Deep inside of a parallel universe
04.04.2007 - 11.04.2007 30 °C
Cape town is Sydney in a parallel universe, they speak English (very helpful if it's your only language), the wine is good, the climate is spectacular, toilet paper is soft and plentiful, they care about the world cup and their super 14 team sucks (but at least you get to watch the game!) One would think that being so similar to home would give us Sydneysiders a shot in the arm, a little piece of home before the long journey. To a certain extent it has done the trick but feeling so close to home yet not being home is probably the cruelest trick of all. Never the less we have thoroughly enjoyed recharging the batteries as well as checking out a few of Cape towns gems.
We had planned to start with the quintessential CT experience of climbing Table mountain. Sounds crazy after 30 odd hours on a plane although I have heard that exercise is the best way to counter jet lag. Unfortunately our plans changed when after 30 minutes by the carousel we discovered Nat's bag was still at Heathrow. Of coarse this is a dream come true for Nat. BA gave us 35 pounds to buy a new set of clothes but with nothing but the clothes on her back 35 pounds was never going to be enough. Fortunately our insurance also covers luggage delays and so rather than spending our first hours in Africa climbing a mountain we spent the morning searching for the perfect little top… I shouldn't jest. I'm a bit of a fan of shopping myself and with Nat in a state of euphoria we managed to stretch our budget to sneak a T-shirt in for me.
We hadn't planned too much for our first few days so when we awoke to find the table cloth covering Table mountain on Thursday and Friday we took the chance to spend a few days getting our gear in order and exploring the city. Friday Arvo we decided to head over the back of table mountain to go for a swim and to watch the sunset over the very snooty Camps Bay. Camps was out of control with a massive cross shore gale blowing so we headed up the coast to Clifton for a dip. Nat was feeling under the weather so I had to brave it alone. Despite the unseasonably warm dry weather very few people were venturing into the water. I was worried it was a shark thing but as soon as the first wave washed around my ankles the reason became very apparent. Describing the water as cold, invigorating, freezing, bitterly cold or frigid wouldn't be doing it justice. I'm not sure what the temp was but the Atlantic seaboard cops the currents from Antarctica and on this particular day it wouldn't have surprised me if chunks of ice started washing up on the shore. The cold shower after I got out felt like it was burning my numb skin. I found out later that the other side is much warmer but it's also much sharkier. I think I'd rather take my chances with hypothermia rather than one of South Africa's leaping great Whites…
Saturday morning was our last chance to climb Table mountain and with the top clear of clouds and all the shopping out of the way there was nothing holding us back. It's a gruelling hike, only a few kilometres but it's pretty much straight up so it's like climbing uneven stairs. Add to that the blazing midday sun, a temperature somewhere around 35, a lack of shade and a serious underestimation of how much water we needed and it made for a very tough climb. We had calculated that based on the number of people we had overtaken on the way up we were about the fourth slowest climbers. We comforted ourselves with the fact that if you take into account all the people who catch the Cable car we rocket up to the top 10%. I'm sure most of you follow the same hike duration philosophy as we do, that is – if the sign says 3 hours it should take less than two hours even if you dawdle a little. Everyone knows the duration signs need to cater for the lowest common denominator. I believe strongly in this philosophy and so with two kms of flat terrain to cover and only 30 minutes to cover it the last half an hour became a dash for dignity. I made it by 2 minutes, Nat scrapped in with about 3 second to spare by my watch. Still not ready for Kili but I think we're making inroads!
I always enjoy going to see local sport especially when you get to go to an iconic venue. My passion is rugby grounds. I guess it's like visiting famous battle grounds you've seen on TV time and time again. At present the list is a little light on but it was with childish
excitement that we entered Newlands, with it's table mountain backdrop. As formentioned, Capetownians have the same sporting affliction as us Sydneysiders, a rugby team that promises much but generally delivers little. As someone who feels this pain more than most (being both a Sydneysider and a Capetownian) Scott Tubman was the perfect spectating companion. We wer'nt really expecting a big crowd or a good game but we got both with the Stormers upsetting the Lions in front of a long weekend crowd. On a side note, Biltong is good. We also had the chance to hang out with Hayley and Ben Tubman a little over the weekend which was fantastic. It's was really cool to see them although playing with Ben made us realise how much we 're missing Hughie. Easter Sunday was pretty chilled out. We headed back over to Scott and Hayley's for Church and dinner on Sunday night. It was awesome to worship with so many people after not having a formal church service for three months. Thanks for taking us in and showing us a good time.
Monday Morning we took in the second quintessential Capetown gem. We went to Robben Island which is where Nelson was held for 18 of his 30 odd years of his incarceration. It's a barren harsh place and hearing of hardships political activists faced under apartheid from a former political prisoner certainly makes you wonder how such a policy was tolerated until so recently. Inevitably these kind of thoughts quickly brig you to the problems that plague the world today and it's hard to see how things are ever going to improve. I guess it's one step at a time and for South Africa the first few steps have been taken. Let's pray they keep walking in the right direction.
We rented a car and headed south along the beautiful Atlantic cost the views are absolutely magnificent (apparently). Once again visibility was to rob us of visual splendour. Fortunately the Pacific coast was cloud free and so we decided to check out the local African Penguin colony. Despite the fact that African penguins have had a rough trot over the past decade there are still plenty of the little guys and as a result there is only loose protection. We arrived in the late arvo just as the penguins were returning home with bellys full of partially digested fishies for the wife and kids, hmmm smells yummy. We watched from a distance for a while but curiosity got the better of us and we decided to see if we could get a little closer. it got to the point where I was seriously tempted to pick one up but fear of vicious penguin mauling kept my hands at bay.
The next morning we got up early and drove the last 30 kms or so to the tip of Africa. I was prepared for disappointment. I'm always a little sceptical about attractions of geographical significance (despite my love of geography) The most budget of these attractions would undoubtedly be the tropic of Capricorn. Very disappointing. Fortunately the Cape has much more to offer than a geographical claim to fame. We also walked around to the Cape of Good hope. There was something stirring about standing on the headland and envisioning Cook and then the First Fleet rounding the bend and heading for Australia. It must have been tempting for them to stay in Cape Town enjoying the good life rather than venturing out into the unknown.
After a leisurely drive around false bay we headed inland to the Cape winelands for a few days of fine wines and hearty meals to make the most of the wine before we venture out into the land of poor viticulture. I have always been a big fan of town planning and the guy behind Stellenbosch (Mr Stel) did a might fine job of crating the perfect little wine town. We only had time for one Vineyard in the afternoon but with 12 different wines to taste and a generous guide I don't think I could have made it through the second vineyard. After a brief arvo sleep we headed out to a restaurant that specialises in local dishes. Safe to say anywhere that takes such pride in it's wines is bound to take a similar amount of pride in there food. And of coarse every good meal needs a healthy glass o vino to bring the flavours out. we left feeling very contented and ready for some serious snooze time.
I have some other, more confronting, thoughts about Africa that I'm going to post on my old blog site http://evsnow.blogspot.com/
Tonight we meet our travel companions for the next three weeks.
Cute and cuddly boys, cute and cuddly...
Lots of love,
Ev and Nat
P.S. Only had to drop my pants three times in Cape Town.