As with any story, history depends on who is telling it: this five-day journey will give you the alternative history of Cape Town.
'History will be kind to me for I intend to write it' - so said Winston Churchill and on this journey, you'll be exploring exactly how true this statement might have been for those who were denied the chance to write their own histories until very recently. Ron Martin and Lucelle Campbell, both highly respected members of the San community and also academics and writers in their own right, will take you through their version of the history of the Cape, not the one that started with Jan van Riebeeck landing at the Cape in 1652.
You'll visit the oldest building in the country, the Castle of Good Hope, and learn of its actual origins as a traditional San sacred place: you'll then walk across the City Bowl to have lunch and visit the Bo Kaap, a district whose original Malaysian and Islamic history is fast being eroded by gentrification.
On your second day, you'll learn of a journey of healing: the Cape's history is ultimately a history of slavery and exploitation, but many descendants of those slaves who live in freedom today are still grappling with forming a historical identity for themselves of which they can be proud. We'll then board a boat to Robben Island to learn of the very first prisoners who were taken there, not the later more famous ones of the 20th century
Our third day is a little lighter in tone: we'll travel down the beautiful Cape Peninsula to explore the forgotten history of the San people who lived in harmony with nature all along the coast and at the tip of Africa for millenia. We'll explore forgotten places left by the San and come to learn more of their traditions.
Back inland on our fourth day, we'll visit the Cape Winelands: this stunningly beautiful collection of mountain passes and farms is a delight to visit but has a dark history of exploitation and land grabs which is only now receiving the attention it deserves. We'll visit farms trying to transform this history into a more equitable one in which all can find a place.
On our last day, we'll walk through the streets of one of the oldest towns in the country, Stellenbosch, exploring the alternative histories of the buildings and places here. Our last stop is a gourmet pic-nic in the winelands before dropping you off at Cape Town International.
You'll be collected from Cape Town International Airport by your guide, Ron Martin, and taken to your home for the next two nights, Liberty Lodge, Cape Town. This utterly charming five-room B&B owned by Ruth Parsons and managed by Thandeka Balumane and Lisa Leemans is a slice of Cape Town's history in itself: at various times in its history it was a gentleman's residence, a fabric showroom and a bordello! Now it's one of the most comfortable and homely places to stay in the city having the feeling of being in one's own townhouse but the conveniences of being attended to by true hospitality professionals.
The breakfasts here are simply to die for, hand-cooked every morning by either Thandeka or Lisa whose smile will brighten your day from the minute you meet them. You'll also love the light and airy rooms that belie the seemingly small exterior which Ruth has decorated in a glorious mixture of Art Nouveau, and Afro-Chic. Don't miss the sun deck on the first floor which has superb views of the mountain over the back of the house.
We've chosen Liberty Lodge for its unwaivering commitment to meaningful employment for its staff: Ruth ensures that the staff receive a proper living wage with superb benefits on top of their salaries, sensible working hours and clear, honest contracts. For this reason, staying at Liberty is as much about as staying in Ruth's place as Thandeka and Lisa's. It's a true partnership, and a bold and proud one at that.
De Lorentz Straat
Tel +27 (0) 21 423 2264
Castle of Good Hope
After a good night's rest, you'll be collected by Ron Martin, your guide for the day, to start learning about his alternative history of Cape Town.You'll be collected by vehicle and driven to the opposite side of the City Bowl from Liberty Lodge to the Castle of Good Hope.
The traditional history of this striking building was that it was built over a period of thirteen years, the first stones being laid on 2 January 1666 and the year of completion cited as 1679. However, we cannot say really say that it was completed then, as this structure was constantly evolving throughout its history with ongoing additions and alterations being made to it. Its 350th anniversary was commemorated on 2 January 2016.
What many people do not know, however, is that the Castle was built right on top of the site of an indigenous settlement, that of the Khoe-khoen tribe known as the Goringhaiqua. The choice of this site was not by accident; in fact, it was a clearly thought-out strategic decision by Isbrand Goske, the VOC envoy to the Cape in 1660. Goske noted that the site had clear views of all of the possible directions from where an attack could come, and streams flowed on either side of the site with the sea on the fourth. The Goringhaiqua had already chosen the site for the same strategic purpose and were summarily evicted from the land.
The Castle then had since its inception the ideas of conquest, eviction and domination running through it and the tangible evidence of this constantly haunts the place. However, this isn’t a one-sided story as you’ll discover: several successful uprisings took place throughout the Castle’s history on or near this site which have conveniently been erased from the histories of those countries that tried to surpress them.
You’ll journey deep into the bowels of the Castle, through rooms and corridors filled with stories that most visitors never get to see and even fewer understand the significance of.
Darling Street, Foreshore, Cape Town
Tel +27 72 136 9096
Bo-Kaap Kombuis and Bo Kaap
After our tour of the Castle, we'll get back in the vehicle and head across the City Bowl again, only this time to the steep cobbled streets of the Bo Kaap. We'll start with the most important part of the day: lunch!
The Bo-Kaap Kombuis ('kitchen') is a local institution. Yusuf and Nazli's beautiful modern restaurant is located almost at the top of the hill in the village with sensational views of Table Mountain. You'll be offered a range of traditional Cape Malay dishes to try out: this cuisine is totally unique to this district of Cape Town, having its origins in Indonesian and Malaysian dishes, so flavours are spicy but not hot.
Originally, the Bo-Kaap, which literally means 'above the Cape', referring to its height above what was then a much smaller city on the closest mountain slope to the city, was a ghetto established for those who were not considered the 'right' sort of people to live in the city itself, mainly because they were Muslim. Starting in the early 1700s, the Dutch East India Company brought people from the Asian subcontinent, principally modern-day Indonesia and Malaysia to the Cape on the promise of land and riches which few in the end received. This practice continued for decades and was essentially an early form of human trafficking rather than actual entrapment and slavery. Once here, these people robbed of their homelands eventually managed to buy their freedom as they were not poorly educated people: they were highly literate and numerate and many were craftsmen and women, highly skilled with their hands. Still to this day, residents of the Bo Kaap are in high demand as upholsterers, tailors, shoemakers and cabinet makers to some of the chicest brands in the country.
On your visit to the Bo Kaap, you'll learn about the terrible living conditions the residents endured over the centuries, but also how this unique district survived the purges of apartheid, how in fact residents of this district were the first to formally transcribe the language that became Afrikaans and how many became important actors in modern South African history: this is a forgotten story of a marginalised people which needs to be heard.
We'll end the day with a walk to the Slave Church on Long Street and then take you home to Liberty Lodge for a rest.
7 August St, Schotsche Kloof, Cape Town, 8001
Tel +27 71 732 4839
Sites of Slavery in Cape Town
Today you’ll take a walking tour across many sites in the Old Town of the Cape Town City Bowl with your guide Lucelle Campbell. Lucelle is a published author and academic who specialises in the history of slavery in the Cape. She’ll take you to forgotten sites that remain important to the history of slavery in Cape Town. Whilst the slave trade flourished between western Africa, the United States and Europe, there was another slave route in action with its destination rather than its origin being Africa. The first largest consignment of slaves (174) brought to Cape Town (1658) were mostly Angolan children, some of them still babes in arms. We’ll start today’s tour at the Wall of Memory on Church Street, which is a memorial to all those nameless people who were enslaved in the Cape.
Our next stop is Spin Street, just around the corner from the Slave Lodge, where we’ll visit the Auction Block. Over the course of around 300 years, thousands of Slaves were sold into bondage at this very spot. All that remains now is a small traffic island right in the middle of Spin Street where a slave tree still stands. This site is probably the most inconspicuous to the many people who tread over it without knowing its real history: you’ll learn about the kind of people that attended these auctions and how the slave trade worked in Cape Town at the time.
Just around the corner, our next stop is the Groote Kerk (‘Great Church’), which is the Dutch Reformed Church (NGK)on Adderley Street. The existing building is Victorian but there was a church on this site as long ago as 1678. This church (both as an institution and as a building) was influential in orchestrating the first legislative framework of South Africa, which later took the form of Roman Dutch law. Depending on your point of view, it was either appropriated as a tool of indoctrination by the nationalist government of the white population or it was itself more than instrumental in supporting and maintaining the ends of several successive apartheid governments. To this day, many of the laws created at the time either supported or condoned by the NGK have not been repealed and remain on the statute. To many South Africans, the NGK church as an institution and this particular building, hold an especially negative and divisive connotation.
We’ll pass by the Slave Lodge, which has its own fascinating history: it was originally established as its name implies to house the slaves that worked on the Company’s Garden next door (this garden supplied the ships that docked in the port with fresh fruit and vegetables) but later became a courthouse where some of the most damning judgements were made against people of colour. On this tour, we’ll not venture inside for lack of time (the exhibitions are excellent though and we encourage you to revisit).
Just outside is a large statue of Jan Smuts – he was much revered of Winston Churchill (the two exchanged a long correspondence) and for many is still considered the founder of modern day South Africa. However, Jan Smuts remains a figure with two personas: the public one that is the stuff of airport history novels and the much darker one that profited considerably personally and financially from slavery right into the 20th century.
We’ll take a meditative walk through the Company’s Garden: now a beautiful ornamental park, it’s hard to imagine the ancestors of modern Capetonians being worked to within an inch of their lives farming this relatively small piece of land for their owners. Within the park, we’ll stop off at the Dutch East Indian Company Hospital. This local hospital was originally set up to restore to health the sailors who travelled by ship from Europe but later under British colonial rule became open to residents of Cape Town, including former slaves. However healthcare turned out to be too difficult to manage for the city authorities at the time, so rather than developing a funding system to manage public health, the first townships were created outside of the city to socially exclude people of colour.
Our last stop on the tour is the Slave Bell, which creates a sombre reminder of how the lives of so many of the original Capetonians were completely regulated by their enslavers. We’ll end the tour with a meditative tribute to those who lost their lives to slavery, those who fought against it and those who continue the struggle for freedom and peace in South Africa.
Iziko Slave Lodge Adderley Street Cape Town
Tel +27 (0) 84 883 2514
Robben Island is a world-famous island-turned-prison which has become a tourist attraction in its own right. It is now listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1999. Most visitors come to visit Robben Island as it was where global icon for freedom Nelson Mandela and several other members of the ANC were incarcerated for most of their long sentences. This history is well known and is in fact the focus of the highly regulated tours of Robben Island sanctioned by Robben Island Musuem, a public management company established to promote a particular history of the Island.
However, the true history of Robben Island is much deeper, longer and far more complex than the standard tour of the island suggests. Additionally, the way the pricing, guiding and management of the ferry terminal and access to the island is conducted almost completely excludes 80% of the South Africa population, for whom a visit costs the equivalent of two days wages per person (and for which there are no concessions made for local people). It is not possible to visit the island by any other method than the official tour, despite the land belonging to the republic: no rituals are permitted either, which is counter to many of the indigenous cultures of the country. As such it remains a source of great controversy and anger pride amongst many South Africans.
On this tour, you'll be shown and told the alternative history of the island, the pre-history if you will, before the present government's control and domination of it. You'll learn of how the very first prisoners were in fact not even African, let alone South African. You’ll explore the controversy over the unmarked graves of several Xhosa and Zulu chiefs who were airbrushed out of South African history and some of whom died trying to swim off the island. You’ll learn of the early Muslim political prisoners (one of whom was an imam) whose graves are sites of pilgrimage to this day but who were incarcerated along with common criminals. You’ll also learn of those Africans who were not part of the ANC but to many are forgotten heroes, such as leaders of the Namibian freedom movements and the PAC.
This is a ‘tour within a tour’. We will join the conventional tourism offering presented to us by the Robben Island Museum but we will add our own commentary and reflections afterwards.
Tel +27 71 732 4839
The Vineyard Hotel
After a long day exploring some of the darker aspects of Cape Town’s past, Ron Martin will whisk you away to your accommodation for the next two nights. In the suburb of Newlands, one of the most verdant areas of Cape Town, sits the splendid Vineyard Hotel. This sumptuous building, built in a Cape Regency style, has over 200 years of history and sits amongst attractive landscaped gardens spread over six acres on the banks of the Liesbeek River.
The buildings were not originally a hotel: they were the former residence of Lady Anne Barnard, a local dignitary. Acclaimed architects Barnett and Fox added sympathetic extensions in the 1990s and the interior was filled with works from South Africa artists.
You’ll enjoy having a mountain facing suite, which has a view of the Constantiaberg, as well as the fact that there are two restaurants on site, The Square and Myoga. Even better after all that walking there are two swimming pools (in and outdoor) as well as a small spa.
The Vineyard has undergone an extensive, internationally accredited audit of its entire business management system by Fair Trade in Tourism South Africa. The audit accredits businesses in terms of their HR, waste, water, and procurement policies in great detail. As such, you can be assured that all supplies (e.g. food and linen) are ethically and responsibly sourced, staff receive proper, transparent contracts and are paid a decent living wage and that water and waste is managed responsibly in line with international best practice.
Tel +27 (0) 21 657 4500
DAY 4 - The Alternative History of the Cape Peninsula (full day)
Today we’ll take a full day tour out away from the central city and along the Cape Peninsula. We’ll by driving back into town and along the Atlantic Seaboard (the western side of the city) to the chic, jet-set suburbs of Bakoven and Clifton.
Our first stop will be Oudekraal Drive and Karbonkelbaai. From here, to make reference to our previous day’s excursions, we’ll have uninterrupted vistas of Robben Island, the Bantry bay promontory, the West Table (Table Mountain) and the Twelve Apostles. Camps Bay is now a how to the ultra-rich of South Africa and many of the houses here are second homes. As such, the town can feel a bit deserted out of the season and strangely, this is reminiscent of its early history. Camps Bay as a settlement was originally the last Khoe-San Kraal under Osinkima after the 1659 Khoe-Dutch War (hence the name “Oudekraal” or “Hottentotshuisie”). You’ll learn more about these original people and who they were, before hearing of the arrival German settler Fredrik Von Kamptz, from whom the area gets its name and who built the first formal wagon track to the area.
You’ll also learn about the Oudekraal plateau beneath the Twelve Apostles and how this ties into what you have learnt earlier in the tour with the history of slavery at the Cape, the advent of the Muslim faith and the Muslim burials sites on the mountain, most notably the Kramat of Sheikh Nurul Mobeen nearby. You’ll learn how these sites tie in with the history of the Bo Kaap you explored earlier. We’ll tak a short hike to the Kramat and discuss the origins of Cape Coloured people to their main genetic ancestries of slavery and Khoe-San. You’ll learn also of the ‘buried history’ of the simultaneous origins of prominent white South African families from similar roots, most notably their Khoe-San and slave matriarchs like Krotoa (about whom the recent feature film was made) and Ansella van der Caab.
Our next stop today, along the beautiful coast line that stretches between Bakoven and Hout Bay is Llandudno. Attracting ever-more ridiculous real estate prices, the layers of history that surround this area, in relation to the current political and economic climate in the country, make for a fascinating alternative narrative to the more visible capitalist expansion one.
You’ll hear of the history of the Apostle Battery (WWII) and the history of Hout Bay and its relation to the establishment of the timber industry by the VOC at the Cape, the establishment of Imizamo Yethu and its continuing struggle for genuine access to land and resources.
Once in Hout Bay, we will stop at the West Fort (near Fish on the Rocks), where you’ll hear the story of the Hout Bay Forts and their association with the first and second British Occupations at the Cape and the advent of British rule. Contemporary Hout Bay as a settlement, the Hangberg settlement (which we will see clearly from our vantage point) and its representation of the stark differences in the living conditions of the rich and the poor, are a harsh and permanent reminder of the continuing struggle for genuine democracy. We will also make a brief visit to the future restorative site of Chief /Xam’s Khoe-San village where you’ll hear the stories of the first inhabitants of the Hout Bay Valley (the Gorachoqua Tribe of the Khoekhoe), the story of John Chapman and his possible trade with them in 1613, the possible true origin of the name “Chapman’s Chaunce”.
Further south, we’ll visit the Khoe fish traps visible from the scenic drive above Slangkop lighthouse and learn of the alternative history of Noordhoek (Slangkop Farm and Imhoff’s Gift as well as the Snyman Family), Kommetjie (“Die Kom”) and the apartheid era dumping ground of Ocean View. You’ll also learn the story that South African National Parks would rather forget, how commercial pine plantations that used to characterise the area between Scarborough and the Red Hill Road junction were all that remained after the indigenous forests (that were a source of food for indigenous people) were razed for commercial planting.
Arriving at the Cape Point Nature Reserve, you’ll explore the relationship between Bordjiesdrif & Buffels Bay, the Khoe fish traps, the lime kiln, and the story of Dias/Da Gama/D’Almeida & Cabral (and their respective battles with the Khoe) at the Navigators’ Beacons and the Cape of Good Hope. We’ll tie this history in with that of the Castle and your first day on this journey.
Leaving the Cape Point area, we’ll come to Simon’s Town: you’ll hear the alternative story of how Simonstown came to be, particularly the Cape Dutch-influenced Palace Barracks (1785) and Admiralty House (1753) and also visit more sites of indigenous people’s history such as the Kramat Road Mosque, approximately 150m from the town square and life and times of Imam Abubak’r Baker and the Red Hill Road district.
The final section of today’s tour will be back north again in the direction of Newlands along the Elseskraal River Valley. We’ll stop off in Fishhoek which has its own fascinating history and is often passed up in favour of the prettier towns of Kalk Bay and Simonstown. You’ll learn about the history of the fishing industry in the area, the harbour itself and the Outspan area, as well as the current threats and controversy surrounding the importance of fishing traditions in the lives of local people
We’ll climb high above the coast road to Boyes Drive, where we will stop at the Shark Spotter’s for the panoramic view of False Bay and Muizenberg. You’ll learn about the alternative history of the Battle of Muizenberg, the First British Occupation and the establishment of the districts of Retreat, Phillippi and Eerste Rivier which line the beach here.
Coming back into the Constantia Valley, you’ll learn about the the establishment of the wine industry, Groot Constantia (by Simon van der Stel) and the place where Khoe guerrilla fighter Doman was ambushed and injured, signalling the end of the first Khoe-Dutch War of 1659, co-incidentally the same year that the first wine was produced at the Cape.
Tel +27 71 732 4839
No visitor to the Cape fails to be impressed by the sites, sounds, smells and tastes of the Winelands: this vast area which boasts no fewer than 1 700 wine estates, four major towns and numerous villages now stretches pretty much the length and breadth of the entire Western Cape. We cannot possibly in one day do justice to it but we will present you with an alternative history of the Winelands, working through where the faultlines that exist to this day originate from and how potentially they can be addressed.
Shop C2, Blackhorse Centre Cnr of Mark and Dorp Street Stellenbosch
Tel +27 086 613 7870
The Oude Werf is amazingly the oldest running hotel in South Africa: it’s operated on the same site for over three hundred years. But don’t let this fool you into thinking that it’s dowdy and set in its ways! The building has been extensively modernised and extended (similarly to the Vineyard) to include a most impressive inner courtyard housing the swimming pool and being contained by a beautifully sensitive steel and glass wall behind which the more modern bedrooms are to be found.
You’ll be impressed not only by the building but the ethical way in which it is run. The Pistorius family, who have owned the place for the last 80 years are on site most days, are particularly proud of their Fair Trade in Tourism accreditation: they manage to seamlessly synchronize ethical and sustainable business practices with a superb guest experience.
The Werf offers in-room massages, a coffee lounge and room service and of course, being located in the centre of the Cape’s winelands, a superb selection of food and wine. Unusually for a hotel, you will find the locals eating and drinking here on a regular basis and as everyone knows, if the locals eat there, it must be good!
Unbelievably to look at it now, the Werf actually burnt down three times in its history: having started life as a church in 1686, the currently building dates from 1880. However, it was only in 1973 that it was finally turned into the hotel you see today and extensively renovated and extended from then on.
Tel +27 (0) 21 887 4608
All guides are independent South African guides, fully accredited and certified.