Muizenberg; In which we brave the horrors of Metrorail; Sunburn again

Muizenberg is a run-down beachfront town, half-past beautiful and coming down fast. Sandblasted and faded by the strong winds off the Cape, its weathered but still flamboyant facades reflect its days of past glory as the British Empire’s Cape Colony’s fashionable bathing destination. I didn’t know I was going to fall in love with the place before we went - for us it was just the closest beach to Plumstead. But the town’s air of cheerfully neglected opulence charmed me completely. The beach is truly magnificent as well - 36 curving kilometres of windswept sand and dramatic waves. I was kicking myself for not having discovered it earlier. I could have spent a month here, but this time we only spent the day.

We’d been warned about Cape Town’s dirty and dilapidated commuter rail system, Metrorail. We’d been told, as usual, that it was scary and dangerous, that white people took their lives in their hands if they rode it, that in fact it would probably be safer just to simply jump in front of the train rather than board it. As I think I’ve mentioned before, Sheryl and I have been subjected to a steady diet of this sort of fear-mongering since we arrived in South Africa - about everything from walking down the street to hiking on Table Mountain to riding buses and minibus taxis. We took it with a grain of salt, naturally, since it was all coming from the sort of people who are horrified at the thought of riding public transit under any circumstances. And as I’ve also mentioned before, we’ve discovered all this fear to be completely groundless and unnecessary - not to mention counterproductive and contemptible, in my own opinion. So we thought it was highly likely that the train would be just another case of white South African fear and that the train was just as safe as any commuter train anywhere (which is to say perfectly safe nearly all the time and somewhat risky at the wrong times and in the wrong circumstances).

And so it proved. The train was, naturally, full of families and the elderly, and I didn’t feel unsafe for a moment. It’s true that it was very dirty and badly-maintained and that we were the only white people aboard. None of that bothers us, of course - travelling gives you a very high tolerance for dodgy transport and standing out in a crowd. But probably all the white South Africans we’ve met here would have found it abhorrent and frightening. This country has a long way to go.

We spent the day at Muizenberg, doing nothing much but sunning ourselves and walking the beach. I gave myself a vicious sunburn, as usual - I really should learn that the prickling, burning sensation doesn’t mean it’s time to put on sunscreen.


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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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