Saturday, July 12, 2008
We had quite a full day on Friday. We took an all-day Cape peninsula tour that started at 8:30 and got back around 6:00. Since I’ve focused on the weather so much I’ll keep on…it was a gorgeous day for the most part – sunny and warm enough that at least one student was in a tank top (albeit for a short time and after a fairly arduous hike)…the rest of us – sweatshirts.
It was a wonderful tour and here is a summary of sights and miscellaneous knowledge imparted to us by our guide Theo (pronounced Tayo). Our first stop was in Hout Bay. The place was definitely set up for the massive tour busses that must rumble through regularly because it was filled with vendors of African arts and crafts including a man with a seal on the dock who was feeding fish to the seal out of his mouth (and for 10 rand we could take a picture with the seal). Hout Bay was originally a whites-only community although there has been additional development so the community has become more integrated. Well…not integrated but mixed-race. It is still quite segregated. We saw many day laborers standing around; Theo indicated that typical wages were about R100 per day, or the equivalent of about $12.50.
Along the way to our next stop we saw some Southern Right Whale. This was very early in the season, and Theo assured us this was the first sighting of the season. The Right Whale is so named because it was so easy to hunt; it is a slow swimmer and the body floats after it has been killed making it easy to drag to short (hence they were hunting the “right whale”). The height of the whale season here is Sept-Oct (the full season is between Aug-Nov).
During the Apartheid era, there used to be four official departments of education: one each for whites, coloureds, Indians, and blacks. Each had a different curriculum, different books, etc. As an example, the government decided that blacks had no need to learn math. You can imagine that this serious under-education has had a significant impact on the availability of human capital to progress as a country.
Went to Cape Point and the nearby Cape of Good Hope. These are both located in a national park and we had some interesting animals sightings. The Cape of Good Hope is the southwestern most point in Africa, although we were still quite a distance from Antarctica. The Cape of Good Hope is about parallel with Buenos Aires, Argentina. We saw several very bold baboons in the park and there were signs all over the place warning that they are aggressive around food. Sure enough, at least two students had food snatched by baboons, and the park employs people whose job it is to chase them away from the eating areas - using sticks, throwing rocks, and using slingshots. Theo told a story of needing to shoo out 30-40 baboons from his brother’s house because he had left the window open. He said that the place looked liked it had been ransacked – drawers dumped, jars opened, refrigerator cleaned out, etc. Along the way, we also saw eland, ostrich, and at the end of the trip, zebra.
By now we’re into the afternoon and heading over to Boulders Bay where we got to see real Cape penguins. Well…not that the other ones weren’t real, but these were not in captivity. They were absolutely adorable (stinky, too).
Our day ended at the Kirstenbosch Botanical Gardens. Unfortunately, most of us were wiped out, and we had lingered too long over the whales, so we were down to about 30 minutes. It was a quick in and out.
Off to Durban today – it’s been going remarkably smooth transporting 27 of us around places. We’re going on our safari tomorrow and we’ll be gone for the next couple of days. Keep your fingers crossed that we’ll have lots of exotic animals stories to tell upon our return. The pics this time were from the Cape of Good Hope.