Now, I have finally made it once around the entire world – at least longitude-wise. I am now at 18.4°E, and thus approximately 7° east of Munich, meaning that I have now travelled 367° eastwards around the world, and am now completing the final phase of my tour around the world here in…
Much like Angola, South Africa is a country with a turbulent past. The consequences of Apartheid – the systematic segregation between European colonists and African natives – can still be felt up to this day, and despite the best efforts of the national hero Nelson Mandela who put an end to this injustice after decades of struggle, there are still obscene income differences between European colonists and other ethnicities, with native Africans earning on average less than 20% of Caucasians.
However, at the very least, South Africa did not suffer a decade-long civil war, and is thus in much better shape than Angola. As the name implies, South Africa is the southernmost country of Africa, and covers an area of 1,220,000km², which makes it almost, but not quite as big as Angola (and again about as large as France, Portugal and Spain together). At a population of 57 million people, however, South Africa has less inhabitants than Italy, and its population density of 47 people per km² puts in on about the same level as Fiji or Madagascar.
Geographically, South Africa consists mostly of the high plateau atop the Great Escarpment, an arid steppe area that is also known as the Veld or the drier Karoo. The largest coastal plains are actually just north of Cape Town, and then there's the Cape Fold Mountains to the East because the country obviously was not yet mountainous enough. As a general rule, the further to the east you go, the more greenery can be found around.
Within South Africa, I have chosen to visit one of its three capitals. Unlike most countries, South Africa takes the separation of powers so seriously, that the Executive, Legislative and Judicative branches of government are not only in different buildings, but in different cities, which are each at least 400km apart from one another. Those three cities are Pretoria for the Executive, Cape Town for the Legislative, and Bloemfontein for the Judicative, with me staying in Cape Town, a city with only 430,000 people living in the (admittedly rather small) city proper, and a whopping 4 million living in the surrounding metropolitan area. Also, interestingly enough, Cape Town is roughly as far away from Munich as Tokyo.
And within Cape Town, my stay place is located in the district of Bo Kaap, at the very northwestern edge of the so-called city bowl, a floodplain that is surrounded on three sides by marvellous mountains, over which I am going to elaborate in greater detail at a later time.
As for the climate, I can summarize that with two words: Constant and comfortable. Since Cape town is at 33.9°S as opposed to Foz do Iguaçu's 22,5°S, the sun is not quite as brutal here, and the ocean also has a stabilizing effect on the temperatures as a whole, resulting in comfortable warm summery temperatures that are neither burning nor sweltering. Latitude-wise, by the way, Cape Town is about as far from the equator as Casablanca, and thus still more equatorial than any part of Europe. In fact, only the southernmost tip of Cyprus is closer to the equator than the southernmost tip of Africa.
Also, in crass contrast to the regular rainfalls ravaging the rainforest, the weather here in Cape Town is quite arid, and only on a single day of my stay should there be some very light showers. And no, those pictures are not from after the "rain", but from during it. You don't even need a coat to go out in these conditions, and an umbrella would be absolute overkill. Compared with what I witnessed in Brazil, this level of precipitation pretty much qualifies as clear skies.
Anyway, here I am now in South Africa, all set and ready to explore…
Mountain, Coast and Veld
As usual, I tried finding a HelpX or WorkAway place here to better connect with the locals. Not having had any success with that, I eventually settled for one last Airbnb in the very scenic district of Bo Kaap, and that's where I am staying now.
My Airbnb hosts this time are Momeena, a very kind and caring woman, and her partner Shameel, who rent out this little apartment. I should not get to see them very often, but on those occasions, I always experience them as very nice people. Both of them have been living in South Africa for a while. However, Momeena originally comes from India, while Shameel's roots lie in Malaysia.
Momeena also runs a restaurant with the melodious name of Biesmiellah just down at the corner, and as such is always close on hand. I should also get to taste her amazing cooking on a few occasions, but more about that later.
One last thing that I should probably mention too is that even though South Africa is a melting pot of different ethnicities and cultures, and has a whopping 11 official languages, the de-facto trade language that everyone speaks and understands (at least around Cape Town) is English, which means that after over 13 months during which my abilities to communicate with the locals equalled little-to-none, now I can finally talk with people again and also read all that's written everywhere around me. A wonderful feeling! And with that having been said, let us proceed directly to…
Actually, before we get started with that, there's still one rather substantial thing that I need to address. Specifically, I am talking about several dozen cubic kilometres of quarzitic sandstone that would be impossible to miss if you tried.
Table Mountain, or Huriǂoaxa ("Rising from the Sea") in the Khoekhoe language)! Another one of the Seven New Wonders of the Natural World, just like the Iguazu Falls! Who would have thought that the winds would carry me here of all places? One could almost think I had actually planned that! Anyway, Table Mountain is huge, imposing, and dominates the cityscape of Cape Town like an elephant dominates the annual Cambridge sparrow convention. Including Lion's Head and Signal Hill to the west (right in this picture) and Devil's Peak (left in this picture), Table Mountain & Co. pretty much encircle the entirety of the city proper, and with my place being located just a bit up the slope of Signal Hill, I get a clear and unobstructed view of Table Mountain every single day.
Well, actually, not quite every day, no. Maybe one or two days a week, the Table Mountain is covered by the Tablecloth, a could formation that covers the top of Table Mountain and Table Mountain alone. Local legend has it that that the Devil once challenged a retired pirate by the name of Van Hunks, who loved smoking his pipe, to a smoking duel, and by the time they were finished the entire mountain was covered in the smoke of their pipes. To this day, Van Hunks and the Devil occasionally meet to challenge one another again, and when they do, the top of Table Mountain gets enveloped in the smoke of their pipes once anew.
However, I don't have long to marvel at all this natural beauty before I end up behind bars.
It's not quite what it sounds like, though. You see, with burglaries being rather commonplace around here, people have taken to discouraging attempts with obvious precautions like these. In the end, it's just a second door to lock and unlock, and doesn't really cause much inconvenience. Also, not all places around here have them, but I suppose I can see how tourist homes would make for particularly attractive targets.
Anyway, so much for that. Now, let me invite you in and give you a quick look around the place.
Suffice it to say that I L*I*K*E this place. Not only is it painted in my two favourite colours, but it also bears the most reasonable number of all.
Sure, it has a few loose ends caused by a recent storm…
…and I do manage to trap another one of these little critters on this continent, and subsequently show him out…
…however, I find that the majority of the pests have been taken care of in advance, for the space behind the blinds resembles the ant-equivalent of Auschwitz.
In addition to insects, I also get to enjoy the company of the friendly neighbourhood cat, who may or may not belong to the family next door. Either way, she can often be found lolling around on the porch.
Something that this place has absolutely no shortage of is toilet paper…
…and since water is scarce in these parts, I end up washing with sunlight (which apparently is made 100% of lemons, thus explaining its yellow colour).
Meanwhile, the stove has the little problem that the symbols indicating which dials control which plate have faded away to almost nothing over the years. However, that is not a problem that a fox can't solve given a bit of time… and a magic marker.
As for my laundry, I do that in the washing machine in the kitchen, and then hang it out on the porch to dry. With the wind that day, it only takes a few hours until I can take everything in again. Well… almost everything, since I return to find my beige compound pants gone, which served me so well all over the globe, and even a search of the immediate neighbourhood does not bear any fruit. With any luck, it was just stolen, and someone else can now delight in wearing these amazing pants that were handed down to me from my father, but I fear that these trousers have embarked on a mystical transatlantic adventure of their own. Who knows? Maybe by now they have been blown all the way over to Brazil.
Naturally, these were the only long pants that I had not sent directly home from Brazil, so I have to buy a new pair of long trousers in the local supermarket or die freezing on my last flight journey, which brings us nicely to the next part, since in order to get some shopping done, I have to go to…
First of all, allow me to introduce my neighbourhood: The amazing and colourful Bo Kaap!
Originally built in the late 18th century, the houses of Bo Kaap were painted white and used as living quarters for local slaves. It was only after the emancipation of 1834 that the former slaves, celebrating their new found freedom, painted their houses in the myriad of vibrant hues that this district is famous for today. Not only that, but Bo Kaap is also the oldest surviving residential neighbourhood in Cape Town, and the largest concentration of pre-1850 architecture in all of Africa. However, despite all that valuable history, there seem to be forces as work here that are attempting to destroy this heritage site. I sure hope it'll still be around for generations yet to come.
Another thing Bo Kaap is famous for are its cobblestone streets. Its steep cobblestone streets. And I don't just mean steep steep, but steep steep can compete with Baldwin Street in Dunedin steep (see Book I ~ Chapter 14 ~ Out in Outram). Or in other words, this is exactly the sort of road you would not want to drive on with a bike.
Just like in Foz do Iguaçu, there are also a number of collarless dogs straying around. Maybe they are strays, maybe they belong to the families around here… who knows? One thing is different though, and that is that the dogs around here are a lot more trusting, which somehow also serves to put me at ease.
As for the remainder of the city… Cape Town is pretty much a typical western-style modern city. Roads, a number of tall buildings, a fair number of trees, definitely not a bad place to live. Also, there's quite a number of open spaces and pedestrians' zones which make this place more liveable than the narrow and tight-packed street grid of Foz do Iguaçu.
Also, Cape Town has a proper bus system with a proper route plan. I have been cautioned against taking the trains, but the new My CiTi Buses seem to be alright.
In fact, the central bus stations are so modern, I would have mistaken them for train stations, if it wasn't for the fact that they are located in the middle of the road.
Also, just like other civilized countries such as New Zealand and Japan, South Africa has fancy rechargeable electronic tickets that you use to tag on or off on stations. Naturally, I purchase one of those and put a few Rand on it, just in case I end up having to take the bus somewhere.
Apart from that, the city is also very tourist friendly. I really don't see how you could possibly get lost around here, considering how there's signpost around approximately every ten meters.
However, that is not to say that the city is perfectly safe. Especially small crime is apparently enough of a problem that the city posts informative billboards all over the place, and we did already cover the iron bars at my domicile. However, a general sense of caution (as well as the cat-crosses-the-courtyard stance) should suffice to keep me safe for the duration of my stay. Not that it would have been possible to relieve me of more money than several African and Brazilian airlines already scammed me out of, mind you.
Closer to the shore, there's the Victory & Alfred Waterfront, which is a semi-corporate part of the city incorporating all sorts of residential and commercial areas…
…which curiously even has its own disclaimer that gives me pause while entering.
And in addition to its own disclaimer, the V&A Waterfront also has its own ferris wheel, also known as the Cape Wheel. I hear you can also hitch a helicopter ride, although ranging in the thousands of Rands (1000 Rand ≈ 60€), those are a little bit too expensive for my taste.
Speaking of water, despite being located right next to the ocean, Cape Town faced a severe water crisis in the years before as continuous droughts depleted the town's reservoirs. Starting in 2017, the daily use of water per person was first limited to 100l, and later to only 50l. At its worst point in 2018, the officials were even preparing for "Day Zero", the day when the reservoirs' levels would be so critical that municipal water supply would be entirely shut off, and 25l per person and day would be manually distributed at certain collection points. Fortunately, that did not come to pass and the combined efforts of people saving water and somewhat better rainfalls in the winter of 2018/2019 managed to avert the crisis. However, at this point, this scare is only a few months in the past, and all over town, people are still being called upon to save water wherever possible.
But anyway, I think I was going to tell you about shopping options before getting horribly, horribly sidetracked here. The closest place is the little Fatima Mini Market in Bo Kaap, which is pretty much just a one-room small store with the most essential stuff. Also, it's behind locked bars, and I first have to signal the store owner that I want to come in and buy something before he unlocks the door for me. One interesting term I come around here is "Airtime", which turns out to be minutes and data for your cellphone. I should frequent this little shop only once to purchase a big canister of water, the likes of which I don't really want to carry any further than strictly necessary. Since one of Momeena's welcome gifts was a bottle of drinking water, I assume that the tap water here in Cape Town is not necessarily of the highest quality.
My primary venue of shopping, meanwhile, should be Cape Quarter, a little shopping centre approximately 8 STEPs away from my home in Bo Kaap. It is here that I should also find a selection of ATMs, as well as a store to sell me a new pair of pants later on.
Most of the time, however, I should come here to frequent the local supermarket, which interestingly enough is a Dutch multinational store by the name of Spar ("save up"). In fact, this chain even has a few stores in Germany, so imagine my surprise to find one here.
Further, imagine my surprise to find this! The only reason why I don't buy a full bag of those is the slight problem that this time around, my home doesn't have an oven… again. I suppose there's nothing to be done about it, and I'll have to wait until I return to Germany. But still, what were the odds that I would find tasty, tasty, tasty, tasty German frozen pizza all the way here, over 9000 km away?
Having seen the pizza, this next product should probably not have surprised me, but it still does. Frozen Pizza is one thing, but I would have never, ever, expected to find Spätzle all the way in the south of Africa.
I was still able to contain myself with the unpreparable pizza, but this is something else. Dried Spätzle though they may be, I am still so very much looking forward to the prospect of preparing them again that I can't help but go Squeee, much to the astonishment of the other customers.
And as one final taste of home, there's also something that I would very much like to see in local supermarkets: Namely a station where you can fill up your own assortment of Lindt chocolate.
It goes without saying that I can't resist such an offer, and before long I have mixed together a bag of all eight flavours. Can you tell which one's the duplicate? (And for experts: Can you tell the eight flavours?)
Finally, I witness a proper stroke of genius as I approach the cashier. Even better than the pester-item-gates of the Super Muffato in Foz do Iguaçu, this supermarket has only a single queue which goes through a veritable gauntlet of pester-items, zig-zagging its way through the final shelves, before eventually arriving at a line of cashiers. There, every time a cashier gets free, they call the next customer in line, thus completely eliminating the age-old problem of guessing which queue will be the fastest. I can instantly see the value of this system, and after witnessing it work in action, I wonder why more stores do not handle business like this.
Leaving the supermarket, I take in the memorable quotes of Nelson Mandela written on the wall of the Cape Quarter's courtyard…
And with that, I return home. With my stay here severely cut short, I have to scramble to fit in all the things I had planned, beginning with…
Day Trip 1 ~ Table Mountain21-Mar-2019
Without a doubt, this one has to be number one on my list on accounts of it being right there. My initial plan for today's tour looks somewhat like this:
Suffice it to say that this initial plan had several issues with a bothersome thing known as "reality". For example, the direct routes between from Lion's Head and Table Mountain as well as Table Mountain and Devil's peak rank at ☠☠☠ and ☠☠☠☠☠ respectively, and also the effort of climbing up all these meters turned out to be somewhat more challenging than initially anticipated. On top of that, the more "sane" routes up and down Table Mountain turned out to be somewhat out of the way, and in addition, I was forced to call in my emergency backup plan, but mire about that later. Long story made short, my final route ended up looking like this:
During my first day in Cape Town I familiarized myself with my surroundings and the city, on the second day I worked, and no on the third day, I leave my home at 8:30 in the morning with the goal of scaling Table Mountain, standing invitingly on the southern horizon.
…eventually. First I turn west with the intent of ascending signal hill, and then making an arcing circuit over Lion's Head over to Table Mountain. The first few flights are still through the outskirts of Bo-Kaap…
…but before long, I find myself in the middle of a very genuinely African-looking landscape, and continue up along a dirt trail through shrublands.
It is there that I come across a flock of Helmeted Guineafowl, a type of chicken-like birds, which are not actually native to these parts but were introduced by human hand. However, here in Cape Town, they can by now be seen all over the hillsides. A common misconception is that they are flightless, and while it is true that they prefer to walk if given the chance, you just need to try and chase one down to see it take off like the wind.
Before long, I scale the first ledge and get a great view of the city bowl below, as well as the colourful houses of Bo Kaap.
Also, after already having made a number of failed attempts in the city below, I now finally find my first Geocache in Africa against a backdrop that could not possibly be any more fitting.
The next part of the way is relatively smooth going, where I follow a gently climbing road along the hillside…
…until I reach the site of the Lion Battery, the famous artillery stationed on Signal Hill that has been continuously firing a shell into the office of the biggest tax evader every day at noon since 1806. Well, okay, maybe not really, but you can still hear it going off once a day at noon, or at least noon-ish.
However, although it is a Thursday today, it is just my luck that I somehow managed to hit Human Rights Day with 21-Mar, and thus this facility is, regrettably, closed. I might also use this chance to add that in contrast to Brazil, Japan and New Zealand, Sundays are a very serious business here in South Africa, dating back to a very strict Christian regime, and as thus, most places here are closed on Sundays.
Oh well, nothing left to it but turn left and continue my ascent up the mountain.
...although I soon realize that the fence surrounding the Lion Battery is more symbolic in nature, and the holes in it are big enough to fit a cow through.
From here, there's only a short ascent left…
…and then I'm standing at the top of Signal Hill, which at 350m is only about a third as high as Table Mountain, but considering that my last significant altitude-climbing exercise is already almost two months away (see Book II ~ Chapter 22 ~ Nutty Numazu), this is still quite the workout for me, and I am beginning to second-guessing the feasibility of my plans for today. Either way, as I catch my breath I take in the amazing scenery from up here, featuring Green Point, the Cape Town Stadium, the V&A Waterfront, the City Bowl, Devil's Peak, and Table Mountain. The only landmark that is not visible from here is Lion's Head, but that's my next destination anyway.
Also, if I just slightly change my position, I can also see Robben Island, the famous former prison island where political prisoners such as Nelson Mandela were incarcerated only decades ago. The island is very shallow, rising only 24m above sea level at its highest point.
Walking a little bit further to the south, I quickly arrive at a paragliding launch platform, where quite a number of people are taking their turn today. I'm afraid they won't quite make it to Robben Island, however.
From there, the path leads me along the ridge and/or sides of Signal Hill, heading towards Lion's Head in the distance. The name, by the way, comes from the fact that when seen from the side, Signal Hill and Lion's Head together looks somewhat like a Sphynx, with Signal Hill being the behind, and Lion's Head… well duh! Also, the district on this side of Signal Hill is known as Sea Point.
At the foot of Lion's Hill, I come across an unusual sight. This is the Kramat – a Muslim tomb – of Mohamed Hassen Ghaibie, a follower of Sheikh Joseph, an Indonesian Muslim who was exiled to the Cape of Good Hope in 1693. And while this move did succeed in preventing Sheik Joseph from exerting his influence in Indonesia, it also caused him to establish the first cohesive Islamic community in South Africa here in Cape Town. The results of this can be seen all over town in places such as this Kramat, and Bo Kaap, too, is a predominantly Islamic community.
Shortly thereafter, I have a decision to make: Will I climb up Lion's Head, or go directly to Table Mountain. It is now 10:30. I am on the road for 2 hours, and still have plenty of daylight left. However, the ascent up to here was already a good warmup, and I am not certain whether I have the energy for both Lion's Head and Table Mountain in one day.
Incredibly, for once I do not botch my lunacy check, and thus am able to priorise the ascent of Table Mountain. Had I had the entirety of my planned three weeks in Cape Town at my disposal, I would surely have found time for both, but as it is, Table Mountain clearly has a higher priority, so I turn left, and head straight for Table Mountain through the shrubbery.
Along the way I come across something I have not seen since my time in New Zealand: A Fire Danger Chart! And it looks like we're already halfway to doom. Good thing I did not plan to light any fires today.
A little later, I cross Kloof Nek, a saddle between Lion's Head and Table Mountain, and also the one and only traffic thoroughfare between the City Bowl and Camps Bay. Good think they do have functional traffic lights over here.
On the other side of the road, I am per-se ready to begin my ascent of Table Mountain. However, before long, I am faced with certain infrastructural obstacles.
Having hiked down the bare side of a mountain in New Zealand (see Book I ~ Chapter 14 ~ Out in Outram), I naturally don't let that stop me, and before long I reach a somewhat better maintained set of stone stairs, which soon enough lead me up past the tree line.
From here, I get a great view of Table Mountain stretching south along the coastline…
…as well as Lion's Head and Signal Hill behind me. You need a lot of imagination to see a Sphynx in that landform, however.
Anyway this part is one of the steep ascent parts, the target for this stage being Kloof Corner…
…which is a very beautiful, irregular cliff that is perfect for taking a break, especially before noon, when it's still shady.
And this is where the "table"-part of Table Mountain begins, because it is at this point that the gradient abruptly increases from "steep" to "vertical". As such, I have to follow the cliffface for quite some time in search for a feasible way up. This effectively takes me along the northern edge of Table Mountain (and thus leaves me exposed to the full light of the heavens, what with me being on the southern hemisphere and all) and towards Devil's Peak in the distance.
Also, this is one of these places where you don't have to bother with putting up "Caution! Falling rocks!"-signs on account of it being fucking obvious.
Some distance along the way, I come across my emergency backup plan, that being the Table Mountain Aerial Cableway. Not having been able to find really reliable information of how to get up or down the mountain, I more or less decided to wing it anyway, and the Cableway is my fallback plan in case I find myself up on the mountain without being able to figure out a good way to get down again. For now, it's simply good to see that it is up and running. Now I just need to find a way to get up there myself.
My first plan was to follow the trail of Geocaches up Table Mountain, reasoning that whoever hid them there must have gotten up and down safely too. The first such route would lead me past a place called "India Venster". However, on second thought, and especially remembering my experiences the last time I ignored such an "experienced hikers only" advice back in New Zealand (see Book I ~ Chapter 14 ~ Out in Outram), I decide to take the recommended safe hiking route via Platteklipp Gorge after all.
And so, on the second decision point today, I decide to go left again, investing the time I saved by passing on Lion's Head to ascend Table Mountain via Platteklipp Gorge, a route that is even designated as Dog-Friendly! In hindsight, however, I would not attempt this route with anything less energetic than a Border Collie.
By the time the Lion Battery hails lunchtime, I am still en-route towards the entry of Platteklipp Gorge, and so I sit down on one of the many natural ledges and have a simple yet satisfying sandwich while surveying the sprawling city and the sea sitting on the shore beneath my point of vantage. Taking in the sheer beauty of this place, the harmony of the mountains and the sea sitting side by side, I can't help but feel that this is one of the most fantastic places I've been to on my journeys, and it is clear to me that I just feel so much more at home in a landscape that unites mountains and sea than in, say, the sprawling forests and plains of Parana.
From here, it is not much further to the lower end of Platteklipp Gorge, which is, in one word, steep. Sporting a gradient of almost 100%, this final ascent of 500m should very definitely be the toughest part of my tour today.
However, at least this route allows me to circumnavigate the steeper sides of the mountain, which, put plainly, would be no fun at all to scale.
By the way, I am by far not the only hiker to climb Table Mountain today. Especially this route seems to be a bit of a bottleneck, and so I soon find myself sharing the route with dozens of other people, each climbing the mountain at their own pace.
Pacing is quite important here, what with the ascent being quite gruesome and without any significant breaks on this final approach. It does remind me quite a bit of my climbing Daisen in Japan (see Book II ~ Chapter 13 ~ Daring Daisen), but fortunately, there's not quite that many people around here. Also, this final path up is not straight, but rather zig-zags left and right all the time, thus making what could be a maybe 600m-long ascent more like a 1.5km long ascent.
Platteklipp Gorge is somewhat of a curiosity. Just from looking at Table Mountain from a distance, you usually can't even see it even if you know it's there, except under special light conditions, even though it's actually a gaping big gash in the side of the mountain. Looking back now, I see how I'm further and further receding up into this invisible valley, and more and more of Cape Town is disappearing from view.
By now, I am dead beat, and although I already have made several small breaks, feel like I'm on the verge of collapsing from the exhaustion. In addition to the heat, the wind grows fiercer and fiercer with each and every step, to the point where I have to fear losing my trusty cap so much that I take it off. Fortunately, by now the walls are so close to one another that most of the path is in the shade anyway.
And the walls come closer and closer yet as I approach the upper end of the triangular valley. Eventually, they are close enough that I can touch both of them at the same time, and at their tightest point, the path is barely wide enough for two people to walk abreast.
Now it's only a little bit further, and then I finally arrive at the top of Table Mountain, my first impression being that there's a lot more vegetation up here than I anticipated.
For now, the first thing I do is take a short break and gather by bearings. Fortunately, there's a little engraved map not far from where I am, giving me at least a rough overview of my surroundings. Altogether, Table Mountain is shaped a lot like an island, and I am right now at the narrowest point of the northernmost peninsula.
From what I've learnt of Table Mountain so far along my trip, continuing to Devil's Peak is probably out of the question. Putting together my now firsthand experience of the terrain with my maps, I can see that there will very likely be cliffs on my intended route, and although it is marked down on my maps, it's probably going to be another one of these extremely dangerous "India Venster" routes. Instead, there appear to be three more "safe(ish)" routes down the mountain, those being Skeleton Gorge to the east, Wood Ravine to the west, and the Constantia Neck jeep track to the south.
I am as of yet undecided which of these routes to take back down, but fortunately, it's only 14:00, so I still have approximately five hours of daylight left. Equinox was precisely yesterday, which I guess means that it has been pretty much exactly six months since I scaled Mt. Daisen in Japan. And since I change hemispheres, I realize that for the second time in 12 months I have scaled a large mountain at or near the autumn equinox. Either way, with some time to spare, I decide that I at least want to see the insurmountable cliffs that prevent me from proceeding to Devil's Peak, and as such proceed along a semi-natural stone walkway towards the northeastern "cape" of Table Mountain, which is known as Maclear's Beacon.
It is along that way that I pass a wide, flat, open area, that is the paragon of the Table Mountain biome: Nothing bigger than shrubs wherever you look, and yet it is these very shrubs that make the landscape a place that is nor predominantly grey, but rather grey. Who would have thought?
Looking towards the south, I can see a number of small reservoirs that were once used to cover the water demand of Cape Town (today, they need much bigger ones), and the series of mountains known as the Apostles to the right, culminating at the Sentinel near Hout Bay. The Cape of Good Hope, meanwhile, is yet further to the left, and can't be seen due to Constantiaberg being in the way.
It is also here that I run into a guided tour telling me to head back to the Cableway Station since it is going to close down because of strong winds. Just great! Not having had enough time to properly orient myself up here and being still quite apprehensive of those alternate routes down (plus no knowing for sure how I would be able to get back from those alternate exits to my home), I decide to play it safe once more today and follow the tour back to the Cableway Station.
Back at the station, I find a nice 3D model of Table Mountain, Signal Hill, Lion's Head and Devil's Peak, in which even Platteklipp Gorge is clearly visible like a gash on the right corner of Table Mountain that almost takes the "peninsula" where the station is located clear off…
…as well as a long line of people standing in queue for a place on the cableway. I sure hope I still get a place, or otherwise I really will have to find another way down the mountain, like it or not.
Fortunately, I am in luck, and after waiting for about 15 minutes, I get to purchase another extreme highbrow ticket for 190 Rands (about 42€), which is a little bit expensive, but it should turn out to be more than worth it.
From here, I stand in line for approximately 30 more minutes, and then enter the gondola with about a dozen more people. And then I learn why the wind made me ride the cableway down today, for you see, this is just not an ordinary cableway… the Table Mountain Aerial Cableway is actually an advanced panorama platform in addition to a cableway that rotates during the trips up and down, giving the passengers a 720° panorama view of the entire trip no matter where they stand. Along the way, I get a good look on the rather daring India Venster route, which still has some people climbing it, not knowing that fate has a bad surprise in store for them in case they were trying to take the cableway down – by the time they make it to the top, the cableway will almost certainly be closed already since I was among the last people in line. Shortly after the halfway point, I even catch a short glimpse of what I imagine might be the India Venster, a little natural stone arch on the lower part of the cliffs of Table Mountain. Then we cross the crossroads where I took the path towards Platteklipp Gorge, and not much later, we arrive at the valley station at the end of a roughly six-minute trip, that could not possibly have been any more panoramic. Thus my sincere recommendation to all those who want to scale Table Mountain: Up or down, it doesn't matter, but take the cableway on one of your trips, for the view you get from there is second only to a helicopter trip.
Naturally, there's one thing that I do after getting off the Cableway, and that is drop by the souvenir shop and get a keychain of Table Mountain for my collection. Regrettably, the selection is somewhat limited, but in the end I manage to find something I like, as well as a kitchen magnet to boot.
It is now 15:30, and I have returned down from Table Mountain somewhat earlier than anticipated. And yet, with only about three-and-a-half hours left until sunset, I don't think that I have enough time (or energy) left to make it up and down Devil's Peak now. So instead, I decide to wrap up this stray with a leisurely stray back to Bo Kaap through the city, starting with making my way through the somewhat sparse woodlands at the flank of Table Mountain.
Not much later, I arrive in the district of Oranjezicht, where I am spontaneously reminded of Brazilian sidewalk conditions.
I also notice that apparently, there's an election presently going on, for over the following hours, I should run into quite a bunch of electional billboards, some of them written in Afrikaans.
My way also leads me right past the great Molteno Reservoir, which I now realise I also saw quite a few times from up on Table Mountain. Also, it is obvious that while it contains quite a lot of water already, the reservoir's capacity is not anywhere near its maximum just yet. But oh well, since right now marks the end of Cape Town's dry season, I expect that it'll fill up nicely over the next few coming months. Hopefully.
Also, what were the odds that I'd end up here of all the places?
Wonder what I'll run into next. Maybe Cape Town's Ultimate German Grocer?
And holy cow! Is that a Demonic Duck of sorts?
Okay, gotta slow down here. So, to explain, while I randomly ran into the Upper Orange Street and Cape Town's Ultimate German Grocer on my way through the city, I found the Demonic Duck as a Travel Bug in one of the few Geocaches I should find today, "hidden" in the security checkpoint of a campus checkpoint. The difficulty is not so much finding it (the guards are in the picture and readily hand me the box) but rather figuring out the correct combination for opening it.
Moving on, I walk through the Company's Gardens, which were first established in the 17th century by the East India Trade Company to grow grapes and other fruit. They are watered from aforementioned Molteno Reservoir…
…and are home to a veritable host of squirrels busily scurrying around, salvaging whatever they can find. I don't think I've ever seen this many squirrels in one place ever before.
Clearing the Company's Gardens, it's only a short walk through the roads of Cape Town…
…and then I'm back home again, with still enough time to spare to go shopping, cook dinner, and little more. Maybe things did not go quite as planned today, but I still had an exciting and fulfilling trip, and in retrospective, I think I would not have it be any other way. But for now, it's time to sit down and think about…
Judging from the fact that Cape Town has a German grocer, you might correctly have guessed that it also has tasty German bread. And true enough, it is not difficult at all for me to find tasty whole-grain bread here.
Add to that a bit of strawberry jam, and a bit of yummy Squillos…
…and I have myself a delicious and energy-rich breakfast for a great start into whatever busy day I have ahead of me.
Lunch is a bit more diverse, and basically consists of a variety of multicultural microwave dishes that I can quickly prepare during those work days. Examples of these include Butter Chicken Curry, Cape Bobotie (spiced minced meat with egg), Roast Vegetable Moussaka (with eggplant and potato), or simply good old-fashioned Macaroni & Cheese. I think with that, we have dishes from India, Africa, the Middle East and America.
And as usually, dinner is the meal where I put in the most effort, my absolute favourite ingredient for these being baskets of mixed mushrooms in different sizes and colours that are just being sold in the supermarket here.
Using that, I whip up my time-honed recipes of Gamm Ligeral and Naleiayafero with local sauces such as Chick Sosatie or Chakalaka sauce. Naturally, Spätzle are also part of the menu, and oh am I ever-so happy to finally eat them again after over a year of abstinence! The
Also, at my very first day, I already get a warm welcome in the form of a take-out meal from Momeena that I can warm myself up for dinner that day. It's a savoury serving of Chicken Tikka Curry Rice from her Biesmiellah Restaurant, and receiving such a delicious meal as a welcome present warms my body and soul alike.
I should also eat out a number of times during my stay here, first in the food court of the Cape Quarter shopping centre, where all the Nelson Mandela quotes are displayed, in a little place known as Lou Lou's.
There, I have a delicious Chicken Prego Roll lunch menu, which turns out to be Portuguese in origin. It's quite simple to make too, simply consisting of a few marinated grilled pieces of meat with some garlic butter, and the fries nicely round it off.
After that, I learn the South African payment process, which is actually quite clever. In order to facilitate communication (and probably behind-the-scenes organization as well), the bill always comes with a field into which you can write your tip, or "gratuity", and then sum it up to the total amount that you're going to pay. Another reason for this is that the waiters here don't run around with cash, so they have to take it back to the cashier and then return your change to you. Also, one thing that I should probably point out here and now is that my first reaction upon seeing the prices here is somewhat along the lines of "Dudes! Do you actually want money for what you're selling, or are you just going to throw your wares out of the window like this?". Even with my tip, 120 Rand only amount to about 7,50€. I might have given a more generous tip too, but for one reason or another, it took me forever to get served, so I left it at that (plus the lunch special was advertised for R65, so technically, I already gave a R55 more than I was going to pay in the first place).
My second time out should be in the Mama Africa, which apparently is a hidden gem around here. I should later learn that my father's globe-trotting acquaintances (who were also indirectly responsible for me ending up in Foz do Iguaçu; see Book III ~ Chapter 2 ~ Brasilian Bolero [LINK= http://kiraresari.blogspot.com/2019/07/book-iii-chapter-2-brasilian-bolero.html]) also dined in here and spoke very highly of the place. Also, it's pretty amazingly colourful.
I arrive early in the evening (pretty much just a few minutes after opening time), which is probably why I manage to get a little table without having reserved. Also, I am instantly taken in by the cosy, dark and den-like ambience in here.
For dinner, I have a nice pot of Zimbabwean Dovi, which turns out to be a sort of chicken stew with all sorts of exotic spices. It's not quite as a mazing as it sounds though, but together with the rice, it's certainly filling.
Much more amazing, however, is the African Band that plays that evening, and I just happen to have a front-row seat for the performance. Normally I'm not a fan of loud music, but this time around the native African rhythms are just so gripping and at the same time relaxing and energizing that I end up completely forgetting about my aversion, and stick around for much longer than I had initially planned, listening to the Marimba Vibrations.
In fact, the music agrees with my so much that I wonder if they're selling a CD of it. I do not need to wonder for long, because shortly after I get up I am approached by one of the band's roadies who must have seen me applauding enthusiastically, and asked if I would like to buy a CD. Naturally I say yes, and shortly after I have a wonderful acoustic souvenir of my time in South Africa, a semi-professional CD emanating the flair of an upcoming garage band, and that at the cheap price of only 150 Rand (about 9,50€). Most importantly, however, I get the satisfaction of supporting people who are doing their best to make a honest living in a tough economy, and who are letting their passion guide them into a brighter future.
And finally, I naturally make time to eat at Momeena's Biesmiellah Restaurant, which is just as pleasantly colourful on the inside as the little apartment she rented out to me.
There, as a fitting finale, I order the Denning Vleis, a sweet-and-sour lamb dish that is one of the oldest recorded recipes in South African cuisine. To go with it, I drink a milkshake-y berry drink called Valooma, which goes along just perfectly with it.
Snack-wise, I should get to taste some of the most amazing chips flavours ever, which I am still missing now as I write this. The Simba brand is the local big chips brand, and fox makes me try out all sorts of exotic flavours here. The "All Gold Tomato Sauce" chips are already fiendishly good, but the "Mrs H.S.Ball's Chutney" chips are simply to die for! If you ever get the chance to travel to South Africa, you have got to try these! Seriously! Try these chips or the owl will eat you!
On the drink-front, the first thing I get is a stockpile of Mandela Honeybush and Buchu tea. You'd think that there'd be loads of typical African teas here in the supermarkets, but actually I stood in front of the very extensive tea shelf for about five minutes until I managed to spot something genuinely authentic.
As for unusual soft drinks, I find something called Iron Brew here, that I did not yet encounter on my travels. It's pretty sweet and has something of children's cough syrup. It's probably not something I'd drink a lot, but it's not something that I'm letting go to waste either.
And naturally, with the drink water quality here being kinda dubious, I also lug up a massive jug of water from the Fatima Mini Market. Together with the Nelson Tea, the Iron Brew, and the bottle of water that Momeena provided me at the beginning, that should be just enough to see me through my stay here.
So much for food and drink. Now that I am both nourished and hydrated, I feel ready for my next trip, this one leading me out to the…
Day Trip 2 ~ Cheetah Outreach23-Mar-2019
This is it.
This is the reason.
The reason why I came.
Why I came here to Cape Town of all the places.
It all goes back to the time when I was still suffering at MegaZebra, the horrible social games company that still gives me nightmares up to this day. It was 2015, back when my plans to travel around the world first took form. Depending on how things went, I planned to either spend a full year in New Zealand, or three months in South Africa, volunteering at the Cheetah Outreach. And although the winds deigned to take me to New Zealand instead that time, now my travels come to an end with a visit to aforementioned Cheetah Outreach in South Africa. The volunteer programme I was looking at back in the day was no longer in place by the time I was in Japan, but at the very least, I can still get there as a visitor.
That having been said, the question is still how to actually get there, since the place is over at Somerset West, which is a very reasonable 42km away from my place in Cape Town. There's a train running there, but as I already mentioned, trains in South Africa are apparently "Very No", and the locals recommend not using them. But how else can I cross this great distance and get almost all the way over to the Hottentots-Holland Mountains?
In the end, I decide to book a trip there with a touring company by the name of Guru Tours that I found on TripAdvisor. At a price of 2,000 Rand (about 130€), this one trip is more expensive than pretty much everything else I would do in South Africa combined, but since this is the primary reason for my presence here, I am… well… "prepared" is the wrong word… but maybe we can say that the energetic part of me manages to distract the "Scrooge" part long enough that the catty part can make the booking.
Anyway, the result of this is a lovely little guided tour that I have all to myself, and I get even picked up right there at the doorstep. My guide is an older man by the name of Scott who lives here in South Africa and knows his way around.
Driving with Scott turns out to be a great experience in its own right already, since this should be the one time when I'd really get to sit down and talk with a local during my short stay here. As such, he tells me about a lot of things, such as how the first heart transplant was performed in 1967 at the Groote Schuur Hospital here in Cape Town. I also learn that the public transport system in South Africa is generally a mess, and how most people just drive everywhere by car.
We also pass the Cape Town Film Studios along the way, where among quite a number of movies that are not familiar to me, scenes of Doctor Who and Tomb Raider have been shot.
And then, after a drive of maybe 45 minutes, we arrive at the Cheetah Outreach, a little reserve of maybe 3ha (and thus about three times as big as the Zao Kitsune Mura; see Book II ~ Chapter 5 ~ A Trip Together [LINK=http://kiraresari.blogspot.com/2018/06/book-ii-chapter-5-trip-together.html]) at the shore of lake Paardevlei.
Apart from cheetahs, there's also a bunch of other critters living in this place, such as Lazarus the serval…
… who is being kept in a roofed enclosure, because these small cats can jump over 3m into the air from a stand!
Servals used to be endemic in the lowlands of South Africa and the area around Cape Town back in the day, but have since become locally extinct there due to the cultural degradation of their natural habits. However, even though they have been forced out of their ancestral home here, Servals can still be found aplenty all throughout Africa.
Then, there's a mated pair of black-backed jackals by the names of Ntombi and Moya, the female of whom (Ntombi) has only three legs. These animals are among the most basal of wolf-like canids, which might explain their somewhat fox-like appearance.
Speaking of foxes, much to my delight there's also a number of bat-eared foxes to be found around here. I can just make out the trio with the names of Janet, Diggory and Firefox in the corner of their enclosure, taking shelter from the heat. Since they are currently raising a litter of young, they are unfortunately not available for cuddles.
The two meerkats Sebastian and Minki are equally lazy today…
…as is the Anatolian sheepdog Jeanne.
Which brings us to one of the primary functions of the Cheetah Outreach programme: Preserving the ecological balance by promoting Anatolian sheepdogs as guard animals for farms. Right now, farmers are going pretty ballistic about protecting their livestock, using traps and firearms to keep predators such as cheetahs away, and as a result also killing quite a bunch of smaller animals as collateral damage, even though they never posed a threat to the livestock. To remedy this, the Cheetah Outreach promotes the use of Anatolian sheepdogs, remarkable animals of ancient breed that form a social bond with their herd and will do their utmost to protect it from danger. Considering how cheetahs are very timid predators, the presence of a single Anatolian sheepdog is already enough to keep an entire herd safe, since the felid will run off at a single bark. Maybe the most amazing part is that due to their coloration, the Anatolian sheepdogs can mix in almost perfectly with sheep and goats and thus be accepted by the herd.
But that's enough beating around the bush now. The main reason why I'm here are naturally the big meows.
Coming all the way from my early childhood, my love of cheetahs is second only to foxes, and I know pretty much all there is to know about these fastest of all terrestrial animals, down to their spots, which are the easiest way to tell them apart from, say, jaguars or leopards, because a cheetah's spots are simple black dots, without any rings or the like.
Another distinctive characteristic are the "running tears" fur patterns beneath their eyes. An ancient African legend has it that the mother of all cheetahs lost her firstborn in an accident, and cried for day any night until the tears had formed this permanent black line in her facial fur, and when she had a second child, she passed on this mark to it and all her descendants, so that they might forever remember the pain of her losing her first child.
Interestingly, there might be more to this legend than was intended, because all living cheetahs today share a very, very narrow gene pool caused by a massive population bottleneck during the last ice age that almost killed off the entire species. In fact, the amount of genetic diversity in all living cheetahs is about as small as in lab mice that have been deliberately inbred, and some people hypothise that all cheetahs living today are the distant relatives of one single breeding female progenitor from some 12,000 years ago. In the millennia after that, their population gradually recovered, only to now face another threat with the spread of humanity across the planet. As of now, there are only about 7,000 cheetahs remaining in the wild, and the numbers are gradually dropping. I sincerely hope that humanity doesn't finish what the ice age once started.
But back to Amazing Cheetah Physiology 101. As the fastest terrestrial animals, cheetahs have a number of special physiological adaptions, such as semi-retractable claws that act as spikes, a highly flexible spine that can add as much as 76cm to a stride (which averages 6.7m), and a highly effective respiratory system that allows cheetahs to breath at rates of 150 breaths per minute without puncturing a lung. Once claimed historically recorded top speeds of up to 120km/h are now being debated, however, since more accurate measurements made with modern technology have not yet recorded speeds in excess of 98km/h, which is still enough to catch their intended prey animals the springbok and the pronghorn running at top speeds of around 88km/h each. The strongest suit of the cheetahs, however, is their ability to accelerate from a stand to 75km/h in just two seconds, and further increase their speed by 10km/h with each stride, giving them the crucial element of surprise when ambushing prey.
In order for them to be able to be able to practice their running skills, the cheetahs have a roughly 0.6ha big running area here all to themselves, which is bigger than most of the Cheetah Outreach's other enclosures combined. Here, the cheetahs are regularly taken on exercise runs, chasing after artificial prey on ropes that challenges them to their limits. 0.6ha might seem small for such a fast animal, however, considering that in the wild, chases typically last for only a few seconds and cover less than 200m on average, even this relatively small area is still adequate to provide exercise to the cheetahs. Regrettably, those chases are only made early in the morning when it's still cool, and since it's already 10:30 by the time I arrive there, those are already over for the day.
Anyway, the main event of my trip to the Cheetah Outreach is clearly the cheetah encounter, which is when I'm actually going in there.
There, the handlers are currently preparing a female cheetah by the name of Kiara for petting, which involves lovingly caressing her until she is in a blissful daze where she doesn't even care anymore if strangers come up to her. It's a pleasurable experience for the cheetahs as well, and the handlers only do this with cheetahs that come to them willingly and allow themselves to be petted into a blissful trance.
And then it's time for me to get up and close and personal with the big spotty, and I reach down and pet the big small feline's short soft fur carefully at first, and then slowly and gently more firmly, starting with only my fingers, and using a little bit more of my hand with each and every stroke. One of the handlers takes the pictures with my camera in the meantime while I enjoy this once-in-a-lifetime moment, taking it in the best that I can, knowing that just like the Fox Hug Experience back in Zao Kitsune Mura, this is one event that I will never, ever forget.
Much too soon, my time with Kiara is up, and it is time to depart from the Cheetah Outreach, but before I go I still buy a few souvenirs from the shop: A cheetah keychain for myself, as well as a Table Mountain cheetah cork for my father, since the area around Cape Town is also famous wine country.
However, that is not yet the end of my activities here in Somerset West. Having seen that there's a nice Geocaching trail running around lake Paardevlei, I quickly ask Scott if it would be okay if I go for a little walk while I'm here, even introducing him to the wonderful world of Geocaching with a cache that is just lying on the far side of the parking lot.
Scott has no objections, and says he'll wait at the Cheetah Outreach while I complete my circuit, which I estimate should take me about an hour or so. Interestingly, I should find more Geocaches out here than in all of Cape Town combined.
Paardevlei used to be a seasonal lake that was eventually turned into a reservoir for a nearby factory. After that factory closed, it was eventually repurposed into an ecological refuge of the nowadays critically endangered Vlei habitat type (a seasonal, shallow lake), which once was much more common on the Cape Peninsula.
The first part of the Paardevlei trail takes me to what I can only describe as typical African savannah, in the likes of which you'd expect cheetahs, hyenas and lions to come stalk on you. Fortunately, I am in the middle of civilization here, and my closest approach to cheetahs today is already in the past.
It's only about halfway around the trail that I actually reach the lake, which is currently probably only holding about half its maximum capacity. I guess I'm lucky to encounter it at all, since Scott told me that during the drought of the previous years, the lake has mostly been dry whenever he brought people here on a tour.
The ecological importance of this Vlei also becomes blatantly obvious here since hundreds of waterfowl are crowding the surface of the lake, and the shores, and the shallows. I can only imagine that in the before-time, they were distributed over a much wider area, but today, this is all they've got left.
Apart from the Vlei, I also get a nice panorama of the surrounding area from here, with the Hottentots-Holland Mountains reflecting in the lake's shallow waters, Helderberg Dome prominently being visible in the foreground.
Moving on, I proceed without rushing or dawdling, finding all but a single one Geocache along the way, and after pretty much exactly an hour I make it back to the back door of the Paardevlei Lifestyle Estate gated community that the Cheetah Outreach is located in.
From there, Scott offers to take me to one of the famous wine farms in the area, but since I don't drink alcohol, we instead default to a typical South African burger place by the name of Steers…
…which may is the South African fast food restaurant, serving flame-grilled burgers and hand-made chips that are among the best I have ever eaten. Once again I am grateful to Scott for teaching me about this place, because without him this would have been a piece of South African contemporary culture that I would have remained completely oblivious about.
On our way back, Scott points out the Townships near the highway which are, in effect, another painful relic from the era of racial segregation and Apartheid. Back in the beginning of the 20th century, the majority of urban native African population was living in hostels or accommodation built by their employers. However, as this population grew, the employers and government failed to keep up with the demand for housing space, causing the natives Africans to take matters into their own hands and build the first Townships in front of the cities – effectively ramshackle slums that were only tolerated by the authorities and never had any formal access to infrastructure. The problem got only worse under Apartheid when native Africans were forced out of living areas designated only for Caucasians, and that's why today there are sprawling Townships all over the place that have negligible sanitary and infrastructural commodities, and are about as safe as a 15-storey pyramid built of Meissner porcelain vases on the 16th national dynamite convention (fire hazards, electric hazards, health issues, children running across the motorway, violence, crimes, gangs... you name it, the Townships have it). Scott tells me that the government is taking measures to provide adequate housing, and I can actually see where they are clearing out the Townships and building fancy homes instead, yet somehow I feel that doubt about whether the people from the Townships will be able to afford such highbrow homes right off the bat.
And about half an hour later, I'm back in Cape Town again, where Scott once more drops me off right in front of my doorstep. I thank him for the wonderful tour and all the interesting things he told me about South Africa and Cape Town, and then he's off, leaving me alone with all the amazing memories I've made on this day. This should be all for this day. However, it should not be the end of…
Starting at home right at my first day, I have once again fun with electric plugs. I may have bought adapters for South Africa, however, I know find out that while they have the right general shape, they are about 20% too small for the weird tri-plug outlets used here. However, for some strange reasons, there are adapters for German plugs around here, and in fact some of the electronic infrastructure in the apartment is plugged into them, leaving exactly one plug free. I then make use of that one free plug to install the rest of this plug circus, that is to use my Germany-to-Japan adapter to plug in my Japanese power bar, and then use my Japan-to-Germany adapters to plug in my various devices to that one. And yet that bogus construct is still professional when compared to the electrical conditions abounding in the Townships.
I already mentioned that Bo Kaap is a predominately Muslim community, which is something that becomes apparent five times a day when the Adhan – the Islamic call to prayer – resounds from the nearby mosques. The first of those, at sunrise, quickly becomes my wakeup call, and the second some time after noon usually happens some time after my lunch break. The third at around 16:30 is my sign on workdays that I should stop working, and the fourth occurs around dinner. The last one then wraps up the day as it resounds around 21:30, which is approximately the time I start going to bed around here. I know that there's supposed to be two more during the night, but either they are skipped or muted in order to respect nocturnal rights, or I simply sleep through them all the times. Either way, I personally enjoy them since they give this place an exotic flair that is distinctively different from the regular ringing of the church bells back home.
Speaking of getting up, one day I should get up rather early and climb the side of Signal Hill at the crack of dawn in order to take a picture of the sunrise above Cape Town.
With success! For I should just manage to see the first rays of the morning sun bathing the skyline of downtown Cape Town in their golden light.
Much more majestic, however, is the orbital photon blaster's effect on Table Mountain, for the play of light and shadows not only completely changes the colour of the massive rock, but also is one of aforementioned light conditions during which you can actually see Platteklipp Gorge. I wonder if it was a morning like this on which Antonio de Saldanha – a Portuguese and the first European to climb Table Mountain back in 1503 – first espied the gorge and figured it might be a feasible way of ascending the mountain. By the way, if you look closely, you can actually see the summit station of the cableway like a prong at the very right corner of Table Mountain.
And sharing this amazing sunrise with me are screeching gulls, as well as a congregation of Helmeted Guineafowl, who are just browsing on the curb of a road just like that. I tell you, weird as it sounds to say it, these birds are pretty much unflappable.
Moving from there to the supermarket, here's the one thing they probably used to genocide the ants in my house, and while I'm not a big fan of real-world overkill, I will have to admit that the branding has style.
Moving through the city, I come across the statue of a Mythological Landscape, celebrating diversity…
…and some time later run into an add that must be the most desperate scam-attempt I've seen in ages. They might as well add "free brains", because everyone who calls there is clearly in need of one.
A little bit trickier is this nonsensical instruction which strikes me as odd when I first read it, but takes me a few moment to properly process just what is wrong with it.
And by the way, that's not a pair of glasses…
…that's a pair of glasses.
So far, so good. Per se, I have already done all I came here to do. And yet, despite everything, I still manage to make time for one last short stray…
Day Trip 3 ~ To The Two Points26-Mar-2019
I had not planned to go out on another excursion, but two days prior to my ultimate departure, I should – unbelievably – have an opening in my busy schedule, and so I decide to walk up to the Lion Battery once more, hoping to find it open today. And you don't have to know me very well to know that there's no way in Dragon that this would just remain a simple stray up there and back again.
Sooo, I climb up Signal Hill again, using a route that involves just a little bit of backtracking…
…and after an approach that was admittedly a little roundabout, I arrive at the Lion Battery once again.
This time around I am in luck, and doubly so, because not only is the gate open, but there aren't any tourists around just yet either, so apart from the S.A. Navy officers on duty and a pair of watch dogs, I've got the place all to myself.
The Lion Battery actually consists of two guns, one of which is fired every day at noon… give or take. During my time here in Cape Town, I have experienced delays of up to 7 minutes, especially on Sundays and holidays. The cannons themselves have actually been in Cape Town since 1795, but it was only since 1806 that they started being used as time signals. Originally positioned at Imoff Battery in the middle of the city, the two Noon Guns were moved up here to the Lion Battery in 1902 in response to complaints from residents.
A sentiment that I can completely understand. Even down where I live in Bo Kaap, which is about half a kilometre away, the daily blast from the Noon Guns is loud enough that any attempts of me to record it completely overwhelm my camera's mic (meaning that the deafening boom registers only as an anticlimactic click, followed by silence until the camera's mic recovers).
It goes without saying that I would not stick around to hear them fire today. Instead, I proceed out the back door and along the side of Signal Hill, planning to take the next opportunity to descend back to the city again.
Easier said than done, as I should find out, for that particular path winds around the side of the hill for over a kilometre before I get a chance to descend. It is a nice walk through a typical African landscape, though, and the view on Three Anchor Bay and Sea Point below is nice as well.
Eventually, however, I manage to find a safe-ish path that takes me down all the way to the roads of Sea Point…
…and from there it's a pleasant walk to the one place that I have not yet been to in… well, come to think of it… actually, the entirety of my journeys, isn't that right? Welcome, then, to the one and only, the once and future Atlantic Ocean!
The people of Cape Town have obviously learned the lesson that it's a notably bad idea to build directly next to 6,000km of open waters, and thus there's a roughly 50m wide promenade with a walkway and a strip of… well, not exactly green… more like lime-ish peridot colour, but you get the picture.
Here, I walk south for a little bit further until I reach a place where I can actually go down to the water. This place ends up being a little area of tidal pools that goes by the name of Graaff's Pool, where no dogs are allowed for some reason.
Fortunately, they didn't say anything about foxes, and so I touch down to the Atlantic Ocean there at Graaff's Pool, and stay for a little bit, watching the relatively gentle rolling of the waves against the shore.
After that, I head back north along the promenade again, and here's where I have a question for you. Namely: What the heck is that?!?!?
If you guessed "art", then you are probably as correct as you are going to get without seeing it from the right angle, that being through a hunter's visor. This installation depicts a so-called "Rhinoceros", an armoured ungulate that was native to Africa and parts of Asia, and went extinct some time in the middle the 21st century due to excessive poaching. As a result of governments turning a blind eye to the problem, poaching numbers increased by several orders of magnitude during the first decades of the 21st century and peaked sometime around 2030 when… oh, sorry, that was the script from 2101. Now, when are we…? Aah, yes, 2019. Poaching numbers continue to be on the rise, and these great yet peaceful animals are almost certainly facing extinction unless something is done about the poaching, and fast!
Moving further north, I walk across the Rocklands beach, where it's illegal to bring not only dogs, but also horses, tents, cars, radio alarm clocks, fire, firearms, arms (just kidding, you can keep your arms on), broken glass, whole glass, and ships. Crud, and here I was hoping I finally had found a good place to extinguish the fire on my armed menagerie camping car-ferry and its only partly intact cargo of radio alarm clocks and very fragile wine glasses. Oh well, but judging from the people at the beach, those rules are more like loose guidelines anyway.
More art awaits at Three Anchor Bay in the form of 5 White Horses further up the promenade. These equine monuments serve as a memorial of the shipwrecking of the S.A. Seafarer near midnight of 1-Jul-1966 just north of Green Point. Fortunately, thanks to the heroic efforts of the South African Airforce who brought in Helicopters, all the people aboard the ship could be safely brought to the shore. However, aboard the vessel, which rapidly disintegrated afterwards, were also several thousand bottles of White Horse whiskey, each of which bore a miniature white horse around the neck of the bottle. Over the following months, these little white horses could often be found stuck in the sand at various angles, which is what inspired the artist Aldermann Jean-Pierre Smith to create these sculptures and place them at these exact skewed angles. My question, however, is: Where is the fifth horse?
Also… there's this… children's game I guess that was probably added later, and which is very… let's just call it "interesting", shall we? Basically, one person has to talk into one horse's mouth, and the others have to figure out which horse is talking out of its ass.
After that, my next destination is Green Point Park, which is, put plainly, the greenest thing I've seen on this entire continent.
There, I take a much-needed infusion of nostalgic greenery as I walk the Biodiversity Trail…
…which is another of these places that is off-limit to dogs…
…but obviously not snakes and foxes.
By contrast, the Golf Course Lake on the fat side of Green Point Park is reserved for seagull use only.
And then, I leave the Green Point again through an interesting roundabout construct that also contains the almost futuristic-looking entrance to the Cape Town Stadium bus station.
From there, it's only a short way back along a reverse-thoroughfare; that is: a pedestrian's walkway flanked on both sides by roads instead of the other way around.
With that, my final trip through Cape Town is coming to an end, and once again, it's time for…
Despite my difficulties in coming here, I had a great time in Cape Town, and wish I could have stayed longer. There's still so much more to see, and I would have liked to climb Lion's Head, Devils Peak, and go for a more complete tour of Table Mountain, maybe taking a bus to Camp's Bay, going up through Wood Ravine, and then later descending through Skeleton Gorge, but oh well. It can't be helped. I enjoyed the time I had here, and now it is time to return home.
However, the home I have here is one of these really great places that makes me sad to leave it behind. I had a complete private apartment that not only had a great flair to it, but also a comfortable bed, a washing machine, and a WiFi that worked nine days out of ten. Momeena was also a really amazing host, and I won't forget the occasional amazing meal she prepared for me (although most of the days food was not included in the deal). The apartment in Bo Kaap was also located in a really great spot, even though public transport and shopping options were a little bit far away. However, I don't think anything can top this place with a view over an amazingly colourful neighbourhood as well as Table Mountain, and at such a cheap price too! Paying the equivalent of not even 20€ per night, this place has one of the best price-value ratios I've ever seen, and is also the best paid accommodation I've had on all of my travels around the world. Thank you so very much, Momeena and Shameel! I'll never forget my stay at your place and the kindness you've shown me!
Naturally, I also take the time to ready my mobile drawing set…
…and put together a piece of gift artwork for the two of them…
…which I present them with on that one opportunity when I meet both of them. Momeena's favourite animal is a fox, and Shameel, not having a favourite animal, ended up getting depicted as a Lightning-elemental Flirial.
Beautiful as my time here was, now it is coming to a close, and all that's left is to look forward to…
The Road Ahead
One last time, I leave a place behind as I have found it: Empty, clean, and very orange.
Well, actually, it's not all that empty now. There's still a few things that I could not quite finish during my short stay here, and am hence passing down to Momeena and Shameel.
One final long journey awaits me, and this one should take me all the way back home, to where my friends and family live. That, however, is a tale for another time, and shall be told in the next chapter of the Travelling Fox Blog.