Art and nature stroll

Company Garden, Cape Town – 23 Jul 2011

The last place I visited in Cape Town was the South Africa National Gallery. I didn’t take any pictures inside because the house rules forbids anybody to take pictures.

The Great Vladimir Tretchikoff retrospective exhibition was on when I visited and I had great time looking closely at all his paintings. His main subjects are exotic people and flowers.The exhibition aims to examine Tretchikoff anew and place him in contemporary perspective. Many iconic works such as the “Chinese Girl” and “The Dying Swan” were on display.

For those not in the know, Tretchikoff (1913–2006) was one of the most commercially successful artists of all time. His painting, “Chinese Girl” (popularly known as “The Green Lady”), is one of the best-selling art prints ever. He was considered to be one of the richest artists, with earnings comparable to Picasso. He pioneered the idea of selling affordable copies of his works, enabling working class people to own art.

Tretchikoff was a self-taught artist who painted realistic figures, portraits, still life and animals, with subjects often inspired by his early life in China and Malaysia, and later life in South Africa. His work was immensely popular with the public, but is often seen by art critics as the epitome of kitsch (indeed, he was nicknamed the “King of Kitsch”). He worked in oil, watercolour, ink, charcoal and pencil but is best known for his reproduction prints which sold worldwide in huge numbers.

After the Second World War he settled in South Africa. Sadly, he suffered a stroke in 2002 that left him unable to paint, and died on 26 August 2006 in Cape Town. But his paintings are truly inspiring.

After the exhibition, we just strolled out at the Company Garden in front of the gallery.

Company Gardens is a large public park and botanical garden set in the heart of Cape Town, home to a rose garden, Japanese garden, fish pond and aviary.

 

The garden is generally teeming with locals (including geese), who seek out the fresh air and beautiful views of Table Mountain. The tree-lined avenue, with its benches and resident squirrels, forms a pathway between the suburb of Gardens and the city centre.

Company Gardens is the oldest garden in the country and is intricately bound with the arts in South Africa. Besides having the art gallery within the park, it is also the venue of a number of festivals, including the Human Rights Concert and the Youth Festival.

And these concluded my visit to Cape Town. I really hope to be able to travel to Cape Town again to visit all those places that I didn’t get to visit and to meet penguins and whales that I didn’t get to meet. Until I can do that, I need to save lots of money and bring my son along.

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Thought I Died and Gone to Heaven

The cool breeze of the bay seemed to welcome us but the wind-blown sands from the gust of wind seemed to test our ability to stand the ground. We hold on to each other and try not to surrender and let it win. But you know gust, it comes and goes as the please and as the gust slowed down for awhile, there we were, a couple in our forties, walking hand in hand to enjoy the beauty of the white-sanded beach called Camps Bay.

I soon found myself clicking the shutter of my camera. There, right where the sea meets the sand, was a family strolling happily enjoying the fresh wind.

There, on the rock, were two boys trying to freeze the waves with their camera.

 

There, right in front of me, was my significant other standing on the rock amidst the magnificence of the bluest of the sky, posing one for the album. I quickly captured the moment and thought, “wow, is this heaven?”

I sat to enjoy the scenery – the 23mph wind blew constantly, gaining momentum as it skipped across the waves, disregarding obstacles in its pathway. The sudden gust, probably at 27mph, blew the sands directly to my face that I had to bow to let it pass respectfully.

Flock of seagulls seemed to know how to handle the situation. They took cover behind the rocks which acted as a barrier to the wind.

I walked to the big rocks to get the a clear picture of them. At the same time, the wind blew invigorating salty air that I suppose was derived by seaweed, phytoplankton, marsh plants and even some bacterias. The smell triggered my appetite and I took out the egg sandwiches purchased from  Pick N Pay at the beachfront across the main road and shared it with my husband.

Soon, a gang of seagulls loitered on the rocks near where we sat and made that loud squawking noise s if they were saying “give us some, give us some.”

My husband fed them. They were insatiable…

…wanting more… even when I took out my peach yogurt.

They were oh so adorable!

That was amongst the wonders of the day. The frustration earlier from not getting on top of the Table Mountain was quickly forgotten.

Camps Bay is an affluent suburb, 7 minutes away from the Central Business District of Cape Town. Lined with palm trees on the beachfront, with white sandy beaches, brilliant blue sea and majestic mountains in the background, Camps Bay beach is one of Cape Town’s largest and one of the most beautiful beaches.

The cosmopolitan beachfront is vibrant throughout the year and people throng the pavement cafes and restaurants enjoying the ambiance.If one needs a meal with a view, Camps Bay’s beachfront is well appointed with many restaurants, cafes and bars. From casual light meals to five star internationally acclaimed cuisine, the restaurants in Camps Bay cater to every taste and budget.

 

My drawings on Camps Bay? You must be kidding, on a place like this, who needs to draw!

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Closed Table

Somewhere in Cape Town, where greatness comes embellished with Ordovician quartzitic sandstone and orographic clouds, there was a traveller crying quietly in her heart for not being able to capture the majestic view from the flat topped Table Mountain.

Truly a major disappointment in life.

 

My travel dates to Cape Town, which was from July 20 to 25, coincided with the Table Mountain Cableway’s annual maintenance which was from July 18 to 31. If I had been there three days earlier, it would have changed the history of my life, and I could happily claim to be on top of the world.

The 2011 maintenance plan includes major power line repairs and servicing the hydraulics and main motor gear box. Table Mountain Cableway is required to do annual maintenance to meet the highest global cableway standards set by the Swiss Governing Body for Cableways (BAV).

Of course there is an option for hiking, but I was not all prepared – mentally and physically. Furthermore, although the distance from bottom to top may sound short (about three kilometres), the hike is a physically demanding “moderate to tough” route that takes between one and three or more hours to complete.

For what it’s worth, my husband and I did get on the trail, and he wanted to go further up. But as my knees were not really up to it, we just made it half way. I could see the disappointment although he tried to hide it. But he knows I would get all weary. I can walk and stroll, but not ascend.

Nonetheless, I took some photos and sketched something.

Here’s a bit about Table Mountain.

Often described as magical and mystical, Table Mountain is Cape Town’s most prominent feature and a world-famous landmark. This mountain is visible from almost everywhere in Cape Town and is often used as a beacon by which to find direction.

The mountain rises 1,086 metres at its highest point, Maclears Beacon, above the bay. Its flat summit measures nearly three kilometres and provides breathtaking views over the city and its beaches. The panorama stretches from Table Bay to False Bay and around the mountain to the Hout Bay Valley and Kommetjie.

On a clear day one has a magnificent view across the Cape Flats to the Hottentots Holland Mountains.

Table Mountain is home to a rich fauna and flora, many species of which are endemic and survive only in the unique ecosystem which is contained on the mountain. There are approximately 1,470 species of plants, including over 250 different species of daisies.

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Cape Town Day 2: Bo Kaap

Bo-Kaap is a place that was on the top on my list during my visit to Cape Town. I was dying to find out why it is called Cape Malay.

bokaap houses

watercolor on watercolor paper

The distance from Waterfront to Bo-Kaap is about 20 minutes by foot, but I told my husband that I was too lazy to walk (or probably tired from exploring Robben Island earlier in the day), so we took a taxi instead. Cost us about R45. We wanted to go the Bo-Kaap Museum, but the taxi driver did not know where it was, so we requested him to just drop us off somewhere uphill at Yusuf Drive. I like the sound of it. Yusuf is one of the most common Muslim names besides Muhammad. There are also street names like Astana and Tana Baru – words that are familiar to us.

me

Me on Yusuf Drive, on the background is Cape Town.

Anyway, Bo-Kaap (meaning ‘Upper Cape’) is nestled at the foot of Signal Hill on central Cape Town’s western perimeter. The houses here are unique. They are characterised by narrow streets and cobbled lanes with charming and colourful rows of houses. I love the green ones…and the pink ones…and the turquoise ones…oh, I love all of them!

As we were mesmerised by the houses and buildings in the area, we missed the museum. Anyway, I visited the Bo-Kaap Museum online and found some interesting facts about the history of Bo-Kaap.

According to the museum, Bo-Kaap today is comprised of four areas: the Malay Quarter, Stadzicht, Schotsche Kloof and Schoone Kloof. Although the Bo-Kaap has over centuries, been home to people of various origins and religions, the area is closely associated with the Muslim community of the Cape.  The ancestors of the majority of the Muslims in the Cape arrived from 1658 onwards as slaves, political exiles and convicts from East Africa and South East Asia (India, Indonesia and Sri Lanka).

The first mosque at the Cape, the Auwal Mosque, was built in the neighbourhood in 1804 and is still in use, although much altered over years. By the beginning of the twentieth century, roughly half the population in the area was Muslim.

From some of the websites on the Internet and also from the Hop-On Hop-Off bus commentary, I found out that Bo Kaap is incorrectly branded as Cape Malay. I’m not sure what the fuss is all about, but I think the fact from history (that goes back to 1658) where most slaves came from Indonesia (who were from Malay descendants) must be why. In my opinion, it is not incorrectly branded, but word-of-mouth rules and the word ‘Malay’ has been carried from generation to generation.

my drawing

watercolor on watercolor paper

From the Bo-Kaap Museum online, I also found out that in 1943, recognising that the unique character and historic value of the area was being eroded, several prominent citizens formed the “Group for the Preservation of the Malay Quarter,’ headed by Dr E G Jansen and included amongst others Dr I D du Plessis and Mr William Fehr. As a result of their lobbying, 15 houses and a mosque in the block between Chiappini, Shortmarket, Rose and Longmarket Streets were restored in 1951.

Despite the protests of many residents, Bo-Kaap was declared a ‘Malay Group Area’ under the Group Areas Act n 1957. In 1966, under pressure from the public, the Historical Monuments Commission (later the National Monuments Council) and the Department of Community Development, the houses between Rose and Chiappini and Longmarket and Wale Streets were declared a national monument.

Ons is honger (we were hungry in Afrikaans). So, after taking pictures and a walk in the Bo-Kaap area, my husband and I got hungry. It was 5 pm and the weather was getting colder. We went to the nearby Biesmillah Restaurant. We went in, waited almost 10 minutes but there was nobody to serve us (probably busy in the kitchen), so we just walked out.

biesmillah restaurant

Biesmillah Restaurant at Waal Street.

We walked further down Wale Street and took a turn at Bree Street and found a restaurant, called Simply Good Food just below EC Cape Town English Language School. We had tuna sandwiches and coffee.

Later we just walked along Church Street that leads to St Georges Mall.  I found a lot of interesting shops along the streets, but as they were already closing, we just headed straight back to the hotel. We noticed that shops were closing early, as early as 5 pm. Maybe it was due to the winter weather.

Here are some pictures of Bo Kaap houses and buildings:

 

 

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Cape Town Day 2: A ‘ferry’ good trip to Robben Island

me

Me posing at Victoria & Alfred Waterfront, Cape Town.

Robben Island or Robbeneiland is derived from Dutch, meaning Seal Island, and for this reason, I was hoping to at least bump into a harem of seals (or a waddle of African penguins as featured in the flyer) when I decided to visit. Going for a trip to see seals, whales or penguins on a boat cost about R1,000 per person. Watching one of these animals costs about R500 per person. So, I took a rain check.

My husband and I purchased tickets to Robben Island at the Nelson Mandela Gateway near the Clock Tower. Our tickets to Robben Island cost us R220 (that’s about RM100) per person at the Nelson Mandela Gateway near the Clock Tower. The price is for a standard tour (3.5 hours) provided by Robben Island Museum, and it includes:

1. A return boat trip across Table Bay
2. A visit to the infamous Maximum Security Prison
3. Interaction with an ex-political prisoner
4. A 45-minute bus ride with a guide providing commentary
5. The opportunity to explore the Murray’s Bay Harbour precinct attractions such as the Muslim shrine or kramat, and the Museum Shop

The Nelson Mandela Gateway was constructed to symbolize South Africa’s past and reflect how change in peoples attitude can shape a country.

We took the earliest trip at 11 am (boarding was at 10:30 am).The queue to embark on the ferry was quite long and everybody had to pass through a scanning machine.

A ferry named Sikhululekile, which means “we are free” in Xhosa

Me eagerly waiting in line to board Sikhululekile.

On the ferry, we took the upper seats for an easy access to the side deck for photography purposes. My husband said I could take photos, so I went to the deck and after 10 minutes, my face went cold and numb. I quickly returned to my seat, took out my knitted gloves, wore them and held my husband by his left arm. “This is why I prefer not to go outside,” he told me. “Yes very sweet of you to inform me,” I replied.

View of Cape Town from the deck.

The trip to Robbeneiland was about half an hour, and with nothing better to do, I observed other passengers. There in the right hand corner was a man seated with a family. I could tell that the man did not belong to the group by the look of his face. He looked Indian while the rest were maybe Zambian, Zimbabwean or local. On my right hand side, there was a man clad in long jacket (probably Burberry) busy doing something on his new iPad2. Wow, classy. He looked like a businessman. “So what is a businessman doing in Robbeneiland?” I thought to myself. Perhaps he had to ‘seal’ a deal. Haha.

Outside on the deck, there was a mother and daughter busy taking pictures, a couple enjoying the cold breezy weather and three others happily snapping away with their DSLRs. While looking at them, I asked my husband, “What is the seating capacity of this ferry?” He replied, “Dunno. Maybe around 200 or 250 or 300?” “Wow. Ok we take the max 300, so R220 x 300 x 3 daily trips ..urm how much is that?” We did the math and it’s R198, 000 per day. They sure make loads of income from Robben Island tourism.

You see, Robben Island is listed as one of the Big 6 in South Africa, and the promotions are big. There are flyers, brochures – not leaving behind websites as well as TV ads. Even the driver who fetched us the other day recommended Robben Island. Suddenly, Pulau Jerejak popped in my mind. If only it can be transformed into something like Robben Island. Hmmm.

The ferry finally docked the Robben Island jetty at 11:30 am and pelagic birds seemed to usher our arrival. Lots of them.

When we disembarked, a fleet of buses were already waiting for us, and off we went to the common prisons where our tour starts. Outside the prison, we met the tour guide, who was actually an ex-prisoner. He explained about the history of Robben Island as well as the prisons. He told us that at first, it was hard for him to come back to the prison. However he managed to overcome the feeling and began treating his job as therapy. It helped him to ease the burden by sharing stories about life in the prison.

Robben Island is the largest of the islands along the coastline of South Africa. It is 507 hectares, roughly oval-shaped, and about 2 kilometres in length from north to south. From the 17th to the 20th centuries, Robben Island served as a place of banishment, isolation and imprisonment. Today it is a World Heritage Site and museum, a poignant reminder to the newly democratic South Africa of the price paid for freedom.

In the common prison, we got to observe shared communal cells which can fit 50 to 60 people. Only a few of the bunk beds still remain in the cell for exhibition purposes. We were later taken to the kitchen, as well as the B-section courtyard. The prison tour ended at the maximum security section where high level political prisoners such as Nelson Mandela were kept in.

Nelson Mandela’s cell was just behind the wall where my husband sat.

After the prison tour, we were taken on a 45-minute bus tour. The bus took us to the limestone quarry where prisoners did hard labour, the lighthouse, the leper’s graveyard, the school, and the Moturu Kramat.

Limestone quarry where Nelson Mandela worked for 13 years.

This school still serves the island today – with children ranging from the ages six to 11 and four permanent teachers.

Lighthouse on Minto Hill.

This Kramat was built in 1969 to commemorate Sayed Adurohman Moturu, the Prince of Madura. Moturu, one of Cape Town’s first ‘imans’, was exiled to the island in the mid 1740s and died there in 1754.

The shrine was the end of our tour. Overall, we had a good tour. Although the prison itself was not that intriguing, the history around the whole facility (particularly the part where Mandela was held there) was invaluable. Of course it would have been better if only I saw a penguin waddling along Murray Bay. But we did have a surprised bonus: African Black Oystercatchers. We got the opportunity to see this bird along Murray Bay while on the way back to the starting point.

Listed as an endangered bird, the black oystercatcher has a population of less than 5,000 adults.

Now, that’s what I call a blast. Seeing something unique about a place is always like having a cherry on top of ice-cream.

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Cape Town Day I: Getting familiar with the town

Just when I thought my body was adapting well to the cold weather, the 5-day vacation was over. My blocked nose suddenly turns runny as I stepped down from the airplane. I was like an ice melting. Just few days ago when it was so windy and cold at Cape Town, I was praying for a warm weather. But now I am praying for a cold weather.

Haha. But yeah, home sweet home; regardless what the temperature is.

me at the reception counter

The trip to Cape Town, South Africa was great. It was a vacation that my husband and I had been awaited for. Our little boy could not skip school, so, he was left under the care of his grandmother. We felt so guilty but my mother said, “go and enjoy!”

Upon reaching Cape Town, we were fetched by a driver to the hotel where we were staying. The arrangement has all been made by MAS as part of the deal for winning the iMasTravel contest. Many thanks to MAS for the great prize and most importantly many thanks to the judges who gave me good scores not forgetting friends, relatives and bloggers for voting my blog entry for the contest which contributed to 30% of the total 100% scores.

Day 1

As we reached Cape Town early in the morning, we thought that it was a good idea to roam the cape as soon as possible and decided to walk to Victoria & Alfred Waterfront which is not far from the hotel. As my dear husband had made his homework few days before leaving KL, finding our way was like piece of cake. Clad in our jackets and a backpack each on our back, we walked hand in hand through the cool and breezy 14°C weather. From where the hotel is situated–Adderly Street, we walked past Thibault Square, Southern Sun hotel and City Lodge. From City Lodge, we could already see the waterfront.

Great Southern Sun building

Southern Sun is a hotel situated about 10 minutes walk from Victoria & Alfred Waterfront.

Our first stop was at the red Clock Tower. Situated near the site of the original Bertie’s Landing Restaurant (now Dock’s Restaurant), the Victorian Gothic-style Clock Tower is an icon of the old docks and has become an important focal point in the waterfront’s recent urban design. This was the original Port Captain’s Office in 1882 and it was restored in 1997.

 

clock tower

With over 450 retail outlets selling everything, the V&A Waterfront is South Africa’s most popular shopping destination. Famous shopping outlets in this area include Alfred Mall, Victoria Wharf Center, Waterfront Craft Market, Cape Union Mart, African Trading Port and many more. As for food there are wide ranges from seafood, fast food, pizzas and halal food. Halal food can be found easily in Victoria Wharf’s food court.

Victoria & Alfred Waterfront

After walking around the waterfront, we took the Hop-On Hop-Off City Sightseeing Cape Town bus. We chose the Blue Mini Peninsula Tour which offers scenic drive around the Cape Peninsula with 13 stops including Kirstenbosch Gardens. We got down on stop 20 to explore the gardens.

Kirstenbosch Gardens

After Kirstenbosch, we waited for the tour bus, hopped back on the tour bus and continued with the sightseeing. The view was breathtaking.

Views of the Cape Peninsula

We took the bus until we reached city center and hopped down at the nearest stop to the hotel. It was almost 6pm and some of the shops were already closed for the day. Street traders were packing and ready to get home. I am not sure whether this is normal or just during the winter but when we went out again to find dinner at 7pm, the streets were all empty. The only shops opened were KFC and Texie’s. We settled for Texie’s fish and chips and calamari rice and walked back to the hotel.

On Day 2, we visited Robben Island and Bo-Kaap. Will cover both in the next entry. I hope you enjoy my story so far. Here’s two sketches from the waterfront. Just got them scanned this morning.

yacht

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Greetings from Cape Town

Hello all! Just a quick update from South Africa!

I am here in my room in Fountains Hotel, Cape Town. Reached the town at 7am in the morning yesterday. Walked around the town and visited Victoria & Albert Waterfront, it’s very beautiful. Took the HOHO bus and visited Kirstenbosch Garden as well.

I will upload more pictures soon, the internet connection is quite slow here.

 

waterfront

me deciding what to eat

 

Old oak tree

That’s me under the old oak tree.

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