Kirstenbosch Gardens; Fun with FedEx; Passport applications sent (twice)

Kirstenbosch Gardens is a big botanical garden in the middle of the city, right on the slope of Table Mountain. It’s really quite nice. Apparently it’s world-famous - or so says our host. I have to say that I’ve noticed a certain preponderance of world-famous South African things that I’ve never heard of. Kirstenbosch is huge - hectare after hectare of manicured gardens. My favourites were the giant cycads (fern-trees and things) which reminded me of New Zealand. I like to imagine dinosaurs crashing through them. We spent an entire afternoon there, taking a nap on the grass when we got tired and waking up to a family of strange birds rooting in the grass around our heads and making odd gloo-loo-loo noises.

We needed the gardens as a respite from the drama of our ongoing passport application saga. Last I mentioned, we needed new passports, but in order to get new passports we needed new birth certificates. Those were on the way from Canada courtesy of my mother, who had thoughtfully slipped some back-pain medication into the package for Sheryl. We found out after FedEx had picked up the package, though, that there was a strong chance that the medication would cause it to be seized by South African customs and the birth certificates confiscated or returned to Canada. This would have been something close to a disaster - two wasted weeks and $300 blown. FedEx wasn’t scheduled to deliver until the 30th, and we waited tensely until the package finally showed up - a day early on the 29th

Good, yes? Now we could finally get our passport applications sent off to the Canadian High Commission in Pretoria. We had all the forms filled out, waiting only for the birth-certificate numbers, with our photos and everything. We’d had them notarized by a very strange retired police officer at the Plumstead police office - it’s free in South Africa to have anything notarized, which is beautiful. We hit a snag when it came to the payment, though. The High Commission would accept only a bank-issued cheque - not a personal cheque, not cash, not a money order. No problem, we thought - we’ll just go to a bank, give them the money, and get a certified cheque. But after trying three banks, we had to admit defeat. Not a single one would give us a bank-issued cheque if we didn’t have an account with them. Lucky for us, we had a way out - Joan had offered to take us to the bank and get a cheque for us - but I was very curious how we would have managed if we hadn’t been lucky enough to have such a host. Curious enough to pursue it, in fact - I called the consulate here in Cape Town and talked to the consul, who said “Yes, we’ve had problems with the banks here, I just don’t understand it” and offered to send us a letter on consulate stationery which might influence the banks. I had my doubts, though, since all the bank employees we’d talked to were not only reluctant to issue a cheque in exchange for cash, but actually had no idea how to go about it even if they wanted to.

In the end, we got our cheque and DHL came to collect the forms and deliver them to the High Commission in Pretoria. I felt like a huge weight had been lifted off my back - at least, until I discovered the next morning that I’d somehow forgotten to include one of my forms in the damn package. So I had to call DHL again and pay another 200 rand and cause another day’s delay. I was so angry at myself I could have screamed. Sheryl still hasn’t forgiven me, either.

Speaking of packages, there was one bright spot in the gloom of the past few days. I heard from my brother that they’d finally got the package I’d mailed to my little niece Abigail a couple of weeks ago. I can now reveal that the package contained the bow and arrow that the Bushmen made for me, plus two giant porcupine quills and a couple of huge thorny branches which I thought looked cool. My brother said he had to laugh that I’d sent his two-year-old daughter a package full of sharp pointy things and weapons for Christmas, and that her mother was exactly as amused as you’d expect. I’d given Abigail strict instructions to shoot him with the arrow at her earliest opportunity, and he thought that was funny because the note that Sheryl had slipped into the package told her not to shoot it in the house. Hey, all I can say is - the Bushmen taught me how to make poison out of worms. Did I poison that arrow? Maybe. And then again, maybe not.


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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.
This travelogue comprises 16,426 photographs and 402,515 words in 307 dispatches written from 335 places in 52 countries on 6 continents around the world.
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