Into and around Cape Town…
Jane and I worked on coming up with what our plan should be.  We have near 3 weeks in South Africa before we have to fly back out to Amsterdam, and only know what we are supposed to be doing for 6 of those days.  Those 6 days are in early November, where we will be at Zulu Nyala on a private game reserve doing Safari. 

 All other plans needed forming.  So what we came up with was flying to Cape Town and driving back the South African Coast to Durban and then north to Richard’s bay.  There are a ton of things to see on this drive called the ‘Garden Route’.  We booked a plane for cape Town on a cheap flight on Kulula Air and were off.

In Cape Town, we were picked up by a ride arranged by our Hostel.  Our Hostel was fairly cheap, although prices are pretty much the same as back in the states.  Our room was 300R a  night, which is roughly 50 dollars.  Big Blue Backpackers is located in the Waterfront area of town, which is nearby to the new Stadium that was built for the 2010 World cup.  There are 5 of these stadiums built all around South Africa for this event.  Everywhere we have gone so far has had a large amount of construction still going on, so it seems that the World Cup really had a ton of infrastructure upgrading construction done.

We started walking around Cape Town to get a feel for the town.  We find that going by foot  is really the only real way to get the vibe of the town.  We started heading to the water front that makes up the Water Front area.  Which took us by the Green Point Stadium (not sure the real name) which you could really imagine the feeling of excitement and the crowds  while passing through this area.  The locals say that the stadium is a white elephant, because once the World Cup was over, it was given to the local government to take care of.  The grounds are quite expensive, and Im sure the landscaping alone is ridiculous in cost to take care of.  At the same time, its jobs to give people, but now its up to Cape Town to fill the stadium with events to draw people in.

One surprising thing so far, is that its not that different from home here.  The grocery stores have similar items, there are shopping malls, there are a ton of taxis, the roads are well maintained, I see BMWs and Mercedes driving around.  This is not really how I imagined it.  Im not saying I was expecting huts and potholes, but I didn’t think that it would feel so modern and current.  I expected the differences to be a lot larger than there are.  Really, the big visual things that I see that are different are…

1. Rikis which are small vans that drive down the road with a guy yelling or whistling out the side, they stop and pick up passengers whereever they find them.  They are cheap, but they stop a lot and can get crammed with people.  While we never used one, Jane says she dislikes them as they are kind of creepy.

2. The wind is pretty extreme here.  I’ve heard that Gale force winds are not uncommon here, and the clouds just fly by.

3. A ton of Palm trees and of course the other trees are different.  The pine trees are really different than the ones back home as well.

4. They drive on the Left side of the road here.

5. The backdrop to the city is a huge plateau called Table Mountain.  More on that later.

6. Tons of round abouts.

The Waterfront area was a large shopping center on the water.  It pretty much felt like the Piers with a mall on it, with all the palm trees and seals it felt very Californian.  We picked up some Falafel and carried on toward the rest of the city.  It had been suggested that we head to Long Street to see more of the city.  On the way there, we ran into a giant red construction of Coca Cola crates that made a man pointing at the sky.  Definately a bit odd, but I got pictures at the foot of it.  I would have climbed up in it if I could have found an enterance, it looked like it had an internal support structure for it.

After another half hour of walking through the city streets which were very much like Seattle, we made it to Long street.  This really reminded us of Seattle streets with the second level balconies like in New Orleans.  Most of the balconies belonged to Hostels that exist on the second floor of the buildings above the shops.  We grabbed a coffee and went on the search for a pub that was referred to us.  Another interesting note, is that there are no parking meters here, there are either people who collect the parking fees every block, or a sign that says “clamping zone”.  It appears that if you park here for too long, they just clamp your car wheel down. We couldn’t quite find the pub, so we asked a guy who was a parking enforcer where it was, even though he was working the same street the building was on, he had no idea.  Jane spotted it as we talked to him, and we headed off.  Jane got a Weiss and I purchased an Amber.  Both were very tastey, Janes had the same spices as a Hoegaarden and remained very light, mine was a very solid amber, with no bitter aftertaste. After finishing our beers, we headed ‘home’ for the evening, as we had booked a trip down south of Cape Town to the Cape of Good Hope and the park down there.  The walk home was about a half hour or so, and we ran into less beggars than you would in Seattle, although one of them was particularily tenacious.  The Hostel was very noisy, as it was a Friday night, but we were beat and crashed after I had gone on Cockroach crushing patrol (those little buggers are fast).

We woke up early the next morning and jumped on our tour bus, run by Baz Bus.  They seem to do a ton of different tours and run a pretty neat service down here.  A person can buy a ticket from one place to another, say Durban (on the East Coast) to Cape Town (on the South West corner) and the person can get on and off along the way as much as they like until they reach their destination.  The routes leave nearly every day, so it makes it really good for the backpackers travelling this way.  Jane and I were considering doing this for the Garden Route before our Safari, but our plans changed after our day trip to the Cape of Good Hope.

I don’t want to say we had a bad experience, actually quite the opposite.  Our experience was quite good the guide Irchard and driver Talik were informative and quite friendly, however we met some travellers named Dave and Amy from New York who had just finished with a Safari trip through Namibia, Zambia and Botswana.  They had pretty much done the same thing as us for a honeymoon, except they were at the end of theirs.  Hearing their stories during the trip down the Coast convinced us to investigate doing a mini one of our own.

On the trip to the Cape, we stopped to see a bunch of Seals on Seal Island(some lady totally got sea sick on the boat), the Jackass Peguins in Simonsville (They make the sound similar to a donkey), saw some baboons that eat off the beach, we had a 6k bike ride, saw some whales off in the distance, hiked up to the lighthouse and along the shore of the Cape, saw some ostriches and jumped on the bus back home.  They say the water is cold here, so I didn’t bother checking that out (didn’t have shorts anyways).

We got back into Cape Town and met back up with Dave and Amy, who were meeting up with some of their groups members from the Safari.  I spent most of the evening picking the brains of  Fred and Triss, Mark and his wife of places they had been.  Triss and Fred are huge travellers and have travelled over 100 countries in the last 10 years.  Everyone was raving over their experience on their Safari.  We ended up eatting at this place called “Gold”.  Which was like a Tapas or Mezze meal of different African dishes with entertainment in between the courses.  We want to call out Uncle Leo and Aunt Patsy for the money they gave us which we used for this fancy African feast, we certainly enjoyed the experience.

The meal consisted of 16 dishes, ranging from a variety of things like a smoked fish paste,  stewed carrots, cous cous, a small humble pie like dish with individual servings, to dessert.  The entertainment was 3 ‘acts’ of performers.  There was a ton of singing, drummers drumming and them dancing.  The first two acts had large puppet like things, one was an antelope like puppet that a person wore, kind of like the dragon costume that is worn in China town new years celebrations.

The next day, we headed to an area called Camps Bay.  This area is definately an upscale part of town.  The cab drivers say mainly doctors and celebrity live here.  We ate a little cafe and enjoyed the beach some.  We then headed up to the top of Table Mountain via the cable car.  The car holds about 65 people and it spins around while it goes up.  It travels pretty fast, and an interesting fact is that it has a large resevoir underneath it that holds water.  This stabilizes the car in wind, and also provides water to the places on top of Table Mountain.  Once on top, we enjoyed the view and saw things called Rock Rabbits or Dassies.  They looked like fat squirrels, and we heard several time they were actually cousins of distant cousins of elephants.  Fat squirrels indeed.

After we went back to the Hostel, Jane worked on booking an airline ticket to Windhoek, Namibia.  This was a total fiasco, as our first attempt had our credit card denied for some reason.  Then after that the web page wouldnt let us book a new one as we had already booked one in the last 24 hours.  Upon trying to call someone about it, the air time on the phone we were using expired.  We ran down to the nearby shop to get more, but it closed a while before.  We ended up getting more air time at a DVD store, but the reservations counter had closed for the evening while we were out.

The next morning, Jane called again, and was able to complete a transaction, but we didn’t receive any email notification, so we just hoped the plane tickets had gone through.  We headed to the airport and were off without a hitch. 

Namibia here we come!