Cape Town / Nature and Nurture

by ruthsmason

Image The journey from Ghana to South Africa followed in the wake of those intrepid Portuguese explorers, Bartolome Diaz and Vasco da Gama both of whom rounded the tip of the continent. On our way south we saw flying fish, sea lions and even dolphins and whales. Cape Town itself sits at the foot of Table Mountain, just the first of many stunning mountains. image

South from the city lies the Cape of Good Hope and Cape Point where the Benguela current, cold and from the west, meets the Agulhas current, warm and from the east.imageimage The exact point varies with seasons and weather, but clearly the Atlantic Ocean meets the Indian Ocean, and from the Cape Point light house it was an amazing 360 view of it all. Right whales played below in False Bay. And on the way there we saw many flowers which grow wild here that we associate with posh gardens in the states. Above, on top, the Bird of Paradise is favorite of Nelson Mandela. Below, a pincushion protea in the wild.
24 species of Protea are endemic hereimage
Coming back from the Capes, we visited a refuge for African Penguins, and returned via Simontown, a lovely artists and retirement village on False Bay.
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I had heard about Kristenbosch National Botanical Garden and was craving trees, grass and birds. So with the hop-on/hop-off bus I combined a tour of the city with a stop at the garden. A few hours turned into almost five, as I just didn’t want to leave. Birdsong, new varieties of heathers and grasses, exotic 100 year old trees. The vegetation of South Africa is not lush, not tropical, but so varied and unique. Here are a couple of examples: the Silver Tree and more Protea.
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We also went north to enjoy a mini-safari. The drive through the mountains and wine country was much more dramatic than I had anticipated. The countryside is beautiful!

Hex Valley; home to many vineyards

Hex Valley; home to many
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It was hot again, so we didn’t know if we would see many animals. The ones we did see were in a large enough reserve that it almost felt like they were in the wild. Cape buffalo, African elephant and white rhinos. Hurrah! Lions, ostriches and zebras too! Springbok, of course, the emblem of the national rugby team. And for oohs and aahs, a baby hippo. It was really fun to see all this from the four-wheel drive off-road truck that bumped us around for a few hours.
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I struggle with how to end this post from South Africa. Natural beauty, mineral wealth, fertile farmland and an ideal climate make it nearly perfect on the outside. But underneath the beauty, racial inequalities persist, disparities in education continue and prospects for employment are slim. Mandela and Tutu are old and honored. But, young black men are dissatisfied and see the huge gap between rich and poor, which is much worse than under apartheid, with anger. I met a young black woman who had to drop out of her mechanical engineering program because she could not afford to continue. Her dismay and frustration with her country’s government and its mismanagement was sharp. Schools for her six year old daughter are bad. Violence in her township is increasing. She said, “End the violence; give us free education.” Such reasonable requests.
And when Mandela and Tutu are gone? Can the will of the people replace the corruption and nepotism and bring in a meritocracy? Such a paradise; such deep-seated problems.
May both nature and nurture thrive!