7.03.2013

South Africa: Day 9 (Bo-Kaap and the Drive to Oudtshoorn)

Before we left Cape Town, we drove back through the neighboring streets to take pictures of some of the murals that we had repeatedly passed during our six-day stay. More that just amazing pieces of artwork, these paintings really helped us find our way around the Woodstock area.



Steve wanted me to take a picture of this street too. It's actually a lot wider than many of the other roads. But with cars parked on both sides, there's still only room for one car to drive down the middle. When two cars approach each other, it turns into a bit of a game. The car that gets to proceed first depends on the size of the vehicle and the stubbornness of the driver. (I bet you can guess how often Steve pulled over for another car to go first. . . )


So the reason why Steve wanted me to take a picture of this road is because it is right in front of the police station. Yep, that's the police truck pulled over to the side of the road because the other car wouldn't move for them to drive through. 


Then we went to Bo-Kaap to see the brightly painted houses:  


We had driven by a few times before, but it had always been too rainy or too dark for pictures. 


Formerly known as the Cape Malay Quarter, the neighborhood is situated on the slopes of Signal Hill. 


Bo-Kaap's character started emerging during the early 1800's. These small, flat-roofed houses were originally inhabited by the descendants of Malay slaves who were brought to Cape Town by Dutch colonists from Indonesia and Malaysia. Slaves were not allowed to dress in colored clothing, so painting their houses these vibrant colors was an expression of freedom.  


Guided walking tours are available, but we just drove/walked thru ourselves. Can you guess which house Lucy wants to live in?


The streets are narrow and steep: 


And many of them are cobbled, adding another layer of charm: 


The Bo-Kaap people are known for their warm hospitality. The community is mostly Muslim; the neighborhood has a few mosques and a museum


There were also lots of little restaurants. We opted for Indian, of course. 


This was probably the largest restaurant in the area. I went inside to order while everyone else waited in the van. The owner came and cautioned me to be careful because the guy who was outside pretending to be a parking attendant was actually a purse snatcher. I quickly sent Steve a text message, but he and Derrick were too busy talking to the purse snatcher to notice the message. (No snatching of purses took place.)


It was only the second meal that I felt was priced almost equivalent to the United States. With the exchange rate of ten rand per dollar, sit-down restaurant food in South Africa was generally about fifty percent less than U.S. prices.


The Chicken Tikka Masala was too spicy for the kids but the Chicken Makhani was amazing and worth every penny. We quickly devoured it in the car. . . as we drove to pick up Gcobisa. 

This is the apartment complex, or "flat", where she lives with her sister: 


Derrick helped her get her bags: 


And then we were off on the next stage of our adventure, the drive to Oudtshoorn. (Pronounced Oats-horn or sometimes more like Oats-swan.) 

As we drove inland, there was a dramatic and distinct change in landscape. We counted waterfalls on the Du Toitskloof Mountains, whose peaks were blanketed in clouds: 


Just outside of Paarl, we drove through the 2.5-mile long Huguenot Tunnel. That is the exact same length as the Whittier Tunnel that we traveled through last summer in Alaska. The kids immediately recognized the similarities, but there were also quite a few notable differences. The Whittier Tunnel was dark and only had one lane. Which meant there was a long wait and quite a process (including a $12 toll) before being allowed to drive through it. The Huguenot Tunnel was well lit, had two lanes, and the toll was only three dollars. It felt like the perfect setting for a movie car chase.

We complained when the kids needed a bathroom break so early in our drive. But we stopped at the right place. This bag of oranges cost something like seven or eight rand. (That's only eighty cents.) And they were so good!


Once out of the mountains, we drove into the beautiful Breede River Valley, near Worcester: 


As we drove through the Cape Winelands, we passed at least forty or fifty men and women selling grapes. They stood on the side of the road, holding their boxes of grapes out towards the passing vehicles. And as soon as we slowed down, at least three people rushed our van. The price for this flat of grapes was fifteen rand, or about $1.50. 


Unfortunately, they were full of seeds and not especially good. I wanted to take more pictures of both the picturesque valley and the nearby derelict shacks that, as usual, countered the beauty. But there wasn't anywhere to pull over without people thinking we were stopping to buy more grapes. 

Can you imagine the volume of grape juice I would make if I lived in South Africa. . . ?

Once we hit Laingsburg, our map told us to go south on R323, which turned out to be a dirt road. We were acutely aware that this was not the way we had traveled to Oudtshoorn the last time we had been to South Africa. But at that point, we had no reason not to trust the iPhone map app. We were completely engrossed in listening to the stories of Bill Gates and The Beatles in our book on tape,  Outliers. And then, maybe an hour later, it hit us that we were in the middle of nowhere, on a dirt road, and it was almost dark. We came across a few men on the side of the road who confirmed that we were going the right direction. (In hindsight, they probably would have told us we were going the right direction, regardless of whether they actually knew.) We carried on, driving through a majestic canyon in the dark, and had one of those I-can't-believe-where-we-are moments. 

And then we arrived in Oudtshoorn. The lodging I had picked out online was full, but we found rooms available at the Protea Riempie Estates. We ate dinner at Bello Cibo, where we gorged ourselves on pizza, pasta, and salad. (South African salads were always light on the lettuce and heavy on the vegetables. . . this particular salad was served with warm vegetables, which was so strange, but yet so good.)

Our rooms at the Protea Riempie Estates turned out to be the most affordable lodging of our whole trip. We booked two two-bedroom rooms, meaning we had a total of four rooms that looked like this: 


(Actually, two of the rooms had twin beds and two of them had double beds.) We had a total of four bathrooms, complete with mirrored showers:


All for a total of $115. These other pictures were actually taken the next morning, but they show you what things looked like from the outside: 


Adam informed me that we were staying at the poor hotel because the roof was made out of sticks: 


I was thrilled with our room because it had decent internet. . . at least on my computer. Steve couldn't pick up a connection from our room, so he spent some time sitting outside with the noisy ostriches. And then he was up bright and early to check them out in the light: 


Traveling with Gcobisa was nice because then we had someone to help us figure out the South African vocabulary. I'll have to add more later (Rachel kept a running list in her notebook), but here are some that I can remember. 

hoot = honk
robots = traffic lights
petrol = gasoline
boom = parking gate
flats = apartment
tekkies = shoes
bathing costume = bathing suit
serviettes = napkin
marrows = zucchinis
chips = french fries
cool drink = soda
plaits/plaitted = braid/braided 
lekker = cool

Some of them you can figure out. . . like bathing costume. But it was pretty funny watching someone offer Rachel a serviette. Huh?

. . . . . 

Oh yeah. . . we later asked some people about the road we had taken. It turns out that people have "heard" about the shortcut road we took, but nobody actually ever takes it. 

1 comment:

Rebecca said...

I love the brightly colored houses! So pretty! The word for napkin is similar in Spanish...but I'm sure the pronunciation is different.