Random Thoughts along the Garden Route.
Cape Town Travel Blog› entry 1 of 1 › view all entries
March 20th, 2007 – by: Vagabondatheart
I know traveling is partly about escaping life at home, but being an ocean and a continent away for the duration and especially here in Africa with its animals and driving on the left side are some of many things to remind me I am no longer in the OC.
The last couple weeks have been on the constant go and finally taking a break and staying in, alone and quiet, I'm appreciative of the experiences, grateful for good friends back home, family, and the many new interesting acquaintances and friends I've met along the journey; either for a quick drink together, sharing a ride, a quick history lesson on Tanzania, or just keeping one another company while filling the gaps waiting for a flight at a boring airport, it's all been a meaningful encounter.
I am currently in the ostrich capital of the world, Oudtshoorn after driving all day from the wine country of S Africa, Stellenbosch.
Anyhow, I've "hired" or rented a car for the week and driving East along what is known as the Garden Route hitting several different stops including a cave, the most southern point of Africa, famous surf spot Jefferys Bay, and everything in between for the next 7 to 9 days driving on the left side of the road.
I did drive for couple months on the left side in New Zealand 5 years ago, and it's always exciting to sit on the right side and constantly chanting my driving mantra, "...stay left, little left turns, and BIG RIGHT TURNS, look right-left-right...", and by the way...you still progress from left to right or low to high gear as shifting remains the same. I feel most stupid, on occasion, when I enter the car from the left side or turn on the windshield wipers on instead of the turn signals (that's also on the opposite side as well), but the learning curve is steep and as they say in the flying business.
Most expressways are single lanes. To pass a slower car, it takes a certain amount of commitment and abiding by the unwritten laws of driving in S Africa. Slower cars will start driving into the shoulder giving you room and you accelerate to pass and turn on your emergency lights to "say" thanks. If you can't see the approaching car, the car in front will turn it's right turn signal to signal the path is clear. Do you trust his spatial judgement and go for it? Takes time getting used to, but did it for couple days, but generally keeping it conservative as S Africans have a terrible accident rate.
As far as Cape Town is concerned, it's the most scenic city I've seen, more dramatic than even San Francisco! Plenty to do here and as with Florianopolis, this place will be untouchable in the next 5 years is my estimation. I am not sure as to where to begin to describe the scenery of this place, but mountains meet the oceans and that's a recipe for a dramatic view and spectacular cloud formations and weather.
Climbed Table mountain to enjoy the vista before being warned to get to the tram before it shuts down due to the strong wind, they call the Cape Doctor. The Peninsula to the Cape of Good Hope is punctuated with African penguins and their chicks, Ostriches grazing along the OCEAN coast...now that's not the background for ostriches I had in my wildest dreams.
The waterfront, like SF, has its seals barking and attracting tourists and like Alcatraz, you have Robben Island where Mandela spent some 27 years in solitary confinement; the tour is given by a former political prisoner sharing his story on the island working the stone quarry and sharing with us why Nelson Mandela can't shed tears when crying because his tear ducts are closed from years of work in the quarry and the dust has clogged his tear ducts. He wore dark glasses during one of his press interviews because of damage and sensitivity to light from limestone quarry. When asked by a female journalist why he wore the glasses, he commented her radiant beauty is making him blind. Total grace and charm.
Also been on a Township (shanty town) tour and saw the slums of SA. You see government projects at work, hope is there for a better times ahead, and improvements are at work. Having said so, folks are still struggling. AIDS is still a huge problem, especially in the townships. Go to any bars or nightclubs...or hostels I am staying at for example and while sitting at a bar, there's your sugar jar, cream jar for the coffee and tea and a jar of condoms for healthy and safe wild nights.
Cape Town, while beautiful, unfortunately has a way of leading one into a false sense of security. Mugging, robberies, and crime is alive and well.
South Africa is unfortunately a living contrast and few of you might be saying, screw SA, but common sense and not putting yourself in a dangerous situation especially at night is an advice you take to heart.
When asking for help or directions, the S Africans will remind you to be at their time ever so politely by a warm greeting and after fixing your temporary crisis, ask you whereabouts you've been and going and for how long? Remind myself, you're on African time here.
They're hosting the World Cup in 2010 and like everyone said about the Olympics in Athens, plenty are saying the same for SA...not going to be prepared. Remains to be seen, but I think it will be wonderful for the country. Their progress in building better be anything but African time!
As for meeting other travelers and more than few become drinking buddies, acquaintances, travel partners, and good friends you'll probably see again than not. Wonderful people on the road and all traveling for different reasons: romantic get a ways, honeymoon, escape from work, see the world, volunteers for the Peace Corps or Habitat for Humanity, etc. Some are traveling for a week and one Japanese couple who have been on the road for 2 and 1/2 years of their 3 years travel after having a huge yard sale!
You meet few assholes on the road who thinks he or she is better than everyone else and their shit don't stink because they seem to think they're more of a "hardcore" traveler than others.
I've enjoyed meeting and especially talking with those who can see individual faces rather than making a broad stroke. No problems correcting general stereotyping when the very group being dismantled were the very people buying you dinner on your final night at Mauritius and giving me their number to call them when I get into their town. I have few international cities where I don't have to worry about accommodations but have to worry about if I can keep up with the drinking...if that gives you any hint.
Sometimes you meet travelers you feel sad for.
Then there's the enterprising and funny young Brit, all 18 yrs old in his Gap year traveling all over with enthusiasm. Australian Mech Eng who seemingly works hard and takes chunks of time off and has probably seen more than 50 countries as the Dane from Copenhagen. The Dutch law student beauty, bare chested laying next to me talking about European politics.
Can you hit the button and roll down the window please?
Especially Africa, where the geography is every student's nightmare, it's nice to have a sense of where the countries are and the differences between the zulus and the massais and which language has the clicking noise inserted into its words (rolling spanish r's has nothing on the clicking sounds of the zulus).
Have to admit as well, the world really uses Africa for all it's worth. Tanzania's slums were actually worse than the township of SA (keep in mind SA is the most powerful African nation), and in turn, Tanzania is doing a lot better than Western Africa.
You just want Africa to succeed and be well and perhaps this might be the defining century for "the dark continent." There is one certainty, I am coming back. That much I know. Tomorrow, I ride an ostrich, go caving, and visit meercats and cheetah cubs. This is Africa isn't it?
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