Cape Town, my gateway into South Africa

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It’s hard to swim at any beach because of sharks in the water and the cold Atlantic and Indian Ocean currents.

As my plane landed after 21 hours of travel and I stepped onto South African land, my guide was waiting to greet me with a sign bearing my name. What a relief to be there and to see a welcoming face.

So began my adventure that will take me to a few days in Cape Town, then a 40-minute plane ride to a fabulous hotel in Kruger National Park for a safari, and then on to another “camp” for another two days in Sabi Sabi at the Singita Boulders. My last stop will be to see the glorious, legendary Victoria Falls while staying in Zambia across the border from South Africa.

My days in Cape Town were a mix of joyousness and sorrow. I had the opportunity to bring food to a woman named Rosie, who runs a soup kitchen in a shanty town and helps to bring sustenance to the families and children in her neighborhood. It is a project my tour group, Micato Safari, runs to feed many people in that community.

I also experienced great sadness as I took a ferry to visit Robben Island, where Nelson Mandela was imprisoned for decades for his fight against apartheid. The starkness and cruelty of the treatment he received there made me cry.

It is now a UNESCO World Heritage site that has tours through the prison. I got to hear my guide and former inmate, Thando, tell his tale of days of hard labor, isolation and physical torture. He, like Mandela, was a prisoner in 1983 and was released in 1990. Neither let his experience break him, but it broke my heart to hear his story.

I asked him, if he had a magic wand, what would he like to see happen today. He said, “I’d like us to be able to have land to build homes.”

Life is not separate anymore, but poverty is still rampant amongst the black community.

On a lighter note, I visited another World Heritage site, Table Mountain. It is called that because it is as flat as a table.

With my guide, I took a cable car to the top and then climbed 150 steps to the lighthouse at its peak. My reward was a stunning view of the city, the waterfront (that is like our South Street Seaport), and the world-famous, handsome soccer stadium.

During my days in Cape Town I stayed at a well-named hotel, The One and Only. I guess it was the best place in town because Eminem stayed there for his concerts held to sold out crowds. No, I did not get to see him.

The hotel is spread over many acres on the waterfront and I had a spacious room overlooking the man-made canal seen from my balcony.

The famous Japanese restaurant Nobu has a location off the lobby. I ate their wonderful food for two nights, delivered to my room, after busy touring days. There was something relaxing to watch a James Bond movie and eat my sushi!

I also indulged in their tranquil spa. Although I enjoyed the massage, I really loved their Jacuzzi that had a lounge chair in the tub to lay and luxuriate and recover from endless walking!

I bid the city goodbye and my Micato safari guides got me to the airport to take a very small plane seating only six people to fly me into Kruger National Park and begin my safari.

More on that next week.

Chef Campbell prepares “bistro chic” food at the restaurant.

Cable car to Table Mountain.

The Ferris wheel and the waterfront area with shops and many restaurants.

Penguins on the Cape of Good Hope Nature Reserve.

Leaving the island that was a prison for Nelson Mandela. No one ever escaped alive in the 20th century.

A peak into the eight-foot square cell. The prison had held lepers, but was turned into maximum security facility for those fighting apartheid.

Our former prisoner and guide showing us his photo during apartheid protests.

Alan, our Micato Safari guide, greeting the former prisoner.