Dec 6, 2012

Good Hope

Gabri's parents worked in their twenties in both Senegal and Ivory Coast. Her mom Marianne was a nurse, while her dad was teaching physical exercise and sports as part of the same mission. He was born on the Caribbean island of Curacao, from a rich cultural mix of african, native south american and european descent. Gabri would have been born in Africa, were it not for her mom cutting her assignment short, as she got malaria while pregnant with her and required treatment in Holland. That was the last time Marianne was in Africa, and she longed to return at least once.

That's how our whole trip came about - it was a present for her 70th birthday last year. Somewhat coincidentally, our day of arrival in Cape Town coincided with her 71st. So after a long flight (12 hours for her, 22 hours for GABROEN), we were happy to arrive just before midnight at our first guesthouse in Fish Hoek to a bottle of sparkling wine to drink to her health.

The next morning we woke up to a bright sunny day and a great view of False Bay and the mountains surrounding Cape Town. We quickly realized we arrived on a very different continent, with penguins straddling the beach only 10 minutes south from our beautifully decorated guesthouse - surely a sign of good hope.

We were on our way to the most southwestern tip of the African continent, the Cape of Good Hope. Initially this historically significant cliff was called Cabo das Tormentas - or Cape of Storms by the first Portuguese to round it. But that name was not to the liking of the Portuguese king, who apparently was in need of a more upbeat, optimistic sign that the money spent on finding a trading route to the Far East was not in vain. So instead, he renamed it Cabo de Boa Esperanca, or die Kaap die Goeie Hoop in Afrikaans. 

Standing on the Cape you kind of feel the historical significance.  You can also feel the wind howling, and kind of get why it got its first name; it's a pretty barren and narrow peninsula, so it's definitely less hopeful as it may have seen to a guy sitting on a throne in distant Portugal. It's also a little strange, at least to me - Gabri is utterly unbothered by this - to be in a place where the sun is in the North and the night sky is largely unfamiliar or upside down. It makes you realize it's actually you who is upside down from the Northern Hemisphere. I know being upside down is a relative term when you are talking about a round globe, gravity, etcetera, and you are not more likely to fall off the face of the earth in South Africa than in the U.S., Europe or the North Pole, but "good hope" is not the first sentiment that came to mind when standing upside down on a barren, narrow peninsula surrounded by nothing but cold Atlantic waters. But it was kind of cool to stand on the world's most famous cape.

Supposedly you can see whales swim along both sides of the Cape, but that didn't happen for us. But we had good hope, as after three days of Cape, Table Mountain National Park, downtown Cape Town and the wine region, our next stop was Gansbaai. Supposedly the best place in the world to watch whales from land. Fingers crossed.........

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