Sandstorm in Muizenberg; One lucky seal; We really are going to India!

We were sort of kicking ourselves for spending three days in Simonstown when Muizenberg is so much nicer and only a few train stops away, so we decamped from the hostel and headed there for our last day. None of the hostels or guesthouses are full right now, so we didn’t bother making arrangements - we just showed up at the cheapest one (R210 for a double!). It was run-down and bare-bones, but friendly and cheerful. Unfortunately Muizenberg was in the grip of a huge windstorm. With a 36-kilometre-long beach, this effectively means a huge sandstorm. We ventured out for an hour before the buffeting of the wind and the stinging sand drove us back inside, and the howling of the wind kept us there for the afternoon and the evening. I had a lot of writing to keep me busy, since I’d neglected to write a single word for the site for nearly a month, but poor Sheryl was bored out of her skull.

In the morning the storm had blown itself out. The wind was still strong, but for Muizenberg it was a light breeze. We took a long walk on the beach after breakfast. The sand was alive with little whelks, and Portuguese Men o’ War had been washed ashore in the thousands. The beach was strewn with gigantic kelp fronds thrown up from the depths, and there were caretakers working at dragging them onto the scrubby land away from the beach and throwing them over the fence, where they were destined to turn into soil.

As we walked we noticed a commotion up ahead. A group of ten or so people were gathered in an excited knot around something trapped in a big net. When we got closer we saw that it was a very young seal. He must have been washed ashore in the storm and not been strong enough to swim across the giant waves to get away. I have very little affection for seals, baby or otherwise, after visiting the Cape Cross seal colony but this little guy was cute in a whiskery kind of way. We were a bit afraid of what was going to happen to him, but the German lady who seemed to be the ringleader explained to us (very slowly and simply, in that distinctively German way, as if we were very young brain-damaged children) that someone had called the seal sanctuary and rehab centre and that they were on their way. That gave us a warm fuzzy glow until, walking further down the beach, we saw the carcasses of a lot of other seals that hadn’t been as lucky. Nature is a mother, says I.

We couldn’t spend any more time in Muizenberg that day. We’d heard from Joan that our passports had arrived safely with their visa stickers inside, so now we needed to get back to Cape Town and arrange our flight to India, since neither of us would be entirely happy until that had been finalized. We’d been told we had to go into the Qatar Airways office - physically - to pay our $50 change fee (each) and have our new tickets issued. We really wanted to do it over the phone - it’s 2009 after all, for god’s sake - but apparently there was no option. I’m not sure what they’d have expected us to do if we’d been in a city with no office. The good news is that there was space on the flight of the 9th, and we’re booked and ticketed at last. The bad news is that we had to pay a surprise “administration fee” of $40 each in addition to the change fee, for coming into the office and bothering people instead of having our agent take care of the change. Sheryl was steaming. She had a few sharp words for the clerk (whose smirk didn’t help her case, admittedly). I thought she was going to lose her temper right there, and I had to talk her down by reminding her how much she, a travel agent herself, hates it when people complain to her about fees she doesn’t control. Not that I was happy about it myself, I have to say. I was grinding my teeth again, but I’ve resigned myself to bending over and spreading, as it were - anything that gets us the hell to India. Damn country better be good after all this trouble to get there.

Oh, one other small thing. When we got back to Joan’s and examined our visas, we found that after all this heartache and trouble to get them, they’d gotten Sheryl’s passport number wrong. On the visa that’s stuck inside her passport. I can’t decide if this is tragic or hysterically funny.

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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