The second Jive Slave Route Challenge was held on 27 May and this year my wife and I decided to enter for the 21.1km. Last year was my first year at Itheko Sport Athletic Club and I was co-opted to look after Waste Management. Running with Fatima meant that I would be going slightly slower than my normal race pace and therefore would be able to take in some of the much talked about beauty of this race.
The race started in Darling Street, in front of the City Hall. The conditions were perfect for running. At 6:58 a call was made to the person responsible for firing the Noon Gun canon. At 7:00, we heard the Bang, signalling the start of the Half Marathon. (The 10KM started at 07:15). We set off towards Sir Lowry Road and turned left into the Castle Of Good Hope.
- This castle was built by slaves, sailors, soldiers and burghers in 1679.
- The rocks for the Castle were quarried along the slopes of Signal Hill and Table Mountain.
- The Castle served as a Court Of Justice where cases were tried and the convicted slaves confined to the dungeon.
It was still dark when we entered the castle. A minute or so later we were waiting our turn to exit out of one of 2 tunnels and made our way up Keizergracht Street towards District Six.
- This area was named District Six in 1867 because it was the sixth municipal district of Cape Town.
- In 1966, it was declared a ‘white area’ and 60 000 people were forcibly removed to the Cape Flats whilst their houses in District Six were bulldozed to the ground.
By now we were all warmed up and started to run comfortably. After a couple of slight hills we were leaving District Six down Roeland Street where we turned left into St Johns Street and pass the SA Jewish Museum.
- One of the many attractions on Cape Town’s famous ‘Museum Mile’
- This museum is also the neighbour to the first Synagogue to be built in South Africa.
A couple of short left and right turns and we reached the 6Km mark as we turned into Prince Street . My eye caught the colourful sign placed by the race organisers on the left side of the road pointing to the Hurling “Swaai” Pump.
- Slaves collected water from these pumps as part of their daily chores.
- Above each well a pump house was built and equipped with a swinging pump, known as the Hurling Pump. It was named after the Swedish Colonist who is credited with inventing it.
- In 1937, the pump was declared a national monument
- The Hurling “Swaai” pump is found in the residential area today known as Oranjezicht.
- The estate was owned by the van Breda family for 200 years who named it Oranjezicht, Dutch for orange view, either because it overlooked the Castles Oranje bastion or because of the many orange trees in Table Valley.
- In its prime, the estate covered 182 hectares.
- The Estate supplied fruit and vegetables to the city as well as water to the city’s first pipeline in 1769.
Running out of Oranjezicht was all downhill and time to catch our breath. We crossed Annandale Street into the world famous Government Avenue.
- The slaves use to carry their produce from Oranjezicht Estate to the market down this path.
- Washerwomen used this avenue to go to work along the mountain streams.
- The Avenue also served as an escape route for slaves.
Half way down the avenue we were joined by the 10KM runners who entered the Avenue from a different entrance. By now the Avenue was full of runners and this must have scared the squirrels whose absence was conspicuous. At the end of the avenue, we turned left into Wale Street pass the St Georges Cathedral on our left.
- This beautiful Victorian structure with its stained glass windows depicts not only a white Jesus figure, but also a black Christ and a panel dedicated to Mahatma Ghandi.
- Known as the Peoples Church, it played an important role in the fight against apartheid.
We continued up Wale Street and turned left into the very popular Long Street.
- This street was the underworld of slave leisure activities such as gambling, cock fighting, smoking dagga, drinking alcohol and smoking of opium. (What has changed?” I hear you say?)
About 200m along Long Street we passed the two Palm trees in front of the Palm Tree Mosque.
- This mosque was founded by Jan van Bougies in 1807.
- He arrived in Cape Town as a slave in the late 1600s. His freedom was bought by Salie van Macassar, whom he later married,
- When his wife died he used his wealth to buy slaves and set them free.
Long Street was unusually quiet but it was still before 08:00am on a Sunday morning. I recall as we turned into Long Street telling wifey that I felt like I was on an excursion as opposed to being in a race. She chose not to respond. We turned right at Buiten Street and right again into Loop Street. We turned left at Wale Street and headed towards the historic area of the Bo-Kaap that became home to many Muslims and freed slaves after the abolition of slavery in the Cape. We crossed Buitengracht Street and immediately turned left and then right into Dorp Street where a photographer asked us to pose in front of the Auwal Mosque.
- The Auwal mosque is the oldest mosque in South Africa.
- This mosque was built in 1794 when the rule of the Dutch East India Company came to an end.
After a deserved break of 30 seconds in front of the Auwal mosque we continued up Dorp Street for about 800m before we walked again.
When we got to the top of Dorp Street, we turned left into Pentz Street.
Like most of life’s challenges, even Pentz Street finally came to an end and we turned into Upper Bloem Street, upper body parallel to the ground but pleased to be alive. It is from Upper Bloem Street where the most beautiful views of the Cape Town CBD can be spotted. After 200m along Bloem Street, the trauma of Pentz Street was almost forgotten by the familiar smell of Koesisters.
- Not to be confused by its country cousin, the Koeksister.
- There was an aunty with a Gas Stove dipping Koesisters into Syrup and Coconut.
- She had plenty of helpers handing it out to runners who looked like they needed a sugar boost.
Shortly after washing down the last of my koesister with some water, we were heading down Yusuf Drive pass the road that leads to the Tana Baru Cemetery
- The Raad der Gemeente of the Batavian government granted the land to the ex-slave, Frans of Bengal on 2 October 1805.
- This gesture of goodwill by the Batavian administration was aimed at maintaining Muslim loyalty in the event of a British invasion of the Cape.
- In this cemetery lie buried builders, tailors masons and labourers who built Cape Town.
At the end of Yusuf Drive we turned left into Chiappini Street. The 10KM runners carried on straight pass the Bo-Kaap Museum in Wale Street.
- The Museum was established in 1978 as a satellite of the SA Cultural History Museum.
- It was furnished as a house that depicts the lifestyle of a nineteenth-century Muslim family.
- A narrow street where all the houses are painted a different colour. Easily the most photographed street in Cape Town.
Fortunately since it was only 8:00 in the morning, the road was empty and not filled with camera crews, tourist buses, etc….
At the end of Chiappini Street we turned left into Somerset Road and onto the Fan Walk. Did that bring back memories! We passed Gallows Hill Traffic Department on the right.
• A torture centre for many aspiring drivers in Cape Town
• I was personally tortured there twice before I finally obtained my Drivers on my third attempt!
We continued through the Green Point Park and into Bay Road. Here the legs started to get tired and I was silently hoping wifey needed to walk so I could also get a break. A couple of turns later we were in Beach Road and turning into the V&A Waterfront. We ran past Quay 7, Quay 6 and Quay 5, pass the Amphitheatre and the Iziko Maritine Museum. On exiting the Waterfront we eventually entered into Prestwich Street.
- In 2003, at the site of the present Prestwich Place in Green Point, about 1800 bodies were exhumed. These were bodies of slaves, ex-slaves, Khoikhoi workers and sailors.
- The City Of Cape Town, heritage authorities and community groups developed an Ossuary, Visitor Centre and Memorial Park on the site of the former Dutch Reformed Church cemetery.
A few turns later and we were back on the Fan Walk facing the pedestrian bridge. I don’t know how many races have a bridge with what looked like at least 50 steps on either side. On exiting the bridge, it appeared that we could still do a reasonable time if we kept on going. “No more walks please.” At the end of the Fan Walk we turned into Adderley Street where we were forced to wait for traffic at the corner of Adderley and Strand Street. I didn’t hear anyone complained .We continued up Adderley Street and turned left into Spin Street, passing the famous Iziko Slave Lodge Museum on the right.
- Built in 1667 to accommodate slaves owned by the Dutch East India Company
- Between 1679 – 1811, 9000 slaves, convicts, political prisoners resided in the building.
- In 1960 the building was restored for use as a cultural history museum.
We continued on Spin Street pass the original front door of the Slave Lodge on the right.
- In 1727, Willem Adriaan van der Stel introduced the silk industry at the Cape using slave labour.
- He used the children from the Slave Lodge to unravel the silk worm cocoons.
- Silkworms were imported from Persia and a 3-storey building was constructed to house the enterprise.
- The path the children walked from the factory to the front door of the Slave Lodge became known as Spin Street,
We continued down Spin Street pass the Slave Tree Plaque.
- Slaves were sold under trees in Spin street
- When slaves came to the Cape they could not keep their own names. They were given names such as the months of the year, names from the Bible or from Greek and Roman myths such as Cupido and Hercules. Their surnames were replaced by their country of origin.
- The inscription on the Plaque reads “ On this spot stood the old slave tree”
We turned left into Corporation Street and I mentioned to wifey that a PB (Personal Best) was still possible if we picked up the pace a notch. Unfortunately, wifey had reached that point where she simply ignores my encouragement and simply slows the pace on purpose if I don’t stop talking. When we turned right into Darling Street however, we heard the voice of the inimitable Harold Berman.
- It’s his voice you hear at the start and end of every race in Cape Town
- He’s the man who knows the name of every single runner in the Western Cape
I don’t know if it was Harold’s voice or the support of the crowd on the parade, but madam started turning up the pace over the last 200m as we headed towards the finish line. We finished on 2H09, a half marathon personal best for Fatima!
During the prize giving ceremony I saw some people promoting a book. The book was entitled “Cape Town’s Slave Heritage” by Dr Hafiz Reedwaan Ismail. I paid R100 for a signed copy that acted as the reference for this article.
To the City Of Cape Town, The Itheko Sport Athletics Club and all the Sponsors, thanks for a great race and for helping me appreciate our rich and diverse cultural heritage.