Cape Town and the train to Khayelitsha

The C of Cape Town seems meaning  contrast. Here I saw the most clear difference in the South African society . From the V&A waterfront, the historic working harbour with a spectacular setting and many tourist-oriented attractions, including masses of shops, restaurants, bars, cinemas and cruises to the squatter camps made with sheet metals around the city.

The town is dominated by magnificent Table mountain, its summit draped with cascating clouds, its flanks coated with unique flora and vineyards, its base fringed by golden beaches.

Because the delay of the train from Jo’burg I have no time to visit the Robben Island. The island is the local Alcatraz and it was used as a prison from the early days of the VOC right up until 1996. Nelson Mandela spent many years incarcerated here.

I decided to take train to Simonstown, the charming town close the penguin colony of Boulders. I went to the station but the train was not in service because “someone stole some cables yesterday”. Howewer another train, to Khayelitsha, was scheduled.  I was in the mood for train. Unable to find  Khayelitsha on my map, I went to the information counter and inquired as to its whereabouts. The clerk, a young affable man of mixed race, showed me the place on the map. Then he leaned across the counter and smiled and said, “Don’t go there”.

“Why not?”

“It’s too dangerous” he said . “Don’t go.”

“I’m just taking the train. How is that dangerous ?”

“The train was stoned yesterday”, he said.

“How good youbknow it will be stoned today?”

He had a beatiful smile. He knew he has dealing with an ignorant alien. He said, “The train is stoned every day.”

“Who does it? Young kids?”

He said, “Young, old, lots of people. From the town. They are not playing. They are angry. And they do a lot of damnage. How do I know? Because yesterday I was on the train to Khayelitsha. With my friend – he’s a driver. We were in the driver’s cab. When the stones come he was hit in the side of the face. He was all bloody. Listen, he’s in the hospital. He’s in rought shape. He was just doing his job.”

This convinced me. Before go to bed I took a city sightseeing hop-on, hop-off tour  (blue and purple lines, the Italian audio with Spanish, Russian and English speakers is funny and almost completely wrong) with 3 stops: the beautiful Kirstenbish Botanic Garden, Groot Costantia for a shot of wine testing and Hut Bay, where helicopters collect waters to tame a fire on the mountains.

I slept at the St. Paul’s guest house in a very handy location. A quite alternative to the noise-plagued Long street St backpackers. Long street is a busy commercial and nighife thoroughfare, partly lined with Victorian-era buildings featuring lovely wrought-iron balconies, once formed the birder of the Muslim Bo-Kaap. In Long street I have a dinner at the very good  Ethiopian restaurant Madam Taitou.

What impressed me in Cape Town was is smallness, its sea glow, its fresh air; and every human face was different, everyone’s story was original, no one really ageeed on nothing, except that Cape Town, for all its heightened contadiction, was the best place to live in South Africa. 

Apparently Cape Town looks saver than Jo’burg. Maybe because the security guards in each corner of the city centre. No sooner had I decided the place was harmonious and tranquil that I discovered the crime statistics – car hijacking, rapes, murders, and farm invasions ending in the disembowelling of the farmers. Some of the most distressed and dangerous squatter.   A settlements of my entire trip I saw in South Africa. Costantia comes in mind, with its mansions and gardens, but I also saw miseries in this republic of splendors.