Tour farewells; Meeting our host; Cape Town by car and by foot; In which I finally get my sushi; Passport woes, again

The morning of the 13th saw the tour formally break up. We killed a bit of time by walking to the post office to mail a package to my little niece Abigail. On the way we had an unexpected meeting – Ida and Nicolai, two of the three Crazy Danes from the first half of the overland tour. They’d told us they were going to be in Johannesburg, but the weather had been terrible so they’d come back to Cape Town. We made arrangements to meet later in the week for dinner or something. You don’t really expect to see people you know in a city you’ve never been to, it was a strange feeling.

A couple of hours later our host in Cape Town, Joan, came to pick us up at the hostel. We’d never met her, but she’s the grandmother of Nicola who is one of my best friends, and she’s heard all about us (and seen lots of pictures of us at our worst) so I figured we’d get along fine. She took us on a drive around the city and showed us some of the outlying suburbs. Cape Town really is beautiful – not the city itself, per se, which looks like any city anywhere – but the setting. You can’t beat the combination of sea and mountains. Table Mountain looms over the city and creates some bizarre weather effects – the tricks of fog, cloud and sunlight display inadvertent artistry. Joan took us through some of the tonier districts along the shore. Nearly all houses in Cape Town central have guard dog and security stickers, barred windows and spiked or electrified fences, sometimes with loops of razor wire. It makes the city seem very closed – private and unwelcoming. This is at odds with the people who are all very warm and friendly. Joan bought us fish and chips for lunch at a place in Hout Bay, a little bedroom community, and then it was on to her home. Her house is very nice – there are pictures of Nicola everywhere. I’m fighting against the temptation to post some of the more embarrassing school uniform pictures. Hear that, Nic? Be nice to me.

The next couple of days were all about running errands, working on the computer, and falling on our faces. Neither of us had realized just how bone-deep tired we are, after seven months of traveling – bad beds (or sleeping on the ground in tents), late nights, early mornings and constantly being on the move have left us without any energy reserves. It seems that our bodies have realized that we’ve reached a safe place, now, though, and have more or less shut down on us. Neither of us are sick, but we’ve both spent at least one day sleeping and we’ve had long naps every day. We’ll need our energy, the to-do list is huge. I’ve mostly powered through all the computer work – new software, fixing bugs on the websites, updating address books and that sort of thing. I’ve finished captioning and uploading all my photos from Africa (about 2000 of them) but I won’t show them on the website until Sheryl has finished her own 2000 and we’ve both updated the blogs. Outside of the computer we’ve got lots of errands to run and chores to do – replacing or mending clothes and equipment. I need to get my phone unlocked (finally, I’ve only been carrying it around for seven months) so that I can use it while traveling, and we need to back up our photos onto DVD and mail them home. We both need to restock toiletries and pharmaceuticals. I need to re-waterproof my rain-gear. Laundry will be a big chore. I need to set up my tent and air it out and clean it. Lots and lots of things to do – not to mention that we’ve inherited a family for Christmas, so we’ve got to pick up little token presents for everyone or do some baking.

All of that, though, is a drop in the bucket compared to the real issue. We need visas for India, which means that we need to send them our passports. But our passports are both nearly full of visa stamps, so we need to replace our passports before we can get the visas. But to apply for a passport we need our birth certificates, and I’ve somehow lost mine some time over the last few months. Sheryl’s is torn, so she wants to play it safe and replace it too. All of this adds up to considerable expense, delay and stress. New birth certificates will cost us $65 each, plus $120 for the courier to get them to us, and will take a week at least. Passports will cost something like $100 each and could take three weeks. Visas cost (I think) $60 or so and could take another three weeks. Finally there’s the change fee for our airline tickets which is $75 each. So about $350 each in total and a two-month stay in South Africa. These are the things you can’t plan for when you’re traveling long-term. I’m just immensely happy that we’re in a stable, English-speaking, Commonwealth country where we can stay for two months, and where we have an address and people to help us.

We did manage to get downtown once, though. We’re in the suburb of Plumstead here, so getting downtown involves a forty-minute bus ride on the Golden Arrow. Everyone was a bit nervous of us taking the bus, saying that it was dangerous, but this is what people always say who don’t ride buses. It was fine – clean, modern enough, full of families and the elderly just like buses everywhere. It cost us R6.60 to get downtown (about CAD$0.80) – a pretty good deal. I think some of the bad reputation comes from the appearance of the buses – they’re ugly, brown and dirty on the outside and they really don’t look like something you’d want to ride in. I’ve ridden in many worse buses than these, though, even if they were as bad as they look from the outside.

Bad luck for us, though – the day we chose to go downtown was a public holidy (the Day of Reconciliation) so everything was closed. It was still nice to walk around the waterfront without the hordes of people, though. Cape Town has done up their waterfront as a shopping and tourism showpiece – it’s clean (sterile, nearly) and expensive. We didn’t spend long there, but checked out Long Street, the main shopping drag of the city, instead. Oh, and I finally got my sushi. I’ve been craving sushi all through Europe and Africa, and it was too expensive in the one and unheard of in the other. I still wouldn’t call it cheap here, and it wasn’t exceptionally good, but it was good enough and I was tired of waiting. There are lots of Indian restaurants here too, and I even spotted an Ethiopian place, so my diet should be back to normal soon.


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One Comment on this Dispatch:

December 24th, 2008

Is there a phone number where you can be reached in S. A.? If so please e mail to Rum and we will try to reach you with Abigail on our Dec.26th. Time differnce?

¬ John sometimes known as Dad
Chris Liberty - Dispatches from a Gentleman Adventurer
Being the internal dialog of a vagabond who chased his own tail across five continents for 4 years and 2 days from May 2008 to May 2012, in search of something that never really became clear.
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