A Travellerspoint blog

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First Night in South Africa

The following occurred during our first night in Joburg. I was debating on whether i should include this incident. I finally decided it was important to share, because it's part of my overall experience.

Sunday Night:
Sitting in a restaurant, to order a well deserved meal, our party of 4 was asked to leave... Our host explained that the kitchen was closing, so they would not be able to accept anymore orders (-t was only 845pm). Knowing the history of SA, we had no idea how to respond or what to think. So, being strangers in a strange land, we accepted and left...

Later, we inquired with our hotel front desk, how restaurants operated. And they confirmed that restaurant kitchens have a tendency to close early. We accepted this explanation with a bit of relief, but it still left a bitter taste in mouth. SA's history is one full hardship, and discrimination. So, I now realize I have an underlying fear of being exposed harshly to this history.

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Posted by Dwayne Ashley 06:11 Comments (0)

Blue Train Experience

Transfer to the Blue Train:
-Had a serious education on life in SA, from our driver to the Blue Train (Kenneth)
-He put into perspective the struggle for black south africans, and the challenges for white south africans... But, I won't get into it on this blog.
-He re-emphasized the tremendous contribution Nelson Mandela has made. As well as the hardship he had to go through, to become the man he is today (not sure how I'm going to handle Robben Island)...
-it is interesting to note, how people here affectionally refer to Mandela as the 'Old Man'

The Blue Train Experience:
-How do I put into words the experience of spending almost 30hrs on a train, that served meals most 5star restaurant would be envious of...?
-Blue Train is part of a world you wouldn't normally experience unless you won the lottery, saved a lot of money, or worked very hard and saved every penny for a year.
-Words are inadequate, but picture a setting were you have scenic country side scenes, mixed with open bar service, being fed by a world class chef, willing to cook anything his pantry would allow...sigh...
-We spent our mid-morning on the train sipping Amarula. For lunch, we were served lamb chops, and dinner was beef wellington... I'm spoiled for life!
-Being the youngest people on the train earned us many stares. But, more importantly, being a black couple earned us the opportunity to really connect with the people who work on this train (Dumili, Frank, Peter). All very amazing men, who very willingly shared their world with us.
Check out all the new words we learned:
Ngiyabonga = Thank You
Sawubona = Hello
Babalous = Hangover
Seezobana = see you later
Kenseeleigh = another way of saying thank you

-We made one stop during our journey southward, at Kimberly Station, to check out a diamond mine. Pretty cool
-This morning I opened my eyes to see the country side rolling by, with the backdrop of the rising sun, it created a powerful scene. So, I decided to get up early (6am), and sit in the lounge car. I need to soak up as much of this experience as possible.
-Today, we'll be transferred to 12 Apostles hotel. Recently rated #1 hotel in South Africa.

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Posted by Dwayne Ashley 09:51 Comments (0)

12 Apostles

Currently sitting on my balcony, at 12 Apostles Hotel. Its midnight, and I'm listening to the Atlantic Ocean beat against the shore, as the summer night breeze gently blows. To my right, I can see Lion Head mountain, standing silently over the city of Cape Town.

In the face of this beautiful landscape, its hard to remember the far too recent history of apartheid in South Africa.

This is my 2nd night, of a 3 night stay at 12 Apostles. Right now, I can safely say that my experiences here have had a profound affect on me. But, more about that later, first let's talk about this hotel...

-12 Apostles brings to life the term 'living in the lap of luxury.'.
-The rooms are nothing short of spectacular. Spacious, with a balcony overlooking the ocean, and the added bonus of being able to see the city as well. The bathroom is on par with any spa in Toronto.
-The hotel itself isn't big, only 70 rooms. But, what it lacks in size, it makes up for with service. The staff here are so incredibly attentive, its unbelievable.
-For example, we spent our first evening in the Leopard Lounge, and our waiter (Lucky), must of had a great time with me, Tracy and another couple traveling through Lion World Tours as well. The next day, Lucky found us chilling by the 'not-so' hot tub, and told us he's reserved a seat for us in the lounge, and advises us to show-up whenever we're ready. Turns out the reserved seats were the best in a very busy house.
-I'm going to be sorry to leave, but, I'm looking forward to seeing what the rest of the trip has in-store for us.

On a side note... I finally had a chance to eat an ostrich burger. 'Yummy' is an understatement!

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Posted by Dwayne Ashley 08:16 Comments (0)

Robben Island

-The journey to Robben Island can only be made by ferry, from the Cape Town water front area (ie. V&A).
-The water front is beautiful and vibrant, with shops, restaurants, markets and much more. Strangely enough, this is all watched over by a giant figure, made out of coco-cola cases (see pic below).
-I find it strange to be surrounded by all this beauty, knowing full well the history behind South Africa. I guess I had an expectation, despite this luxury experience, that SA would appear less appealing.
-The tour itself was informative, but... It lacked any sort of emotional impact for me. Perhaps it was the tour guide, or maybe it was the format of the tour, which took you on bus which led you around part of the island (ie. it would take you around 3hrs to fully walk around the island). We were introduced to a small town, various wild life and prisons houses outside of the main facility. We were shown the lime stone quarry, where many of the former prisoners (including Mandela), were forced to dig without the use of tools.
-When we finally reached the main prison we spent about 20mins touring the facility. But, only 2mins were allocated to Mandela's jail cell, where we could look and take pictures.
-So, like I said, it was informative, but in terms of conveying the emotional component of what this prison represents, I've had more compelling conversations with the people that work in the hotels, and transport services. In fact, the most disturbing insight I picked up was from Kenneth. He explained that the black South Africans, after years of oppression have been conditioned to perceive white South Africans as physically stronger, even if the black South African is bigger... let that sink in and marinate for a bit.

Random Facts About Robben Island:
-Did you know the island used to be a leprosy colony? There's 1500 graves currently on the island. The colony was closed in 1931
-Mandela was only at Robben island for 18 of his total 27yrs of imprisonment. The remainder of his incarceration had him located within 2 other prisons in SA.

(No pics of the island on this one. I used the real camera for this experience)
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Posted by Dwayne Ashley 14:36 Comments (0)

Table Bay Hotel & V&A Waterfront

-Yesterday, we transferred from 12 Apostles. Leaving was pretty hard, considering the exceptional service we received. If you're wondering how we spent our last night... A group of us used the private cinema (yah, u heard me), ordered some popcorn and milkshakes, and watched Invictus...good times!

-Our newest hotel, Table Bay, is another gem. We arrived here in the AM, and after a bit of a wait, we were checked into our hotel room.
-Not as big and bright as 12 Apostles, but it is definitely very nice! To top it off, they had a bottle of champaign, truffles, and fudge waiting for us.
-After settling in, it was time for our tour of Ernie Elis winery. The pics provided do not do it any justice. The winery is vast, and beautifully maintained. Their staff, even the part-timers (students), seem to be experts on all matters pertaining to wine.
-Our evening was spent exploring a bit of the waterfront, eating at an excellent african restaurant, Karibu (my meal consisted of an african bbq, called Braai, which included an ostrich fillet and an african beef sausage, called boerewors), and admiring the nighttime view from our balcony.

(Note: if you haven't already noticed, I'm a fan of ostrich meat now!!)

-In-between the winery and the waterfront, we had another opportunity to see some townships, as we drove along the highway.
-Seeing these vast plots of land, filled with shanties, fills me with confusion... On one hand, I'm grateful for all I have, and I'll try to remember not to take it for granted. But, I can't help but ask why these settlements (or more accurately, slums) still exist?! Apartheid is over, the people of this land are 'technically' equal. So, why are some of them living in shanty towns? 20yrs after the end of apartheid, aren't other opportunities for a better life possible?
-With all the changes that have happened between the end of apartheid and now, should shanties even exist? As far as I understand, the government is now providing homes for people to live in (probably no bigger than an average bedroom). These homes are equipped with electricity and running water, basic necessities. And yet, some individuals/families choose a ramshackle over something more permanent...

There's a lot that I need, and want, to understand.
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Posted by Dwayne Ashley 15:01 Comments (0)

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