Thursday, June 17

Paula: Today was a gorgeous day with plenty of sunshine and mild temperatures in the 70's (some winter!). We decided to explore the area of Stellenbosch, with its winelands just northeast of Cape Town.

The town of Stellenbosch is in the center of vineyards here and is also known as the center of historical Afrikaans culture. The area was home of the Dutch East India Company established in the late 1600's. As we walked along the quaint streets and across the town green, we all had the same thought - this looks like New England. Colonial Dutch architecture has similar features to our towns back home with the major difference being that the buildings are all white. There is even an old country store and shops filled with embroidered apples and pineapples. The oak trees lining the streets were losing their leaves and if it weren't for the neighboring palm trees, we could have been in New Hampshire on a crisp fall day. We didn't stay long because it just made as all too homesick!

With mountains as a backdrop, this area is filled with vineyards. The wine production became well established in the colonial days when the British were at war with the French and need a new supplier for their wine! We stopped at one of the largest vineyards in the area, the Spier estate. A lovely garden and pond on the grounds was perfect for our picnic lunch. Afterwards we tasted several of the vineyard's wines and found we were all particular fond of the Pinotage which is a new hybrid of grapes developed in South Africa.

On the way home we noticed again the shanty towns along the highway. We had seen many of these communities on our drive to Cape Point yesterday as well. The homes built of scrap wood and tin are strung together and appear to go on for miles. The government apparently has tried to move the people in these neighborhoods into low income housing but the neighborhoods just resurface. In addition to low income families, many of the area's immigrants have settled in these towns. These neighborhoods stand in stark contrast to the modern, upscale homes and facilities in the rest of Cape Town and certainly epitomize the disparities that still exist between the wealthy and poor. We know unemployment is very high here, and can't even imagine all the implications this must have for the city.

We have also noticed that security is a paramount concern. All homes and businesses have armed security systems. It is difficult to enter any business without being buzzed in and even street parking is protected by individual security guards. We have been told this is just part of the landscape and has been for many years. We still need to learn more about the social conditions here in South Africa and hope to have an opportunity to speak again to some of the friends we have met here.

Tomorrow is our last day in Cape Town. We need to finish getting ready for our road trip starting on Saturday morning, but tomorrow hope to have a little time to take in the harbor or one of the nearby bays.












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