“Hey Foster, how do you like my new cape?”
Panda’s question had awakened me from a deep sleep. “That’s not a cape,” I replied. “It’s Daddy’s robe. You know Mom always keeps it on the bed for a blanket. And what do you need a cape for anyway?”“It’s for when we go to Cape Town. I could use it to fly with,” Panda replied casually, as I tried to pull the robe off of him. “Mom has a blogging friend in Cape Town, South Africa and she said we could go visit.”“Okay,” I said, rolling over to make eye contact with Panda. “First off, just because it’s called Cape Town doesn’t mean you have to wear a cape there. And what’s this about Mom saying we could go to South Africa?” Panda cleared his throat. “Ah, well, it wasn’t Mom who said we could go. It was her blogging friend, Chris. You know, we’ve read her stories over at Luna’s Online.”“We’ve already been to Africa,” I pointed out. “Remember when we went to see my big cat relatives?” Panda nodded. “Yeah, that was fun,” he replied. “But Cape Town is in South Africa. We haven’t been there.” “You do have a point,” I conceded, as the early morning sun began to filter through the window. “I guess if Chris said we could go…”Since we’d been there once, we didn’t have much trouble locating Africa from our flying carpet. “There it is!” Panda exclaimed. “Let’s find a place to land!”“No way!” was all I could say as we came in for a landing on the South African shoreline. The entire beach was covered with penguins! Penguins in South Africa? Who would have ever thought? And it looked like one of them was waving to us!There was a nice lady sitting on the rock watching the penguins so we sat by her for awhile. “I hope you find them,” the lady said after we explained that we were looking for some penguins we had met when we went to the Swiss Alps. Finally Panda recognized our friends and ran over to get their attention. “Hey you’re getting closer to the South Pole,” I commented as Panda and the youngest penguin happily danced around on the top of a boulder. “At least you made it to the Southern Hemisphere!” The penguins agreed. “Once we left Yosemite,” they explained, “we stayed on the southbound train and before we knew it we were here.” Panda and I exchanged glances. “Umm…” Panda began. “Never mind,” I finished for him. “We’ll talk about that later.”
After awhile we decided to take the train into town. We’ve been on a lot of trains, but I really liked this one because it was extra large and roomy. We pretty much got to pick any seat we wanted. When we we got off the train we decided to walk around a little bit to stretch our legs. Soon we came across a cat we had never seen before. “Rawwr!” she growled when she saw us. “Who are you and what are you doing in my back yard?” I decided to take the cautious approach by hiding behind a statue, but Panda walked right up to her. “My name is Panda,” he said calmly, “and that is my best friend, Foster. We’re visiting from Fresno.” Our new friend eyed us cautiously. “Oh, you must be the ones my humans told us about. They said a cat and a panda were coming to visit. My name is Luna, by the way. But I didn’t expect you to have on overalls. Is that a real pocket?”Luna introduced us to her garden friends, Lavender the chameleon and Froggy the African clawed frog. They were both really nice and agreed to accompany us for lunch.“Wow, this salad looks delicious!” Panda said when we arrived at the restaurant Luna had recommended. “But what happened to Lavender?” Suddenly something in the salad moved! “I’m in here!” Lavender laughed. “Fooled you didn’t I?” We were amazed, but Froggy and Luna looked unimpressed. “Lavender, get out of there,” Luna instructed. “One of these days you’re going to get eaten.” Froggy agreed. “Yeah, just because he’s a chameleon, he thinks he can blend into any background,” he explained. Lavender sniffed, but climbed out of the salad obediently. “You’re just jealous,” he said. “Come on, let’s eat!”After lunch we had some special South African coffee, and then Luna offered to show us around Cape Town. That sounded fun, and soon we were on our way.We wandered around Cape Town until we came to the most colorful neighborhood we had ever seen. “Wow! Mom would love to see this!” Panda exclaimed. Luna agreed. “This is Bo-Kaap,” she explained. “It’s the largest concentration of pre-1850 architecture in South Africa! But believe it or not, in the 1790s all these houses were white. At one time they were rented to slaves, and the landlords didn’t let anyone paint them.” She jumped up onto a purple bench. “It’s said,” she continued, “that when the slaves were freed in 1834, they were allowed to purchase their homes, and they painted them with bright colors to celebrate their freedom.” Panda jumped up onto the top of the bench above Luna. “Woo-hoo!” he shouted. “Freedom is the best!” “Dude, get down from there before you get hurt,” I admonished. Panda complied, mumbling something about his freedom being short-lived. As we continued our sight-seeing tour we came across Lavender and Froggy in the middle of a colorful sidewalk. “We thought you guys went home,” Luna said. “What are you doing here?” Lavender sighed. “We got bored,” he explained. “Chris is having a meeting with her book characters and she doesn’t have time to spend with us in the garden. Can we go with you?” Panda and I nodded enthusiastically, so Luna conceded. “Let’s take them to see the hyraxes,” Froggy suggested. We followed our friends to the outskirts of town. The hyraxes were sunning themselves at the top of a huge cliff. “Hey guys, wake up!” Luna said. “We want you to meet our friends Foster and Panda.” “We have a great view from up here,” the head hyrax explained. “You sure do,” Panda replied. “Aren’t you afraid of falling off?” The hyrax shook his head. “No, we’re used to it,” he replied. “We are a feeble folk, but we make our houses in the rocks.” Panda and I looked at each other, recognizing the words from Proverbs 30:26. “Oh, so you guys are conies?” I asked. “We never knew what those were.” Our new friend laughed pleasantly. “Yes, and we are also called rock badgers or ‘dassies’. We’re only found in Africa and the Middle East.” He then directed his attention to Luna. “Have you taken them to see Table Mountain yet?” “Table Mountain Casino?” I asked incredulously. “I don’t think we should go there. Mom wouldn’t approve.” Panda laughed. “No, it’s a different Table Mountain,” he said, “not the one near Fresno. I read up on it before we came. They even have these cool giant frames in different locations where you can take pictures of yourself with Table Mountain in the background.” Luna offered to take our picture, and we had fun posing on the frame. Unbeknownst to us, you can also take a revolving cable car to the top of Table Mountain! Of course Panda wanted to try it. “Come on, it can’t be any worse than the ski lift in the Swiss Alps!” he said encouragingly. Luna, Lavender, and Froggy decided to sit this one out. “We’ve been on it before,” Froggy told us. “But you’ll like it.” I got on hesitantly, mumbling to myself about the ever present “element of risk.” Miraculously we survived the cable car ride. When we got back to the city, the clouds did not look promising. “Looks like a storm is coming,” Panda observed. Luna and the others agreed. “I guess we’d better get back to the house,” Luna said, “before Chris gets worried.” Panda and I agreed that this would be the best plan. We thanked them for the fun tour of Cape Town and promised to keep in touch. “Let’s go get our carpet so we can fly in the rain!” Panda exclaimed. I couldn’t let him get lost so I had to follow. But it soon became apparent that neither of us remembered where we had left our flying carpet!Fortunately, after we left the city, we met up with some of our elephant friends from the last time we had been to Africa. “Are you guys lost?” they asked amiably. “We’ll give you a ride. We think we know where your carpet is.”We caught up on the latest news with the elephants as we rode, and soon the storm was in full force. “Don’t be scared,” our friends said. “We do this all the time.” Finally we came to the spot where the elephants remembered seeing our flying carpet. We thanked them and climbed on right away.The storm was just clearing as we headed out over the beautiful Cape Town skyline. “That was sure fun,” Panda remarked. “Who knew there were so many fun things to do in Cape Town?” I agreed. “It was sure nice of Chris to invite us.” As we sailed through the air toward the US, we talked about all the fun things we had done in South Africa.“You know what? We never actually met Chris,” I said sleepily as we snuggled up on our blanket for a nap when we got home. “Maybe we can go back another time.” Panda agreed. “That sounds fun,” he said. “Hey, did you put the carpet back in the front living room?” But I was too sleepy to reply.
Author’s Note: Background photos of South Africa are from Pixabay and Unsplash. Information about Bo-Kaap was found here and here. Photos of Luna, Freddy, and Lavender (as well as their permission to participate in this adventure) were provided by Chris at Luna’s Online.