Sure when you are heading to South Africa, there is Table Mountain and we plan to swim with the sharks, but here are some other fascinating finds in South Africa that may not pop up in your guide book.
Older than Stonehenge and even older than us is Adam’s Calendar, or as it is known locally, “The Birthplace of the Sun.” Discovered in 2003 by Johan Heine. He was flying his plane and crashed into the mountainside. He crawled out of the wreckage right into history when he noticed the standing stones. Most agree that they are at least 75,000 years old and were built as a calendar by an extinct civilization. We mostly appreciate it as proof that you can crash and burn and still have the best time of your life.
If you aren’t already impressed by the baobab tree, have a beer and gaze in wonder from the inside. Sunland Baobab is 72 feet high and 155 feet wide. Naturally, these trees hollow themselves out after 1000 years. Sunland is well beyond its tyke years at a healthy 6000. The van Heerden family had the brilliance of setting up a bar in its belly. The bar fits 15 people, though Mrs. van Heerden claims to have hosted parties of many more. Updated rumors abound that 1/3 of the tree went down in a storm a few years ago and the bar may be no more, or it is the best speakeasy in all the land.
Cape Town’s Foreshore Freeway Bridge
Much like that novel I’m writing and the last promise I made to my girlfriend, the Foreshore Freeway Bridge remains unfinished. Beyond that, it doesn’t seem that it every will be. Construction was halted in the 70s and despite a couple effort to restart, the project seems beyond any who have tried. Theories include bad math and stubborn shop owners refusing to sell, but the truth is likely lack of funding. We feel bonded to the freeway in all these ways. Surely it is the best place to replicate 90% of the Dukes of Hazard episodes when we pick up our new ride upon arrival.
District Six Museum
This is a more sobering experience, which we find essential for learning about the past experience of the people in the places we are visiting. The District Six Museum is clearly in District Six, which was the epicenter of apartheid in Cape Town. In what was known as “slum clearing” non-white residents were forcibly removed from their homes which were bull-dozed to make room in the desirable region for more affluent homes and owners. Rotating exhibits feature these past residents and their stories. Also nearby is St. Mark’s Anglican Church. Because of it’s historic significance, having been built in 1867, the government was not allowed to destroy it. The clergy refused bribes to move away and settled in, continuing to host services and still standing as a gathering place for those who now travel from their far flung living to return to the one place they can still call home.
Did you know Ghandi lived in South Africa? We didn’t. In fact, he lived there for a couple decades. He intended to become a lawyer when he arrived in his early twenties, but was met with systemic discrimination. He couldn’t get close to his future plans, quite literally. He was thrown off stagecoaches and trains for his color and background. Overcoming this persecution, though, is what made him the “father of India.” Seeking ways to cope, he created his methods of peace. He also met the architect Hermann Kallenbach, who built them Satyagraha House. Ghandi, of course, lived in the attic with nearly nothing, but we could rub elbow room with him if we book a night’s stay. It could be just the serenity before the rally that is called for.