Category Archives: South Africa

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A new trip starts (SA)

I have 30 minutes until I meet my new group, all 21 new people. I think our tour leader is Maretha again which would be great!

I have given up loading pictures onto Snapfish or elsewhere. I just bought a flash drive and loaded them all there for safety. I then spent 30 minutes trying to connect to Gmail, CNN and Snapfish from a very modern internet cafe where I was the only customer. Ridiculous. I won’t even bother with this in Namibia. The blog will be published when I get wireless, probably pages and pages at the same time. Bet you’re going to survive that.

So my last day in Cape Town was a bit hectic at first. I didn’t sleep well so I got up early and went for a run. I rushed breakfast and headed out to Seapoint in order to buy stamps and t-shirts and do some flash card research. I bought a bunch of cheap t-shirts, the way I see it is that I will be sick of them soon just as I am sick of my current ones now, so I can throw them out as I go along. There were two of the exact same tank tops in the mix but one didn’t have a price tag. This proved to be difficult for the cashier…

I rushed back, packed, checked out of the B&B and got picked up by Silvia and Baerbel again. We headed to Stellenbosch, about 45 minutes away. The university is here and the city is very pretty. Lots of art galleries and expensive shops. I bought 2 more t-shirts, these I love!
We had lunch at a seafood place…the service as always atrocious and half way through a bunch of construction workers started chipping away the brick next to me in order to fit a door. As with most construction sites one person was working while the others watched.
After dinner we went to a berry farm. All fresh and probably delicious stuff…
The way back took us through beautiful vineyards. Here’s where your Trader Joe’s stuff comes from!

But now off to start a new tour. Update as soon as I can.

A German day (SA)

We actually had something that I would describe as “cooler” weather today. When I looked out of the window this morning I couldn’t even see the stadium or the sea, there was a huge amount of mist that took forever to clear. Ironically the lighthouse was invisible, and later on Table Mountain could not be spotted from the other coast either.

 

Silvia, a girl from the first travel group, is currently staying with her second cousin who owns a vacation rental in Cape Town. They picked me up in a turquoise Golf and we went to the Blouberg area where there is a nice beach and a bunch of hot surfers. It was a pretty German day – we celebrated Baerbel’s birthday with 3 cakes and coffee and later on had a homemade dinner as well, all of the above cream based. A bunch of neighbors came over, some live here full time and others only in the European winter. There was a lot of talk about how much better South Africa is compared to 1950s Germany or what Deutsche Welle reports; certainly a lot of these opinions were based on hearsay or the idea that the new generation has not done anything to modernize the country. But there was no arguing with old folks so I just leaned back and enjoyed the show as my opinion (when I got a word in) didn’t count anyway. By the end of the night at least one of the oldsters was pretty trashed.

 

Tomorrow is my last day in Cape Town and after checking out of the B&B I will…spend it in Stellenbosch. Details to follow.
I really like it here. It is beautiful, diverse, modern and still fairly affordable. I feel like I haven’t even scratched the surface of it yet, I know where to go and what to do during the day now, but I haven’t even begun to explore nightlife … or regular life. It would be cool to get a glimpse into that as well. I guess I will have to come back again!

Cape of Good Hope daytrip (SA)

One of the must do things here in Cape Town is …to leave Cape Town actually, and take a day trip to the Cape of Good Hope. I was first going to book this with the company GAP recommended and I wanted to incorporate a bike tour but I never booked it. Instead I was trying to be nice to Lily who recommended “her guy”. Her guy didn’t respond for a few days and was then no longer available so she booked me onto this other tour that I am on now. Older audience, more expensive and I never saw what was included. I just found out that we’re going back to the Botanical Garden and right now, 45 minutes into the tour I’m at Hout Bay again where the “sueduechste Wurstbunde der Welt” is located. They have even more spelling mistakes on the left side of it. We’ve also stopped at Camps Bay – another thing I’ve already done. Oh well…
At Hout Bay you can take glass bottom boat tours to the seal island. A huge tame seal is currently frolocking at the parking lot, I heard it even follows the main guy who feeds it to the bathroom.

A bunch of bikers just raced down the hill next to us. I envy them so much. If it wasn’t quite so hilly here I would have rented a bike somewhere. I did ask a few times but this does not seem to be a market for bike tours. The cyclists are pros, all on their own expensive bikes they brought with them, probably all in training for the big official race around the Cape in April.
It’s funny though, of all the things, people or places at home I could miss only two come to mind: my bike and a certain dog. What does this say about me?
 

I’m at the Cape of Good Hope now.
As expected it’s a huge tourist trap, a restaurant and a small cable car leading up to a lighthouse on a rock. Breathtaking views. Plenty of tourists. We have 2 hours to kill and a table at the restaurant has already been reserved but I opted for the self brought snack option. There are many warnings of baboons here for they are attracted by the food and they are known to open car doors or climb through windows to get what they want, and although I’ve seen them on the road my problem are not the baboons but the cheeky birds and stripy longtailed mice that are literally trying to crawl all over me. It’s a bit spooky, they have no fear at all.

 

Fast forward to dinnertime. We also went to another ostrich farm where I could take a picture of a relatively small ostrich penis, and to the penguin colony in Simon’s Town. The penguins swim here because of the many fish but they are too hot in this weather and often dehydrate in the sun. Recently there were two big oil spills so the locals picked up the penguins, cleaned them and put them on a train to Port Elizabeth. From there the penguins swam back to Cape Town which took them 21 days and gave the locals enough time to clean up the oil spill.

Image

 

Simon’s Town seemed like a nice little place to spend a few days at. The coast guard is situated here and we saw plenty of seamen and -women in their white uniforms. Further up in Muizenberg we passed a shark spotter. Those guys stand by the coast and watch the see for sharks with special binoculars. Shark nets have been removed a while ago when dolphins and seals got caught in them and drowned.

After the quick run through the Botanical Garden I asked to be dropped off in Seapoint which is the next neighborhood over from Greenpoint. Behind the first layer of vacation rentals are all the bars, restaurants and shops I was missing in Greenpoint and that are not visible from the sea front. Here the prices are a bit more reasonable and I have a pasta craving for some reason. I chose the unattractive hole in the wall Italian restaurant by the street right across from a much fancier version which has people in it that are all wearing white and look like they did nothing but sunbathe all day.

 

… 

 

And finally I am back at the B&B. Dinner was so-so, paying for it proved to be a challenge. The service in South Africa for the most part is painfully slow. I went into the restaurant to pay because my waiter never showed again after serving the food. He got confused by my appearance, then turned around to prepare the bill. Minutes later he must have forgotten about me again. Another waiter tried to help. After a little while my waiter asked me if I had received my change…
On my way home I decided to buy a chocolate bar at a 7/11 store. The store was not air conditioned and the chocolate was soft and unappealing. I saw no price for it either. I decided to go for it regardless, but after watching two cashiers  s l o w l y  handle their customers for about 20 minutes I eventually gave up. This was not worth the 400 calories. The irony is that nobody here seems to mind, this is normal. There are no attitudes from the cashiers a la Duane Reade employees either, they just move in snail speed. Meanwhile the customers behind you seek extreme body contact. Even for a non-New Yorker this would be annoying.

Robben Island (SA)

Unlike Alcatraz, the prison does not take up most of the space on Robben Island. The prison seemed small in fact. There are four or five sections but they mainly consist of common rooms and showers. 30 people would be sleeping on the floor until beds were introduced in the late 70s. The food and the clothes were different for Bantus (less of either) and Coloreds & Indians.
We were shown the kitchen and the B section which was the section that held the political leaders. They had a small courtyard in each section and there was space for a tennis net. We also saw Mandela’s cell. There were no toilets in the cells, only buckets.

Robben Island prison - one part of it

Mandela's cell

The kitchen

The tour was held by a former inmate. He was at Robben Island prison from 1983 until 1990. The prison was closed down officially in 1991, he came back in 2007 to heal himself with this job.

After the tour we all got on a bus and were shown where Robert Sobukwe was held in solitary confinement. (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Robert_Sobukwe). He had a small house and there was another small hut for when his children visited. After he was released dog kennels were added here, not the type of dogs I would walk.

Kid's bedroom

There is also a huge leper cemetary on Robben Island as this is where the lepers and the mentally ill were held. The mentally ill as well as the prison inmates were working at the limestone quarry, the limestone was used to build the prison.

There are some small houses on the island as people still live here. There is a school with 16 children and two teachers, one of them is also the principal. You can see a small lighthouse as well. The road around the island is 12 km long but as a visitor you don’t get to see the rest. The tour is run precisely at 3 hours including the first boat ride which takes 30 minutes. They sell out every day and every seat is accounted for.

Table Mountain (SA)

Today I conquered Table Mountain. It’s a hiker’s dream as you can get up from various points. All of them are steep and take forever, and everyone will tell you not to hike by yourself.
Silvia and I took the most direct route, up the hill from the front, all sunshine and no shade. Supposedly it takes 2 1/2 hours up but we needed 5 due to many many breaks, too many for me actually – guess I am fitter than expected. The entire way consisted of rocks to climb over, it went straight up all the time.
Up on the mountain you can walk across the relatively small flat part that gives the mountain its name. The area as such is huge but only the flat part and Devil’s Peak and Lion’s Head are visible from the city skyline. Most days you can’t get up at all due to the weather, i.e. clouds move in fast and cover the area (“tablecloth”). We had a well deserved beer at the cafeteria and took the fast cable car down.

Afterward we met Silvia’s relative and a friend at the Water Front and listened to excellent live jazz performed by a bunch of old farts while enjoying a beer or three. I also complimented an Italian architect on his colorful shirt (Desigual rocks!) and met two fishermen (+ Dad) from Norwich. Finally I decided to have sushi near the B+B which was tasty but definitely more expensive than expected (New York prices if not more). Totally beat now, a long day…

I must miss that truck (SA)

It’s 4pm on Saturday and I’m sitting upstairs on a balcony of a Kurdish restaurant overlooking Longmarket in Cape Town. I need to take a break from the heat, the people, the buzz everywhere. I checked out Long Street for cheaper, younger options, but the Backpacker Street or mainly its audience is not for me. I’d rather pay a bit more but don’t have to look at skinny white dreadlocked guys in Teva sandals.
The only problem here is that I don’t seem to get service.

Yesterday I bought a two day ticket for the hop on + off bus which turned out to be a good idea. It has two routes and I started with the shorter one, shorter only because it has less stops. It took me around the entire city loop and I got off at the beautiful Botanical Garden and the not that exciting Fishermen’s Wharf only. It still took about 5 hours including the Botanical Garden and I didn’t even go hiking there. However I got a good appreciation of the size of the city and how different each area looks. We passed the Imizamo Yethu township as well as the beautiful beaches numbered 1-4 (for each category of people there’s one, if you happen to be a celebrity or a model you would go to beach 3 I believe) and saw where the rich live and how they are transported up diagonally to their million dollar homes via a small private person lift.
The area where I’m staying, Greenpoint, also has beaches though you can’t swim here because of rocks and plants.

After a very late lunch I decided to take it easy and shop a bit but in the end I went running again (!) and relaxed in the evening.
Today I rode the red route which takes you through the city center, to the cable car at Table Mountain and again to the seaside. Roundtrip is 2 hours and I didn’t get off this time because I have plenty of time to check out the city center on foot this upcoming week.
After a break I did however get back on and rode to the District 6 museum.
District 6 was a neighborhood with all types of people who lived in perfect harmony until the government decided in the 50s to move everyone out and separate them according to their race and skin color, and flatten the houses. The area is still flat, i.e. nothing has been built there since, and the previous locals are still mourning the loss of their community. The museum is run by previous residents inside a former church.
The Apartheid museum in Joburg is far more obvious about the effect of racism against the people, but this museum brought home actual feelings of individuals and the destruction of an entire community. It affected everyone, not just the blacks.

Three rastafaris are sitting next to me, none are wearing Tevas.
Also, I just got a beer and a meze platter.

At 6pm I will reboard the bus for the last time as a night tour is included in my ticket. After that I will sleep like a baby, again.

You can shop till you drop in Cape Town and it’s not even that expensive. However the three things I need so far I cannot get: raw almonds, zipper pulls and a cheap battery for my camera. The latter is available at 100$ – half the price of my camera.
It also remains to be seen what will happen to my ipod. It died and gave me weird digital displays on the long truck day here. However it is fine now, having been plugged into an electric outlet again. Will it die on the most remote part of my trip again or should I just buy a new one and have the ‘ifixit’ store transfer my music? I guess I will find out the hard way.

Btw, jogging around the world cup stadium takes 17 minutes.