudtshoorn (Xhosa word meaning “our pride,”) which bills itself as the ostrich capital of the world. This area is home to the largest ostrich population in the world. Ostrich farming became established in the mid 1800’s – early 1900’s, fueled by demand for ostrich feathers around the world. There is still some demand for feathers, of course, but also for ostrich meat, much of which is exported to other countries.

Our drive was about an hour, along a beautiful route, through the Outeniqua Mountains. Outeniqua means “land laden with honey.” Our guide gave us a little more history of South Africa as we rode. There are eleven official languages in South Africa, although English is the primary one. The Afrikaans language borrowed from the native peoples (San and Khoi,) Dutch, British, German, French, and from the slaves (Malay and Mozambique.) It does retain much of the Dutch language of the first European settlers here.

South Africa has nine provinces, and three capital cities: Cape Town is the Seat of Parliament and the legislative capital; Pretoria is the Seat of the President and Cabinet; and Bloemfontein is the Seat of the Supreme Court of Appeal.

Nearby Pinnacle Point is home to a series of caves that have revealed occupation by Middle Stone Age people, dating 40,000-170,000 years ago. It is thought that people may have retreated here for survival during the ice ages.

We visited Safari Ostrich Farm, a working ostrich farm in Oudtshoorn. We learned about the strength of the ostrich eggs, the incubation process, how the leather is prepared and how to determine whether it is real or fake (the bumps in the leather can be pulled up to reveal where the feathers were attached.) Ostrich leather is quite expensive because it must go through eight stages before it can be used. All ostrich leather is naturally white, and easily stained, so must be dyed to its final color. An ostrich can live up to 60 years. The feathers are harvested by cutting them rather than pulling them out. Cutting them allows the feathers to regrow for future harvesting.

We had an opportunity to stand on an ostrich egg to test its strength (we passed,) and to feed the ostriches (again, we passed.) Ostriches need  stones or sand to help process the food they eat. It was fun to watch them grab insects from the air, then bend down to grab some sand.

There were a couple different breeds of ostrich, George and Riemple. The coloration varies between male and female. The farm had both mature and young ostriches. There was also a sizeable Emu herd at the farm.

On our way back to the ship, we finally saw some Springboks, although they were far away, and probably part of a private game reserve. We hadn’t seen any on safari.

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Tonight, we enjoyed a lively dance performance by a Latin Dance Team from Hungary. Then, off to bed.

 

 

 

 

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Mother City of South Africa

Saturday, January 5, 2018

This was a long travel day. Again, there were three legs to our flight. First, we returned to the small airport at Xakanaxa where we boarded a 12 passenger plane that took us to Maun. Mark saw a cow walking the street just outside the airport. We rejoined the crew of our DC-3 there, stopped for one refueling at Polokwane. We had to go through customs at Polokwane as it is in South Africa. The customs staff were less than friendly, taking their time to process us. When we thought we were good to go, they all came out to the airplane and inspected that. They took one suitcase off to inspect it. It appeared that they just wanted to demonstrate their control over us. Our steward, Werner, said that they often do this, and he thinks it’s some kind of retaliation against him because of his orientation. Sad.

So ended the safari portion of our trip. We consider it to be quite successful. We saw the Big Five: Elephant, Rhinoceros, Leopard, Lion and Cape Buffalo. They are called the Big Five, not because of their size, but because they are the most difficult and dangerous to hunt on foot.

We arrived in Johannesburg, picked up the luggage that was stored there, then boarded a British Airways flight to Cape Town, where our ride was waiting to take us to our hotel. I was so tired that I think I was sleepwalking by the time we got our room around 11pm. That bed felt so good.

Sunday, January 6, 2018

Cape Town is called the Mother City of South Africa, with the second largest port in South Africa, with Durban being the largest. In the year 1488, King John II of Portugal commissioned Bartolomeu Dias to search for a sea route around the Cape to India. When Dias approached the Cape, he encountered high winds that blew him right around it. He landed in Mosell Bay, and his crew said they didn’t want to go any further, but wanted to return home. Diaz told the King that it was the Cape of Storms, but King John II was an optimist who called it the Cape of Good Hope. He then sent Vasco deGama who made it all of the way to India.

In 1652, the Dutch East India Company established a colony here to grow provisions for the ships that passed by. The colonists took slaves locally, and from Madagascar, Malay, India to work the farms and vineyards for them.

The British took over governance in 1806. British rule ended in 1910, and the country became the Union of South Africa, then the Republic of South Africa in 1961.  Apartheid, meaning “apartness” in Afrikaans, was instituted in 1948, and lasted until 1994 when the first free democratic election was held, and Nelson Mandela became the first Black president of South Africa. There are 55 million people living in South Africa, of which 75% come from the nine black tribes.

Cape Town and surroundings are suffering from drought. In fact, we were greeted with a sign by the elevators of our hotel, outlining ways we could help conserve water.

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We signed up for a tour of the District Six Museum, townships and Robben Island. The city of Cape Town is divided into several districts, each of which is segregated by racial group. There were four racial groups: White, Malay (their ancestors had been brought in as slaves,) Colored (mixed blood,) and Black. The way the South Africans determined whether a person was Colored or Black was to stick a pencil in the hair. If the pencil fell out, the person was Colored. If it stayed in the hair, the person was Black. Every adult over the age of 16 was required to carry a “pass” card that indicated their race. If a person was in the wrong area, he/she could be arrested. If your spouse was one race and you were the other, you could not live together in the same district. You could only see your family on certain days and for no more than an hour. Horrible!!!

The museum houses street signs from the original neighborhood, plus stories from some of the people who had lived there.

District 6 was designated a “white” area in 1966, and most of it was razed. One of the few buildings left standing was a Methodist Church, which now houses the museum. Over 60,000 people were dispossessed. Many of them moved to the wastelands of the Cape Flats. There was no housing provided. There were some “hostels,” residences that had been built to house workers. The hostels (apartments) are quite small, with a living/kitchen area, and up to six small bedrooms.

We went to the township of Langa, where we first visited an artists’ colony, and saw demonstrations of mosaic work and pottery.

We then visited one of the hostels that houses 16 families. We were allowed to peek into one of the bedrooms, and that one has three families living in it. The women and children sleep in those rooms, and the men sleep communally in the living/kitchen area. If they have electricity, all families pay for a part of it. Each family pays about $50/month to live here.

There are some larger residences, which cost about $500/month, but not enough. Some people live in shipping containers (like those we see on the trains.) Some may have small wooden shacks to live in. In the meantime, District 6 is mostly undeveloped.

This was not a tour that I care to repeat. Even now, as I write about it, I feel sick to my stomach.

After that, we were to go on a ferry ride to Robben Island for a tour of the prison that held Nelson Mandela. We had been warned that sometimes the ferry is cancelled due to the weather. That’s what happened today. In truth, I was not disappointed. I was feeling overwhelmed by the poverty, and I was also ready for some free time.

While waiting for our driver to pick us up, we checked out the art museum nearby. They have some chairs out front that are built to move and roll as we move in them. All I could think of was the old ad about Weebles: “Weebles wobble but they don’t fall down.”

After returning to our hotel, we were entertained by a marching band practicing just down the block. We have fabulous views of the city and the surrounding mountains, including Table Mountain. We found a restaurant nearby for dinner, then repacked everything and went to bed. I will be so happy to stop living out of a suitcase.

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