Guest Post: A Visit to the Cape

The following text is a guest post from my mother, Beverly Kilpatrick, following our recent visit to Cape Town and surrounds. Please welcome her to

The Cape of Good Hope and the tales of treacherous seas, of sailors lost, and of new worlds discovered upon successful navigation were a subject of 6th grade Social Studies that always fascinated me. NEVER, did I imagine that one day I would visit the Cape, nor was I in the least bit prepared for the experience.

Upon our arrival on Thursday, friends of Ryan and Jenny graciously invited us for the most incredible lunch at their home overlooking False Bay in Simon’s Town. Yvonne and Danie were warm and wonderful hosts whose generosity and welcome got us off to a great start.

The view from Danie & Yvonne's home in Simon's Town

Our home away from home was in Noordhoek at a lovely guesthouse, with a young German couple, Thomas and Antje (and their dog and cat), as our hosts. A five-minute walk to the beach and we were enjoying beautiful sunsets, frolicking dogs, and the intoxicating sound of the sea. Aaah, the beauty of it all.

Interior of our guesthouse in Noordhoek

Sunset at Noordhoek Beach

But, it was on Friday that our venture took us to Robben Island, where the inescapable beauty of the land and sea was overcome by the ugliness of the inhumane treatment of those formerly incarcerated or detained there. I, of course, knew of the story of Nelson Mandela, but could not and cannot comprehend the dehumanization that took place there. To say that it was emotionally overwhelming is an understatement.

Nelson Mandela's cell at Robben Island

Hallway at Robben Island

Across the bay from Robben Island lies Table Mountain. After much thought and an internal pep talk, I was able to join my fellow crusaders as they traversed the mountain via rotating (help!) cable car. Low clouds and a bit of fog did affect the visibility, but still the views of the city and cape below were incredible.

Cape Town city bowl from Table Mountain Cableway

Saturday’s visit to Cape Point was like nothing I ever imagined. I fully expected we would have our picture taken at the sign proclaiming the Cape of Good Hope and the South-western most point on the African continent. I was however, unprepared for the sheer beauty. Magnificent beaches with mountainous cliffs overhanging, wandering ostriches and eland, along with signs warning us not to feed the baboons, were surely indications that we were a long, long, way from Illinois. I thought of the ships that had passed by (or not) and of my own good fortune to have had this opportunity. All in all, another moving experience.

Bev & Mike at Cape of Good Hope

Ostrich at Cape of Good Hope

Lunch at Two Oceans Restaurant (a possible misnomer, as it seems the Atlantic and Indian Oceans do NOT converge at Cape Point) was a fitting end to our visit to the Cape.

Lunch at Two Oceans

On Sunday, we travelled to Stellenbosch, home to some wonderful South African wine. Mike and I, along with Ryan, enjoyed tastings at Delheim and Muratie vineyards. Lunch at Delheim included springbok carpaccio for Mike, who proclaimed it a wonderful dish.

Springbok carpaccio & bratwurst at Delheim

Bottles behind the (intentional) cobwebs at Muratie

Lastly, though surely not least, on Monday prior to our return flight to Pretoria, we experienced a gastronomical delight at La Colombe in Constantia. Our three-hour lunch was of the finest quality, beautifully presented and served. It was a dining experience I will never forget.

Waiter pours a "mushroom cafe au lait" jus on Mom's ribeye

Mike watches as his ribeye is prepared at the table at La Colombe

Our visit to the Cape Town area and all that accompanied it left a lasting impression. The beauty of the landscape, the graciousness of those who hosted us and those we met along the way, the part of the South African story told so painfully here, newly acquired food and wine tastes, along with time spent with family, made this portion of our South African journey “the trip of a lifetime.”

See more photos from our visit to Cape Town.

Happy Birthday, Madiba!

Today is a big day in South Africa: It is Nelson Mandela’s birthday! Madiba is 93 beautiful years old.

As part of the celebration, South Africans are encouraged to take part in Nelson Mandela Day activities and to volunteer at least 67 minutes of time supporting a charity or working in local communities. That’s one minute for each of the 67 years of his life Mandela gave fighting for the rights of the oppressed in South Africa and around the world.

For our part, Jenny and I will be volunteering with others from the University of Pretoria this Saturday in Mamelodi. Mamelodi is a township outside of Pretoria that was established under apartheid. In the 1960’s, black South Africans were forcefully removed their homes and relocated to Mamelodi and other townships. While we have visited a township called Khayelitsha outside of Cape Town as tourists, I’m sure this experience as volunteers — and adopted South Africans — will be different and hopefully deeper.

I have to say, the feeling of being a part of anything remotely related to Nelson Mandela is electric. He is one of a select few figures that emit such energy and possess such gravity, whether you are near him or thousands of miles from him. I mean, he is in a category with the likes of Ghandi, Martin Luther King, Jr. and the Dalai Lama. He is an inspiration to all.

Back in 2006, a year after Jenny and I visited Robben Island (where Mandela spent most of his 27 years in prison), I had the opportunity to work on a project to promote the Robben Island Singers during their visit to Chicago. These three men — Grant Shezi, Muntu Nxumalo and Thembinkosi Sithole — were also political prisoners on Robben Island. Now, they sing the songs and tell the stories of the struggle for freedom, sharing a message of forgiveness, tolerance and peace. It was a tremendous honor to meet these men and be a small part of their ongoing efforts.

While today is a happy day and this week will be filled with acts of kindness and spikes in volunteerism, it also reminds me that Mandela’s release did not put an end to the struggles here or elsewhere. There remains an institutional bias in favor of the white minority that will take some time to balance out, just like our systems continue to need balance in the United States.

It also reminds me that the practice of imprisoning political enemies or those who speak out against government abuses continues around the world, even in America. Human Rights Watch in Chicago recently screened a film called In the Land of the Free that chronicles the situation of the Angola 3, three men targeted by prison officials for being members of the Black Panther Party and kept in solitary confinement for decades. Two of the men remain in prison.

So, wherever you are and whatever you do, let’s all wish Madiba a happy 93rd birthday and try to spend at least 67 minutes improving our little corners of the world.