Posted by: glenswatman | April 11, 2007

20612 2 South Africa

WEDNESDAY 20 DECEMBER- Pack up and leave Johns to move over to Sheila’s at Glencairn.   Arrive early and move a few things into the 1-bedroom flat.  We are borrowing her car to go into Cape Town and feel like locals as we know the journey well.  Even so the view as we drive over the tops never fails to impress and even the motorway to the city runs behind Table Mountain with scenery the whole way.  Can understand why Cape Town area is so highly rated, you seem to have a bit of everything with numerous beaches of different types facing all directions, hills and mountains with lots of walking tracks, the main city with all it has to offer, nearby wine regions and numerous other small towns and villages.  Pretty near perfect but for us the weather in the winter is too cold and the crime is too much of a problem. There are no traffic hold ups and we park easily on The Strand beside the 17thc “Castle of Good Hope”.  Walk around a section of the 5 pointed walls to cross the moat and enter the castle, R20 (£1.60).  There are guided tours on the hour but we are happy to amble round at my own pace, and read the plaques but realise this may have been a mistake as many of the rooms are closed and may only be open to tours.  Steeped in history there is a section of the main building with old furniture and also a military museum.  The 10am traditional military ceremony is a bit pathetic, half a dozen soldiers in traditional costume march through the courtyard.  One climbs the steps to hand over a key and that’s the key ceremony.  Next another soldier lights a mini canon and that’s it.  I’m managing quite well so walk the 4 blocks up the street to the District 6 apartheid museum, R15 (£1.20).  You are put into a small group with a guide who used to live in this area.  Established as a mixed community of freed slaves, merchants, artisans, labourers and immigrants it was in 1966 declared a “white” area.  60,000 residents were forcibly removed, their houses flattened by bulldozers, to the barren outlying area known as Cape Flats.  The museum was created to portray the memories and experiences of those affected and the history of apartheid.  There are many of the old signs including a park seat with the white only label and others declaring areas “white by night”.  Interestingly our coloured guide tells us that he feels crime is a bigger problem today than it has ever been.  In the past, as Muslims, if someone killed they would be killed themselves and this was a bigger deterrent than the ones today.  Explore a few of the cheap Chinese run clothing stores whilst walking back to the car.  We drive along to the Victoria & Albert waterfront where we find a place in the free outdoor parking area (underground is payable by the hour and quite expensive).  Take our time wandering round the centre and exploring the Robben Island ferry museum before our pre booked 2pm Robben Island trip, R150 (£12).  Robben Island was used as a prison so it’s like Cape Town’s version of Alcatraz.  The “Diaz” ferry is running about ½ hour late.  It seems like a very old fishing boat with a few benches on deck and seating down below but without portholes.  Settle on deck for the ¾ hour ride over.  Arriving on the island we are guided to 3 buses and go through a farce where they insist on trying to fit enough passengers for 3 buses onto 2, they fail.  Our drive takes us around the island with information given about its past and present use.  The most famous inmate of the prison was Nelson Mandela and much of the information is focused on this side of things.  We are dropped off at the prison where we are passed onto a new guide who used to be a political prisoner here.  He takes through the prison explaining the system and answering questions based on his experience.  The cells at 2m x 3m are considerable bigger than the ones we saw at Alcatraz and here there were no escapees and no suicides.  To cause friction the rations were different for coloured and blacks but this was negated when the inmates all agreed to pool their food and share equally.  Also on the island is a colony of African penguins and from the boardwalk we see dozens of them sat on the boulders behind the beach.  Needless to say the return ferry is also running late.  So much so that we leave at 6pm just ahead of their 6pm ferry which is a modern catamaran.  I’m sat at the back of the boat and get a lots of spray as we bounce through the ways, meanwhile the catamaran sets off behind us, overtakes us and cuts through the waves with ease.  So anyone thinking of making this trip may prefer to book at the time when the catamaran is used.  There is lot of activity back at the waterfront.  A road race is just finishing and we see the runners arrive.  In the amphitheatre a black band called “The Stone” begin to play.  They are really good so Steve takes up Steers “wacky Wednesday” 2 for 1 burger offer and we eat our burgers whilst watching the band.  Reluctantly leave but we are a bit wary of making our first drive out of Cape Town in the dark.  Driving over the tops between Muizenberg and Fish Hoek we see the massive ball of the sun setting in the ocean.  Reach Glencairn just after 8pm and just before dark.  Settle us into the flat with a choice of 2 TV’s.  Aim for an early night but my legs are really aching and I can’t get comfy.  Think I may have overdone the walking today as we have covered literally miles. 



THURSDAY 21 DECEMBER – Late morning I join Sheila for a shopping expedition.  We begin at a fruit & veg barn before going to a bakery.  “Woolworth’s” is South Africa’s equivalent of the English “Marks & Spencer’s” and this is where their products are made.  Thursday is pensioners 10% discount day and Sheila qualifies.  It’s incredibly busy and we end up doing most of the shopping whilst stood in a queue that snakes through the isles.  It’s amazing how much stuff I didn’t know I wanted!  After a browse around Longbeach Mall and a coffee stop at Mugg & Bean (good for bottomless coffee) we hit the Pick N Pay store.  With a large fridge, deep freeze and full cooker in the flat I am able to do a big grocery shop buying things I don’t normally cook in the van and a few festive treats.  Four hours later we return to disturb Steve’s siesta.  He’s had a nice peaceful time and enjoyed a dip in the pool. 



FRIDAY 22 DECEMBER – We borrow Sheila’s car and drive along the coast to the next resort of Simon’s Town.  The South African Naval Museum is free.  It’s quite large and has a number of interesting exhibits especially the one about diving.  At the far end of town it’s easy to park at first “Boulders” car park and I manage the walk to the National Park entrance, R20 (£1.40) pp if you don’t have a Wild card.  Just over 20 years ago two breeding pairs of African Penguins appeared on this beach and staked their claim.  Since then the colony has grown to around 3000 and become a major tourist attraction.  A boardwalk takes us down to Foxy Beach where hundreds can be seen.  They are in the water swimming, on the waters edge, further up the beach sitting on (unfertilised) eggs, under the boardwalk and in the bushes nearby.  It’s the most incredible sighting we have ever had of penguins, in the past they have been shy and difficult to spot.  The ones stood up over the eggs have their beaks wide open in an attempt to keep cool.  They make strange braying noises hence their original “Jackass Penguin”.  A few years ago the colony, and in fact most of the penguins along the western cape coast, were in danger of being wiped out after an oil tanker spill.  Volunteers collected all the penguins and took them away to be cleaned up and then looked after until it was safe for them to be returned.  In the visitor centre we watch the “City Slickers” film and learn that these penguins sometimes venture into town and into peoples gardens, so much so that for residents they have gone from being cute to becoming a pest.  At adjoining “Waters Edge” beach tourists paddle amongst them in canoes and snorkel with them.  This will surely remain a highlight of our South Africa trip.  Back I the flat we relax and take a cooling dip in the pool.  This has to be perfect weather, hot days with a breeze and cooler nights.  Needless to say we are really enjoying our time around Cape Town.



SATURDAY 23 DECEMBER – My leg has been aching a lot so I’m going to give it a rest today by just walking around the flat and to and from the pool.  Steve finds football showing at the Southern Right Hotel just across the valley.



SUNDAY 24 DECEMBER – With a full kitchen at my disposal I decide to cook a roast dinner and invite Sheila up to join us.  It’s a hot day and we eat out sat under the shade of the tree.  We eat so much that we all have to retire for a snooze.  John arrives late afternoon.  He’s had a visit from a Hospitality Club guest who has been staying in a local guesthouse where they have no rooms available over Christmas.  Having already let his own house out John is in much the same position but has brought German lady Neha round to see if Sheila can accommodate here.  Above the flat we are using is a studio that Sheila is in the process of renovating and with the loan of a single mattress from John it will be suitable.  We invite here to join us for Christmas lunch tomorrow and phone to book her in.  Spend the evening watching Christmas movies on TV.



MONDAY 25 DECEMBER – Linger in bed watching a movie until 10.30am.  Just before 12am we all set off to Simon’s Town in Neha’s rented car.  There are cars parked by all the beaches and cafes and it’s the busiest we have ever seen.  Arrive at the country club to be shown our table in the extension with windows on 3 sides giving us fine views over the bay.   Obviously dressing up is not a big thing here with one guy wearing a crumpled t-shirt and beach shorts that he must have had as a present as the price tag is still hanging from them!  We begin with a choice of “trio of African melon balls laced with Van der Hum or Blue Cheese and Biltong Soup served with melba toast.  Luckily the servings are small as it is followed by unlimited buffet style seafood with prawns, NZ mussels, hake, crab, calamari and seafood salad served with tartare, Thai and/or lemon & apricot sauce.   Main course is a carvery with lamb, gammon, chicken, roast potatoes, basmati rice, cauliflower & broccoli in cheese sauce, pumpkin, peas and carrots.  You can go up as often as you like but we are all full after one serving with just enough room for the Christmas pudding and sherry trifle.  Excellent value at R145.00 (£11.20) a head.  Again we return overfilled and Neha and Steve work some off by walking down to the beach for a swim.  We gather at Sheila’s in the evening to watch the old video of “White Christmas” whilst nibbling from a cheese board followed by Christmas cake. 



TUESDAY 26 DECEMBER – Sheila goes off to Fish Hoek to man the emergency help phones for a couple of hours.  When she gets back she joins us for a curry.  Steve goes for his Boxing Day football fix and Neha joins me for a chat.  We all go down to Sheila’s for a pasta meal, the sauce made with mussels that Neha got from the ocean.



WEDNESDAY 27 DECEMBER – Borrowing Sheila’s car we head back towards the city to visit Groote Schuur hospital. Within it is a museum dedicated to Dr Christiaan Barnard who performed the first heart transplant there.  It’s closed until 3rd January.  Nearby Kirstenbosch Botanical Gardens, R27 (£2.10) are in a stunning location below the back of Table Mountain.  There are many sections within and we particularly enjoy the sculpture area.  Call in at the Blue Roof shopping mall on the way back but the Boxing Day sales haven’t really kicked off. 



THURSDAY 28 DECEMBER – At lunchtime we join Sheila for a drive over to Fish Hoek for take away fish and chips.  In the main street the shops reputation is attested to by the long queue.  Take our lunch over to Nordhoek Farm where there are craft shops and a picnic area where we sit on the lawn eating.  Call in for some shopping on the way back.



FRIDAY 29 DECEMBER – Neha heads off up the coast and I give Sheila a hand sorting files on her computer.   



SATURDAY 30 DECEMBER – We go down to the house to meet some of Sheila’s family.  Her son Alan and stepson David with his Serbian wife Jana drove down from Botswana yesterday.  They are visiting for a few days and we get information for the Botswana part of our trip.  Early afternoon we head into Cape Town with Sheila.  We have tickets for the 3pm Stomp performance, R100 (£8) at Artscape.  Parking is easy and gives us time for a drink before the show.  It’s an amazing act with 8 performers making percussion music using a vast array of props including brooms, dustbins, sink plungers and even kitchen sinks.  With one performer looking like “Mr Muscle” a comedy twist is added and he has the kids in stitches.  We drop Sheila at the waterfront to join her family and return in time for Steve to catch some football at the pub.  In the evening we all go to Simon’s Town to the “Pescador” restaurant.  It’s very busy and also rather smoky as Sheila’s sons both smoke so we are in the smoking area.  The food is good and we enjoy the evening.



SUNDAY DECEMBER – Steve picks up the Sunday papers.  One of the headlines is about the Robben Island ferries being cancelled for 3 days, in spite of it being fully booked 2 weeks in advance, and chaos abounding as tourists gather and complain.  It says it is due to technical problems even though they have numerous boats at their disposal?  Sheila says this is African speak for no one has shown up for work!   We join the family for an early evening braai eaten by the poolside and it’s delicious.  The Southern Right Hotel in the valley have a function on and we get to hear the band and singer, and are thankful we did not pay the R500 (£40) to attend as it is like karaoke.  We chat and play spoof and poker.  Sheila heads to bed around 11pm but gets woken when we take the conga into her bedroom to wish her happy new year.  I stay up until just after 1pm but the 3 lads carry on playing poker until 4.30am



P.S.  reflecting back over our time in South africa, it has been very informative. 


the country itself has lots to offer, great scenery, hundreds of beautiful beaches, tourist attractions and friendly people.  if they could deal with the amount of crime and especially the violent crime then it would be so much more inviting.


hard for us to take on board is the mixture of modern and western world with a black 3rd world mentality.


my personal impression is that customer service is poor and getting worse. broadly speaking most of the black people do not have the ability, even after training, to do the jobs they have been given. Some blacks even admit that the country was much better when run by whites and whilst this was not an ideal situation then maybe white people should be given a fair chance at doing the management jobs for which they are better qualified.


farmers have told us of having parts of their farms reclaimed under black land rights.  an even more frustrating knock on effect of this is that the black people will just use the land and eat all the crops or cattle without actually farming it, in spite of having knowledge from having worked on that farm in the past.  once the land is used up they will move on or demand more.  in an attempt to alleviate this problem the government are supposed to be paying farmers to oversee.


people are being moved out of the shanty towns into nice modern apartment blocks and then renting out the apartments and moving back to the squatter camps.  obviously the situation is not as clean cut as that but this is certainly happening in many cases.  .  


 we have met many white people with teenage children and some of these have  to consider emigrating so that their children can get work as many jobs here are advertised to blacks only.  Also blacks need a much lower qualification for the same job and without a university  (varsity) degree the only other chance a white child has of a decent job is in a family business.


I’ve spent time with a lovely “coloured” (usually of asian descent) family and heard the heart tugging stories from a mother who had to remove her children from a paddling pool so that one white child could enter.  they were always considered lower even than the blacks and there is still evidence of that today witnessed by us during our time with them. 


hiv/ aids education needs to be stepped up, men raping babies, as a cure is totally unacceptable.


they say that corruption and blackmail do not exist but send me £5 and I’ll tell you all about it if I’ve got the time.


Everyone thinks it is cheap for us living on the UK pound but in our lifestyle we have had to pay out for caravan parks and have not been able to grocery shop as cheaply as in most other countries so it has been more expensive than europe, australia and america.  we have missed the security to free camp on many remote and beautiful beaches and opportunities to be naturists. 


overall the trip has been much better than we anticipated in that we ourselves have had no criminal encounters (touch wood) and the people have been friendlier than expected.  The wildlife viewing has been first class and a real highlight.


would we return for another trip?  yes but in a few years time and with a 4wd drive to enable us to explore more COUNTRIES north of south africa as well.


would we ever live here?  only if the crime and violent crime levels dropped considerably then it would be a serious consideration for the future.


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