Trip Report Part 3

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Jan 23rd, 2006, 04:52 AM
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Join Date: Jul 2005
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Trip Report Part 3

January 1, 2006

Happy New Year!

We walked down to the Hop On Hop Off bus, this time to take the Blue route (90 Rand per person, unlimited transportation all day). This seemed to be a good way to pass the day since everything was closed for the holiday. We were across from the tourist center, but due to the holiday, everything was closed. The bus stop is in front of a German – English bookstore and there was a poster of Cape Town in the window that caught our eye. Ron set his hat on security railing of a door while he bent over to take a picture of the poster. At that minute, the Blue bus arrived and we jumped on. It was minutes later that he realized his hat was still on the railing. It was a Tilley hat and cost about $50.00 when he bought it, so he really wanted it back. He told the guide on the bus and she told him to kiss it good-bye. He asked if she could call the Red bus guide who had the same stop and have them check it out. She said she would, but did not make any moves to do so.

The blue route overlaps the red with a few stops, but there are many more stops than are shown in their brochure, so both routes are worth doing if one has the time. There are some wonderful beaches on the blue route that were not covered on any of our other trips. Our first hop off was the Botanical Garden. This is beautifully laid out, but surprisingly being summer, there was not a lot in bloom. The garden is huge though and could be a full day event. Each section is clearly marked with signs like “Scented Garden” and “Medicinal Plants”. There are hills, dales, and ponds, and fountains in addition to a statue garden. We only stayed for two hours to maximize our bus ticket. Before we left, we had a coffee in the restaurant and I had my first carrot cake of the trip.

When we got back on the bus with the same guide, she never mentioned the hat and when we asked, she said it was not found. My thought was that she had never bothered to check. As we were about to leave the gardens, two more people wanted to get on. They were refused since the bus was full. No on is allowed to stand. We were going to get off at Hout Bay, but then thought better of it. Since it was a holiday, they were only running their smaller buses. At each stop, people were refused entry due to lack of seats. We were afraid that if we got off, we would not get back to town. At one point, a group stated that they had been waiting for over 4 hours. They argued with the guide until she finally called the office and the office agreed to issue them a refund on their tickets. We got stuck in traffic and it took more than an hour for the next scheduled stop. The beaches were wall to wall or sand to sand and covered with umbrellas. It was amazing to think this was New Years. When we finally returned to the tourist office stop, I looked at the grate where Ron had left his hat, but it was empty. Then I happened to look up and saw a young black man crossing the street with it. I shouted there is the hat and I jumped off of the bus. The bus driver started blowing the horn to get the guy’s attention. I yelled to him too. He started to come back to me when another guy came out of no where and grabbed the hat out of the young man’s hand and brought it over to me. He asked if the hat was mine. When I said it was, he said he had been meeting buses all day looking for the owner. I gave him 20 Rand and he was happy, until the first guy grabbed the 20 and said “You owed me twenty, now we are even.”

We went to the Catwalk and checked e-mails. Some might think we are compulsive with the e-mail, but we need to check on bookings for our B and B in Budapest. We have received four bookings while we have been away.

January 2, 2006

Ron wanted to leave by 9:00 am to ensure his seat at St. George’s Cathedral steps for the Minstrel parade. We decided to walk, though it would be a long walk, the Rikkis were not running, but the morning air was clear and calm. When we did arrive by 9:00, it was already crowded. Many people bring folding chairs and even portable barbeques with ice chests to make a day of it. We found seats on the steps of St. George’s just like we were advised to do by Karen, the tour guide for the walking tour. We were definitely in the minority, the majority was colored people.

The minstrels have a colorful parade each year as a historical event. In the days of slavery, January 2nd was their only day off for the year. They dressed in colorful costumes, carried parasols, painted their faces, and played music as they danced down the street. The tradition has continued long past slavery.

There were so many children running around and each was more beautiful than the next. I was impressed with how the older ones took care of the younger ones even when ‘older’ meant six years old. Our spot was shady, but it kept getting more and more crowded. I held the thought that the people of color deserved to have a better view than I did since it was their history.

We waited three hours for the parade to start. It was scheduled for 10:00 am, but it did not get to us until after 12:00. They were giving away free yellow hats so we had to get ours to be part of the crowd. When it started, everyone closer to the street stood up, effectively blocking our view completely. Ron found that if he squeezed around a tree, there was a piece of standing area for him to take pictures. We took turns doing this, so one of us could keep our step space. After an hour, we decided to call it quits. One troupe would pass and then it took another 20 minutes before the next one appeared.

We walked toward Catwalk (Okay, I admit I love their café lattes), but watched some more of the parade as we went stopping to take pictures and fight through the moving crowd. The shops on St. George’s mall, the pedestrian walkway were open and we looked for some interesting material to bring home for the bedroom wall, but we could not agree on any.

We decided this was a good day to go to the Two Oceans Aquarium (Atlantic and Indian). We had coupons for a discount from our Hop On bus. The aquarium is small considering there are two oceans to draw from. The Indian Ocean displays were so negligible we had not realized we had seen them and had to go back again. After having been to the aquariums in Monterey, New Jersey, and most recently Lisbon, this was a major disappointment.

While we were there, we decided to check out the craft stores there at the Waterfront that we had not checked out yet. We did find a pillow cover that we really liked and decided it could easily make a small wall hanging. We had a beer at the microbrewery and then bought a bottle of wine. We had been invited to Patricia and Don’s for dinner again with some their friends who were interested in language acquisition, my field.

There were plenty of taxis, but so many of the roads were still closed at 5:30 due to the parade, it was tough going getting back to the house. This was our most expensive taxi bill of 100 Rand ($15.60) with a tip. When we finally made it back, we napped until dinner.

January 3, 2006

We used the laundry service by the house. All of our clothes were washed and dried for $5.50. What a deal.

Ron’s camera was out of memory, so we found a copy center store that could download all of his photos onto a CD Rom and clear the memory for 35 Rand. When I asked what they used for this, the guy showed me a 12-in-1 photo reader. It can read the sticks or cards from 12 different cameras. I went to the Kodak store and bought one.

We bought steaks again for dinner. Steaks are not popular in Hungary and you need to arrange ahead of time with the butcher to get them cut. However, our oven does not have a broiler, since they are not common here either. Ron had wanted fish, but we found out that grocery stores do not sell fish. You have to go to a fish market that only sells fish.

January 4, 2006

We had hopes of going up the mountain today, but yet again the wind was howling horrendously. The clouds are almost completely covering the mountain top. It is amazing to watch the clouds fall over the sides cascading downward. Plan B was to go to the South African Art Gallery, so we did.

We are getting used to these long walks into town from the house. When the weather is nice, it is a pleasant experience. The gallery is only one floor, but has ten rooms. There are very few pieces from famous artists that I knew, but many of the pieces were splendid. I took a lot of pictures. The gift shop was also memorable. The items there were unlike anywhere else. It is surprising how the gift shops all have different things and they are different from the downtown markets. Almost all of the museums charge 10 Rand admission, so even if you don’t care about the exhibit, $1.50 is not bad just to shop.

We were at a loss as to what to do next, but Ron wanted one more trip the Pan African market. I sent him up alone; it is too tempting for me and knowing they can take Visa is an issue. The problem is getting it home from Paris on Wizz. They have tight weight restrictions, which are lower than the full price airlines.

We stopped at Lord Nelson Hotel to find out the times of high tea: 2:30 to 5:30 pm. The cost is 120 Rand per person.

One of my best friends has this custom that on her birthday, she does something special for those that have been special to her in the last year. I adopted this idea, so we were going to take Patricia and Don out for an Italian dinner at the restaurant around the corner for my secret birthday celebration. The next day was my birthday, but we needed to pack. As it turned out the Italian restaurant was closed, so we went to another. It was a great birthday dinner with special people. When we returned to the house, we asked that they autograph the books they authored that we had purchased.

Don has this idea for a story for the magazine. He wants to come to Budapest and write an article on Getting Out of South Africa on 10,000 Rand per person. They want to stay with us and write about our B and B. He has to pitch it to his editor.

January 5, 2006

Happy Birthday to me! This was a great day. We took a Rikki to the V and A waterfront to see the new Harry Potter film Goblet of Fire. Either I am going through my second childhood or I am still a child at heart. I cannot decide, but will enjoy it regardless. We were early so we walked around and I filmed a band playing music. We bought some popcorn and we were both surprised that they have different toppings that you add to it yourself. There is salt, cheese, BBQ, sour cream, and Amat, but I don’t know what that is.

From here, we went to Lord Nelson’s for High Tea. There were a variety of finger sandwiches, quiches, and dozens of different desserts to choose from. We stayed the whole three hours, eating, relaxing, and eating some more. We had our books to read a bit and then went home to pack. We leave here tomorrow for Pretoria.

When we got home, Don asked if we wanted to go for a ride later. They would show us the city lights from a vantage point. We left at 9:00 pm and the view was incredibly beautiful. Don had just gotten through saying he could not stop since it was dangerous, when the car conked out. Ron, Patricia, and I had to get out and push so he could pop the clutch.

We said our good-byes when we got home, each of us sorry to have to say them. We felt like we found real friends during our 11 days here. We arranged to drop our keys in the mailbox, but Patricia insisted she needed to get up to say good-bye again. We were leaving at 4:30 am for the airport and had arranged for the Day Hopper to pick us up for 140 Rand for both of us.

January 6, 2006

We were up at 3:00 am for a quick breakfast and our last shower outdoors or so I thought at the time. The shuttle was due at 4:30 am and our flight was scheduled for 7:00 am to go to Johannesburg. Patricia was up and went out to wait with us. She hugged both of us twice and we all started getting teary-eyed.

The shuttle came on the dot and off we went waving good-bye to Patricia until we were out of sight. Twenty minutes later, we were at the airport, but not thinking, we only had 100 Rand notes. We were the drivers first run that morning and he could not give us change. Ron had to run in the airport asking everyone to break a 100 Rand bill. The driver was getting nervous about the time and I was getting anxious that Ron had boarded the plane. Finally, he reappeared and we gave the driver a bigger tip for the stress. This should have been an omen that some of our luck was going to leave as we left Cape Town.

So, I need to regress for one minute, so please bear with me. Before we left home, a friend sent us a magnet that says "It is not the destination, but the journey." I held this thought as we traveled to test its validity. Some trips it is the truth, yet others leave you wondering why you bothered to leave your bedroom. As we left your home and our home away from home, I had endearing thoughts about the statement.

Arriving at the Cape Town airport in those wee hours of the morning, we proceeded to check in for our Johannesburg flight; however, we were informed that our flight no longer existed. It was a South African Express flight that had been pulled from the sky a couple of weeks prior. Panic did not set in; the agent was so soothing about it, giving me this false sense of security.

Our task was to be rebooked, their task was to send us away from their desk to become someone else’s problem. We were sent over to another desk with a lovely Indian woman typed our flight into the computer only so she could look up at me and go “Tsk, tsk, your flight has been cancelled.” Well, duh! Let’s move on to phase two here. Normally, this would not have been an ordeal except all flights were full until 2:30 in the afternoon. We were re-ticketed and given boarding passes: we now had a lay-over in Port Elizabeth. We were told to go to the Stand-by desk. The little voice in the back of my head said "DANGER, DANGER", but how often do people listen to the little voices unless they are in need of strong medication and/or under psychiatric care?

The woman at the Stand-by desk was doing what you would expect: she was standing-by waiting for us to approach with some plea. In that well rehearsed soothing tone, she again told us there was nothing available, all earlier flights were overbooked. She did however tell us to check our luggage there. At the moment it seemed like a hospitable thing to do, she could not offer us a flight, but she wanted to make it up to us by taking the baggage off of our hands. This had the pleasurable feeling of African graciousness. But darn, that little voice was still screaming in my head. Perhaps I need to be medicated, but we handed over our luggage.

Being Diners Club members, we had enjoyed the lounge in Johannesburg on our way down, so this was the perfect way to spend the time waiting from 7:40 am to 2:30 pm. We were able to spend productive time in heir lounge, smoking and drinking coffee by the gallons. However, the receptionist did not want to let me. I sinned by not having my card with me. Why be led into temptation with more than one card? I did have my account number, which she could have verified with Diners Club. She said, with a smug look, it was too early to call them noting the current hour and the time difference with the States. When I said that was nonsense, they have a 24 hour number, she let me in. It seems that making a phone call must not have been in her job description. She looked at the phone like it was a snake ready to lunge at her and waved me through. For one wild minute, I felt guilty not having my card, but that little voice reminded me that I pay dues yearly for privileges like this.

We were booked at a hostel in Pretoria who was sending a driver for us at the airport for the original flight. I had no idea how long the drive would be to drive from Pretoria to Johannesburg, I called the hostel three times to let them know that we would be arriving late. At 6:00 am there was no answer. At 7:00 am, I spoke with a woman and explained what happened. She did not sound too confident with her English, so I suggested I could call again after someone else was there. She said fine, call after 8:00. When I made the 8:00 call, they had already let the driver know and they had other work for him to do that morning. This was really cutting into my coffee drinking and smoking time, but one must make sacrifices here and there, plus I was using my mobile and never left the smoker’s lounge to call. By noon, I could have flown without the airlines, but heck I had the ticket. Why waste it?

Port Elizabeth is a small airport, but they also have a Diners Club lounge. Fortunately, I had not remembered until we were boarding our flight to Jo’burg. After all, how many airline lounge receptionists can I wrestle to the ground in one day. We arrived in Jo'burg finally at 5:00 pm; our luggage missed the flight. We stood at the luggage carousel chanting the late luggage mantra, but we must have missed an ooh or ahh somewhere, because it did not work.

The fact that there were no other people waiting in front of the lost luggage counter gave me a spark of confidence. No people must mean few problems with lost luggage. It was either positive thinking or self pity trying to convert to positive thinking. We were told that the reason the luggage had not arrived with us was that it was too late to be put on the plane. The look on the woman's face seriously made me feel like I had missed calling my mother on her birthday for the last five years. I was fighting this urge to drop to one knee and ask for her forgiveness, but the distraction of the little voice screaming "I told you so, I told you so" had me a bit confused. I just stood there like a scolded child instead. It was the easy way out. To show there were no hard feelings, they promised that our bags would be on the next flight. As a bonus due to my humble behavior, they would be delivered to our Pretoria hostel that evening.

By the time we were able to meet up with the driver for our ride, I said to him "IamRyannicetomeetyouIhavetogotothebathroom". I am not sure if it was the body language or the speed with which I said it, but he was under the impression I was fluent in some African language. Finally it dawned on him that I was making a straight shot to the Men’s Room. His charm wore thin when he immediately asked for his payment to transport us. We explained it was to be a courtesy pick up as arranged with Ashanti in Cape Town. We haggled for 10 minutes and then he agreed hesitantly to take us after I hovered over his head and gave him my best glare. When we arrived at the hostel, the owner was there and confirmed that the transport was indeed free since Ashanti booked it. Now it was my turn to have a smug look. Those opportunities are rare, so I savored the moment. Then I felt guilty afterward.

The driver had been waiting at the airport for us since our original arrival time at 9:00 am, so he was really put out or thrilled to get out of work for almost the whole day, so he had to act put out for the boss. The desk clerk said to ignore him since he was told three times our flight had been changed and he took off anyway. Selective hearing? He must have had a long breakfast break.

Eagerly, we were waiting for the luggage as if they were stolen pets waiting to be returned. The hostel owner suggested we go to dinner and the luggage would probably be there when we returned. They did not arrive by 7:00 pm as promised. Ten minutes after, I called SAA to negotiate the ransom since they were who was holding the pieces of luggage hostage. Their lost luggage desk closed at 7:00 pm. The next morning, we had booked a full day Soweto Tour. The situation was not looking pretty and neither would we without a change of clothes.

There is a restaurant a block away from the hostel called Eastwoods. The food is excellent and very reasonable.

Ryan James, living in Hungary
[email protected]
www.budabab.com
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