Cape Town - Day 7

I Called him Ishmael

  • 27-Jul-15

Almost every day on this trip I woke up thinking, this day is going to be special, and every day I was right. Many days I woke up and parted the curtains to see an amazing world waiting for me outside. This morning it was Table Mountain - there - above me - looking down upon the Table Bay Resort where I was staying. 

My itinerary read:

07h00: Breakfast with Robben Island Guide

I had met someone on this trip who had told me that they had gone to Robben Island and that former prisoners were acting as guides. I was up for this - up at about 6:30, showered and ready to meet someone who had suffered time in the same jail that Nelson Mandela had.

Nina Tomlinson, Public Relations Co-ordinator met me in the lobby and introduced me to Quinton Mtyala (right) who was waiting for me in the buffet breakfast room. I'm trying to do the math in my sleep deprived addled mind  and thinking maybe he is just older than he looks, or they kept Robben Island active as a prison for longer than I know.

Between juice, coffee, yoghurt and cereal Quinton told me the history of the island from the time Mother Earth decided to make it an island until it was declared a World Heritage site in 1999.  I was very interested and took notes throughout. "Inequality probably started the day the Dutch landed here," Quinton said, "It may take another 50 years to reverse that." During the next day and a half I would get a bit of an insight into what Quinton meant.

I didn't feel comfortable about asking him why he had been in prison, but when I did he clarified for me that he had not been a prisoner at Robben Island - "I'm much too young," he said somewhat indignantly . "I am the PR and Communications Manager for the Robben Island Museum."

While the museum - Robben Island - lay out in Table Bay, Quinton's office was in the city. I took a few not very good pictures of Robben Island from the seawall, but the island barely looks above the sea.

Where do you go from breakfast where you are given an A1 insight into Robben Island? You walk into the lobby where Nina introduced me to Ishmael, my driver for the day, my mentor on all things Cape Town,  and he became a good friend who laughed at my jokes. I called him Ishmael. (right on Table Mountain)

I am not sure why his parents called him Ishmael for in the Bible, where the name originates, it states:

 “You are now pregnant

    and you will give birth to a son.

You shall name him Ishmael,

    for the Lord has heard of your misery.

12 He will be a wild donkey of a man;

    his hand will be against everyone

    and everyone’s hand against him,

and he will live in hostility

    toward all his brothers.”

I understand why Herman Melville's character was named Ishmael, but my Ishmael was no 'wild donkey of a man,' but a knowledgeable gentleman, with a warm sense of humour and we enjoyed each other's company as we toured Cape Town.

"We have three seasons in one day," was one of the first things Ishmael told me, referring to Cape Town's weather, that had been disparaged by everyone I met who didn't live in Cape Town. The Cape Towners didn't seem to mind it - except for the fact that it was very changeable.

One of the more unusual 'landmarks' of Cape Town is a freeway that was never completed. The elevated highway just ends - the road runs out. "It is very popular with Bollywood as a movie location."

As we drove through the city towards the Table Mountain Cable Car that would take us to the flat top of the mountain we passed through the Cape Malay Quarter with its colourful painted buildings. The original inhabitants had come from Indonesia - which also had a Dutch presence back in the days of Sail. "You can find some very spicy food here," said Ishmael.

As the road wound up the hill, with views of Lion's Head, where adventurous people like to paraglide from, I commented that the city was very clean. Ishmael responded. "The mayor of the city is a lady. A woman's kitchen is always clean."

We talked about wines and Constantia Valley, 'the oldest in the region' and not only the oldest in the region, but the oldest outside of Europe. And Stellenbosch, definitely bigger than  the Constantia Valley that has just 11 vineyards, and probably the best known wine region with its numerous award winning wines. Due to a lack of time we were not going to visit either. 

We continued to climb towards the steep cliff face that defines Table Mountain while getting an increasingly panoramic view of the city and the sea. A hazy mist hung over parts of the city that the rising sun was streaking with light and shadow.

When Ishmael and I arrived at the Cable Car Level I had looked up and thought, "We're going up there!" It looked a long way up, but is only 1064m above sea level. Ishmael bought the tickets and led me past the gift shop to the cable car that was quickly filling with people excited about going to the top. What I didn't know was how lucky we were to be there on such a clear day. The following day the Cable Car was closed in the morning because thick cloud obscured it. The Cable Car's floor rotates so you get the opportunity to see every angle. There were people walking up the trail that goes to the top. I'll do that another day.

The landscape is rough and rugged and beautiful and you can see the Indian Ocean to that side and the Atlantic Ocean to the other from the mountain that is now officially recognized as one of the new seven world wonders. Not only is it flat, it is windblown. It can get up to 42C in the summer, but most days it is a lot cooler, so take your jacket.


Ishmael and I walked the trails on top of the Table. There are no under the table deals here. I allowed him to take pictures of my somewhat reluctant self and I took several of Ishmael.

There are about 2,200 species of plants on Table Mountain and 1470 floral species - not that I counted them - I went to their website. "Many of these plants and flowers are endemic to this mountain." That doesn't mean they are sick of the place, it means they are not found anywhere else.

Also on this webpage called Table Mountain facts #6 of 12 says: Table Mountain is often covered in cloud. The cloud that forms around the mountain is called “table cloth”.

Found elsewhere was Dan and Shirley. Ishmael and I were making our way back when suddenly I heard "Floyd!" I turned to see the couple that I'd taken the River Cruise in Zambia with. Warm greetings all around to a lovely couple I will probably never see again.

We descended back down the cable car, which is a trip, returned to our car and went around to the other side of Table Mountain and out towards the Cape. There is nothing about this that you won't like. I asked Ishmael about property prices and they seemed cheaper than I thought reasonable.

We took Beach Road, past Sunset Hill, a beautiful suburban area. There was Cape Flats that got its name during the apartheid era. We drove along the shore, up roads that people race their bikes up. Sounds like more exercise than I need.

We stopped at Hout Bay Market where I bought a second Giraffe - taller than the first, but Farah would've taken a taller one. I put him in the back of the vehicle and when I got back to the hotel I forgot him, but remembered when I got to my room. I called the desk and soon a young man came up and with my giraffe.

I thanked him and then said, "Would you have something I can wrap him in?" I showed him my other travelling companion.

"Give me him. I will take care of this," he said. He returned shortly with the two bubble wrapped and all prepared to make the journey safely - as they did - to Singapore. Later Nina met me in the lobby where I was to have High Tea.

"I bought a giraffe," I said to Nina.

"A real giraffe?" she asked.

"He thinks he is," I responded.

Her response was concern that it had been broken. Had it been I wouldn't have mentioned it.

Ishmael's destination was to Cape Point where currents from the Atlantic Ocean collide with currents from the warmer Indian Ocean. We drove along the coast, stopping at view points, stopping at Cape Point Ostrich Farm, where people seemed to be risking fingers feeding the big aggressive birds. Inside there were many products made from the ostrich, so in the long run, they lost the battle. We drove along narrow tree-lined roads that had signs that warned us about the baboons that lurked about on fences and trees.

I was almost impressed as much with Cape Point as with the other great scenic places I'd been to on this trip. The divide between the two oceans was stark, distinct and seemed like a great battle of nature with each side trying to push back the other. We took the tram up, but I walked back down which gave me more to enjoy the wonderful environment - and get some exercise which I sorely needed.

A penguin waddles into a bar and he says to the bartender. "Has my brother come in?"

The bartender thinks for a moment and says, "What does he look like?"

'Welcome to Boulders, Home of the African Penguin'. I couldn't tell one from the other as they waddled about the shore, did some swimming and sunned themselves on the rocks. They were popular with visitors who lined the board walk to watch and photograph them.

We meandered back into the city and to Table Bay Resort where High Tea was awaiting me. Sun International's Sun Lux hotels and resorts excel in the area of cuisine and Table Bay Resort emphasised that point once more with their excellent high tea.

Rooibos Tea, Red Christmas, Good Hope Tea, Grand Classic Ten and Black Tea blend are only some of the choices that you have for to enjoy the First Course that consists of savoury items such as Mushroom & Leek Quiche, Cape Malay Chicken Quiche of the seven items served to you.

Once finished that you may look over the list of teas again noting the Royal Darjeeling, Emperor Sencha and Japanese Green Tea, which have a list of health benefits, and then you get to choose from the astounding selection of cakes, cup cakes and sweets that may not have the same health benefits - but they were certainly delicious!

I delved into the Rainbow Cheese Cake - the signature dish - which is yellow, orange, green, red, blue and purple. Excellent!

As the rest of my itinerary was Free & Easy I went next door to the Victoria Wharf Shopping Centre and wandered around the shopping area that was shops converted from warehouses. It is a vibrant area with entertainment, food stalls, a variety of shops, restaurants and bars with craft beer. I had one beer before I returned to my hotel room where I spent the rest of the evening working before turning in early.

The next day in Cape Town would have its own significant moments as Ishmael guided me to places of interest.

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