Cape Town Honours Nelson Mandela

I will leave the words about Madiba to a South African as she can write them better and I could not give him the honour he deserves with my own words. I would like to take this opportunity to (again) write about South Africa and Cape Town and what it means to me.

I heard the news of Mandela’s passing only around noon since I was to babalas to get up earlier, but the news was a reality check about how pathetic I was to feel sorry for myself for drinking too much. Visiting the Cape Town Honours Nelson Mandela exposition in Civic Centre felt like the most fitting a day like this.

“The many people who know Cape Town as their home can trace their ancestries from across the world.” – Nelson Mandela

Going to the bus stop and seeing Mandela’s face overlooking Cape Town from the building opposite Cape Town train station (my first image of Cape Town arriving by bus about 2 months ago) is symbolic of how much he is part of this city. His face is on so many murals, buildings and a highway carry his name, but most of all his idea of a Rainbow nation lives in the diversity of Cape Town.

I cannot claim to have known Mandela, not as a president or father or tata as he is lovingly called by South Africans. I do feel his idea of a rainbow nation is something I saw even before arriving in South Africa, seeing the very diverse  people boarding the plane to Johannesburg in Adis Abeba. I continue to experience it every day I am in this beautiful country. I also feel the smile Mandela seems to have always shown in the warmth of all the South Africans I meet.

“In Cape Town resides part of the souls of many nations and cultures, priceless threads in the rich diversity of our African nation” – Nelson Mandela

Sitting on a terrace on Greenmarket square, the waiter does a little dance to the music of street musicians playing kwela music, I feel this is how Cape Town honours their tata, in a festive, not a sad way. And more than by buying flowers to put at a memorial I feel like honouring him by buying The Big Issue form someone on the street. The klein bietjie flowers at churches seem to show that South Africans feel the same.

Drinking my coffee there a woman asks me if I am South African, I’m not and she goes back to her own table on the other side of the street. I contemplate on how long you have to live here to call yourself South African. Cape Town has been many people’s home and I do feel it is mine a bit too. The woman, Amanda , comes back and ask to join me for a coffee. She is from Switzerland and I explain I am living here since a few months. Her first enquiry was to know from me if there was anything special happening today.

“Cape Town, more than any other city in South Africa, has been home to people from different cultures for a long, long time.” – Nelson Mandela

Apart from the MyCiTi buses being free for the day, official buildings hanging the beautiful South African flag half post and banners with the words “Mandela”, “father”, “tata”, “Madiba”, there doesn’t seem to be anything out of the ordinary on this hot spring day in Cape Town. Might it be the relaxed vibe of Capetonians that keeps them from too explicit shows of mourning over the death of Mandela or celebrations of his life?

It seems fitting that on a day like this I would end up talking to another European, about why we are here instead of Switzerland or Belgium, what makes South Africa so special and how much I feel at ease in Cape Town. She doesn’t understand her South African colleagues who are happy to live in cold Switzerland and have the opinion that South Africa has no future. I feel this country has a brighter future than any European country and it invites me to make a good future for myself. Besides, the weather is better here.

“Let us sing, let us dance for Madiba” – Brenda Fassie

After my coffee and a nice chat I head back home to Woodstock, to have a little rest, I haven’t completely recovered form last night’s drinking and want to have a little rest before going to a concert of The Future Primitives tonight. I feel like dancing for Madiba tonight!

Devil’s Peak and Woodstock

After living in Woodstock for a month and looking up to Devil’s Peak every time I leave the house, last week I finally hiked up there. Coming from Belgium, where open space and unspoiled nature are almost un-existent, being able to take a bus and a brisk walk and within one hour being in the middle of a stunning nature reserve is just heavenly. The fact that then you look back and see the most beautiful city in the world (not just my opinion but that of Capetonians) from birds eye view is just an added bonus.

I made the hike on a sunny and almost windless day (rare this time of year) on which Jan van Hunks wasn’t holding his pipe-smoking contest with the devil. Supposedly the origin of the name Devil’s Peak and of the clouds known as the table cloth that often surround it. So I could enjoy the stunning view of the City Bowl, Table Bay, the Cape Flats and Muizenberg and False Bay on the other side. Taking the alternative route back to Tafelberg Rd one that apparently isn’t used a lot since it is half overgrown, was a good choice as was doing this in spring when everything is still green but it isn’t cold and rainy any more.

Woodstock, between the slopes of Devil’s Peak and the train tracks and harbour, is the complete opposite of the nature and tranquillity of Devil’s Peak. While moving here Roger, who for years lived a few blocks from here, told me that I shouldn’t worry too much on the streets here. Dreadlocks are a gang of their own and no one messes with them, unless they want to risk a AK47 shoot-out. He himself (with dreadlocks) was only stabbed twice and shot at once (by the police). Good to know!

Another neighbour gave the advice not to leave the battery in the car, it would get stolen. So on day three I found myself chaining and locking the battery down. It felt like a rite of passage, something you do when you live in Woodstock. Living here, you can also survive in the townships, at least that is what a taxi driver, a big black woman, told me. She didn’t drive into Woodstock at night, and dropped me of in the centre of town. She lived in a township herself, I guess she doesn’t drive her taxi there either.

I do love Woodstock though. On the first days of walking around here, I’ve had people come up to me, shake my hand and start a conversation. There are car wrecks on the streets, cars on blocks the wheels taken off, shady looking characters at night. But this is also an area that feels more like Africa then Europe, unlike most of Cape Town. With its brightly painted shop fronts, its hair salons, shebeens and street vendors, this neighbourhood is alive and loud. I wouldn’t want to live anywhere else, except in Obz maybe, but that has just as bad a reputation as Woodstock, just more bars.

Cape Town bucket list

I don’t do bucket lists. I don’t like expectations, I find they keep me from keeping an open mind and inviting the unexpected. On any good trip there is no way to know what to expect. If you already know what is going to happen, what would be the use of going? That said, it is good to know what you want, especially when there is lots and lots to see and do and taste as there is in Cape Town. So I decided to make this bucket lists. Some of the things on it have already been marked off and it will probably become longer as I discover more.

  • Nature:
    • Cape of Good Hope and Cape Point
    • Chapman’s Peak Drive, preferably in a ’72 VW Beetle without a windscreen
    • Kirstenbosch Gardens
    • Company’s Garden
    • Cape Agulhas, the most southern point of Africa
    • the Karoo
    • dive with the Seven-gill cowsharks off Millers point
    • say hi to the penguins at Boulder beach
  • Hikes:
    • hike up Table Mountain via India Venster, have a beer and hike back down via Platteklip Gorge or take the cable cart
    • hike up Table Mountain via Skeleton Gorge and have a swim at the dam
    • hike up Devil’s Peak
    • hike up Lion’s Head, preferably at sunset/full moon
  • Beaches:
    • chill on the beautiful beach at Llandudno
    • surf at Muizenberg Surfer’s Corner, the birthplace of surfing in SA
    • surf overlooking Table Mountain at Milnerton Beach (at the lighthouse)
    • surf Big Bay beach break (between Melkbos and Bloubergstrand)
    • swim between the penguins and big boulders at Boulders Beach (Simon’s Town)
    • watch the sunset at Clifton 4th Beach
    • watch the big wave surfers at Dungeons
    • more beaches, surf spots and local surf forecast
  • Rock climbing:
    • Paarl Rock
    • the quarry’s on the slopes of Table Mountain
    • indoor climbing at CityRock
  • Drink (beer/wine/coffee):
  • Eat
  • Going out:
    • party at The Rooftop at 113 Loop Street, one of the mother city’s many rooftop bars
    • see Jack Parrow live in his home town
    • hang out with the crazy cool cats at The Bombay Bicycle Club
    • hang out with the locals at the bar at the Kimberly Hotel (at Roeland & Buitenkant)
    • hang out with the tourists on Long Street (The Waiting Room, The Slug & Letuce, Beerhouse)
    • hang out with the students and cool people at Obz, Lwr Main Rd (Obz Café, bolo’bolo, Obviously Armchair)
    • go for “just one” at The Shack and end up closing the place (beware of the Brandy Special)
    • check out the music (can be anything from dubstep to live bands) at Mercury Live
    • bust a move on the dance floor of Evol, trashy in a 90’s way
  • Places:
    • District Six and the District Six Museum
    • Kaly’s fish and chips in Kalk Bay harbour
    • Brass Bell in Kalk Bay
    • V&A Waterfront, not for the up-scale shopping and restaurants, but for the 18th century maritime scenery
    • Riebeek-Kasteel and the Swartland
  • Sport:
    • watch cricket at Newlands
    • watch Western Province play (rugby)

Thanks to for some inspiration and lovely photo’s: 50 Photos of Cape Town that will make you want to live in the Mother City. More on’s Must-Dos, Must-Sees & Must-Visits in Cape Town and Things to do for free in Cape Town.

TEDx Table Mountain

I am just back from TEDx Table Mountain – Exploring The Edge and I am very much impressed by the level of their speakers. I went to TEDx Brussels a few years ago and these guys here in Cape Town have blown me away with their line-up doing a TEDx with a fraction of the resources they had in Brussels.

I come back even more in love with South Africa and it’s people. Hearing these stories of South Africans overcoming set backs and difficult situations to make a difference not just for themselves but for others was truly heart warming and inspiring. I cannot wait for the video’s to come on-line so here are a few of the talks that touched me the most.

Before coming to South Africa, a friend let me watch “Forest of Crocodiles” a 2009 documentary about white South Africans addressing their fears of crime and violence. Hearing the story of underwater cameraman Roger Horrocks overcoming his fears and getting up and close with Nile crocodiles to film them says much more about South Africans then Forest of Crocodiles did.

Another incredibly inspirational person is Nicky Abdinor who didn’t let a small physical challenge like being born without arms keep her from her dream of driving a car. She started a non-profit organisation to aid other people with disabilities through the funding of car adaptations and is working with the Cape Peninsula University of Technology to develop an adapted car for her and others to be mobile and independent: Nicky’s Drive.

The story of Braam Malherbe who was ready to step out of life, but accomplished the incredible feat of running the 4218 km of the Great Wall of China and in doing so funding the charity Operation Smile he started to pay surgery for children with facial deformities.

A man who radiates warmth is Mpumelelo Ncwadi who grew up in a township, from where he had to walk 15 km to school and made it to the University of Texas, Berkeley, Cambridge and more. He co-founded Indwe Trust putting his skills and expertise to use for sustainable agro-ecology and rural development in South Africa.

Jennifer Lovemore-Reed overcoming her fear and walking alone for four months. Actor and comedian Siv Ngesi delivering a chilling message urging men to stand up against rape. And free solo rock climber Matt Bush climbing Table Mountain and some the most challenging rocks South Africa has to offer, like 8+ climbs without ropes or any security: no strings attached (video).

Lance Brown who grew up in suburb, surrounded by violence, but had a dream of going to London and the determination and love and aptitude for taxation made that dream real. Anthony Turton calling for closure mining, cleaning up the mess left by gold mines.

These are just very short summaries that don’t do justice to the beautiful stories these speakers had to tell. As soon as the video’s are on-line I hope you watch them, because these are all stories that need to be shared.

A new home

So it has been 2 weeks since I set foot on South African soil, as I already gave quietriotgirl shit about not updating her blog, I should write a bit about my experience, as i promised a lot of friends and in my last blog post.

So today I am moving in to my house for the next half year, an actual house with a roof and walls and without wheels. It has been 17 months since I called a house home, 17 months of living in my van, road tripping, sleeping on friends’ and strangers’ couches. I could get nostalgic and reminisce about my year and a half of nomadic life, but it’s this life that brought me to Cape Town, so it feels more appropriate to look ahead instead of back and talk about my new home (for the next half year anyway) South Africa.

So here are my first impressions: South Africans are really friendly, I haven’t met an unfriendly one in this two weeks, everyone seems helpful and even beggars (a lot of those here, they even go door to door) are polite. Security is big business here whether it’s guards at the station, in the train, at the supermarket, “armed response” for your house or neighbourhood, electrical fencing your property, and what not. I haven’t felt unsafe for one second here, but then that could be said to prove all of the above are doing a good job.

Cape Town is a beautiful city and Table Mountain is a sight I don’t think I’ll grow tired of. It’s not just Tafelberg, it’s the clouds draped over it, the so called tablecloth, and it’ Devil’s Peak on the left and Lion’s Head on the right. On the second day I was here I found myself looking up and using it to orientate myself. While Chicago is called the windy city and four seasons in one day is used to describe Melbourne, both are just as fitting for Kaapstad. The Cape Doctor, the south-east trade wind, is a force to be reckoned with, whether it’s providing a chilling draft whenever you leave a window open or messing with the MyCity bus’ automatic doors. And the day could start sunny and before noon Table Mountain could be obscured by clouds.

I haven’t gotten round to finding out all the places to hang out, but Lower Main Road in Observatory (or Obz as cool people call it) seems to have some nice bars and of course Long Street has a reputation to uphold. The Bombay Bicycle Club was the location for my first day welcome drink and is the nicest place I’ve been with the craziest cool cats. Almost any bar seems to have 2-for-1 happy hours just about all the time, just don’t spend it on Black Label (the beer not the whiskey) since it doesn’t taste like anything. De Waal Park is the perfect place to spend a babelas (hungover) Sunday.

Well, there is so much more in Western Cape: the Swartland with its lovely wines and charming farms (dankie Adi and Cornelia!), the granite rock of Paarl Mountain (hard to climb though) and I haven’t even been to the beach or Cape Point. So plenty more to write about in my next post.