With the exception of a quick visit to Morocco many years ago, this is my first foray into the African continent. Our planned trip takes us from the top (Egypt), to the bottom (South Africa), and lastly to the eastern side (Tanzania). I split the itinerary into three segments, roughly ten days, three weeks and three weeks, giving us plenty of time to explore each destination, but also time to kick back and relax.
We’ve only been in Capetown, South Africa for six days. Comparing the north to the south, so far, it is like night and day – Egypt being the older, darker, and unfortunately dirtier country. I can accept the fact that anything four to five thousand years old ages with a certain patina over time, but I am disgusted by the country’s attitude toward garbage and litter.
Granted the cities of South Africa are only a few hundred years old, and the whole country’s population is only double what the city of Cairo holds, but it’s people that produce pollution. The people of the two countries are also like night and day, or black and white, so to say. Both places have a nasty history with slavery and racism.
The heavy traffic and related noise, specifically the incessant horn-honking makes one cringe while driving in Cairo. Beat up cars and trucks and scooters and donkeys pulling wooden carts in the north are replaced by an orderly flow of Mercedes, Audi, BMW, and other high end cars and Harley’s in the south.
Brave pedestrians dart in and out of 60 mph traffic or picnic on the roadside in Cairo. In Capetown crossing guards in fluorescent vests help tourists cross at busy intersections. You learn quickly that these guys are nothing more than street beggars who want a donation in return for their services. Who knows where they got all the vests.
The pyramids and various temples in Egypt are beyond description and totally amazing. It is no small wonder that these places have survived the centuries of wars and looting or grave robbing. The older parts of the city and markets are unique and everything you can imagine or might have seen in an Indiana Jones movie. In fact, many parts of the country have been used as movie sets.
Capetown was a complete mystery to us before landing here. So far, we’ve found it to be a clean and vibrant city. Like any metropolis there is some noise and traffic to contend with, but it is easy to discover each unique neighborhood on foot or to take advantage of a user-friendly transportation system. The waterfront is the best in the world I’ve seen so far. It is a working port, with cruise ships, shopping malls, amusement parks, boardwalks, and tons of restaurants.
As many of you know Cathryn and I are both foodies. That statement includes craft beers and wine, both of which are more abundant in South Africa. Because of Egypt’s mostly Muslim population we found it difficult to find booze, or any kind of pork for that matter. Otherwise, we found the food excellent, comparable to the Arabic food back home. So far in Capetown, it seems the sky’s the limit with food and booze. And as luck would have it, we’ve discovered a 150 year old watering hole right next door with a huge selection of craft beer taps. And the smoked pork chops I had last night were the best I’ve ever had.
As much as we’ve seen in our six days in Capetown, we’ve barely scratched the surface. To satisfy our itch we’re heading to the center of town and old castle today. Tomorrow we’ll be heading out on the train to Stellenbosch, about an hour away. We’ll be staying overnight in the center of South Africa’s wine region, and starting the day off with a food and wine tour. Cheers!