Monday, April 23, 2007

Vino and Ostrich Sausage...

I forgot to mention in my last post all the different "nicknames" I was called by the street folks looking for small change or wanting to sell me drugs, etc. I'd hear everything from "Hey Jim!" "Master!" "Chief!" "Boss" "Hey Joe!". I get most of these... but where does the "Hey Jim!" come from? Either I look like someone named "Jim" in Cape Town, or it's a common street nickname for tourists.

As I mentioned before... the day after I left Cape Town for Stellenbosch in the winelands didn't go quite as smoothly as my "One Pleasant Day." Not really that bad, but just annoying. Just little things like the gas station attendant forgot to check the pump and several liters went out all over the ground. When I questioned whether I'd have to pay for all that wasted gas... it turned into a big todo with the station manager, etc. They said it wasn't their fault, and that it wasn't MY fault.. but only the fault of a broken gas pump. I asked, "Well is the pump gonna pay for all that wasted gas?"... but I don't think they saw the humor in it. At the end, I knew if I didn't pay for it, the poor gas station attendant would have to, so I just paid and was finally on my way again.

From the station it wasn't long before I was cruising through the winelands surrounding the town of Stellenbosch. Wonderful light and some very lovely wine estates. But, I figured I should sort out my accommodations first, so I headed straight into the town to find another backpacker lodge. I had high hopes that after Cape Town, this would be a pretty easy task.

I was wrong. Stellenbosch is a nice enough place for an afternoon, but not really much to see there. More of a place to spend the afternoon doing wine tastings and then moving on. If I had it to do over again, I probably would have just done it in a day trip from Cape Town instead. The problem was I didn't know the street names are printing on the curbs and not on posts. And, most of the curbs are non-exhistent in lui of little gutters that run along the roads. So, I even though I had a map... every sign I saw that looked like a street sign were actually just signs pointing to different vineyards. And, there must be hundreds of them in this area.

After I'd just wandered around enough in the bakkie, I found a few backpacker lodges but they were all full. The help never seemed very helpful or courteous, and most of the time wouldn't even open the security gate to me. They'd just say they're all full and send me on my way. Eventually I went to the tourist information office and the clerk there just gave me another map. When I asked if she could just call one of the lodges to ask if they had room, she said she could but I'd have to pay her $20 for each call as a "service charge." That's about $3 U.S. per call! So, back on the street I went with a new map and still clueless. I looked for one of the lodges recommended in the travel guide, but without being able to see street names.. it was hopeless. Turns out, the one I was looking for closed down about a year ago.

Eventually I found one with rooms. I'd actually been there an hour prior but no one would answer the bell. Later, the man and his girlfriend running the place told me they'd over done their drinking the night before at a wedding and were still "out of sorts." They asked how long I'd stay and I said probably a couple nights.

Finally, 2hrs of looking for a room was over and I could relax. Or, so I thought. Turns out the woman running the place has very loud little children that were running and screaming throughout the place... so back out on the street I went exploring. ;-)

However, in my 2hrs of lodge searching... I'd pretty much seen the entire town (it's not very big and easy to see all of it in a couple hours of walking). There are a few little tourist shops and some nice sidewalk cafes, but other than that... not much to it. So, I got a bottle of Stellenbosch wine and headed back to my room to chill out. Figured I'd hit it again the next day when I was fresh.

Got to chill for a couple hours until I overheard some violent lung-popping screaming coming from the kitchen across from my room. Not the kiddies this time, but it sounded like the woman owner and her boyfriend were having a fairly wicked fight. Guess they hadn't seen me come back in (I was the only guest there) so, when they saw I was there, it got a little uncomfortable. The Afrikaans accents were so thick, and the screaming at such a fever pitch that I couldn't make out what they were fighting about. Eventually, they calmed down and I slipped back out into the night to take a little walk, grab a pepper-steak meat pie.. and then turn in for the night.

The next morning I couldn't decide if I really wanted to stay another night or not. I was then informed that they'd booked the whole place to some big group and that I would need to vacate the room. Great! Decision made for me. ;-)

I asked the fellow that had been screaming the evening before if he could give me directions to Outdshoorn. He told me it was really easy.. told me where to go and what road sign to look out for. So, after I'd stopped off at 3 or 4 different vineyards for tastings, I could just keep going towards the N1 highway.

The vineyards were all fairly nice, but I'm not much of a wine "taster". More a wine "drinker." When the fellow would ask me what the wine smelled like, I'd say.. "Gee wiz, smells pretty much like wine to me." He'd say, "Don't you smell a little berry, moldy cheese, and a hint of old tire?". "Crikies! Old Tire!? And I'm supposed to want to put that in my mouth?" He got a big laugh out of it and most of the afternoon went like that. After the first tasting, I stopped drinking the wine and shifted to actually just tasting it since I still had a good 4-5hr drive to get to Outdshoorn. Or so I thought.

Turns out, the road sign the fellow told me to look out for doesn't exhist. And after nearly 4hrs I still hadn't seen it. (his directions were pretty loose). But, I did watch the sun go down over some fairly impressive mountains all lined with vineyards at their feet. I was completely lost in what appeared to be the middle of nowhere. However, the scenery was so beautiful, I didn't even care.

After it'd got dark, I pulled over for some gas and asked the attendant where this road sign for the R62 turn-off was. He didn't know but asked around for me. Another fellow came up and asked where I was going. He directed me down the highway another 200kms and said the turn-off I was looking for was just before some town called Baywards West? Or something like that. but, after that it was just another 50kms.

I thanked him and he went back to his truck. A couple minutes later, he came back and asked, "Let me ask you something... if you came from Stellenbosch, why did you go THIS way?" I told him the directions I was given. He said, "Oh, well going this way just took you an extra 250kms or so out of your way." Great!

Finally made it to the turn-off and was glad I only had 50kms to go. That is, until I saw the sign that read "Outdshoorn 178kms". Bummer.

I was really out in the boonies at this point, and it was pitch black with no other traffic. Eventually, I went through some pass that was lined with sharp stone curves and very high winds. Pretty creepy as well. I knew that I was likely missing some specular scenery, but that was the furthest thing from my mind. I just wanted to find a place to sleep.

Eventually, I passed through a little town called De Rust... rang several hotel bells but no one would come to the door. Seemed almost like a ghost town, but there were cars parked here and there so I knew someone at least lived there. They just wouldn't answer the door bell after dark I suppose. And it was already after 11pm.

Pushed on to Oudtshoorn and started again. I asked some police if they could tell me where Church street was, and they offered to just take me there. I told them it wasn't necessary, but they insisted. After 3 different lodges wouldn't answer knocks on the door, or door bells... it was now after midnight. The black cops told me there was another place they knew of, but they didn't know how clean it was. I said, "at this point I'm not going to be picky!"

A few minutes later we pulled into what looked like a half-way house with a big sign painted on the bricks above the door "BIG BIRD ACCOMMODATIONS". There was a tall skinny black man standing at the door with a trucker's cap that had a Mercedes logo on it, and he was just standing there admiring his old Mercedes parked at the door with the words "Pappa Cool" painted on the windshield.

I thanked the police for helping me.. and they just lingered a bit like they were waiting for something... like a tip! Do even the South African cops here ask for tips?!

Took a look at the room and it was actually not so bad. Pappa Cool turned out to be quite a character and wanted to talk into the wee hours of the morning. He kept telling me I HAD to go to the Cango Caves and that if I didn't.. I hadn't seen the Klein Karoo. I think the area is known as the "little Karoo". Not sure where the big Karoo is, but with how Pappa Cool went on about these caves, I had to see them.

I suppose they were ok, but the tour guide was and group of families I was with were pretty cheesey with the little group jokes. Sorta like that tour guide of the Alamo in Texas during that scene in Pee Wee's Big Adventure where he's looking for his bike. Equally as funny.

After that, I'd been told I must drive the Swarthart Pass. But I didn't have enough time to knock that out, and the ostrich farms, and the Wildlife Ranch. So, I figured I'd just drive a half hour or so of it (all dirt roads)... take a snap or two and call it done. And am I glad I did. Such spectacular views!

A little ways in and up the first mountain pass I pulled over to grab a snap and enjoy the vista. I forgot I'd bought a bottle of wine at one of the tastings, but didn't have a cork screw. Just moments later, a car with some South Africans pulled up and asked what car trouble I was having. I told them no trouble at all but asked, "would any of you happen to have a cork screw?". They all laughed and someone actually did have one. The road is fairly harrowing going along straight drop cliffs, so I just "tasted" again. Didn't seem like a good idea to actually drink it this time. ;-) Wise choice! The road got even more harrowing, but the views were just stunning. I wish I'd had my dual-sport motorcyle on this pass, because it was amazing. Especially when you got to the bottom of the canyon with a small river running through it and banked by huge red mountains on all sides.

Made a loop through Prince Albert to get gas and continued on the loop through Merringsport and onto De Rust. WOW! This was yet another impressive pass. The same one I couldn't see the night before with the high winds. The trip to Outdshoorn is worth doing this loop alone!

Wasn't going to make it in time for the Ostrich farms or wildlife ranch.. but I spent sunset on the side of the road with a bunch of Ostriches to get some snaps. That's all I really wanted anyway. Not really the "tour" kinda guy, so roadside with the Ostriches suited me just fine.

What odd birds they are too! I'd had some Ostrich sausage at breakfast that was quite tasty, and they look so cute from a distance... just bobbing along like they do. But, up close they look like some demented alien species that kinda gave me the willies looking at them through the viewfinder at full-frame. It was still pretty funny to watch their heads all pop up and down in the camera frame. Then, all of a sudden ALL their heads popped up at the same time and they all bolted in one direction. I looked around to see if there was some predator, or car, or anything that might have spooked them. But, I didn't see anything at all. It couldn't have been me since I'd already been standing there for nearly an hour. Then, they all stopped running at once as they slowly all walked back over to the fence where I was standing and started grazing again. Like I said, very peculiar animals.. but they make a dandy sausage that's for sure.

Splurged a bit and had a fantastic dinner at Sunny Jemimas in Outdshoorn. Magnicient restaurant by the way if you're ever in Outdshoorn, South Africa.

Back to the Big Bird and another very long conversation with Pappa Cool. I could smell that he'd been drinking, and since I was getting burned out on wine anyway... I gave him the I'd bought in Stellenbosch. It was decent enough, but after awhile they all start tasting the same. He was quite pleased with the gesture and was excited to know if I'd made it to the Cango caves he'd raved about the night before. I told him they were nice and that I took a few photos etc. I didn't mention the tour was so cheesy with all these little kids screaming and running wild. But the more he asked about the Caves it became pretty clear he'd never even been to them. I asked, and it was confirmed. He said he'd been meaning to visit them but never got around to it. Huh?! Sure sounded like he'd been there by the way he went on and on about them. You'd think he'd been born inside the caves with the level of enthusiasm he had for them.

Managed to get to bed a little earlier than the wee hours and got up early enough to hit the wildlife ranch before leaving town. I knew it was basically going to be a zoo, but I hadn't got a nice shot of a lion yet (except for the footage I got of the lions tearing apart that poor wharthog), and figured what the heck, no one will know the difference. ;-) Yep, it was just a little zoo. Not too shabby, but just a zoo nonetheless. You could get pretty close to the animals though, so it was still kinda sweet checking out the lions, leopards, meerkats, crocks, etc. from just a few feet away and no chainlink fence. You sort of looked down at them from a catwalk.

The rest of the drive back to the Oceana Wildlife Reserve was pleasant enough. Did the N2 highway all the way back and stopped off in Knysna for a few more snaps before continuing on. I'm using their bakkie for this trip and didn't mind stopping off for a couple days before pushing on. They needed the vehicle for something so they didn't have to twist my arm very hard to get me to stay on a couple more days. ;-)

Drove to Grahmstown yesterday to see what it was about and after passing by a giant Pineapple in the middle of a pineapple crop.. I made it just in time for that last sliver of golden South African sunset. I looked frantically for something to shoot and spotted these to chaps just chillin' on the patio of and old fish and chips place. I asked them if I could take their photos and they said they didn't mind. They didn't look very happy, so when I finished I was expecting them to ask me for money. But, they didn't. They just politely thanked me for taking photos of them. So, since they looked like they could use a few rand.. I asked them if it was ok if I gave them each a few rand? (like I didn't know what the answer would be) ;-). You should have seen their faces light up. Such big smiles! It was a pleasure to give money in this way and know that it wasn't likely going to buy benzine glue.

That's it for now... heading out for Hogsback North of here in the morning, and may make it up to Coffebay as well if time permits.

More later. Here are some snaps I hope you will enjoy. :-)

Thursday, April 19, 2007

One Pleasant Day...

My last day in Cape Town was just picture perfect, and one of those completely pleasant days you get to experience every once in a blue moon... one of those days where everything just goes right and it makes all the usual travel hassles seem worthwhile.

It started with a delightful walk through the Company's Gardens, and because there was a film crew shooting there... evidently the police had cleared out all the junkies and glue sniffers... so I was able to walk completely undisturbed. ;-) As a matter of fact, I don't think I was approached for money for the entire day from start to finish.

I saw piles of pigeons laying is the grass... each with one wing up in the air... and at first thought it looked peculiar... as if they were all dead. Then, after watching them a few minutes, I noticed they were all just chilling out on the soft wet grass in the sun. When the lawn sprinkler passed by, they'd ALL lift one wing up in the air in order to get a nice cool blast of water under their wings. It was really funny to watch.

Then it was off to find a bit of breakfast on Long Street. The place I happened to pick turned out to be the best breakfast I had while in Cape Town with probably the best coffee I've had in South Africa so far. The place is called Mojitos and has a revolutionary Cuban theme.

Off for a walk to explore the half a dozen square blocks around Long Street that I hadn't covered yet for a few more happy snaps. Then, it was off for a nice drive to the Clifton beach area... onto the spectacular Chapman's Peak drive and around Hout's Bay.... and then on toward Cape Point for a stop around the Muizenberg beach area where they have these little colorful changing rooms lined up along the beach like toy boxes. I can't remember seeing any other white folks in that area of the beach, so I wondered if I'd again wandered into an area I might not be so welcome (something you still unfortunately need to be aware of here in the post-Apartheid S. Africa. Or, so I've been told).

However, everyone was very friendly, personable, and helpful. Just a bunch of good folks enjoying the wonderful day along with me.

A little boy came running up to me and asked if I'd take his picture. I did so but he just stood there squinting and shivering form the cold ocean. I suggested he flex his muscles or something like he-man, so he did his best impression while shivering and gritting his teeth. I wish I'd shot a few more of him with those colorful changing rooms, but I got a couple snaps off before his little sister wanted her picture taken as well. She too was shivering from the cold water, and I got a couple nice closeup snaps of her as well. Only after closer inspection of her nostil area that was caked with sand and.. well, I'll just spare you the details. ;-)

Continued along a great stone pathway that wrapped along the beach toward where I had the bakkie (bucky) parked and just enjoyed all the crisp colors reflecting off the late afternoon surf and boulders along the coast, and watched the fishermen along the way.

At that point I thought, "wow! what a splendid day... just wish I'd been able to fit in the Kistenbosch Botanical gardens as well." So, I made my way back toward Cape Town and on a whim, took the turn off for the Kirstenbosch Gardens. I still had an hour before they closed and was told I didn't have to leave right as closing. I was just trying to squeeze in one last tourist attraction before I left, but really wasn't all that excited about wondering around some gardens for an hour or so. But, man! am I glad I did. Probably THE most magnificient gardens I've ever visited at the foot of Table Mountain. All indigenous plants with abstract sculptures, South African ginea fowl, peacocks, etc. It was a truly magical time of day to be strolling through the gardens as well.

Well all good days must come to an end so I made my way toward the exit and parking lot. I took a fortunate wrong turn and ended up at this great restaurant called The Silver Tree and decided that maybe I'd just relax for a bit and top off the day with a nice glass of South African wine. I was the only one there since it was the inbetween time when all the tourists have left the park, and the diner crowd hasn't started arriving yet. So, I had the whole place to myself in peace. Ordered a starter to go with the wine that were only calamari rings... but likely the best calamari rings and buttered bread I think I've ever had!

An easy drive back to the backpacker lodge and parked the bakkie (pick-up) at a private office garage around the corner that I'd made a deal with the weekend security guards to pay under the table a few rand to park inside to make sure nothing else disappeared like the old sheets someone had stolen a couple days before. These fellas were from the Congo and were very helpful and friendly. We chatted a bit of politics and info about the Congo in general (will definitely have to go there next time) and then I was back at the hostel to turn in for an early night before my drive to Stellenbosch the next day. Which didn't go so swell, but more on that in the next installment. For now, I was just going to savor the remnants of the perfect day I was so fortunate to experience.

From Cape Town I'd planned to make a loop around the Stellenbosch winelands with a stop off in Outdshoorn on my way back up to the heavenly Oceana Wildlife Reserve for a pit-stop shot in the arm of luxury before I head on a bit up the coast and inland toward Hogsback.

Sorry there are so many images below in this installment, but I wanted to wrap up the Cape Town segment with images of just Cape Town and the surrounding areas. And sorry there are no close encounters of the Junky/Lion/Baboon kind... Just an entry of snaps... most of them were shot on this "one pleasant day." I hope you enjoy. :-)

Friday, April 13, 2007

Stop! Thief!!!

"Funny" thing happened on the way back from Cape Point today. Well, it wasn't so funny at the time... as a matter of fact, it was more than a bit terrifying and I nearly soiled myself!

I'd had a nice day driving along the coastline of Hout's Bay, through Chapman's Peak, and all the way down to Cape Point where the Atlantic and Indian oceans meet at the southernmost tip. Stopped several times for scenic shots and took a pretty leisurely pace. Cape Town is a nice enough city, but what REALLY sets it apart and earns it's title of one of the most beautiful cities on Earth are the magnificient views around the city. Did the cablecar ride up to Table Mountain yesterday which was splendid, and decided to hit Cape Point today.

Someone had told me Cape Point was nothing special and just a view of the ocean no different than others. Boy were they wrong! It was one of the most dramatic vistas I've seen to date.

After an exhausting afternoon of climbing all the stairs and pathways around the Point, I relaxed for a bit in the park restaurant and had a couple glasses of wine. Got a few nice snaps of other tourists relaxing.. finished my wine and began the drive back to Cape Town. I'd seen baboons along the roadside just walking along like any other local resident, and really wanted a nice shot of a baboon. But, everytime I saw one there was never anywhere to pull over. There were signs all around Cape Point warning that baboons were dangerous, etc. But, I'd not seen one in the park.

One the way out of the park there was a van stopped on the road and I noticed two baboons just lounging roadside. I waited my turn and pulled up to get MY shot. Only everytime I tried to get a shot, another rude tourist would pull up right beside me to take a snap themselves and always blocking the shot. I had my window down to shoot from the bucky since I didn't know if these fellas were really all that dangerous.

After the third rude tourist pulled up, I decided to get out and walk over to one of the baboons to get a closer shot and prevent any other tourist from blocking me. I snapped off a few while he/she (couldn't tell the gender) just sat there, picking his/her rear... looking around.. and seemingly not even noticing I was there.

THEN, it got up and started to walk across the road. I followed it in my camera's viewfinder... until I realized it was heading straight for the bucky. Surely it would just pass on into the bush. But no, it jumped right into the bucky!!! I panicked and ran over to the bucky where the baboon was rifling through papers and grabbed my camera bag. Oh no!!! My recently changed airline ticket and passport were in there along with most of my camera gear. Still, I don't know why I didn't just put the camera down and deal directly with the present threat, but I just kept snapping away. After the flash went off the baboon looked stunned for a moment and I reached into the cab to try and knock it away from my camera bag with my camera. BIG MISTAKE! When the beast hiss and opened it's mouth wide.. Jeezus-age-Christ! I had no idea their teeth were that long. It lunged at me with the camera bag in it's paw and I fell back into the side mirror to try to get out of it's reach and gleaming fangs. My back still hurts from hitting that side mirror, but no worries... it snapped right back on later and wasn't broken. ;-)

There was a van of tourists behind me all screaming and rolling up their windows. Gee thanks for the help people!

There was one guy passing in another bucky who jumped out and tried to help me wrangle my back away from the baboon. It almost made it... was halfway out of the window with my bag in it's paw when I snapped another shot. The flash stunned it again, and it dropped the bag and jumped up on the roof.

Still shaking.. I jumped back into the bucky and rolled up the window. About 30secs down the road as I realized what had just happened... and that this dumbass was still taking photos... I couldn't help but laugh hysterically outloud. Please excuse the poor quality of the baboon thief's photos.. I was shooting on manual and was took distracted to reset for a better exposure.. but you get the idea from the photos below. ;-)

I realized I've mostly been showing you detail shots, so I included a few scenics in this round. Hope you enjoy!

Thursday, April 12, 2007

2 sheets gone!

Extended my return ticket today... so I've got more time. I was scheduled to return on the 18th but will stay until the 29th. I spend alot of time at Oceana shooting so I haven't seen enough of the area yet. It was REALLY tough tearing myself away from the luxury, but now I'm back into travel mode and want to hit a few more towns before my return.

I read about a place called Hogsback that's supposed to be "other worldly" and rumored to be the place where Tolkien got his inspiration for the Hobbit.. so it sounds kinda cool. There's a place to stay there called "Away with the Fairies" that sounds groovy.

I'm sitting on a deck patio one story up... found an unsecure wireless network so I'm making the most of it. ;-) This rasta guy just sat across from me and is smoking some VERY strong smelling weed. I wonder if that's illegal here? All the rasta dudes seem to light up freely on the street AND in the cafes.. or, they step just outside the door.. hit it a few times.. then come back in. Alot more police around tonight. Wonder what's going on. Maybe just beefing up for the weekend.

Was going to visit Oudtdshorn (or something like that) but I think it's basically alot of Ostrich farms.. so might skip that one. Or not, it's kind of on the way.

When up to Table Mountain today. HUGE line of tourists. It's been cloudy for the last couple of days, but today was fairly clear. Guess everyone else was waiting it out like me. ;-)

I'm very terrified of heights so it was a challenge dragging my hide onto that cable car that appears to climb nearly straight up along sheer stone bluffs. But, I made it. Kept my eyes closed most of the way.. but grew a pair and kept them open for the entire ride down. Luckily, it was faster.

Paid a parking guard to watch the bucky for me, but when I got back... they'd slipped the side windows of the cab open and stole the two old sheets that were in the back to cover up my luggage. Nothing else was in it but I can't believe they'd steal old sheets. Seems like if you're gonna steal you'd go for breaking into a Beamer or Mercedes.. not a little bucky with nothing in it. Oh well, guess I'm lucky they didn't break the windows to get in.

It's been tough sleeping here... there's a reggae bar below my window that blasts music all night long.. and, a falafel stand that blares the same ol' Arabic tape over and over again. NOT a good mix with reggae. ;-) At first it was kinda cool, but now it's just annoying. I really need to move on from Cape Town, but there's just a couple more things I'd like to check out before I leave.

Just about a half hour ago (It's about 9:45PM at the moment) I was walking down the street to get a pepper steak pie. They're pretty cheap and very tasty. Kind of a pot pie without the tin bowl. Anyway, I couldn't even eat it on the street without all the street freaks coming up and wanting it. One guy just kept moving in closer like he was going to snatch it from me and run. Then this woman came up wanting money. Started to feel like they were working together.. one to distract me while the other did a snatch and run. I've seen that same gig too many times so I just darted back into the pie shop to wait it out.. and finish my delicious pie in peace.

It's a great city with spectacular views.. just not so swell if you're staying in the part of town I am... ie. the "party" street with a park nearby where the junkies like to sleep during the day. If you're in several other parts of the city in the bigger hotels, I'm sure it's perfectly safe.

More later... here are a few more photos for your pleasure:

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

mo' photos....

The last 3 weeks + have pretty much been a blur.. I was utterly lost in my work at Oceana... but not so much that I didn't get lulled into the ultra-posh luxury... gorgeous weather... moonlit nights with the sweet serenade of Oceana's beach front... a bed that slept like a cloud.. and late nights fulled by redbull and fine South African wine, etc. When I left Oceana, I was quite sad to leave.. but us Commander Cody Explorers must push on!

Rip, the principal owner, sent me to this other swanky wildlife reserve called Shamwari. Again, you wouldn't believe the level of luxury some people get accustomed to. I'm doing my best not to get too spoiled. ;-) It wasn't quite as swanky as Oceana.. but it's more of wildlife reserve. And they assigned my own personal game ranger! I even watched a pride of lions stalk and kill a wharthog... actually, the females did all the work, then the male took the meat. It was absolutely stunning to sit only about 15feet from these great cats while they litterally tore that poor unfortunate wharthog to pieces. I mean, they ate it alive! I gotta hand it to the wharthog though.. one tough bugger. It was still making horrible noises and trying to break free long after half it's body was gone.

On to Knysna... beach resort town. Very nice, but not that special. Great if you live here I'm sure, but not really that much different from any other beach town. The forests nearby are stunning though. I spent and entire afternoon just wondering around the pathways under giant ferns.

In Cape Town now. Big mistake driving a pickup (they call it a "bucky" here) into a big city, at night, on the opposite side of the road than I'm used to. And, a standard. If that wasn't bad enough.. it was Friday night when I arrived on the Easter holiday weekend, ie. NO ROOMS! I tried 7 different hostels until one told me if I waited until midnight, they had one booking left that hadn't shown up. They made me wait until 1AM.. but I got a room. Now the fun part... lugging ALL my gear up 5 flights of stairs with many of them broken. This place is an old Victorian building that would have been condemned in the U.S. years ago. But here, it's a "backpacker lodge". Great! The whole place smells of mildew, busted architecture, waiting in line for the shower, and LOUD!!!!.

Hey! What happened to the Oceana bed turndowns, gentle surf lulling you to sleep, chocolates and flowers on the bed, a wine cellar of fine South African wine at your disposal... etc.?! On Saturday, I was beginning to wonder what I ever saw in shoe-string traveling at all. But now that reality has set in.. and the dream of Oceana is nearly faded.. I'm starting to get used to Cape Town. It's definitely a dangerous place in parts. If you're in a 5-star you have nothing to worry about.. but on Long Street where I am.. it's non-stop partying.. noise.. beggars... junkies... thieves.. theives... theives... and a few muggers. ;-)

I was about to blow this town and couldn't figure out how folks can call this one of the most beautiful cities on Earth. THEN, I took a drive in the bucky around Chapman's Peak toward Simonstown and Cape Point. WOW!!! I don't think I've ever had a more beautiful drive in my entire life.. and in 16 different countries to date. Absolutely jaw-dropping.

Had some problems with the bucky's shifting though. Sometimes it just won't go into any of the first 3 gears. Quite shocking to realize this after you've turned up a 70deg incline with traffic behind you. And South African drivers aren't the most patient bunch either. I basically just parked the bucky and was not going to drive until I left.. just to make sure I could get it back to Oceana. Then, I tried one more time and figured out that if I pump the clutch 4-5 times I can usually get her in gear when she's not cooperating. So, I got wheels again. ;-)

I've been making sure I get to the hostel by nightfall. That's when most of the roaming theives seem to hit the streets. Last night this guy showed me a fresh stab wound in the back of his leg because they wanted his last 2 rands. I couldn't believe it! I'd just walked down that same street with my laptop half hour before that. Guess I got lucky this time. ;-)

Then this morning I see this little boy asleep in the park. I'd not given in to his demands for money, but seeming him there asleep in the park made me feel sorry for him. So, I tried to wake him up to give him a few rands. I couldn't wake him up and worried that he might be dead... I shook him pretty hard and he sort of woke up enough for me to hand him some money.. then he kinda passed out again. Another black man told me not to give him money.. that he'd felt sorry for him too and brought him some sandwiches... but he wouldn't take them. Only wanted money to buy more benzine glue. He told me not to give these kids money because they'll just buy more glue with it.

Guess that's why he seemed like a very sound sleeper.

Anyway... here's a few more snaps for your pleasure.

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

More Photos

Haven't felt up to writing yet.. but I'm still alive and kicking (despite nightmare navigating of Cape Town at night) and, here's some more photos to tide you over. :-)

Left Oceana about 8 days ago for the Shamwari Wildlife reserve and watched lions hunt and kill a wharthog. Stunning! Then onto Knysna, and now in Cape Town. Will write more stories later.