November 16 – 18
I’m now in Cape Town, South Africa! After being jazzed with such a fantastic film experience and meeting new friends, I knew I could not let it stop when we wrapped (see Kaiser Clark’s previous article on his own Blog). So the first thing that came to mind was seeing a great white shark. The second thing was rugby. Cape Town does both so voala!
I booked passage on Virgin Atlantic (a fantastic airline) and arrived with three friends I met on the plane. On the plane I tried to think what I would like to do if I had a terminal illness. I’ve made my list and am busy crossing things off.
So far I have made my first mountain climb guided by a trustworthy and instructive guide named David Vallet. He was still friendly after waiting an hour for me to show… time change problems on my part.
In any event, it was too windy to take the tram to the top of Table Mountain (it was closed by the forceful south-easterlies) so we walked, climbed, abseiled and did it all over again. Apparently he took us up a us grade 5.5 and 5.8 rockface. Thank you RAVNA for all the tips and encouragement on the rock wall in Norway, it came in handy. I’m hooked!
Next came the sharks. I got up a five in the morning, drove until our bus broke down, finished our journey via another bus, boarded our vessel and skipped off three meter swells where we started chumming the water (chumming is what is done to scent the water with blood and attract out man-eaters). The visibility was poor in the water but we saw five different great white sharks. Yes, I stayed in the cage the entire time when it was my turn, and no I did not poke one in the DOLL’S EYE.
Next on the list is mountain biking, the worlds tallest bungee jump (216 MEETERS!), getting my SCUBA cert. and generating more lists! Much more to come so check frequently.
November 19 – 21
What is it with Sundays? I awoke without plans and nothing was open, so I had to invent some trouble for myself. I teamed up with another American Headley (from NYC) in search of mountain bikes. Though the beautiful Fatima tried all of her tourism spells to satisfy my adrenaline jones, no biking, bungee nor safari. She did steer me to some fantastic beaches (VERY COLD WATERS) and a public pool equipped with springboards and a 5 meter platform.
I was a hit at the public pool and even managed to land a backward 1 ½ summersault with 1 ½ twists! But since I haven’t dove in years I managed the real crowd favorites, the sharp snapping sound of fish-belly white skin slapping on water. In the belly and back flop division, the crowd awarded me all tens!
Sunday night united new friends for a braai (South African BBQ). The late evening was reserved for rugby match after rugby match. God, what a country, what a sport!
I was due to start SCUBA school on Monday morning but a cute new friend Tanya (a world champion pole climber and all around Aussie adventurer) had other plans for me. Monday Tanya, the best Mountain Guide in South Africa David Vallet (tel. 082.783.9453) and myself tackled table mountain again, except in a much bolder fashion. I climbed rockface I never seriously considered feasible (grade 17 ascensions!).
This guy David pushed me perfectly to the very edge of my comfort level but never beyond it. Strange as it seems, I always felt safe. At one point I found myself on this ledge (where the gods gather to plot foul weather for below) and all I could do was giggle. I knew I had no business being up there and was really pissing off those who cared for my safety, but it was so hysterical! I felt like I just snuck into the principals office and got into his candy drawer. I’ll never look onto mountains the same way again, all I see now are hand-holds masked as rock.
Tuesday was absolutely reserved for SCUBA school since the school postponed class for my Monday climb. But yet again the subversive hand of woman with her enticing ways of influencing the simple male mind changed all plans of schooling. While waiting to be picked up for SCUBA school, Fatima introduced me to my soon-to-be private tour guide Colleen. Lord, please make me stronger next time.
Before I had anything to say about it, I was in Colleens car with the alto-sax playing brit Alfie, eating meat pies, drinking milk, jamming to Cool and the Gang, driving towards the Indian Ocean and scheming mis-adventures involving motorcycles, bungee and SCUBA. Colleen educated me about all the recent history of the healing South Africa from a local’s perspective and fed my open mind full of hope for our troubled world.
The smiling ivory teeth flashing from deep black faces whisper prayers of hope. It was just the other day when these black and coloured Africans were disappearing if they disobeyed the white masters of apartheid. Though not the safest country to travel in by any stretch of the imagination, South Africa places her energy on healing and reconciliation. With 40% of the population unable to generate income, AIDS and illiteracy running rampant, somehow the energy to cultivate a peaceful society is generated and cultivated. I know too little and my power of vocabulary is too insufficient to express what I see and feel here. But I do believe in the triumph of the human spirit. It smiles at me daily in my South Africa, and it welcomes me to play like the child you all know I am. This time I’ll have the photo’s to prove it!
November 22 – 24
I can’t remember when I did more activities that those on the 22nd November. I awoke early and wondered around Plettenberg Bay greeting sand and smiling black faces with my camera.
The wonderful private tour guide Colleen then shipped me off to Bloukrans Bridge, the largest single span bridge in the world. This is the perfect place to practice idiot tourism! So I made arrangements to bungee jump off it. 216 meters makes the drop the tallest commercially run bungee jump operation. 200 plus meters deserves at least two jumps… one forward and one “reverse elevator” style (jumping backwards with attachments on the waist). Was I scared? Well it did make me giggle.
Next I was rushed to play in the dirt with quad bikes in Knysna. We were only supposed to do the mountain course twice. But since we were going so fast and finished early, Gevin (my guide) suggested we risk a third tour as a sort of time trial. We passed our time trial.
Driving back to town Gevin and the other driver offered to stop anywhere along the way so my lens could record the magnificent scenery. There was no need I explained. I’d been hanging out the back of our truck running my own photo shoot… more smiling black faces!
Next I registered for my SCUBA class in Knysna and collapsed on the ride home. Colleen did a magnificent job… I was finally worn out.
Colleen (a fantastic tour guide and has rooms to let in Plettenberg Bay) +27 721 93635
The 23rd November began with breakfast with Jo and Colleen where I learned all about growing up black in South Central South Africa. He invited me to explore the village community he lived in three years ago where I was given only a taste of how those without structure and live out their lives.
Full story and loads of photos Cape Town; Knysna
Table Mountain National Park
In the afternoon I studied SCUBA, but to my dismay, the high tides arrive after 6pm, making my SCUBA classes impractical during my short stay. Not all is lost as I can finish my lessons either in Cape Town (Nah) or back in the States.
On the 24th November I headed back to Cape Town, arriving with some friends I picked up along the way on the City to City bus. South Africa is a big country. Anyhow, it’s fantastic energy, quite the contrast to the southern bays. Cape Town is now exploding as matriculation just hit and the streets are packed with students looking for a night on the piss. It was surprising returning to the Carnival Court backpackers and missing the friends I’d left behind. But it feels like home in a bizarre way as once again I find myself with familiar faces of the staff here and am all but enmeshed with a new pack of wolves. Home is where ever my boots land. Happy Thanksgiving!
November 25 – 27
Saturday 25th November greeted me without plans. Scared as I was from the last unplanned day (not interested in another bellyflop contest) everything tuned out. I hired a 200 cc motorcycle from Luv Biking (Peter +27 (0) 83 528 0897) and took a self guided tour of Cape of Good Hope. I took a break along the way for photos and the Cape winds blew over my bike on the kick-stand side! Those strong winds claimed my clutch grip and I got excellent road side service. Apparently Luv Biking is well versed in handling tourist ingenuity and mishaps.
The baboons at Cape Point are rumored to be very aggressive but my bafooning must have disguised me as a regular baboon. I could have used a simian grooming! From there I headed back to Cape Town and indulged in motorcycle photography. Upon arrival I was numb from the massage a 200 cc cycle delivers to its rider when driving 120 km/hr.
I met some friends of Bill W then returned for a feast of Warthog ribs, yet another party with my new friends at Carnival Court Backpackers and tips for filling my next day with activity.
Sunday 26th November broke bright and early. I paid my morning visit to my friends Bradley and Fassi at the Seattle Coffee Co. November in Cape Town feels like June does in the northern hemisphere, making surfing the best option for filling a vacant Sunday. Sheldon (+27 (0) 82 733 23317) picked me up along with two traveling damsels and delivered us to Muizenberg Bay. I drank heaps of salt water, warmed my wet suit from the inside… he he, and discovered I was a natural on the surf board (thanks to Sheldon’s assistance). I am proud to say I caught five full rides on the Indian Ocean’s best waves but was happily exhausted fighting the surf between attempts.
My 200 cc cycle was a perfect companion to the V&A waterfront, ate lunch and did a little shopping. After returning my cycle and taking a nap, I met more friends of Bill W and returned for another Braai. My Malay angel Fatima fired up her hooka with flavored tobacco, showed me alternate ways to play fooze-ball, beat my ass at pool (thank you mam, may I have another), and showed me how Cape Town lights Table Mountain for Christmas (and Ramadan?) from the great heights of the splendidly quaint Malay Quarters. I am currently plotting ways to sneak Fatima into my luggage when I return to the UK on the 28th.
November 27th began with a little I Spy drama. Ross (part of the US blotto clan we assembled here at the backpackers) woke me up to tell me Rob Webster never came home last night after he was mugged of his wallet and passport. I have my fingers crossed hoping he’ll return soon with a tale of coyote-ugly or something as embarrassing. Drunken disappearances are well practiced arts in the world of backpackers and are almost always the result of beer-goggle blessings. But with the loss of our friend Uriel, I no longer enjoy the delusion of a safe and peaceful world.
Rob waltzed into Carnival Court just before noon with that look on his face. As I called it, another coyote ugly tale. Everyone’s fine if not a little embarrassed. Welcome back Rob, nice expression, ARRR – OOOH!
The Blatto Clan was united again so we braved the “Scary” streets of Cape Town and hired a car. Right hand driving was a blast, it felt like the world was turned inside out. I drove the debaucherous posse 15 miles outside of Cape Town to the Tukai National Forest for my next adventure. There was only one mountain bike for rent but there was only one me, so no trouble there. The remaining three musketeers aired out their hangovers at Cape Point while I tackled some technical mountain biking trails. I’m not sure what my bicycle helmet was protecting but it came in handy more than once.
November 28 – 29
28th November arrived faster than I ever hoped it would. My last day in South Africa begged for a safari of sorts. The clan sprung up from the dead at 5am and was greeted by the wonderfully cheerful homeless child affectionately referred to as street rat. He was the one who tried to snatch Rob’s wallet two nights prior and punched a girl in the face when she tried to assist Rob. He brazenly confronted us but somehow escorted us unmolested.
We journeyed two and a half hours to Aquila Private Reserve which promised us a Big Five Safari. The currency in South Africa is called the Rand and comes in denominations of 10, 20, 50 and 100 and 200 Rand notes, each with a different picture of big game. The “Big Five” are game that were hunted in Africa and caused the most hunter deaths as they were pursued. They consist of the lion, elephant, buffalo, leopard and black rhinoceros. The big five are among the most dangerous mammals.
Our Big Five were very polite and hospitable as the safari was more a petting zoo than an adventure. That being said, the food was delicious, the journey flavored with local color and the company was spot on, so it was an acceptable afternoon. I would highly recommend other travelers to make the trip to Kruger reserve if they have the time.
Now it was time to make the journey home. I was not expecting the feeling of LEAVING home on the day I was to return there. My friends at Carnival Court had secretly adopted me and gave me an informal going away gathering. When I arrived in Cape Town all I knew was that I was hungry and tired.
My friends Sunelle, Charel, Jacob, Sheldon, Fatima, Colleen, David and the other names destined to be misspelled made sure I enjoyed one of the best adventures of my life. In all my travels I have not met a concierge service nor travel agency that compared to the service and charm of these Court Carnies. ( email@example.com var userTo = ‘info’;
I was safely delivered to the Airport by Fatima, Rob and Ross, where I discovered the adventure was not quite over…
I still had to collect a “Vast” bag stowed with a friend in London, it’s contents required for the bone chilling -11c waiting for me upon my arrival. Master James was on point and willing to assist me in any way he could. Bravo! Hommie needed the help. I was due to arrive at Heathrow at 9am and fly State-side at noon. No big deal until James pointed out I was leaving form Gatwick. JOY!
Long story short, after getting some local backup should I become stranded in London (thank you Collin and your fantastic companion who’s name escapes me… please leave comment so I can correct her name please), I was met by Ambassador James, vast bag in hand. And was delivered to Gatwick via bus with enough time to eat one last meat pie!
November 16 – 18