The Cape route less travelled
The Mother City is proud of its music, food and revolution. But sometimes tourists miss the nuances – it’s not difficult to do so, after all: Cape Town is a tourist mecca, and the V&A Waterfront, Table Mountain Aerial Cableway, Robben Island and the Cape Winelands are must-do’s.
But if you are looking for the real Cape Town, there are tours by Coffeebeans Routes that show off the hidden city.
Cape Town still wears her bells and whistles, but it’s on the other side of town, where the majority live, that the Coffeebeans story unfolds.
Ian Harris and his team have, since 2005, created tours that show off Capetonians from a perspective most tourists never see.
There’s anchor storyteller, and journalist, Hazel Allies, of Bonteheuwel on the Cape Flats, who regales visitors with stories of her childhood, and what it was like growing up under apartheid. Harris says: 'Hazel is an amazing storyteller, her curry is legendary, and her laugh is infectious.'
One of the most popular tours is the Jazz Safari. Harris, a journalist, musician and documentary filmmaker, takes guests to the heart of Cape jazz.
There is no one truth about Cape Town or elsewhere – there are many truths.
Hilton Schilder, son of legendary jazz musician Tony Schilder, was born and grew up in Lotus River, and now lives in Fairways, on a road separating the two neighbourhoods.
Harris and his team take you to Schilder’s home, where the Schilder family will entertain you with music, food, the history of music in the Cape, and the history of Cape Town as seen from their eyes.
If you haven’t heard about goema, then he will play you some. Goema, a variation of jazz, is a sound unique to the Cape Flats. Schilder also plays the piano, guitar, the Khoi bow and the drums.
Another Cape Flats jazz legend, and Schilder’s long-standing musical partner, Mac McKenzie, offers a Composers' Workshop in Bridgetown, Athlone.
If reggae is what you like, then Harris will take you to a backyard reggae jam session.
Harris steers away from using clichéd words like 'authentic', saying instead Coffeebeans tours are a way for people to experience the true Cape Town.
'People are seeking a deeper engagement. Tourism is a medium to tell stories,' Harris says. 'Hilton’s life is a great way into the city; it gives perspective. There is no one truth about Cape Town or elsewhere – there are many truths.'
Harris says people are often surprised when they meet John Bauer, a ceramist whose narrative is a personal account of the struggle.
The Revolutionary Route takes tourists to struggle sites:
- Close to the Athlone police station, two bronze statues memorialise Coline Williams and Robert Waterwitch. The duo, members of the ANC military wing Umkhonto weSizwe, died in an explosion on 23 July 1989
- The Gugulethu Seven memorial commemorates the deaths of seven ANC activists who were ambushed and killed by the police on 3 March 1986
- The Trojan Horse Memorial in Thornton, Athlone is in memory of Michael Miranda, Shaun Magmoed and Jonathan Claasen, who died, and 15 people who were wounded when apartheid security forces hidden in a delivery van jumped out and shot indiscriminately at protesters on 15 October 1985
The company is called Coffeebeans Routes, says Harris, because coffee is universal: 'Wherever you go people understand coffee, but it has strong political undertones. Coffee houses started as spaces of social reflection.'
Most of their clients are from the United Kingdom, Europe, and the United States. He is also seeing an increase in the number of Brazilians on the routes.
'People’s perceptions change after they’ve been on one of our tours – many times people say, "Wow, I didn’t expect that."'
Harris says travel should be fun, but also about challenging your perceptions. And this, he says, is what happens to many people who take Coffeebeans tours.