Archive for October 2005

More Cape Town

After many lazy and relaxing days at the sea-side condo I had rented, doing nothing much except going to the beach, Matt and Adam came to Cape Town from DC. We moved downtown to the Park Inn on Greenmarket Square, which turned out to be within a few blocks of some of the best restaurants in Cape Town. Not coincidentally, we were also located 5 blocks from the Long Street bar district. And although that made for some late nights, we still did a tremendous amount of sightseeing.

The top day for ground covered had to be the day we rented a Toyota Tazz and drove south to Cape Point and the Cape of Good Hope. Despite the fact that you drive on the left side of the road in South Africa, with the steering wheel on the right side of the car, I felt reasonably confident having done it a few times before in England. The manual transmission with gear shift to my left was a new twist, fortunately the clutch, brake and accelerator are still from left to right. After picking Matt and Adam up at the hotel, my first turn was almost head on into traffic in the wrong direction, but after that things seemed to work out okay. We stopped for a few photos while heading south as we passed through Hout Bay


Further south passing Noordhoek Beach, the biggest beach I think I have ever seen. Can you see the group of three people and the one solo person walking the beach?


And the Cape Point itself, which was cool, but nowhere near as cool as the warning sign posted about getting too close to the edge



From their we headed north up the west coast of the cape along False Bay, passing through Simon’s Town and Fish Hoek before stopping off at the Brass Bell in Kalk Bay for a well needed refreshment and bite to eat. On our way through the final stretch back to Cape Town, I almost took the turn off for a place called Mitchell’s Plain before Matt advised me that under no circumstances should we go in that direction without a guide. Apparently it is home to a massive shanty town. Safely home after about a 100 mile circuit through the Cape, we all collapsed from exhaustion for a few hours before heading out for the night.

A twenty minute ride from the Cape Town waterfront area on a high speed catamaran gets you to Robben Island, the prison turned historical sight where Nelson Mandela was once jailed as a political prisoner.


Our tour guide Benjamin gave us a pretty good walk through of the prison, including the actual cell where Mandela was held



A bucket, a cup and a bed mat. Nothing else. Apparently every morning the prisoners were required to take their buckets outside, rinse them out, and leave them in the sun to dry before retrieving them later in the day. Benjamin described the conditions there as horrible, and on our way out told us that he knew from personal experience. He had been a prisoner himself on Robben Island for eleven years.

There is a great aquarium in Cape Town, including a tank full of ragged tooth sharks that you can go diving with, as this brave man chose to do. Ahhh, yes, I’m sure that wooden stick will be very effective against five sharks attacking you in a frenzy. Is it me, or does he look afraid?


A trip up Table Mountain was obligatory, and I was happy to return there for the views from both the base station


and back on top. Something I did not see the first time I went up Table Mountain was wildlife. Among the creatures on Table Mountain is the dassie, which believe it or not is related to the elephant. Nice view for the dassie


Apparently the dassie survives by an ability to adapt to change that has allowed it to outlast the extinct cape lion, leopard and wild dog. Apparently that adaptation involves the ability to digest cigarette butts, as this dassie jumped over the fence and swallowed no less than three of them while we all looked on with horror (possibly also laughing hysterically)


I think without a doubt the most hilarious day was our tour of the wine lands. Ferdinand Tours came highly recommended, and when Ferdinand came to pick us up at 9 that morning, it was apparent that we had made a good choice. We were among the first onto the minibus that he was driving, along with three German girls. We went on to pick up a honeymooning couple from Johannesburg, four English guys on vacation, and a group of nine semester at sea students from the U.S. whose ship was in port in Cape Town. It wasn’t long before we realized that Ferdinand was one of the most outgoing and hilarious guys we had ever met. Turns out that he was the winner of the first ever Big Brother show in South Africa, and apparently is famous for taking a dump in the back yard of the house while on the show. Awesome. Here’s the mad man driving the bus on the way out to the wine lands with Adam navigating


By 11 a.m. we had stopped at the first vineyard in Durbanville and were sampling six different wines. From there we were off to the Van Rynn brandy distillery for a tour and samples of multiple brandies. The lax control of the sample bottles led to excessive sampling by certain tour members, which would have dire consequences later. It was not even noon yet and nobody had eaten. Fortunately our next stop was for lunch, with more wine of course. After lunch it was on through the town of Stellenbosch for a quick driving tour, before stopping at the Simonsig estate to sample their champagne and of course, their wine. After loading up with many bottles of wine for the return ride, we headed back towards Cape Town. The bus was in a great mood on the ride back


As were me and Adam riding shotgun


Once back in Cape Town, Ferdinand took us all to Café Caprice on Camps Bay beach for a sundown happy hour. Once we got to Caprice, Ferdinand called somebody else to drive the bus for the rides home, and jumped right in with a triple Vodka Red Bull before jumping into Adam’s lap


Before long however, Ferdidand was escorting one of the semester at sea students across the road, begging him to stop vomiting all over the bar room floor. Apparently Café Caprice is owned by a famous South African rugby player and he desperately wanted to kick us all out, but somehow Ferdinand managed to settle everything down, and the evening drew on to a hazy conclusion. Ferdinand’s wine tour had been described as a pub crawl with wine and vineyards instead of beers and pubs, and it had been true to form. What a great day.

After meeting the semester at sea girls, we soon discovered that there were 750 of them roving about Cape Town, and suddenly we could not go anywhere without running into them, which was fine with us. We kept wondering why we didn’t spend a semester of college on a cruise ship that went around the world. Did that exist back in the late 80s?

I think we all would agree that Jo’berg was the best bar on Long Street. We had drinks at Jo’berg with everybody under the sun it seemed like. Some dude named Will Young who apparently was the runner up in the last UK Idol show, the bellboy from our hotel, semester at sea girls, and guys who had just moved to Cape Town from places like the Congo. Apparently it is okay to smoke weed in bars in Cape Town, because someone in Jo’berg always was, and last call was usually about one or two hours after they announced last call. You just never knew who you would run into or what might happen at Jo’berg, which is probably why we kept going back.

Food-wise, Bhukara Indian Restaurant one block from our hotel was fantastic, and her brand new sister restaurant Haiku, was even better. Sashimi that flowed down your throat like butter, plus both places served up great bottles of Pinotage, a red wine native to South Africa. Awesome, friendly wait staff at both places.

We spent Matt and Adam’s last day down at Camps Bay, enjoying the view from Baraza


before moving on for sundowner drinks at La Med just up the way. Nice way to close it out, followed by an awesome dinner at Bhukara and a magnum of Kononkap Pinotage


A little bit of miscellany. In Cape Town, even when you pack 14 people into a pickup truck, they will still smile for a camera


DSTV is the satellite tv service in Cape Town that carries ESPN, which allowed me to watch the Redskins stun the Cowboys in the final few minutes as the sun was rising in Cape Town. Also of note on DSTV, Channel 111 is the Jack Daniels channel, I kid you not


I think I mentioned previously that the water is bitterly cold here. But nevertheless on a warm day at the Clifton beaches the week before last, I braved a brief swim in the ocean before rushing out in a shivering panic. Reading the headlines of the Cape Times this past Monday, I knew that would no longer be something I would enjoy


Apparently these two 13 foot Great Whites had migrated away from Seal Island, their winter time feeding grounds, moving closer to the shores where they would spend the remainder of the summer looking for food. Are you kidding me?

After almost a month in Cape Town, it was time to go. It is undoubtedly one of the most beautiful places I have ever visited, and the people are amazingly friendly. They will meet you one day and invite you into their world the next day. There is so much more to Africa that I had thought about doing, in particular a proper safari, and visiting places like Zanzibar, but that will have to wait for another day. I do know this, whenever that day comes, it will include another visit to Cape Town.