Friday, September 19, 2014

Table Mountain from the Small Craft Harbor

Storm's Cape Town

The City Bowl

Beautiful Cape Town is situated at the southern tip of the African Continent, and is also the setting for my novel, Dark Moon.

For those readers who are not familiar with Cape Town or South Africa, I would like to highlight places and facts of interest about Cape Town and the surrounding area where Dark Moon is set.

A little Capetonian history - but not so much as to bore you!

Bartholomew Diaz, the Portugese explorer who discovered the stormy southern tip of Africa in 1488, named it the Cape of Good Hope. He was by no means the first mariner to round the Cape, as this was a trade route used by the great merchant traders of antiquity - the Phoenicians, the Egyptians, Arabs, Chinese and Indians. Diaz highlighted the importance of a halfway station on the trade route from Europe to the Far East.

On 6 April 1652 Jan van Riebeeck landed with his 3 ships at the Cape to start a trading post for the Dutch East India Company. His mission was to grow fruit and vegetables to sell to the passing ships. Fresh fruit and veg on board was essential in the prevention of the dreaded sailors' disease, scurvy.
And so the Cape Colony was born.

Castle of Good Hope
Van Riebeeck built a fort from mud and wood, but the Castle, the oldest colonial building left standing, was built some years after Van Riebeeck had left the colony. It was designed in the shape of a five-pointed star. The town of Cape Town grew around the Castle. In its early days, the Castle was the home of the governors of the Colony, it was used for trade, defense and as jail for outlaws, who were chained to the dungeon walls.
Executions took place within the castle walls. Naturally the castle is haunted, how could it not be?

Although the Castle itself doesn't feature in Dark Moon, Storm drives past it every day to and from work. Her office is in the city bowl, in the heart of Cape Town, but the apartment she shares with her friend, Donna, is in Newlands, which is behind Table Mountain.

Groote Schuur Hospital. Image Courtesy of Danie van der Merwe
En route home, Storm also passes the world famous Groote Schuur Hospital, where she herself was briefly hospitalized after miscarrying her baby. It was here, at the Groote Schuur Hospital, that the world's first heart transplant was performed on 3 December 1967 by Dr. Christiaan Barnard and his team. I was a whole seven years old at the time and I remember the fuss! The patient, Louis Washkansky, survived the transplant and lived a further 18 days, dying of pneumonia.

Signal Hill, which connects Kloof Nek to Lion’s Head, in the distinctive shape of a lion’s rump, is another famous spot in Cape Town. After their dinner date at Simon's Town, Trevor drives Storm home past Signal Hill along Kloof Neck. The views from here are truly spectacular.

And of course, Robben Island is one of the most famous landmarks in Cape Town. For nearly 400 years, Robben Island, 12 kilometres from Cape Town, was a place of banishment, exile, isolation and imprisonment. It was here at Robben Island that rulers sent those regarded as political troublemakers, social outcasts and the unwanted of society.

During the apartheid years Robben Island became internationally known for its institutional brutality. The duty of those who ran Robben Island and the Robben Island prison was to isolate opponents of apartheid and to crush their morale. Nelson Mandela spent more than a quarter of a century in prison on Robben Island.
Robben Island, South Africa

It hasn't always been a prison. People lived on Robben Island many thousands of years ago, when the sea channel between the Island and the Cape mainland was not covered with water. It was only since the Dutch settled at the Cape in the mid-1600s that Robben Island became a prison.

Few people know about the penguin colony on Robben Island. When the Dutch originally arrived in the Cape, penguins were killed to add variety to the rabbits introduced in 1685 as a source of meat for passing ships. After 1983, the colony has been reestablished and there are now more than 13 000 penguins on Robben Island.

The ferry service to the Robben Island Museum runs almost hourly, especially in summer, ensuring there is ample time within the standard three-and-a-half hour museum tour to give visitors a chance to see the penguins.

Cape Town, from humble beginnings to a world-class metropolis, has stunning views and its hodge-podge of cultures make modern-day Cape Town an altogether interesting place.