THE SOUTH AFRICAN EXPRESS
Written by Richie Larson - Oregon USA
trip to South Africa was and still feels pretty incredible, for many reasons.
First, it was quite a journey and remarkable experience that I never really
thought would happen, and was something that I started thinking about years
ago, and spent a great deal of time researching and planning for this past
year. It was also like a pretty extreme voyage to me... sorta like
going to the moon, the advantages of modern travel notwithstanding.
Hmmm. When Apollo ll landed on the moon, the whole world recalls
Neil Armstrong's quote of "That's one small step for a man; one giant leap
for mankind". Well, I won't equate it with that, of course, but remember
the first words of Pete Conrad of Apollo 12, the second lunar landing....
whose words were "That may have been a small step for Neil, but it's a
long one for me... ". Yeah, I think I can relate to what Pete was
saying ! Then, too, I have always had a true love for travel that's
a bit diff than the usual, and that might be something of my general love
for adventurous travel and the great experience of foreign and international
environs, and that was certainly the case here, as well.
I also took the caution and what turned out to be a VERY wise approach
to having a prof guide to haul me around the place, except for the time
in Cape Town, and explaining a great deal of things as we went along....
there is no way I could have seen as much as I did, including some very
specific things, without his help and accommodation.
The outbound trip was actually pretty good, all things considered, although
quite long.... turned out to be about the 40 hours of total travel that
I expected. Leaving NY eve from my home town, I knew I'd be in the
air when the clock struck 12. So I watched the monitors at the airport
showing all the NY celebrations from around the world on a CNN channel
and taped them on my camcorder ! The flight to Atlanta went well,
although it was unusually full, and arrived early morning there.
I wandered around the Atlanta airport for a while, and watched the huge
South African Airways cruise in from the maintenance hangar, and boarded
a couple of hours later. I was pretty fortunate, getting an upperdeck
seat on this huge 747-400, which is nice, because they are roomier up there,
and I had a lot of room to twirl around, sitting up all the way forward.
Only one other guy was in that row, a youngish SA guy who had been working
in the States for the past year, and was going home for a while.
It's a pretty long flight, but I don't usually dislike those, although
the plane had to stop at the Cape Verde islands for a refuel due to a current
FAA restriction on fuel loads, which is a temp thing. There's not
much to say about that place. But hours later, we were cruising over
the African coastline, and sure enough... I caught the sunrise over the
Angola area right as expected, before landing at Joburg. Interesting
place that is, from the air.... both the industrial aspects, as well as
all of the residential areas. I saw very little of Joburg as it turns
out, really only the airport area. I transferred over to the domestic
terminal for the flight over to Richards Bay at the east coast of Natal
after clearing the customs at Joburg. That flight, in a fairly small
Dash-8 commuter plane, was only a bit more than an hour.... and it was
humid and HOT when I arrived there... but really in pretty good shape.
I actually did sleep here and there on the way out.
The guide was there within five minutes to pick me up. I instantly
recognized him. The man is a certified Professional Hunter there,
but also specializes in "photosafari" and is quite talented and capable
for touring as well. We wasted no time at all.... jumping into his
Toyota club-cab diesel pick-up ( with air conditioning, thank goodness
) and heading through Richards Bay straight towards the excellent game
preserve park, Hluhluwe-Umfolozi park, not far away in that area called
That area along the coast at Richards Bay does seem quite well developed
and urban, not an out-back area in the least, and that was true with most
of the areas I saw. Still, you have to remember that there are acute
differences in various areas. The guide had actually left his home
at Port Elizabeth the day before to come and get me, because he did not
want to run the risk of having problems or breakdowns in certain areas,
partic at night... "If I left my truck there because of a breakdown, I
knew it would NOT be there the next morning... ". I recall some very
interesting sights of HUGE tree farms in that area... where enormous areas
of straight-up tall trees are grown, mostly for the eventual production
of poles. We went through a usually un-used entrance to the park,
and before long, there we were, cruising along slowly, seeing many elephant,
white Rhino, kudu, and a whole variety of animals. Far more giraffe
and zebra than I expected, also. The guide was able to SEE everything,
and provide a lot of commentary about the wildlife there, since that is
what he usually does, and manuevered the truck here and there so that I
could take great pics and video. Before it turned dark, we drove
through up to the highest area of the park, and we checked into the Hilltop
camp there, and had a great cabin to use for the night. It has an
incredible view looking down at much of the park area, and we also had
an excellent dinner there... they do a great job... and I had some food
that was totally new to me... such as Warthog and Nyala... pretty good,
really. Not much jet-lag that first night, and slept pretty well.
And the guide and I knew quite a few common friends, so it was great that
we already had that acquaintance.
Next morning, off for another drive at first light before breakfast,
seeing more elephant and white Rhino playing in their mud ponds and various
antics. I was still almost finding it hard to comprehend that I was
IN AFRICA ! After we checked out, we left that park mid-day and headed
back towards Richards Bay and then southeast to an area where the Shakaland
Zulu cultural area is located, arriving late afternoon.... just in time
for the first of a few cultural tours, checking things out, and settling
in to this modern version of a Zulu hut-like home. This area, where
they also filmed the TV series called Shaka Zulu, is also high on a hill,
and the view there is even more stunning than at the park... also overlooking
a reservoir up there.
After another feast of a dinner ( which prob made me sick from some
foreign element... ) we went to an evening presentation of thunderous drums,
music, and a variety of Zulu dancing. I gotta admit how athletic
some of those younger Zulu guys were. Pretty cool. But that
turned out to be a bad night, getting rather sick ( actually throwing up
) in the middle of the night, and that has not happened to me in some years.
I dealt with that crummy feeling for the next day. Anyway... next
day was more cultural tours, demonstrations of the battle-tactics of the
Zulu, and they even invited some of us to join in and give it a try.
Try not to laugh as you imagine me doing one pathetic job of throwing a
Zulu spear, but I did give it a go, although it must have looked pretty
We were out of there by late morning, and off towards some of the areas
where the battlefields of the various Anglo-Boer wars took place, and that
whole era and scene was, for the most part, a bloody fiasco. We stopped
by the town of Colenzo, to see some war memorials, and then towards the
south a bit to where a famous event took place.... and this was really
incredible for me to see. In 1899, when Winston Churchill was a war
correspondant, the Boer attacked an armoured train that he was on, and
he was taken prisoner. We went there. There is a monument about
that, and you can still see the original train-track placements right-of-way,
and being a fan of Churchill... that was really incredible to view.
He escaped his imprisonment, and that event helped propel his popularity
and hero-status back home in the UK.
Also visited the town of Ladysmith... where a famous and months-long
seige had taken place, although the museum there was closed for the day,
and another famous battle area called Spioenkop... a bizarre scene... literally
trench warfare on top of a small mountain. Unbelievable. Some of
those small towns in that area are really nothing to dance about, however.
It's a bit off the normal track, I guess.
Skirting past the Drakensberg range, we headed towards the Maluti mountains,
through a recreation area called Golden Gate... which was very scenic and
would be a great place to go camping !! There was a lodge not far
from the border of the small interior country of Lesotho where we stayed...
and by then I was barely recovering from my bad-food event from the night
Next day? Bit of an all day drive southwards towards the coast,
over the Orange River and the province known as the Free State. Incredibly
diverse territory so far.... the lush wooded areas of Natal, these incredible
mountain areas, and then through a far more arid and semi-desert area before
nearing the coast. But that is Africa. We stopped a few places
and viewed various things, and had lunch right along the Orange River where
there was a place called "Wimpys", a sort of a restaurant fast-food place
all over the country.... usually where full service petrol facilities are
Port Elizabeth. Descended down to the coast and entered this very
large and populated city. I stayed there two nights.... the guides
family had just moved there, and had an excellent "estate" of sorts, with
a separate guesthouse that you could live in for a month. That was
great, and it was fun to meet his whole family. I spent the next
day touring through PE, went though the "old town", visited two museums,
the main venue and stadium for the upcoming World Cup for cricket, various
monuments, and the vast beach area where surfers and swimmers and windsurfers
hang out. And it certainly IS windy there !! There is a tourist
area on top of a small hill overlooking the city, where an unusual pyramid-shaped
monument from the early days of English settlement was, built by some early
governor or something in honor of his wife who had died quite young. Seems
like the wind almost blew me off of that hill !
Went through a mall, also.... and visited the guide’s sister at her
small meat-products store... and that was sort of cool.Various regular
folks that they both knew were there, so I spent about an hour sitting
behind the counter, sipping coffee, chatting with all these folks about
their lives there, and thinking... "Well, this is off of the tour route....
", all in all... pretty damn cool. By then I was feeling fine again,
and sleeping just great.
Okay, okay... I'll speed it up. The next morning we left for the
two-day trip along the Garden Route, checked in at Cape Agulhas, which
is really the southernmost cape of the continent, and where the Indian
and Atlantic oceans actually divide, and into Cape Town. And I was
in CT for two full days. Hint: My 4th floor room at the hotel
had a small patio with a full broad view of Table Mountain, which looms
up just about everywhere you look in Cape Town. Amazing sight.
So where was I? Oh, yeah... I was just leaving Port Elizabeth
westwards along the Garden Route. But I have to glance in that rear-view
mirror for just a moment. I'd mentioned that "I was seeing Africa...
", and that's true... but not altogether true. I was seeing part
of southern Africa. That continent is gargantuan... you take a look
at a satellite photo in a physical topographical relief, and what you see
is like three continents all enclosed in one huge land mass. And
it's like that. The diversity is extraordinary.
One of the first things that struck me was that first night at the game
preserve... walking back from dinner to the cabin... and the sky was a
crystal clear jet-black matte with more stars up there than I ever thought
I'd seen before. I could notice some of the well-known patterns,
but it struck me that, being in the southern hemisphere... the placements
were a bit diff than what I was used to. That maybe gave me the first
pause as to what a diff place I was at.... the sky and stars that night!
Yeah, I'd seen incredible wildlife in the park, but then... I kinda expected
that. Anyway... it was lovely.
You spend the first few days rather assessing your environment... and
it struck me that for the most part, most of SA was more well-developed
than I first thought, at least in Natal. The towns are nice, the
roads pretty good, and it does not seem that entirely foreign. Yet.
In numerous areas, though... the average American, having never seen it,
would be taken aback by the sight of some of the very large "township"
areas... first time I saw one I wondered if it was a junkyard for crates,
boxes, and scrap wood and plastic. It's not... it's the type of area
where a huge amount of the population lives... and are called "townships".
You are talking tiny huts made of scrap material, some with plastic sheets
over them for a roof, and people live there. I had seen some similar
things in the Far East, so it was not a total freak-out experience.
The contrast between that, and the rest of a developed nation, are pretty
stark. In some areas, the government is building vast tracts of very
small but nice housing developments.... tiny and bare by most western standards,
but a step-up to a castle by others. So you could think that there
is some progress in that regard.... but it is going to certainly be a two
or three or more generations of cultural evolution of that society before
the core of the townships become a thing of the past. At least that
is my opinion. A generation of growth in change in that society,
another one for education, but in time, I'd be hopeful.
A lot of the following is not my opinion or conclusions.... it's more
of a review of certain conversations and mere attitudes that I had observed.
Some peeps might think it's a load of bunk.... but here's what my very
limited time there seemed to suggest, in certain ways........
As I mentioned, Port Elizabeth seems like a well-developed and somewhat
industrial city. Every city in the world does have it's problem areas,
of course, and there are a few spots like that there, too. They are
really making a grand effort to clean some things up, plant scores of trees,
and so forth... since PE is one of the venues for the World Cup for cricket...
which is soon. Another aspect, which I did not think I'd see....
is a fair amount of white beggars in the streets... something which is
prob more recent. That leads into a whole host of other subjects.
You can't help but spend several days without talking about some of those
issues with people, either. I only had a few opinions told to me...
but overall... on the subject of the apartheid era and the changes since...
I consistently got the impression that while some folks might have secretly
not been opposed to the white-dominated society during some years... the
fact and "the problem was" that apartheid was made LAW in the country was
utterly STUPID and counterproductive in the extreme. And contrary to human
nature. That's just the impression I got.
I think there must have been a huge sigh of national relief when that
whole era was overwhelmingly rejected by the population there. Plus
the country was PLAINLY under pressure from the entire western world in
sanctions and condemnations. I certainly saw nearly a total zero
of any racial tension anywhere I went, for the most part... prob far less
than I have seen in the US. A lot of folks ( white ones ) don't really
view the current gov't as THEIR government... and that may bring some prob's
Affirmative Action? I read, and remembered where Cody once wrote
that "affirmative action sucks ass", which, at the time, I viewed a bit
of a presumptious comment from a relative youngster. But there is
a point there. There is a true fear that it has swung too far to
one direction, and could very well result in reverse discrimination.
Several of the middle aged adults I spoke with, with kids, young and teens,
had a fear that if their kids pursued a generalized liberal-arts course,
or non-specific labor-type vocation, that they were in deep trouble...
and that's why so many were making plans to leave the country. One
guy thought that unless his kids went into a very specialized field, they
would have no real good chance of a future in SA. That would be a
shame. That country has way too much going for it for that to happen.
Another sign you see everywhere? Nelson Mandela. The man’s
influence on the country cannot be overstated or undermined in any way.
He is not entirely happy with SOME things going on currently, I was told...
and he still is a main figure, such as I saw it. It's too bad that
he's older and not in the best of health, because more than one person...
and of all ethnic backgrounds.... felt that if he could run for office
again, he'd win in a mammoth landslide election. And every single
white I spoke with about that ( mostly in PE ) felt that way. Not
that I was doing some social study... just paying attention to things as
I went along.
BACK ON THE ROAD: Yep, the expressway ! A pretty nice four-lane
set-up westward where people commonly drive too damn fast !! Every
other road sign changes in language.... first one says "Cape Town... 700
km", and the next one is in Afrikaans... "Kaapstad.... 700 km", and just
about all of the educated country is bilingual in English and Afrikaans.
By that time, I was also getting used to left-side of the road driving....
so maybe, just maybe I'd try motorcycling in some of the more remote areas,
as long as I was with someone !
We went for a while and decided to stop at a town called Humansdorp,
where one of the best taxidermy business' in SA is located. I know
peeps who have had some work done there. They eventually took a liking
to me, and they knew the guide pretty well, so they ended up giving me
a whole entire tour of the place and the process... which is really awesome,
and has a lot of craftsmanship-art to it. And I taped a lot of it.
The weather had also changed to what might be expected in the NW United
States coast... gray, cool, and really rained a lot, here and there !
But we went through that area, stopping at numerous canyons and bridges
that have cool sights, and kept going. Driving along the Garden Route
won't give you the whole picture... it's the area nearby, too... and you
could really take several days to see it all. By the time we reached
Plettenburg bay, the weather had become nicer, and since it was the middle
of summer and the tourist season post-christmas... the town was pretty
packed with tourists and had a definate resort flavor to it. I also
recognized that I was seeing much of the sights that Code had written about.
We were not there long, though... just enough for a drive-around.
Not far to the west is Knysna... which is pronounced like NIGHS-NUH.
That's an interesting drive in there, past the rock "heads" of the town,
and finally down into it. It's a very much tourist-oriented place,
with all manner of things that you can do. I did spend some time
wandering down over the rocks to the water, and took some great pics and
video. It also was really packed with tourists. Inland a bit,
there are some areas where people have taken advantage of the conditions
of the tides, and built vacation homes that can only be reached at low
tide or by boat!! Kinda like your own private moat for half the day
! I picked up a small collection of rocks from the place, too...
same at Cape Agulhas... which will be a cool little display "back home".
There's volumes of great scenery along that route.... the ocean, bays,
estuaries, an area called Wilderness... an old narrow gauge train system....
canyons, waterfalls, etc.... it would really take a while to take it all
We ended the day somewhat west of there at Mossel Bay, which I thought
was a pretty neat place, right overlooking the Indian ocean. It was
not too packed, has great beaches and facilities... and a terrific view
at a bed-and-breakfast sort of place, which are really more hotel-like
than in the states.... and that was neat. The next day, some touring
of the area and museums... and there is a great one there.... maritime
and historical, and centered on the Portugese navigator from the 15th century
The museum even houses a recreation of his 85 foot long Portugese ship,
and is really great to visit. There's a lovely park around it, complete
with various features, cannons, etc.... and the spot of a post office drop
box ( messages left in shoes, hanging in trees ! ) from the same era.
Then along the coast, there are expansive old cave-dwelling areas in the
rocks where peoples lived once, and that had an interesting touch to it.
Sometime before noon, we left and headed west again, and then turned
south to Cape Agulhas, which is the true southernmost tip of the continent
and where the Indian and Atlantic oceans technically divide. There's a
bit of a barren drive down there for a while, but it's quite a place, from
my perspective... scenic, calm, not engulfed in tourists, a classic old
lighthouse about 150 + years old, and a museum. I picked up a booklet
at the museum.... which had something of a quote in it.
The booklet starts with this:
"As you stand on the windswept rock that marks the very end of the African
continent, you revel in the satisfaction of a journey made and a destination
reached, and as you turn to leave with the African continent rising to
meet you, a whole new journey begins".
And yep, standing there and being able to paddle a bit in both oceans
really was quite a moment. Again I picked up a few more classic rocks,
small ones !
Heading on back and turning west again to Cape Town. Damn near
ran out of petrol in route, but that worked out okay! Cape Town, the city,
the mountain, and Cape Point. Totally kewl. And that'll be
in my last part.
So we were leaving Cape Agulhas prob by mid-afternoon or so. Just
not enough time there, alas. That would be a great place to spend
some more time, and there is all manner of quaint vacation homes and areas
that one could stay at for some real relaxation... if that's what you are
after. It's about 40 or km. tracking north to a small town with some
interesting museums called Bredasdorp. From there, hang a left northwestwards
towards Cape Town, and it's a total of about 190 or so km to get there.
First town of note is called Caledon, and it's a good thing it was there,
since we were rather alarmingly low on petrol. From there, refilled
with gas and coffee... Cape Town was not too far away. The highway
wanders through some beautiful country, some wine country, if I recall
correctly, and up through a series of mountainous areas that can be pretty
challenging for some vehicles. All along, I had noticed the SA'can
style of pulling over on the rather roomy road shoulders and letting other
vehicles pass, regardless of what speed you are doing. You almost
never see that in the states, but it's common there, and as the other vehicles
pass, they blink their "flashing hazard lights" for a few blinks in a gesture
of thanks. Most posted limits I recall as between 100 or 130 kph
on most of the major roads... but it was also common for a lot of folks
to exceed that by some measure. Generally faster than I ever drive
in the US.
We're on the main route N2, and I'm getting pretty excited as we are
nearing Cape Town. The guide I'm with is pointing out a variety of
things, indicating the mountains in the distance, such as the towering
form of the "backside" of Table mountain in the distance. Some very
famous wine country is not at all far to the north of there, and is world
Granted, I'm not a wine drinker, but Spencer and his folks would prob
get a charge out of it... and did, I would presume.I can look to the south
and see the fairly vast expanse of False Bay, and the eastern side of Cape
Point well in the distance. False Bay is an impressive sight, too.
Now it's getting pretty urban, and we pass by Somerset West... a place
that Dale had mentioned to me.
Somewhere along that stretch towards CT was one of the most enormous
and miles-long ( it seemed ) township or literal shanty-town areas that
I had seen. It was huge. And quite a contrast as the modern
fleet of autos streamed by on the N2. That, I guess "you get used
to". That could and does freak out some people. I mentioned
it to Dale later. He said "It freaks us out, too..... "
I thought that False Bay had been pretty interesting to gaze over.
The shape and shadow of the mountains, which are about at your "two o'clock"
position, are getting larger.... same for the other direction at part of
I'd really been looking forward to this scene, and this particular moment.
Cape Town. Well, in various magazines and promotional things, the city
is often claimed to be "One of the most beautiful cities in the world",
or THE most beautiful one. The former is certainly true. I'd
heard the Captains ( there were two of them on the outbound SAA flight
) mention that "After leaving Johannesburg, we'll be heading down to the
most beautiful cape in the world... ", and I can't argue much with that.
It's like the feeling about San Francisco.... the place is a wonderful
treasure in many ways, and some areas you could maybe do without.
The N2 goes straight in towards the city, and Table Mountain is looming
pretty big by that time. We went straight past the very large facility
that is Groote Shuur ( and not pronounced that way ) hospital, and near
the University of Cape Town. The work of Dr. Christian Barnard, years
ago with the first human heart transplant, is still well regarded and remembered.
It seems to me that it was just a short distance past that before we entered
the area that is the V & A ( for Victoria and Alfred ) Waterfront area,
and past some of the main shops, before turning left near the BMW pavillion
and half a block to the hotel which I was staying at there. I could
recognize all manner of places by then, having planned for it so much.
The entire waterfront area. The famous ( and very expensive ) Cape
Grace and Table Bay hotels. You better be REALLY well off to hang at those
places. I stayed at a newer one called The Commodore... because of
the location, the facilities, everybody knew I would be there, and I thought
it would be just right, although a bit more pricey than I would normally
go for. It was worth it. I checked in, bade the guide farewell,
and was soon in my 4th floor room.
The service and attention was impeccable. All of the staff people
would know your last name, and address you that way. They went to great
pains to take great care of you without bothering you a whole bunch.
That was pretty great for a hotel with close to 200 rooms, I thought.
That place was within about one or two blocks and five minutes from the
heart of the waterfront area, so it was wonderful in that respect.
I stayed there for three nights.
It was really quite windy that first night, and my room patio door kinda
kept slamming shut. Best of all, I had a fabulous view of the broad
entire flank of Table Mountain, as well as Lions Head to the north, and
could turn left and see a great deal of the waterfront area, too. It's
every bit impressive as I thought it would be.... and I also wondered how
the folks that you know who lived and live there viewed that. Everywhere
you went in Cape Town, it's presence was overlooking you. It's also
called "A cities playground", and along with others.... that's true enough.
The Mountain is somewhat illuminated at night... several fairly strong
lights highlight the massive outline of it. The room had a great
coffee and tea set-up in it, so I could just sit, sip tea, and gaze at
that view. Table Mountain is plainly inspiration in rock. It's
like the mountains and the oceans... it has a life of its own, I do believe.
I had got there sometime after six in the evening, and could watch the
light wane and evening arrive. Looking over at the city portion,
several buildings still had a lot of christmas lights up which would flash
on and off. I had dinner in the room that first eve, and settled
in. The desk staff was helping me out, because there had been some
confusion over some tour vouchers which were to have been dropped off,
and they sorted it out just fine. And that night I slept just great...
even enjoying the sound of the wind that whistled in from Table Bay.
Early the next morning, I had a continental breakfast with loads of
coffee, and it was still quite windy. The mountain was well capped
with it's famous "tablecloth" that morning, with wispy clouds over it,
and I was to soon learn that the wind did have a bummer element to it....
the cable cars going up to the top would be closed off for the majority
of the day. But I was down in the lobby before 8, hanging out in
the central "Admirals lounge", when the tour company showed up and picked
up about four of us for the city and Table Mountain tour. A retired
couple from the UK were along, and it was a hoot to chat with them.
We saw quite a bit.... going through some of the beach areas, through the
city, about an hour at the famous Castle Good Hope which has been there
since the early days of settlement, seeing a morning military show and
a neat little brass or bronze cannon that they shoot off... makes quite
a roar, the little thing did! And there is quite a bit of museum
stuff to see, too. Again, various aspects of Table Mountain loom
over that scene, each one a little different. Just an amazing scene.
So back into the city, and through a neat park near the Cecil Rhodes
memorial ( who was a gay dude, which I did not know ) and that park goes
past some of the Parliamentary buildings as well... ending near other memorials
which front the South African Museum.... where you could spend all day,
but we only had about 45 or 60 minutes to do that. They were all hoping
that the wind up at the mountain would abate, but that was not the case,
so we drove up as far as we could, and even from that level, it's a pretty
stunning view.... down over the city and the bay, as well as upwards towards
the top of the mountain. There are very many parks in that area around
the mountain, too... and I walked up and all around as far as my time allowed,
the view just getting more incredible all the time. You could also spend
a full day just at the Table Mountain area. There really IS a bit
of an ethereal quality to that place.
The soaring, south face of Table Mountain where Cecil Rhodes came to
be ‘alone with the Alone’. He once told a visiting Bishop from England,
‘I do not care to go to a particular Church, for I find if I go up the
mountain I get thoughts – what you might call religious thoughts – because
they are for the betterment of humanity.’
Rhodes Memorial against the monolithic backdrop of Table Mountain. One
of Rhodes’ greatest passions was the view of the mountain he enjoyed from
his home at Groote Schuur. According to J.G. Macdonald, one of Rhodes’
biographers, “He always maintained that Table Mountain was the most beautiful
mountain in the world. Its massive grandeur, its bold and vigorous outlines,
and its impressive solitude appealed to his own idea of beauty…. ‘We people
here’, he would say to his guests, ‘broaden in our ideas and sympathies
because we are always looking at the mountain.’
That afternoon, I spent most of down walking around the waterfront area,
visiting the Wharf mall, another series of shops, looking at the ships,
going through the SA maritime museum, and doing some shopping, which was
kind of fun. That V & A area has become a virtual world-model
for a unique development project... from what was apparantly a seriously
run-down harbor area not too many years ago, to a stunning and active development
project which continues to grow.
I had managed to place a call to my bro that first evening... which
he thought was a hoot, too. It was also quite easy to do from the
room.. "Hey, bro..... it's me! Calling from Cape Town!"
He thought it was great, and got a good charge out of it. I did the
same thing again, calling my mother, who was really charmed by the call.
I think she was quite happy to hear from me, and the quality of phone call
was excellent. She'd been feeling a bit eerie with me so far away.
So that was great. Speaking of calls, in the early evening I got one in
my room, and it was Dale calling... which I thought was super neat.
The university system had not been forwarding his e-mails to him, and he'd
just gotten some. So that was a great call to get, and we talked
for a while before arranging to meet the next afternoon at a bookstore
in the mall at the waterfront. So there was another neat aspect of
the trip. Cool.
So here I am at Friday morning, and down early for a half-day Cape Point
tour... where it turned out that only about four folks on a pretty sizeable
tour van were there. We again went down the city towards the famous
beaches, learning all about them, including the different Clifton beach
1, 2, 3, and 4, and how they were diff. We'd been by there the day
before, at a park, and I'd watched a fire that had started on the lower
flanks of Table Mountain, prob started by homeless folks, and the fire-fighting
forces using helicopters to gather water from the ocean, and haul it up
there to douze the flames. The wind was not helping much. But
there's a lovely tropical quality to all of those beach areas there...
most of them I recognized by name and association by that time.
And yep, I could also visualize the surfer crowd there, too !
We'd also gone through one "Not too terrific in some ways " areas where
Malay and Nigerian people had apparantly settled... and were involved in
SOME suspicious things.
The coastline is beautiful along there. We drove south and were
at Cape Point before too long, the views along the way, and the small towns
all pretty neat. Cape Point is a national park of sorts, and we could
only be there for about an hour or so. But I took the small tram-on-rail
car up to the top, where there is a wonderful view of the oceans, and the
actual Cape of Good Hope, and a sorta lighthouse museum, and even a shop
and a place to send e-mails, which I did not have time to do. I walked
down....and the sweet younger gal who was the tour guide, ummm, actually....
the driver took some pics of me at some prime locations... nice of
But two of the other passengers ( US people, as it turned out... lost
track of time, and came down about 30 minutes late ) finally arrived back,
and we headed back towards Cape Town. We'd already been down the
western coast, along the "12 Apostles" as they are called, so we returned
more on the eastern side, also passing through Simons Town... where the
SA Navy ( such as it is ) is based. In the past, the Dutch and the
British had fought it out big-time over that area, since False Bay was
such a terrific port for certain time of the year. This was centuries
ago. Turns out that the Brits won, and had actually had control of
the port until something like 1956, when they released it to the South
Africans ! Wow! Talk about holding onto their empire, ha ha
Yep, I do wish I had more time at all of those places, but was trying
to see an awful lot in a limited time, as was the case with most of the
trip. I was back at the hotel about quarter to 2, cleaned up, changed
shirts, and walked over to the mall just after two, finding the one particular
bookstore in the rather huge mall facility pretty easily. Just about
every large, well known, neat, cool, kiff, and designer-label store within
the western world is represented there. It's a well lit and hugely
sky-light open area, and really great to wander around. I kinda knew
what Dale looked like, and he'd told me that he'd be wearing a certain
shirt, so I saw him come up an escalator from the parking garage, and kinda
knew him instantly. So that was a pretty nice greeting! Also
a totally stress-free meeting. He seemed like no stranger to me...
and we were out on this outside deck of the coffee shop ( one of many there
) having this incredible merinque pie and coffee, and talking about all
sorts of things and generally having a great time. He'd been on a
painting project with the karate club, so he was a bit paint splattered,
and is quite obviously a very bright and totally down to earth guy.
So I'm really glad that we met and had some time there.
We went back to the bookstore and wandered around, partic for some stuff
that he was trying to find for his mother, and then it was goodbye, take
care, and until next time. Me? Well, spent some more time at
that mall, walking around the waterfront area where a "free" jazz sorta
festival was taking place, and there was lots of peeps everywhere.
I also went through the BMW pavillion just to check things out before heading
back to the hotel. All of about a five minute walk.
Is Cape Town a great place? I think so, particularly for a city
of its size and stature. I think I realized that more than some of
the folks that live there. Many people would ask me what I thought
of their city. Like all large cities, it has some problem areas,
to be sure, but what I did see... and a fair amount in two days, was pretty
So, Gary... those people you wrote about, they did indeed share more
than one thing special in a really amazing place. I could spend waaaaay
more time there than I did. Did I think of those people? Yes, but
not more than passing thoughts. It never came to my thoughts to "sleuth"
or track them down. I thought then, and still do, that THAT would
have been nuts.
The moment I saw this pic, I immediately thought of Cody’s special place
on ‘his’ mountain. It made me cry. But I was so happy to have found it.
It actually is Table Mountain, and it’s about the closest thing I’ll ever
get to seeing Cody up there contemplating life.
Something else. I wrote that I did not give those guys too much
more than a passing thought while I was in Cape Town. Thinking about that
today, that's not exactly accurate...... I just did not obsess about it,
I'd guess. Yeah, the thought hit me often. I thought about what Code would
have been thinking and perceiving about the various views I kept seeing
of Table Mountain. I thought of him being up there and looking down
on Signal Hill and the city and bay beyond. I'd walk past the many restaurants
down at the waterfront and maybe ponder which one that Steve folks might
have taken him to on his birthday. So I was conscious of that, really.
I knew that distant by manner of time, death, age, and whatever... that
I'd shared some common sights and sounds with all of those guys. I could
easily visualize a group of them on one of the beautiful bright white beaches.
The ocean there is so beautiful, too. Amazing. I have heard
the sounds and walked some of the same streets of THEIR city... that's
what I mean. I guess it took a while to really realize it in a way,
I drove through some wonderful and some even rural-style areas on the
way to Cape Point. Some seemed remote. The roads were highly
curvy in some spots. More than once, I'd spot an old VW Beetle and wonder,
really... hmmm.. "I wonder if that's Bruce's Beetle", or something like
that. So I'd say that some awareness of all that.... really did play
a part. "So this is the mountain where Cody and Paul and Mark spent some
time". And I'm not making that up.
Would I go back? In a flash. Here's a point about my trip....
I planned it long and hard, and was sort of being an explorer as best I
could. I wanted to see as much specific variety and diversity and
areas that I could in a mere 9 days in country, and in that regard the
trip well exceeded my hopes.
I would prob not return for any burning reason to the KwaZuluNatal area...
I saw what I wanted to see, mostly, including some historical areas, and
that was great. I saw much of the Garden Route. I visited the
southernmost Cape. There is a holy-load of exciting recreational
things you can do in South Africa.... in the surf, the mountains, camping,
fishing, hunting, bungee-jumping from dozens of areas, and so forth...
and I hope that Spencer had the time to do some of them. Museums aplenty,
and natural areas unlike anywhere else in the world. I was
exploring; that's how I see it. I have over 200 pictures and about
four hours of video to relish the experience.
I would just LOVE to spend the same amount of time ( like a full week
or so.... or more ! ) in the western cape area. I'd spend days and
days in CT, visit more areas, hit the beaches, hike more up and around
the mountain, take the tour to Robben island, where Nelson Mandela had
spent many years as a prisoner, revisit Cape Point.. maybe even rent a
motorcycle and cruise down through that area for a two day sojourn,
and that would be kiff beyond belief. I'd spend two full days just
at Cape Agulhas, enjoying that unique scenery. I'd visit some of
the area along the west coast north of Cape Town. I thought it was
a great area, totally.
I used to think that nothing is once in a lifetime other than a lifetime
itself. I don't know if that quite holds true here... I think that
this was a one-off. My long plans, people that I knew there ( and
knew of ) some recent interests, including your own interest in the place....
that's all of what made it such a memorable trip for me. Like Pete
Conrad said... "It's a long one for me......... ". It was.
It all seemed to converge. Yep, I'd like to go back ...
You know, I COULD write forever about that. Saturday morning when
I checked out, my bill for three room services, one dinner, a light snack
on the patio, four int'l phone calls, and the WONDERFUL taxi to the airport
came up to about $70.00 USD. That amazed me. I'd already paid
for the room, of course. They had even arranged a pretty sweet Mercedes
taxi to take me to the airport. That might have been $20.00.
I have paid twice that to get to the airport in Chicago in a beat-up crap-bucket
Chevy NOT driven by a polite uniformed driver. As it is, most of
the average daily staples there seem to me to be about, at most, 40% of
the comparative US costs. But I guess it's all relative to income
levels. Gas seemed to me to be hovering close to about $2.00 USD
per gallon. Again, relative to income levels. That would be
regarded as really costly.
Was there a "shadow" to all this? If there was, other than getting
puke-sick up at Shakaland ( which I now think may have also had something
to do with a new med I was given by my dentist and "works" in the stomach...
that's all I know about that...and I stopped taking it after that.... )
it was the very long and rather fragmented trip home. Getting from
Cape Town to Joburg was an okay two hour flight, and great scenery, too.
Hanging out at the new Joburg int'l terminal was cool, too. It was
the hijack hoax that was inflicted upon SAA and a few other airlines that
was a fiasco... to where we were unloaded, went through security again,
left hours late, and back on the plane this damn cold started. Plus,
they had bumped me off of my assigned upperdeck seat, which is more comfortable,
for some reason which was never well explained. I just knew that
I could not feud with them on the point. The trip back was LONG !
And for a heavy 747-400, it was pretty damn bumpy, too.
Getting into Atlanta late, I missed my nice connection towards home,
and had to be rebooked by the airline...take even more time, first going
to Salt Lake City, then eventually to Seattle, before I could return to
my home town. I was sick and thrashed by the time I arrived home.
But I'd do it again. Maybe someday, but I can't quite see beating
this trip. And if ANYBODY "out there" is even thinking of visiting SA,
I'd certainly give it my most enthusiastic recommendation. Anytime.
I hope that the future bodes well for that country.
Tourism of a varied nature is just exploding in SA. I talked with
the guide on the second tour a lot about that. She had grown up in
Knysna, mid twenties, blonde, and a cutie, too. She was amazed how
much it's growing each year.
Airfares can be okay, if you look hard. I flew somewhere close
to 23,000 miles in all, and it came up to about 7 cents per mile in US
units. That's not bad. And it can be reasonably inexpensive
once there....there are even places near the waterfront area which are
pretty reasonable. I went beyond that because of having a guide to
help organize and sort some things out for me for 7 days. But in
my case, well worth doing so, even though it was not real easy to do.
But then, I guess nothing worthwhile ever is.
here for South African Express pics (found on the net)
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