Monday, December 3, 2007

My Time in Cape Town

9/27/2007: It's a rainy Wednesday and a good day to walk to the V and A Waterfront, one of the famous landmarks in Cape Town. V and A is basically a big shopping center. Great if you live there, but not all that exciting. As I walk around the city, I am amazed at how much Cape Town reminds me of San Francisco. I can think of at least 8 uncanny similarities:

1) Wine Country about an hour away
2) The weather
3) The rocky, cliff-lined coast
4) The sharks
5) The geography - lots of hills within the city, right on the water
6) The prison islands - Cape Town has Robben Island, Alcatraz in SF
7) The cold ocean water with kelp forests and crazy currents and insane surfers risking life and limb
8) The marine layer - yes, cape town gets a fog layer that rolls in, south of the city

That night some new people showed up, including an interesting group of girls studying abroad in Botswana and taking a break in Cape Town. It was fascinating to hear about the struggles of being a white foreigner there. Between the fact the treatment of women is not good, and the attitude of the students it's different from anything I had learned about. Botswana was a very poor country until they discovered rich mineral wealth there. After that, because it's sparsely populated, students get paid to go to university. Paid to go to college! And they just don't care that much about the opportunity they have.

9/28/2007: Table Mountain. The weather finally gave me a break enough to attempt the mountain. It had been overcast after my first day. I'm filled with bad ideas so far. Arriving at the base of the mountain, I decide not to go to the information center, but to get on the trail. Alone, no map, on the wrong path. The India Vesper trail I was on requires climing on an exposed face. I was almost to the top when I realized I could go no further if I want to live. Without a map I couldn't be sure the route was wrong but I couldn't imagine the obese tourists attempting to go this way so I made my way about 2/3rds of the way back and met up with some girls from Holland. We hiked together the rest of the way and the last 500 meters were hell. I was already beat from climbing up once. The second time was much harder. All of us were really struggling when other climbers on the way down said the cable car was closing due to wind and that we needed to get there in 10 minutes. It was almost 4pm already, and the thought of climbing down again killed me. We starting really pushing up the mountain - I almost puked. In the end there were about 8 climbers on top so they sent another car for us, thank Evolution!

9/29/07: Cape Point. The "south western most point in the world." It was really something. It reminded me very much of Highway 1 in California. Rugged coast, we stopped to see penguins, and then drove down to the national park the encompasses most of the Cape. It was a guided trip and on the way out of the park they let us use mountain bikes if we chose for the ride out of the park. What a ride! I think the photos do the best in describing this place.

9/30/07: Wine Tasting: Pinotage ( is South Africa's signature grape. On this day we visited 5 wineries and they were every bit as impressive as Napa and Sonoma valleys. They also had Brandy, Port and cheese tastings that were outstanding. By the end of the day I had tasted 26 wines and my buds were broken. At the last stop I tasted the port 3 times in a row, at that point my palate could only handle the sweet stuff.

That night a friend of friend, Maria, agreed to have me by for dinner with her Mom and a good friend of hers. They were good people. Maria is a marine biologist and is doing conservation work with the fishing industry. Her friend Dylan was/is working on a study for the UN on how the indigenous, HIV infected people use the environment to supplement their diets and what the impact might be if they were deprived of that resource. Am I fighting above my weight class here? I don't know. After dinner we went to Observatory for live music. It was an interesting scene. Good people, melancholy music.

10/1/07: A day or relaxing and doing errands. Malaria meds, toiletries, odds and ends. That night was dinner again with Maria and Dylan. After dinner I went again with some people from the hostel. At about 1 I needed to go pass out. After haggling with the cab drivers on the 4 block cab fare (they triple the rates at night, knowing that most people won't walk home that late because of the danger), I told them to $cr&w and ran the gauntlet. Probably not the best idea but I set the speed walking world record and didn't get robbed.

10/2/07: A night out in Cape Town. I was lucky enough to meet some local people and have a good amount of time. I really got a sense of what it would be like to live in the city. I've captioned the slideshow here, click for more.

10/3/07: Today I finished booking my travel plans and packed.

10/4/07: Leaving Cape Town. I boarded a 2 hour flight for Port Elizebeth.

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