Knowing we had massages set up for this evening, we decided we would brutalize our bodies for most of the day by climbing the Lion's Head, a tall hunk of mountain overlooking the city. While the base is fairly gradual, the top rises into a steep cliff, so we assumed the trail would not reach the top. Based on our guidebook we also assumed that the hike would take no more than 45 minutes. And based on pure ignorance, we assumed that the African sun would care that we were wearing sunscreen.
The walk begins on a gradual, sandy trail. The trail then becomes steeper and rockier until eventually we were climbing metal ladders mounted into the hill and scrambling for handholds up steep sections of rock. Of course, we ran out of water very early, but we had to make the summit. It claimed all visible skin (yes, despite the spf 45 sweatproof waterproof active kind of sunscreen), but the reward was huge. The view offers the western coast from Camp's Bay south as well as a great look at downtown. Table Mountain provided an amazing back-drop as clouds slowly oozed over the edge of the mountain like a special effect in a movie (the part of the film when the evil horror about to unfold is so dramatic that nature itself is echoing the feeling by providing some menacing, strange weather phenomenon). Most importantly, Megan, who was so slow to recognize the amazing utility of the Chaco sandal, is now in love with her pair (and has the marks to prove it!).
Yesterday we caught part of the annual New Year's parades, which are similar to the Mardi Gras parades in New Orleans. Groups of people ban together by neighborhood and craft colorful costumes: bright pinks and reds and greens and such. Then most of the marchers put on face paint and divide into sections: adorable children, an incredible dancer in drag, a large marching band, a youth synchronized dance team, and older folks with parasols. The event is a massive competition with extra points awarded if the community group runs a youth outreach center or other altruistic organization. Apparently the parades originated during apartheid as a way for the black community to band together and form a not-so-subtle act of resistance. The face paint and colorful clothing was apparently a means of mocking the dominant, white community, and whites who would have viewed the parade during apartheid would likely have their faces painted by the mob. It's a beautiful tradition.
Along those lines, we've noticed at the markets a number of tall and skinny statues of blacks wearing Victorian-era British government wardrobes: pith helmets, knickers, etc. The statutes served to mock individuals within the black community who assisted in the imperial governments that ran South Africa. Now they are peddled as souvenirs, and, as such, seem a bit sinister. Regardless, we've been interested at the subtle ways people here managed to challenge authority.
We also learned a bit about certain African masks. While we assumed all had some spiritual or religious purpose, we have discovered "passport masks," which were used as passports for travelers across Africa. Each mask shape depicted a given tribe, and marks on the mask indicate the profession of the mask-holder. The mask would then be worn on the shoulder, and town leaders could consult their records to determine the identity of the traveler. Very interesting . . .
Tonight we're off for seafood. Still toying with the idea of renting a car to run out to Cape Point and up to the vineyards . . . while driving on the "wrong" side of the road seems tricky, it could make for some fun times . . . we'll see . . . if anyone knows whether this will void my health insurance, email me . . . otherwise, I think it's a go.