Ghettos in Heaven


The weather in Cape Town was fine yesterday so I hi-tailed it to Table Mountain for my must see experience. I had a lovely scenic drive from Hout Bay, around the peninsula and through Camps bay, looking out on to the Atlantic Ocean most of the time.

I decided not to hike, as it takes a few hours and I didn’t want to chance the change of weather (or test my fitness levels), so took the cable car both ways. The car I took up was packed with boisterous young people and tourists chattering loudly in various tongues. We all boarded the capsule for the five minute ascent, each of us jostling for good positions to capture views of the mountain and the city below. A bit of a rubbish way to travel I thought, so was regretting not planning the hike.

The higher we climbed the less we were able to see as the table cloth’ that often sits atop Table Mountain was spread thick. Once on top there were no vast panoramic views of the city lying a-thousand-odd feet below to be had. Gutted!

Feeling a little disappointed, I sat on a big rock to contemplate my emotions (which is what people on sabbatical do when they’re idling abroad). It was cold and I was about to get miserable when, suddenly,the sun shined brilliantly through the clouds, warming the spot where I sat. Instead of bemoaning the poor visibility I thought, God must really love me!’ For me to be at the top of Table Mountain in beautiful Cape Town after already spending an amazing 14 weeks travelling, how could I be anything but grateful for this moment?’

My spiritual awakening might have had something to do with attending Hillsong Church on Sunday (which is in Century City near the massive Canal Walk shopping mall , which I attended afterwards). But I also think the natural beauty and wonder of Cape Town has something to do with it.

Literally everywhere I’ve been this past week has been stunning, whether it was visiting the winelands in Frannschhoek and Stellenbosch (where wine tasting and tapas at the Asara Wine Estate was a truly fabulous); or driving through atmospheric Constantia, Cape Town’s oldest suburb, it’s all been so breathtaking.

As a self-professed city chick’, I’m not usually too fussed about nature and countryside, but you’re so overwhelmed by the abundance of beauty in Cape Town that any route you take is a scenic one and you can’t help but feel like you’re experiencing a tiny bit of heaven on earth.

If you’re thinking this all sounds too good to be true, then you might have a point!


I took my readers’ advice from last week and did the township tour, which gave me a glimpse of the less pristine side of the city.

It is easy to come to Cape Town and enjoy the natural environment, beaches, wine farms and restaurants and ignore the ugly fact that millions of the city’s Black and Coloured people still inhabit shanty towns as a direct result of racist policies of the past.

Townships sprung up during the era of Aparthied as non-whites were not legally allowed to live in Cape Town but their men were needed to help build the place and were housed in makeshift, temporary dwellings around the city’s borders.

I still wasn’t convince about taking a tour bus to the ghetto, so I ended up going on a walking tour of the Imizamo Yethu township, not far from where I am staying in Hout Bay. My guide, Afrika Monifrom Township Tours SA lives in the township, in one of the 500 houses built by the Niall Mellon Township Trust. He told me a bit about the building project, the history of Imizamo Yethu (which means our struggle’) and gave me his thoughts on the political state of affairs (the local elections were on 18 May) and concerns about the future development of the area.

I went to his house, which serves as a mini-archive of the Irish building project, and I met his sister who was watching The Young and the Restless US soap opera. We walked around, making a number of stops, including:

  • a local shebeen, where we met a Manchester United fan who banged on about their recent Champions League success.
  • a Somali-run food store blasting rap music
  • a Chinese-run everything you could ever want’ store
  • the church community centre where people sold arts and crafts
  • the pre-school, where the cute children sang Nkosi Sikelel’ iAfrika and rushed me for hi-fives!
  • and, I stuck my head in the door of the local hair salon’ where they can hook up a wash and setfor R25 (about £2)!

I have to say, I was glad I took the tour in the end. It was nice to have a non-threatening walk around an area that is typical (if a bit nicer) of where the majority of Cape Town’s population live.

It did make me count my blessings even more!


4 Responses to “Ghettos in Heaven”

  1. Thanks for the lovely pic of IY where I work. I’m in Sweden presenting to a school about our community project in IY but didn’t bring any pics. Yours is perfect!

  2. Hi Katherine,
    Glad the photo came in handy – although I must confess, I think I pinched this one from another site! I did take a few photos while in IY though, interesting place for sure. Hope the presentation went well!

    All the best,



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