New Year's Day on the beach; Long walks; Meeting up with Paul and Rebecca

Sheryl and I couldn’t think of a better or more appropriate way of spending New Year’s Day than on the beach - it would have been criminal not to. Cape Town’s suburbs are full of beaches, but the closest ones to where we were staying in Green Point were the four beaches at Clifton, where those with inflated bodies and egos go to see and be seen, and Camp’s Bay, which is a normal person’s beach. Camp’s Bay is further, but sounded a lot nicer to us. We tried to catch the Golden Arrow bus out there, but after waiting half an hour for it, it drove right past us. I was pissed off, and Sheryl remarked sourly that she figured we’d need lots darker tans if we wanted a bus to stop for us in Cape Town. But as it turned out, we didn’t see a single bus all day long that hadn’t been chartered for something, so I guess they weren’t running on the holiday. We caught one of the little minibuses instead - I don’t know what they call them here, they’re called matatus in Kenya and dala-dalas in Tanzania. I thought it would be more expensive in Cape Town, but it was only 6 rand each for a 20-minute ride - that’s about CAD$0.75.

Camp’s Bay was crawling with people. The weather was beautiful and the beach was beautiful even if it was crowded. I gave myself a wicked sunburn, but at least my tan will come back - it’s been fading over the last couple of weeks. Even so, we’re still darker than any of the white people here except the surfer boys, which is weird.

After we’d had enough of the beach we decided to go back to Green Point, but Camp’s Bay was so packed with people that the parked cars were lined up both sides of the main road and the traffic was gridlocked. Getting any kind of ride would have been easy but pointless, because it wouldn’t have been going anywhere. We decided to walk instead. It was nearly an hour before we were clear of the traffic. We walked past Clifton’s gleaming apartment buildings straight from the glossy pages of some celebrity lifestyle magazine, all extending down the cliff from the road with their parking garages full of luxury cars and lobbies on the top floor and penthouses at sea-level. I was in awe of the sheer scale of wealth on display. This gave way quickly to Sea Point’s middle-class shopping, characterized, for some reason, by weird sushi restaurants - Korean Sushi, Sushi and Fish, Gambling and Sushi. It took about two hours to walk back, and we were both glad to stretch our legs - any kind of exercise has been hard to find these past few months.

One of the weird side effects of living in South Africa is people telling you all the time how dangerous everything is. The prevailing opinion seems to be that all foreigners are stupid, lost little lambs who will wander wide-eyed into danger at any opportunity, unless prevented by tough, streetwise South Africans. I’d be lying if I said this wasn’t getting under my skin for a couple of reasons. I’ve been in some dodgy places in my time, and Cape Town doesn’t actually seem that bad, to be honest. We aren’t stupid or naive, and we know very well how to handle ourselves. Add in the fact that this nervous advice is generally coming from one of the most sheltered groups of people I’ve ever encountered, and I find myself, unfortunately, trying to prove that they shouldn’t be afraid of their own city. This leads me into doing slightly stupid things that I normally wouldn’t do. For example, there’s a shortcut from the boardwalk which runs along the ocean at Green Point through the fields around the stadium, to the main road. Walking back from dinner, Sheryl and I weren’t paying attention and walked past the turnoff for the main road. No problem, we thought, we’ll just take the shortcut by the lighthouse. Sure, it leads through unlit fields for half a kilometer. We haven’t had any problems so far, we’ll be fine. I did have second thoughts when we reached the shortcut and decided to take the road instead, but the road turned out to be winding and badly lit and in the end, probably more dodgy than walking straight through the fields. But nothing bad happened, which either proves my point or just reflects plain stupid luck, I’m not really sure.

I mention this now because the next morning we ran into two friends from the overland tour, Paul and Rebecca, from Edmonton back home. We knew they were in Cape Town and had given them our phone number to get in touch, but hadn’t heard from them until we saw them checking into the Check Inn (ha, ha) the next morning. They told us they’d suffered the saddest, most incompetent mugging attempt I’ve ever heard of. There’s a tiny street-corner park at the intersection of two downtown streets, no more than fifty meters long and in plain view of both streets. They’d cut across it without any worry at all, and were surprised when two guys came up to them, drunk or otherwise messed up, one of them with what looked like a gun in his pocket. He mumbled something to the effect of “don’t make me hurt you” and it was only then that they realized he was trying to mug them. They ignored him and hurried past, and heard him say plaintively behind them “can you at least spare some change, then?” It was funny for them in retrospect (and damn funny for us, listening to the story) but it left them shaken, too. It happened in broad daylight at the corner of two main streets, after all, and even if it was a couple of idiots, it could have been a real, competent mugger. Sheryl and I reckoned that they needed to get back on the horse, as it were, so we convinced them to walk back to Green Point with us after dinner to restore their confidence.

Flourish

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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.
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