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THE ALURE OF THE CAPE

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SPECTACULAR: Table mountains viewed from Victoria Wharf shopping centre

Cape Town has always been touted as the best tourist destination under the African sun.

I had never been to the Mother City and always longed to see with my own eyes the famous table mountains which I had only seen on geography channels and magazines.

When South African Tourism offered a sightseeing opportunity two days before the annual Jazz Festival recently they had no idea it was something I had always relished. And my, was I in for a treat!

I boarded the 10.30 flight to Johannesburg on March 23 with four other journalist and by 11.05 we landed at the massive OR Tambo International airport. We connected to Cape Town at 12.30 and 2 hours later we were checking in at the Cape Town airport.

After driving for about 45 minutes to a place which was to be our home for the next few days there were murmurs of disapproval from the contingent which now included other journalists from Angola and Mozambique. We seemed to be driving further away from the beautiful city centre.

Our concerns were confirmed when we were told that our hotel was 75 kilometers away from the city centre and Cape Town International Convention Centre where the festival was to be staged.

As the journey continued the roads became smaller, the buildings looked older and the people too ordinary. We took a narrow, blind road that meandered through farms. Finally the bus came to a halt at Le Franschhoek Hotel and Spa. We had arrived in Stellenbosch. It is a spectacular hotel to say the least, built at the foot of lovely mountains offering beautiful and rare scenery.

TABLE MOUNTAIN AND THE WINE FIELDS
I woke up early Thursday morning to feast my eyes on the beauty of the breath taking surrounding considering that this was just one of those rare mornings where I wake up with such beauty in front of my eyes.

After a sumptuous breakfast we embarked on a journey to the Cape wine fields, a journey which was also to fulfill my dream of seeing the Table Mountains.

To say I was blown away when I finally laid my eyes on the mountains is an understatement because the excitement was just out of this world. All I could say was WOW! Cape Town is indeed blessed to be home of this spectacular mountain.

One can safely say the Mother City is a wine centre. There are thousands of hectares of vineyards. Our destination was Hidden Valley Wines, a relatively new winery that produces and sells exclusive rich wines.

As the Testing Room Manager Sune Sounese revealed, the secret to a good wine relies on the quality of the grapes produced and the quality of the cask used.

She said the best material for their casks comes from France hence the high and unique quality of their wines.

As she spoke I could see that it was not only me who was drooling and secretly wishing she should just hand over the wine glasses so we can prove her right or wrong. When that finally happened, I was not disappointed and so were my taste buds, the wine was just good.

WAITING TO INDULGE: Dipholo at Hidden Valley Wines TOP GEAR: Receiving attention after doing fi ve laps SOURCE OF PRIDE: A vineyard in Cape Town

FORMULA 1 EXPERIENCE
In the afternoon we were off to Killarney-Fantastic Racing where we were going to have firsthand experience of what legends like Michael Schumacher do almost every week.

Being too curious I was the first in my team to take the car, a decision that I would later be thankful of. After lengthy unending dos and don’ts from the instructor we were off and the one instruction I heard was that we should not overtake. It was not a competition it was said. Being in front I knew I had to finish in front, but everything changed when two guys went past me. I stepped on the accelerator and two explosions escaped through the exhaust. How I ended up in track that seemed to be leading me into a village is still a mystery to me. But it was enough to ring alarm bells to the instructors and the race was called off. I was later told that I had committed an offense that can be fatal during a race. From then onwards all my fellow journalist drove around the track as passengers with the instructor, and they blame me for it. Sometimes it helps to be first on the line.

DAY 3: INTERVIEWS WITH JAZZ STARS
Friday morning was the big day. It was my time to meet the stars of the festival. One on one interviews were arranged and I had picked mine carefully. First I wanted to meet Rashid, and how disappointed I was when he did not turn up at the press conference.

My second choice was saxophonist Dave Koz. A humble man despite his success and I felt like I had known him for a long time as he told me about his journey of jazz. I did a couple of interviews with the other stars and it was show time. I made it a point that I watched Koz that Friday night. As expected it was packed. The pint size artist took close to an hour fine-tuning his sound and when he finally went on stage the house erupted. His sax was amazing and when he did Nkosi sikelele Africa ( South Africa’s national anthem) some were close to tears.

“So this is what Cape Town jazz is about,” I thought.

I watched a couple of performances that included Don Laka, Ivan Mazuze and Hanjin before I decided that it was enough. After all I still had Saturday.

Saturday was more exciting because local lad Citie Seetso was playing. After watching the amazing Simphiwe Dana, I rushed to another stage where Citie was tuning his sound. I waited, inwardly hoping that he does not disappoint.  He did not. Hundreds of people who watched him danced the night away, I felt so proud and I wished I was wearing a Zebras t-shirt. My next stop was Americans Earth, Wind and Fire. I still wonder where these guys get their energy. If you have not watched Earth, you haven’t seen anything yet!

The final performance of the Saturday night was from Senegalese Youssou Ndour. There were probably 40 instruments on stage. Whatever can make noise is an instrument to Ndour and he will make use of it to perfection. I have never heard so much sound in my life.

As I arrived back home I was a happy man as I had not been disappointed even for a second. I can now join the chorus: Cape Town is the place to be and the Jazz Festival is one event that should not be missed.