Last week Marty and I traveled to Cape Town, South Africa. The ostensible reason was for me to participate in the Two Oceans Marathon, an annual event that is known as the most beautiful in the world. It includes an ultra (56 km or 35 miles) that is the part of the event that traverses both the Indian and Atlantic Oceans, as well as the half marathon, which I ran. I was also able to reunite with a co-worker at Ford from more than 10 years ago (she and her husband run this event every year and as it’s difficult to get into, she was able to manage my admission by making me a member of her local running club). It was great to catch up after more than 10 years through a common passion for running.
Cape Town is one of the world’s most beautiful cities. With the help of our able guide, Tania from Discovery tours, we traveled to the Stellenbosch, Franschhoek,and Paarl wine areas not far from Cape Town. This area was simply gorgeous and the wines outstanding–except for the night before the race when I only had one glass, I had to try a red and a white every night for dinner. The complexity and aromas, not to mention the variety, was out of this world. My favorite was Meerlust Pinotage, but along the way on Monday Tania helped us find a vineyard with a kosher wine section where we picked up a wonderful cab to take to a community seder at a shul back in Cape Town, for our visit coincided with Passover.
The above scenery is where we stopped for lunch–just beautiful views.
Our hotel, the Vineyard, was nearby to the race start and finish, and literally in sight of Table Mountain, the famous landmark of Cape Town. It was like a resort–completely relaxing. Along with a resident tortoise and views of the mountain, the grounds included walking areas and vegetation and an outdoor cafe, as well as a spa where I had a pre-race massage.
On Wednesday our guide Yaseen, also from Discovery Tours, took us to the Cape Point–the furthest point south on the continent of Africa. The scenery and wildlife, not to mention the view of the two oceans which converge at the tip of South Africa, was stunning. Along the way, Yaseen relayed the history of the area, including native, Dutch, Huguenot, and English settlement and rule. Many years ago, I’d read James Michener’s novel about South Africa, The Covenant, but Yaseen made the history come alive with his many stories.
South Africa is a nation of contrasts, but despite the sheer beauty of the landscape the human condition is not always as beautiful. Along the route we saw informal settlement after settlement of people who had either been forcibly relocated by the government, who had voluntarily moved from the countryside, or fled from neighboring countries. Unemployment is at nearly a quarter of the population, and poverty, crime, corruption and fractional politics are serious issues.
Finally it was time for the race, and Sue and her husband Martin arrived from Pretoria on Thursday. Marty and I went to the Expo to pick up my pack, and I signed the giant wall in tribute to the race. We had an early dinner before the race, which began at 6 a.m. on Saturday morning. It didn’t get light until after 7 am, but I still managed to get a slight sunburn on my legs from the intense African sun. Of 16,000 runners for the half, nearly 2000 were international, from more than 80 countries. It was a challenging run and I didn’t have anywhere near my best time, but completely enjoyed the scenery and the experience along the way.
Signing the wall at the Expo
Marty, Sue, Martin and I the night before the race
Waiting for the start gun
A happy Sue after the race with her medal
All in all it was a fabulous trip, on many levels. Traveling in the Southern Hemisphere, I could not help but think of my father’s request to me many years ago when I crossed the equator for the first time on a trip to Peru–“be sure to find the Southern Cross.” An avid amateur astronomer, Dad poured over his “heaven books” and taught me all the constellations he could find in the night sky in our part of the world as I was growing up. But during his lifetime, he never saw this famous constellation of the southern skies. The second night we were in Cape Town, the clouds parted long enough over Table Mountain to get a good view of the stars above and I was able to find the Southern Cross.