We arrived in Cape Town on a crisp winter’s morning with the magnificent sight through the aeroplane’s window of table mountain rising above the city as we approached the runway. A great day for climbing table mountain as there’s a cold front on the way, we were told by the taxi driver who took us to our accommodation in the centre of Cape Town. We were too tired that day after after the long flight from Bangkok and in the day’s ahead the weather did indeed take a turn for the worse, not that it bothered us too much as we just wanted a few easy days to adjust to South Africa without much of an agenda.
Those first few days were spent relieving ourselves of the guidebook-induced paranoia and slowly becoming a little bolder and venturing further from our base. In those first few days we went to the theatre to see an excellent play, Sizwe Banzi is Dead, set in apartheid South Africa which proved a good introduction to that era in South Africa’s history. After also seeing a strange French film where there was wine served beforehand we were feeling very cultured, if only I’d remembered to pack that black polo-neck and cravat.
Just as we were about to start getting down to some serious sight seeing Viv was alerted to a little passenger that she had brought her all the way from Thailand. His name was Amoebic Dysentry and after a visit to the condescending and rude doctor, some sickness inducing pills and a diet of bananas and soup, Viv had at last seen the back of her unwelcome passenger.
Our first post-illness trip out was to Boulder beach where there are hoardes of African penguins waddling up the beach and nesting beneath the bushes. When you get close to their nest they waggle their heads at you in an inquisitive fashion, I waggled my head back at a few of them and felt that we had something of a rapport going. I stopped short of inviting them down the pub for a pint for fear that penguins, not being used to the drink, would end up spilling beer all over their feathers and I didn’t want to be the one responsible for what a pint of porter could do to a penguin’s plumage. Unfortunately the day was rather soured when we got mugged in Cape Town on the way back and this was at a time and place that the tourist office had told us would be safe. Fortunately the muggers didn’t get much, about a tenner in cash, and we were unharmed if a little shaken. We now don’t venture out at any time approaching dark and not at all in city centres. We’re really dissapointed to have to live like this but for the sake of our safety this is what we’ve chosen to do.
We have also been on an excellent tour around the Cape Flats townships. The tour really highlighted the stark difference between the haves and the have nots – families living three in one room, one family to one single bed and seas of tin shack housing. Despite this the communities had a really buzzing vibe about them and the residents who we saw appeared to be happy and looking forward to a brighter future as the Government’s wheels slowly turn on the project of getting everyone out of temporary housing and improving their welfare. I would hazard to say that they are all thankful that such an abhorrent regime as apartheid is over for good and that their lot in lifemust surely be greater now.
Our time in Cape Town was concluded with a fabulous walk up the stunning table mountain to see the other-worldly rock formations on top and equally as alien plants. The fynbos vegetation, unique in the world to this part of South Africa, is so striking when you see it in its natural habitat. The plant-o-rama was rounded off with a day at the vast Kirstenbosch botanical gardens, surely one of the biggest in the world and a superb guided walk to Cape point where we saw wild ostriches, lots of interesting birds, a whale that turned out to be a clump of sea weed and even more fynbos. As is traditional for this trip we also got piss wet through on the walk when the heavens opened, and then dried off nicely in the wind before getting piss wet through once again. The problem with getting wet in a South African winter is that because its warm almost year round nobody has heating so it you get wet, and it’s cold, you stay wet. A few extra blankets on the bed soon saw us warm up though.
The final thing to add was the unexpected pleasure of getting to meet up with James, my housemate from University days, and his wife Sam on their honeymoon. I’ve little doubt that the highlight of their South African honeymoon will have been the night spent with Viv and I in a restaurant!
We are quite a way up the coast from Cape Town now but that story will have to wait for another day for a feel that quite enough rambling has been done for the time being.
Thanks for the emails that we’ve received in the last few weeks, but failed to reply to thus far, rest assured a reply for each and every one is in the pile marked ‘to do’.