Today is the day the group arrives and I am no longer traveling on my own and on my own terms. There's good and bad with that, but I'm glad I got to visit some of the places I would have missed with the group. The hotel I'm staying at was very accommodating and didn't make me switch rooms.
This morning I took off to the District Six Museum which documents the forced removal and demolition of an entire neighborhood with the purpose of wiping out a multicultural community to make way for a whites only city. The result was the removal of more than 60,000 inhabitants. It is revolting to read what they did. The museum remembers the families that lived in District Six for several generations and what it was like to be moved. These residents were vibrant parts of the community.
From there, I walked down to the Castle of Good Hope which is the Cape's oldest colonial structure, built in the mid-1600s. It was interesting, but I quickly ran thru it. They did have a really nice ceramic exhibit.
I had a whole route planned for the day and my next stop was meant to be the South African Jewish Museum. On the map it didn't seem like a long walk, but the taxi driver said it was. Of course I didn't listen and walked there, up a hill, about 3.5km. This is where my lack of knowledge of Jewish holidays works against me. Apparently today was a Jewish holiday and therefore the museum was closed. Sigh. Just my luck, huh? Should have gone yesterday when I had the chance, but it was probably a holiday then too. It's like every time I try to go to Mama's Vegetarian for falafels they are closed for some Jewish holiday I didn't know about. So, having that roadblock I went and sat in the company gardens for a bit to cool down, relax and have a snack.
Afterwards, I hopped back on the bus and went around the east side of table mountain (as opposed to the coastal towns I saw on the western side yesterday). It's amazing how different the climate and vegetation is from one side to the other. A good example is that the east side of table mountain gets 80mm of rain a year whereas the airport 13km away gets a quarter of that. It is much more green and lush than the western side which is drier.
The Kirstenbosch Botanical Gardens are on the east side of the mountain and display the natural vegetation of the Cape Floral Kingdom. It's a cultivated garden and nature reserve that includes rare and threatened species in its garden of extinction. Of course, I had a field day taking pics of all the flowers and trees. Way too many artsy pics to post but will eventually end up in my photo album.
From Kirstenbosch I went to the World of Birds Sanctuary and Monkey Park which is the largest bird park in Africa and one of the few large bird parks in the world. It was really neat being able to walk thru the enclosures with the birds. At times I thought a few of them were gunning for me straight out if a Hitchcock movie! They had everything from your basic ducks to bald eagles to peacocks and flamingoes. I came upon one enclosure where from behind I thought it was a crazy puffed out turkey of some sort, but then realized I was looking at the back side of a peacock. It was aroused and protecting something from the other birds. It was really cool!
I was beat by this point (and cold!) and hopped off real quick in Hout Bay for some much needed water and a few pictures. Then we followed the road over the mountain and then hugged the cliffs along the Atlantic before making it back to Camps Bay and the other coastal communities.
Upon arriving back at the hotel I caught up with the group and then headed with them for an African dinner, complete with a drumming tutorial. It was a total tourist trap, but it was my first real African meal since I got here and it was really good! In between courses we were treated to some traditional singing and dancing. It was quite enjoyable.
Tomorrow begins the first day of my official tour.