Upon landing in South Africa it was raining at a chilly 17 degrees and we could not have been happier about it - welcome to the Mother City!
After narrowing down countries that a) were open for travelling, b) offered bearable weather conditions and c) would be selling alcohol, this is where we ended up: Cape Town. We had seen already many of the touristy spots 11 years ago and therefore didn’t have any plans except figuring out what the hell to do next on our trip. So, we booked us in to a nice, clean apartment with running water, a bed and a stove top. What a luxury! However, we were let down on our quest for an ice-cold drink: it turned out that due to Covid-19, South Africa had put strict regulations into place concerning the sale of alcohol. The country had been working with a system of different levels since the start of the pandemic in March, the strictest being level 4, which includes a curfew from 8pm - 5am, a 5km radius restriction from your home and prohibition of alcohol sale. So now, they were back at level 1, which means most shops and restaurants are open, curfew from 11pm to 4am and assigned hours for the sale of alcohol (Mo - Thu, 10am - 6pm).
Well, for the first part we were fine with a regular supermarket and indulged in basic groceries.
Right from the beginning, leaving the airport, we couldn’t help but notice the obvious: little to nothing seemed to have changed since our last visit 11 years ago in terms of the inequality between black and white people. Along the highways the same huge townships are sprawled out along the outskirts of the city, endless rows of small tin shacks, housing entire families without proper electricity or running water. Trash everywhere you look and in between kids of all ages sitting, playing, carrying wood, not being at school. When you turn off the highway into one of the richer neighborhoods like Constantia, Greenpoint or Camps Bay, you see walls, several meters high and on top of them electric fences and barb wire, protecting mansions and villas that belong to mostly white people. SUVs of well-known German brands roll elegantly down the streets, stopping at stoplights where poor black people try to make some money by cleaning windshields.
" The impacts of this crime against humanity are incredibly present, leaving South Africa to be a country where a Third World and a First World coexist right next to each other."
We were dismayed at the open display of segregation that apparently was still defining the lives of South Africans 20 years after the official end of the Apartheid regime. A feeling of unease crept into me, building up over the first couple of days and I didn’t quite know what to make of it. The more we were taking in of the country’s socio-economic reality the deeper this feeling became and when I finally talked to Bjoern about it, we realized: we felt uncomfortable being white. The color of our skin made us part of the group that had been suppressing and perpetrating the black population of this country for decades. The impacts of this crime against humanity are incredibly present, leaving South Africa to be a country where a Third World and a First World coexist right next to each other. For most of the black population, the reparations that had been made did not enable them to emancipate and become independent. Nowadays, one can get the impression that the system simply adapted the mechanisms to keep the privileged in their places. You wonder: how could that be? Haven’t there been enough black presidents in power, starting with the infamous Nelson Rolihahla Mandela who you think would have an interest to push the equality movement. Well, go ahead and put in the words corruption and South Africa into your google search field and you will find that at a certain level of power, your skin color becomes irrelevant.
On a lighter note, once the rain was over, we started taking our trip down memory lane. Except this time, instead of Jaeger bombs we were drinking wine, starting our trip off with a wine tour of Stellenbosch and Franschoek. Our knowledgeable tour guide gave us lots of information on the wine, the country and some inside fun facts (“It’s Africa - you’re not travelling, you’re adventuring.”). We paired wine with chocolate and wine with cheese, trying to taste what the sommelier tasted and at the end of the day, we had almost drunk our weight in wine.
We drove down Chapman’s Peak Drive at sunset, which is very touristy yet incredibly beautiful. We ventured into the Cederberg Mountains, staying in a wood fired cabin and hiking all by ourselves. We made our way along the garden route, watching Mama whales with their babies in Mossel Bay and kayaking along a river towards natural pools. We climbed the various hills of Cape Town, including Table Mountain where one of us insisted in taking the more challenging route which almost resulted in an abortion of the mission, but only almost.
After ticking off the tourist ballot points, we were ready to live the good life and did so in Hout Bay, a picturesque suburb in the North East where we spend our days enjoying a nice apartment with a pool, good South African wine and Beyond Sausage from the Braii master himself.
While we were pretending to be tourists, we knew exactly what was looming behind our backs: a decision about Boggy had to be made, but we were hesitant since there were so many factors we couldn’t figure out. How much would shipping from Port Sudan really cost us? Would we even be able to book a vessel? When were the borders to Ethiopia going to reopen? Would we be eligible for a visa? All these questions and no definite answers - so what where we going to do?
TRAVEL TIME: November 5 - 20, 2020