Our last full day in South Africa. The time has just flown by. No long drives today, just another visit to Hout Bay, then into Cape Town for lunch, then back to the house. Due to circumstances, the caretaker of the home was unable to return on January 9 like was originally planned. Fortunately, the housesitters I met up with for the Cape Town Street Parade were ending their house sit on the 10th and we were leaving on the 11th. It was like fate! So they were going to meet us at the house tonight to get settled in.
The day’s itinerary started with a drive over Chapman’s Peak to Hout Bay. Toll is 45 rand (about $3.60 US), but man on man are the views worth it!! Side note: They do NOT take international credit cards, so make sure you have cash! There are several little pull outs for taking pictures, and I think we hit every one of them!
We parked, and there wasn’t the mass of cars and people that I was used to seeing. The market is only open on the weekends, so without that, it was pretty dead at the harbor. We walked up the little path into the Hangberg neighborhood where Xoma Aob, my Khoi Khoi friend, lives. I feel so comfortable around him, like I fit in (even though I have zero idea what I actually have in common with this man or his culture). The outside of his home is simple- pieced together with rocks and brick that he mainly found in an area where people dump things. His wife made him buy some bricks to quickly complete the house, and he showed us which those were. Then, we went inside. OH MY GOD. This place is AMAZING and you’d never even guess it from the outside!! I was so blown away. While we were inside, he talked for about an hour of the history and struggles of the Khoi people (indigenous Africans), and I got a lot of it on video for my students. Fascinating.
After our history lesson, it was time for a walk. First, he took the sage that he had been burning in an abalone shell in his fireplace and rubbed some of the ashes on our feet. Then, he sang a song about thanking the ancestors for bringing us together. I wanted to be in the moment, so I didn’t video it, but it was so meaningful and sincere. He then took us on a walk through the streets of Hangberg- greeting practically everyone we passed along the way. We wound through a few streets, then turned down a small street which dead ended into a trail. As we started our ascent up the mountain, there was lots of litter everywhere. Xoma pointed out how awful it is that people don’t care about the sacred mountain. We passed an area full of empty abalone shells. I knew from my research that abalone poaching is a serious business for some residents of Hangberg. We spoke a little about this situation. Up and up, we wound through the fynbos, and soon came to a ridge with an amazing overlook of the ocean and Seal Island. It was breathtaking, and I knew and appreciated that not many outsiders got to experience this. We talked about how he used to swim here as a boy, what this area meant to his people. I was soaking up every word. He has such a calm and peaceful demeanor to him, but I know there’s a fighter in there as well. He spoke about protests the community had waged against the government and police and his role in them. Hangberg is kind of a “hotspot” for uprisings.
He asked if we wanted to hike down to the seal beach. I looked at how steep it was, knew how hot it was that day, and decided I probably shouldn’t. I have a feeling I’m going to regret that, but I just didn’t feel prepared enough for a tough climb back up with no shade and only one bottle of water. We started back toward Hangberg, and Xoma taught us about some of the natural remedies found among the fynbos. Rosemary, sage, geranium, and more.
We walked back through the streets to his house. He gave us some dried sage and taught us how to properly burn it. I didn’t want to leave this place, because it is full of history and knowledge and wisdom that I know I can’t find back home, but it was time to go. We had spent an amazing two and a half hours with Xoma. When I originally asked him last weekend how much it would cost for our tour, he said 150 rand each ($12 US), and I had 300 rand ready. But he had given me something worth SO much more than that. Something priceless. An experience, a connection. I had whispered to Brian as we were entering the house to give him $100 US. And as it came time to leave, I asked him if he had a way to change US dollars to rand. He said he did have a savings account at the bank. Brian handed him two $50 bills. There was this moment of silence that permeated the little house that was decorated with so many amazing things (things that I felt each had a story and importance to Xoma). Tears welled up in his eyes and he said he knew it. He knew we were going to pay him in US currency. And he had actually had a little frustrated talk with himself about it before we arrived and said “money is money”. But what he didn’t know was that we were going to give him that much. When I do something charitable, I only give to individuals. I never give to big organizations. I like to know where my money is going. But I want to make it clear that this was not charity by any stretch of the imagination. I wanted Xoma to know how much he and his story (history) meant to me. And this was the one way I knew I could make a difference in his day the way he had made in mine. We said a warm goodbye to Xoma. I do hope we can meet again someday. As we walked back down the little path from Xoma’s house to the car, Brian asked if I was in my zen place. He knew the answer.
We headed into Cape Town with one goal in mind- LUNCH!! We never eat out- we had eaten out once last weekend in Hout Bay, and this would be the 2nd time. The housesitters I had met said they had lunch at Mama Africa’s on Long Street and that it was really good. I had seen the menu as we walked by and there was a “mixed grill” of exotic African meats that I knew I had to try! Brian ordered the mixed grill, I ordered the bobotie (a very popular African dish). The mixed grill had crocodile, ostrich, springbok, kudu (a type of antelope), and warthog (that we ordered extra) on skewers, and then one sausage that was a combination of springbok and kudu. The bobotie was a ground beef that had so many exotic tasting spices in it- reminded me a bit of curry spices. Now, to the mixed grill…I am a carnivore through and through and make no apologies for it. The crocodile was just like alligator- very good and chickeny tasting. The wart hog was just like pork. I was raised in Texas and I know meat. Ostrich had become my new favorite meat over Christmas. But now, it is springbok and kudu. The flavors- my god they were AMAZING!! So tender!! It practically melted in your mouth. I could have eaten pounds of it!! Mama Africa’s is kind of a “touristy” type restaurant, and now I just wanted to drive out into the bush and have some freshly killed springbok and kudu cooked over an open fire by some African woman who knew how to cook!
We were STUFFED. Headed back through the streets of Cape Town, over the mountain, down to the coast, and back to the house in Simon’s Town for the last time. Got the housesitters settled in, did a little packing, and went to sleep early to prepare for our last adventure tomorrow morning and the flight that would take me away from beautiful South Africa in the evening.