Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Oceans, Penguins, and African Dancing Equal a Full Day

It turns out that the waters of the Indian and Atlantic Oceans actually meet off the point of Cape Agulhas, which is about 90 miles south and east of the Cape of Good Hope. I’m relieved to have learned that today while visiting the Cape of Good Hope, because I was stressed that I had not dipped my toe into the chilly waters in anticipation of touching two oceans. Alas, that is the only lowlight from another day of jaw-dropping beauty and experiences.

The visit to the Cape was spectacular, as the scenery driving to and from and while there was amazing. Among the creatures we saw were wild ostriches, baboons, elands and grysboks (two types of antelopes), and dassies (think of a rabbit, minus the long ears). In addition, we were very fortunate to see a bryde’s whale frolicking maybe 500 yards off the coast. According to our tour guide, the 8 previous Penn cohorts that came to South Africa did not see any whales. The climb from the base parking area to the peak where the now retired light house stands was exhilarating—regarding the light house, it turns out that having it located high above the ocean (about 750 feet above sea level) often hid it in clouds and fog, rendering it useless in aiding ships. So one was built on a promontory, less than 300 feet above sea level, and continues to provide assistance in the stormy area. Speaking of storms, it was yet another stormless day for us, with sunshine all day and temperatures again reaching the upper 60s. I’m including two pictures from the Cape visit. The first, to the right, is of our entire group posing at the Cape of Good Hope sign. The second, to the left, is one that was taken of my family, looking out into the ocean waters at the base of the original Cape Point lighthouse. To learn more about the Cape of Good Hope, visit http://www.capepoint.co.za/.
Our next stop was a brief visit with the African Penguins at Boulder’s Beach (http://www.aboutcapetown.com/penguins.htm). The penguin colony at Boulder’s only dates back to 1983, when two penguins were spotted. Since then, as a result of mating and migration from some of Africa’s other penguin colonies, the penguin population at Boulder's has grown to nearly 2,500! The kids on the trip (as well as the adults, including this one) really enjoyed this stop. Watching penguins waddle brings a smile to the face!

For lunch, we visited the Lourensford Winery (http://www.lourensford.co.za/), which we were told is the only black-owned and managed winery in South Africa. We enjoyed a wine tasting, and overview of the winery and wine making process, and a wonderful lunch outdoors in the warm sunshine.

The afternoon was spent touring more of the Cape area, with a stop in the Stellenbosch, South Africa’s oldest town and home of Stellenbosch University (http://www.sun.ac.za/index.asp), one of the Apartheid era’s Afrikaner institutions. The town is heavily Dutch-influenced, noticeably in its architecture. The town was attractive and there were numerous quaint shops and boutiques in which to browse.

For dinner, we visited the Moyo restaurant on the grounds of the Spier winery (http://www.spier.co.za/whattodoatspier/moyo.htm). What a treat! The setting is one of Spier’s gardens, and tents are set up throughout, with seating areas and warming fires interspersed with gardens and water features. I am simply not doing the setting justice, but I notice on the Moyo web site it mentions the experience comes across as though you are in a nomadic African village. The food and meal experience is what I’d call a combination of family style and buffet, but with the quality, variety, and authenticity of the food being more 5-star than what we typically think of with buffets. In addition, there was live entertainment with African dancing and singing, which I captured in the picture to the right.

Another jam-packed, memory-filled day has come to a close. Amazing sights and sounds, food and experiences, which seem to be the daily occurrence. The professor from Penn who teaches our History of South African Higher Education course and leads the trip shared with us that she intentionally mixes the days with some being focused specifically on higher education issues and experiences, some with the natural beauty of the country, and some with firsthand exposure to the past history and current issues facing South Africa. Each, in its own way, elicits incredibly strong emotions, so her strategy makes sense to me in mixing things up. Tomorrow, we’re off to the University of Cape Town as we spend or final day in the area before flying north to Johannesburg early Thursday morning.

It’s nearly 1am. I’m exhausted, but with an equal dose of anticipation in looking forward to sharing more tomorrow.

1 comment:

  1. Marc, a great day of exploration! What was the cuisine like? I am familiar only with North and West African cuisine. I hope you did not eat any of the animals you passed on the way to the Cape! : ) Tim

    PS: Also, please tell us about the wines!