Diary of The Travelling Seanchai :-

Feeling strangely settled in Cape Town!

2007-07-05 to 2007-07-11

Like I said in my last entry, this place is definitely having a hold on me, which is not what you want when you are a determined traveller out to see the world! Usually it`s hostel to bus to hostel to train to jail etc etc but with Nat taking time away from her studies I have had the rare pleasure of being able to drive around and see the area through the eyes of a local and the thick Irish accent of a foreigner!


I have got to know this city as a result and as I suspected, it`s not as bad as you would be led to believe crime wise. Don`t get me wrong, it goes on and with staggering numbers but you can avoid it if you have any savvy at all.


On Saturday, we took off to Haut Bay (or better known as the Republic of Haut Bay to the locals, they even have their own passport!!) where Oprah and Michael Jackson have apartments nearby! Well another international celebrity that has recently purchased there is my friend Kaz, last seen dancing like a lunatic in the Heart of Darkness bar in Phnom Pehn, Cambodia 6 months ago! We only had met for two nights but it took us hours to `catch up` and to make future plans which will probably see us in Brazil in February next!


It was great to see her and it was even better next day when we had to return her wallet, sunnies and phone that she had left in Nat`s car when she had got out the night before! This time, with Chantal (the third of my Angels) we all set off for Boulders Beach which is famous for the thousands of baby penguins that live there. Chantal felt it her South African duty to remind us `foreigners` (Kaz is from Zambia) that we weren`t allowed `chase the penguins`!!! What? Did some people actually do that?!! To baby penguins?!


The drive down to the Cape of Good Hope is truly beautiful, sheer cliffs dropping down to either the Indian or Atlantic Ocean, depending from where you are coming. It was amazing to be standing at the southernmost tip of Africa, a place which I have always looked at when regarding a world map. The next stop was literally the South Pole! We went to the top of the lighthouse and took many photos, none of which could possibly capture the raw beauty of the place. Having just discovered the time delay on my camera, I took a shot of the four of us along a wall and nearly cried in horror as a wind gust nearly took my camera over the side!


Wherever we go now, whenever we park, a `minder` appears from out of nowhere, gives us a smile which immediately conveys the comforting yet menacing message of, `don`t you worry mate, I will make sure that no-one, (including resisting the overwhelming urge myself), breaks into your car while you are away and for this car insurance, you can just pay me when you get back`!


There is still apartheid in this country, alive and well, in the toilets of the bars! Afrikaans male are seriously tall and big men and their toilets reflect that. Even at my 6 foot plus change I was struggling to use the urinals which are miles up on the walls. I saw some poor sub 6 footers having to pee upwards which obviously caused them a nasty splashback affect much to their enormous discomfort and one must assume, those in their company back in the bar! It was strange but understandable to see the shorties queuing for the cubicles while there was free urinals!


Right enough of the toilet humour! Badum Tish! Thank you, thank you!


Andy, my mate from the whiskey distillery, had arranged for Natalie and I to go on some tours on Monday to Stellenbosch, the wine region of S Africa. So at 11am we were being given the deluxe VIP tour of Van Ryn`s Brandy distillery which was amazing. We saw a Cooper put together a barrel (bloody clever when you see it) and then he `tapped` out the song that he plays when he has finished each of the barrels he makes. You make one a day and AB had been doing it for 33 years! It was a complicated and excellent song!


So we are sipping 12, 15 and 20 year old brandies with espressos and chocolate before lunch time and I wondered (not for the first time) why oh why would I be working!?!


We went for lunch in Stellenbosch in this terrible little restaurant called the Terrace. I ordered what I was led to believe was a Spaghetti Bolognaise and when I asked if they had a spoon, the waitress retreated to the kitchen and then apologetically told me that, no, they didn`t have spoons in this restaurant! Hmmm, I can see that ordering the soup would have been particularly troublesome!


A wine tour after lunch which was so informative, I felt dumb for having imbibed so much of it through the years without having a clue what I was supposed to be looking out for (instead of the warm feeling, enhanced confidence and hundreds of songs that I usually found!). As our guide asked us what we thought we could smell when we sniffed at our first sample, she suggested `fruity` to which I helpfully replied for all, `Grapes`! Hmmm, big gold star for the Irish idiot!


We went for dinner that night in Stellenbosch, a university town 70kms outside Cape Town and my foot in mouth disease carried on when I was ordering a pizza to be made for me and after speaking to our Isreali waiter, Avi, I asked him which was better, `Ham or Bacon?` to which he helpfully reminded me that he was Jewish so he really wouldn`t know!


The next day we set off for Franshoek, a town that was undergoing preparations for Bastille Day on the weekend as it had been made up of French colonialists (The Hugonauts) originally. If you want to see the very definition of `picturesque` and `kitsch` go to this town with their huge teddy bears in seats, quirky sayings on blackboards on the pavement (“Experience is the comb that life gives you when you have no hair left”) and a multitude of cafes and souvenir shops.


I love the things that you find out `on the road` that you would probably never hear otherwise! Eva (Sweden) told me the other night that there is a children`s game in Sweden which consists of a child spinning themself around continuously and then trying to chase after their mates while in this balance altered state. The name of this game, `Irish Christmas`, ensuring that every new generation of Swedes are well versed as to the ways of the Irish even before we get a chance to make an impression!


Then last night, I caught a cab from a man that looked exactly like Harry Belafonte! When I told him that he looked just like the famous Jamaican/American actor/singer, he explained that his Dad had been a bit of a `player`, he`d had 3 wives and 27 children so maybe he was in fact related to `this Mr. Belafonte!`


So still loving the Cape, a few more days here though and I am sure that my wandering feet will get me on the road again. Stay tuned and thanks to those that leave a message on the message board, love getting them as always!


Coping with `Caped` and Culture!

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