Trip Report Part 2

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Jan 23rd, 2006, 04:51 AM
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Trip Report Part 2

South Africa Adventure Part 2

December 25, 2005

Ron and I went to mass at St. Mary’s Cathedral. The reason I went was I had thought there would be some time of “African” experience, but it was just like any other mass. The priest was a man of color, Malay or Indian: very animated. The crèche was carved from a dark wood. Disappointingly, there was no special music or clerical robes to give the feel of being on a different continent. Even the stations of the cross were modern, but absent of people of color, just like the stained glass.

After mass we walked back to Ashanti and read until Christmas dinner was ready. We had signed up for their buffet at 100 Rand per person for the all you can eat and three drinks from the bar. We had paid for this and received our tickets when we first arrived, but now that they were needed, I could not find them. They were good enough to give us two more since they had a record of our names. We did get some looks like irresponsible children, but we dealt with it.

They said for the first time in years, they had to hold the dinner inside due to the winds. Normally, it is held out by the poolside, but they put it up on the bar for today. The whole room and the meal were very festive with a touch of British. There was the Christmas cracker or popper that the Brits use. You snap it open and there is a plastic hat inside. The buffet included ostrich kebabs, chicken, turkey, ham, three different salads, quiche, and ice cream. As festive as it was after two Amstel beers, I was knocked out.

That night, we went downtown to see the Christmas lights lit up. This was the first and only time we dared to venture downtown at night. I was especially nervous having my expensive camera. Fortunately, there were a great number of people strolling the streets, so I felt a little less apprehensive. The lights had many African themes: elephants, monkeys, and other animals. There were also lights of tribal dancers and only one was of Santa Claus. It was strange to see people walking around in short sleeve shirts and those brave enough in shorts. Speaking to many, the Christmas tradition is to have a barbeque or to go to the beach. So many said they would love to have one snow filled Christmas in their life just to experience it.

We were going to take a taxi back, but wound up walking so far, we just continued on. The wind was so fierce that it blew me around, which is quite a feat. Some skewed logical made it seem reasonable that if the wind was so bad, the crime would be driven off too. It is difficult to rob someone when they are being blown away from you not of their own accord.

The next day, we were to move to an apartment that Ron had found in a four year old tour book that he had bought at the used English book store. The husband and wife who rent it out are both writers, so this was an exciting opportunity. However, when we took a good look at the map, it seemed like it was far out and was going to be an issue for transportation. We were to be there for eleven nights.

December 26, 2005 Boxing Day

Another remnant of the British stronghold, they have Boxing Day, though it was funny that of all of the people I had asked, no one knew the significance of it. They were just thankful for another day off from work.

We had a quick breakfast of left over food in the fridge that we did not want to transport with us and then a couple of hours to kill before we were to leave Ashanti. When we did check out, we asked them to call a taxi for us. While we were waiting outside the nice black woman at reception came running out and said that we had overpaid one night and handed us the money. We could not figure out how it had happened, but thanked her nonetheless.

When the taxi arrived, he did not know how to get to the place to where we were moving. Thankfully, he did not start the meter until he found it on the map. As we drove into the area, it was surrounded by lovely homes many in an Art Deco fashion. We were greeted by Don Pinnock, our new temporary landlord and then his wife Patricia. Don won me over immediately, by offering to carry our large suitcase in for us.

Our little ‘self-catering’ apartment was what they call a granny flat, but Americans usually call a mother-in-law apartment. It was lovely!! With its own entrance from outside, the charm of the apartment was only outdone by the charm of our hosts. Their immediate warmth surrounded us like we were long lost well loved friends coming back for a reunion at last. Suddenly, the distance to downtown no longer held relevance. We had all we could possibly need. The whole apartment is done in an African theme that felt nurturing and cozy at the same time. There is a large bedroom with a double and single bed, a large wardrobe, and a dresser. The kitchen is equipped with a table and bench seating, a small all in one over with a broiler (we do not have a broiler in Hungary), and a two burner stove top. On the counter was a welcoming package of tea bags, cookies, sugar, and fresh milk in the fridge. There is a door from the kitchen to the main house, which can be locked from either side for privacy. The bathroom is large and has a tub and hand-held shower. However, we also had a private patio in the back with an outside shower. From the front yard and the street, there was a perfect close-up view of Table Mountain.

Don insisted on giving us a ride around the neighborhood to orient us and we attempted graceful refusals, not wanting to impose. He won! In just a few blocks in one direction was a grocery store with a bank machine, convenient for doing our daily shopping, a laundromat service where you can leave your things to be washed, and a small restaurant called The Sidewalk Café. In the other direction, were a couple of other restaurants filling all of our immediate needs. He then took us up to the trail for hiking up Table Mountain, but advised caution. There is a band of seven men who have been robbing people at knife point in that area. A couple of them have been caught, but it has not deterred the rest. Since we wanted to get some daily supplies, he drove us back to the grocery and we walked back. To reach them e-mail: [email protected]

Before going shopping, we stopped at The Sidewalk Café for breakfast. It was tranquil and relaxing. Our breakfast omelet’s and lattes came to about $6.00 total. Taking advantage of having a broiler, we bought a couple of T-bone steaks, pepper sauce, and some other needs.

The rest of the day, we spent reading and writing both out on the patio and at the kitchen table. Don was house-sitting for a neighbor who happened to have a pool. He offered us the use of the pool. It was too cool for me, but Ron tried it out. He said the water was cold. We also heard the helicopters over head. There was another fire on Table Mountain.

The wind had started up again and it was near gale force blowing away anything that was not heavily weighted, but there were exceptions to this too. They call this wind the Cape Doctor since it comes through every year and blows out the smog and pollution, cleaning the air.

My face was burned on the Cape Point trip and has been peeling ever since. All of the tour guides recommend SPF 40 sunscreen lotion. It is expensive, but readily available. It is summer, but yet we were sleeping with down comforters.

December 27, 2005

We booked a walking tour today. I like getting up early and showering on the patio. Even if the wind is strong in the morning, it is a real liberating feeling. The air is cool and it is windy yet again today. We called the Rikki taxi to go downtown. This is our first time using it. A Rikki is like an open van. They are licensed to take up to 8 passengers at once, but the most they take is six. The fee is set, so from here to downtown is 10 Rand ($1.56) per person. With a taxi, you are dependent on the meter. There are six Rikkis on the road at the most depending on how many drivers they have any given day. All of the drivers are exceptionally friendly and knowledgeable about the city. Rikki phone number as of 2006 is 021-418-6713 callable from a mobile phone that works in South Africa.

While I am on the topic of mobile phones, Vodacom is the largest and most reliable mobile phone company in South Africa. Since I had Vodafone in Hungary, I was able to get a set rate for roaming, so it cost me $1.00 set rate for roaming when I used my mobile there. Having a mobile there for calling taxis and Rikkis is essential. There are tourist phone rentals, but I did not need them, so have not checked out the costs.

Our Rikki driver was a young black man that was so polite, it made me humble. He kept calling us sir and when he found we had not been in Cape Town, but a week, he pointed out all of the sights along the way and gave us the history. Our stop was the Tourist information office downtown, which is extensive and very tourist friendly. The staff are exceptional helpful. The Catwalk Internet Café is a ¼ of a block away and has less expensive Internet service, though.

We paid for our Footsteps to Freedom Walking Tour here and received our vouchers. The tour was led by a woman named Karen. She was extremely well versed in the history of the city, many of the buildings have a special history of their own, and of the gentrification of the downtown area. There were five of us on the tour. As part of the tour, we went to the District 6 Museum. Every day here, I confront my feelings about the haves and have notes. This museum brings it to life. Relocating a whole community, degrading their lives by elitists, and now trying to make amends is too little too late. The whole tour including the museum was about three hours.

Still today, in many restaurants you see whites as patrons and people of color as the workers. It is difficult to find the equity.

By 3:00, we were ready to head back to our little nest. We called the Rikki, but we had to wait 45 minutes before one was available. When we returned ‘home’ our invoice was waiting with an African magnet that had one of Patricia’s poems on it. There was one like it on the fridge and we were going to ask were we could buy one.

As we were taking a nap, a note was slipped under our door. Patricia and Don had invited us to dinner that evening. The invite had a drawing on it showing place settings and eight wine glasses. There were eight of us for dinner. It was amazing to us that these people we had just met and were renting from, would invite us into their home for dinner.

December 28, 2005

Today was a kick back day. The winds were still going full force. When the wind is fierce, the cable car does not run up to Table Mountain. It is the same when the clouds cover the mountain and they call it the tablecloth. It was not an uninteresting day nevertheless.

We were able to share some time with Don and Patricia, to find that he is Associate Editor of Get Away magazine, each issue a hefty 250 pages and distributed to over 80 countries. Their web site is http://www.getawaytoafrica.com/ . In his past life, he was a Ph.D. Criminologist and published works in that field, having done some groundbreaking work with gangs. When a change in careers presented itself, he moved into the area he relishes: travel. He is not only the Associate Editor, but also a multifaceted, accomplished travel writer. He researches and writes a number of articles for the magazine, as well as books including Blue Ice: Travels in Antarctica and African Journeys and he also is the photographer for many of his articles.

Patricia, also an author, has nine children’s books published and three adult novels. She started with children’s books: Thobile’s Dream, Thobile and the Tortoises, Thobile and the Bulbuls, Thobile and the Alien Mountain, Thobile in Tsakana, and Thobile’s Field Guide to the Eastern Cape. Thobile is a young black man of African descent who is living in England and due to a dream (the first book) has decided to visit Africa to discover more of his heritage. She has other titles of poetry for children and written with children. One of her adult novels, Skyline, is going to be made into a motion picture as a joint British/South African venture. Patricia told us she has three more adult novels plotted out before she returns to the children’s genre. Some of the books above are available on Amazon.com or Amazon.co.uk. Search for Don Pinnock or Patricia Pinnock. You may also find other results if you search for Patricia Schonstein Pinnock.

As white South Africans, with souls of peace and social justice ingrained in them, they formed a publishing company called African Sun Press. The charge of this company was to publish literature for children based on stories of Black Africans, retelling the values of the people. The profits from this publishing venture are then put back into literacy programs in the schools, where the books were provided. Patricia shared that most public schools in South Africa do not have a library. Most families cannot afford to nor do they think about buying books for pleasure for children, to increase their knowledge of the world around them.

We walked the neighborhood in a different direction and checked out a different café. It was a chore since the wind was again horrendous. They have glass walls on two sides of their outdoor patio to block some of the wind, so we sat outside. We heard this crash and one of the industrial plastic garbage bins that the restaurant uses, went flying in the wind, though seemingly half filled with trash. That attested to the power of the wind.

Patricia and Don were going to a movie that night and asked if we would like to join them, but it was too lazy a day to venture out again.

Side notes: Many of the smaller merchants will take Visa or Mastercard, but they have to pay a 5% commission to do so. They will take the cards if you agree to pay the 5% charge. This is true of the Pan African Market too. This market is two huge floors of 100’s of merchants selling different crafts from all over Africa.

In the supermarkets, we found jam and jelly in cans, besides jars. We had never seen jam or jelly in cans before.

December 30, 2005 (skipped over the 29th)

We went to the South African Museum, which had an enlightening exhibit on cave art. There was also a wonderful display of indigenous costumes and rituals. They also have a very interesting exhibit of indigenous plants that were/are used for healing, food, clothing and so on. This museum is the closest to an ethnographic museum in Cape Town. The second and third floors are mostly natural history exhibits with stuffed animals and many geology exhibits. The admission of 10 Rand is worth it just for the first floor alone. The museum store is well worth a look as I found things there that I had not seen anywhere else.

Don told us he and Patricia were going to see Narnia and invited us to join them. He reserved tickets with his credit card and when we arrived at the theater, he only had to swipe his card in a special machine and the tickets were printed. After the movie, they invited us for Ovaltine, a drink I had not had for over 40 years. Either they improved the taste or the company made it taste better, but it was good. They add Horlix to it, a malt mix. Their graciousness continues to overwhelm us.

December 31, 2005

No trip to Cape Town would be complete without a trip to Robben Island, where Nelson Mandela spent 27 years as a prisoner (http://www.robben-island.org.za/ ). You need to reserve tickets for this trip and boats generally run about every ½ hour. It is easier and faster to make your reservation at the Tourist Office downtown. They will give you your reservation number. The boat for Robben Island leaves from the Victoria and Albert Water Park. If you tell a taxi or a Rikki driver where you are going, they will let you off at the closest access area. When you pick up your tickets at the waterfront office, where the boat sails from, you must show the credit card you used to purchase it.

The boat to the island is a typical tour boat. There is no commentary and the ride is 45 minutes long. You are assigned a time to return with your boat’s name on it. They say it is important that you catch the boat for which you are assigned, but we heard on less crowded days, you can ask to catch the next one. When you arrive on the island, they either direct you to a bus or to walk to the prison. Eventually, you will do both, so it does not matter which you start with.

We toured the prison first with a guide named Vince who had been a prisoner there for 8 years. All of the guides are former prisoners. The prison cells were 2x2 meters, while the dog cages were 3x3 meters. The walls are all grey, the nutrition was poor and quantity was based on a prisoner’s race. They were given a thin pad to sleep on.

There were some older black ladies on the tour who could barely walk. They seemed to be making a pilgrimage to a shrine. They took pictures of everything and were speaking amongst themselves in an African language. People were taking pictures of a cell thinking it was Mandela’s, but after we passed by the guide told us his cell was number 27. They were photographing cell number 5.

The bus tour showed all of the current buildings and told of the history of the island. There are a number of people who still live there. There is also an African penguin colony there, where visitors can walk the boardwalk to observe them. It was a hot day and all of them were at the beach.

On public holidays everything is closed except for restaurants, shops, movies, and other entertainment at the Waterfront.
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