Day 2 – Cape of Good Hope

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I woke early and went down to the elaborate breakfast buffet. Even though it was not yet 7 a.m. the restaurant was packed. I think it was a bus tour. I made arrangements with the concierge for a half-day trip out to the Cape leaving at 1 p.m. and settled down in the room to work. I guess in that regard I am a true Moravian!

Wilson the tour guide collected me in the lobby and we drove to Long St. to pick up the rest of the group on the tour. They were three young women from Chili who were on a trip around the world. They started in Norway, made their way through Europe and Southeast Asia and were now in Africa. Delightful young people just out of university. It took us a while to get out of Cape Town, but it was nice to see more of the city. We drove along the Victoria Road south along the western coast. Clifton, Camps, Hout Bay. Some of the most expensive real estate in Africa with beautiful beaches. Chapman’s Peak offered a beautiful scenic view of Hout Bay. At one beach we saw a black flag flying to warn swimmers of sharks! From there we turned east and crossed the peninsula on very twisty roads until we came to False Bay.

The bay got its name from the early European explorers who thought they had rounded Africa and were heading toward India only to discover that they were in a massive bay. The peninsula has many little bays off of the big bay. To the north and east is Stellenbosch, which is vineyard country. I haven’t tried any wine yet on this trip. Maybe tomorrow after my presentation. We passed through Simonstown (where there is a naval base) to the Boulders. Cape penguins have established a colony at the Boulders. They lay eggs on the beach under the bushes and the babies live there until they are large enough to swim. There were hundreds of tiny penguins and almost as many tourists. Simply wonderful to behold. While we there I ran into some of the Moravians from America who are also at the conference. Such a pleasant surprise.

We drove south down the eastern side of the peninsula to the Cape of Good Hope Nature Preserve. On the way we stopped to look at some ostriches. The preserve has many species of native flora called fynbos. The plants cannot grow in any other soil. Some have white flowers and look like snowballs on the hillside. Others are large bushes with beautiful yellow flowers. Others are pink and purple. It is a very hilly and rocky landscape covered in these hearty bushes bursting with color. It is almost otherworldly, and I thought how little imagination sci-fi movies have when they make alien landscapes. This was one of the most unusual landscapes I’ve ever seen. It seemed uncouth to be driving through it instead of riding a horse bareback, but I wonder if a horse could make its way through the tangle of vegetation. And it would be dangerous, Wilson said. Puff adders, black mombas, and other venomous creatures lie in wait for the unwary. Roses may have thorns, but the fynbos have fangs.

We saw the monuments that the Portuguese explorers had left when they “discovered” this land. It was a great adventure for them to have sailed all the way from Lisbon on wooden ships down the coast of Africa, but of course humans had lived here for thousands of years. Finally we came to our goal – the Cape Point. It is a steep climb, but there is a funicular if you prefer. Cape Point is a narrow jut of rocky land at the entrance of False Bay. From the top you can look out over the Atlantic and toward the Pacific. It was thrilling to be there. I’ve heard about the Cape of Good Hope since I was a boy in school, and I never thought I would stand there. I decided to call my dad to let him know that I was standing where the great adventurers stood, but he mainly wanted to talk about his health. Such is life, I suppose. I saw more Moravians on the way up and down. My companions were surprised I knew so many people!

On the way out of the park we saw a male baboon on the side of the road, his fur covered in blood. We assume that he had been beaten in a fight. Wilson found a place to pull over and there we saw the rest of the baboon colony. Mothers with babies in arms. Toddlers tumbling over each other. Older baboons eating berries from the fynbros. And a large male who had probably just had a victory over his bloodied rival. We did not dare to get close. In the distance on the hillside was a herd of antelope.

The trip back to Cape Town was much faster and less scenic. Wilson filled us in on the history of apartheid and we drove past the prison where Mandela was confined for several years after he had been on Robbins Island. It was a sobering thought that the American consulate is near that prison. He dropped me off at the hotel in time for dinner. I walked in and found over a hundred Moravians from around the world enjoying a large buffet. I saw so many people I knew from other settings: from my teaching in Cuba and Jamaica, from the Women’s Conference in Suriname, from Denmark and Germany. I ate with Donna Hurt of Winston-Salem and Angelina Swart from South Africa. The new president of the Moravian Church in Cuba saw me and began to dance because she remembered that I had danced in worship in her church in Havana.

Tomorrow I give my paper on the history of Moravian missions and will share in the discussions. I am afraid my paper may be controversial, but I will be presenting it in a country that overcame the injustice of apartheid and now stands tall among the nations of the world. It gives one hope.

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