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Sunday 5 Feb 2012
Cape Town, South Africa

First day... flight recovery time!

Adverse weather hit Heathrow yesterday after I flew in from Dublin on BMI. We barely scraped out by the skin of our teeth... they literally had to blow snow off our plane's wings before we could take off... any later flights were cancelled.

Damn lucky!

Of course with pleasure comes equal measure of pain and the 12 hour flight down to Cape Town was a laugh a minute...

  1. It was an all-nighter and the seats were cramped so I started getting muscular pains due to the position I had to hold my leg in when the passenger in front put their seat down all the way. I estimate I got around 2 hours sleep on the whole flight... although a lot of this may also have been due to the next point...
  2. We hit some "unplanned turbulance". During dinner. While all the trays were full of food. And I'm not talking yer standard jostle, this was a full-fledged rollercoaster ride that saw my tray (and most other trays) flip up off the table about a foot in the air and gracefully splatter all over the aisle. Rice and pasta, plus beef in gravy strewn across the aircraft. The entire plane lop-sided for a good 5-7 seconds and as we rapidly lost altitude I thought "this is it" (oddly I remember being rather calm and resolute about my impending fate) but thankfully our Afrikaner pilots managed to regain control and steered us through a good 3 or 4 such events. Apparently they were forming due to the extreme cold weather in Europe hitting the hot African air over the Sahara... if we *had* crashed and survived in the middle of the Sahara I already had my eye on a few fatties in the aircraft that would do for lunch and dinner the next day.
  3. Around 3am, I noticed an elderly woman being laid flat on the ground in the aisle with an oxygen mask over her face. Possibly related to previous point!
  4. ...oh and a pot of coffee was spilled over my nice new jeans

Fun flight. Still... it could have been worse. It could have been like the Iberia flight I took to Rio de Janeiro in 2010! Also the seats on South African airways aren't quite as tight as those on Qatar airways, so I shouldn't really complain..

As the sun rose we got our first glimpse of the Cape Peninsula. Miles of white beaches backed by (surprisingly) a rather brown, dry landscape, reminiscent of the area around Malaga in Spain. I imagine this is largely becaue we're right smack in the middle of summer (today's temperature was averaging 38C!) and perhaps it would appear greener in winter, although I imagined acres of vinyards were to be on display. Didn't get a view of Table Mountain unfortunately as I was on the wrong side of the plane, I did see it later in the day as I headed in with the taxi.

After a good 2 hours queuing to get through immigration (because there were two officials attending to 400 passengers... TIA as they say, "this is Africa"), I was out and finding that my pre-arranged chauffeur hadn't shown up (TIA *cough*) I got a taxi to the guesthouse that I'd booked last minute on Friday. I selected it based on being fairly central, wasn't outrageously expensive, and wasn't a hostel (last thing I wanted was to move into a smelly packed dorm after a 12 hour flight). Of course, not knowing anything about the topography of Cape Town I had no way of knowing that it sits atop a steep hill, so a lot of strenuous walking was gonna take place in 38C heat. Still though, it's a lovely little place: a restored 80-year-old Dutch house owned by a Dutchman called Maarten, with it's own little pool, in a very exclusive part of Cape Town that reminds me of the Algarve.

As Maarten, plus 2 separarate taxi drivers said of their own accord, "it's a SAFE area".

Safety (and the varying levels thereof) seems to be of paramount concern for Capetonians and clearly it's big business, with each house surrounded by rather discouraging barbed wire fences and signs reminding passers by that the house is monitored by such-and-such security firm. When I asked Maarten about how to get to a place called Simon's Town, he said "You can get the train .... it's safe".

To be honest I haven't felt threatened at all (yet... the month is young!) and instead have found the people here to be a friendly welcoming bunch. Blacks and whites seem to get along in harmony, although the vestiges of days gone by are still evident in the disparity between the two groups: Blacks and "coloureds" (i.e. mixed race or of Indian/Malay descent) serve you the drinks or drive the taxis; Whites are the clientelle or restaurant owners. Haven't seen any white waiters yet (although there was one white steward on the flight)

Camps Bay on a weekend
Camps Bay on a weekend

Talking of which, I met my first Zulu today, a waitress named Tracy. I think her Zulu name is Tkshinagyogyamomo or something. She mentioned the different languages of the people in her home country, Zimbabwe, including the Shona, San, Zulu and Xhosa. The last one is pronounced by clicking your tongue wherever you see an X at the start, so that's "(click)osa". I'll try to remember that when wishing everyone a happy (click)mas next year.

A common sight across all of Africa, here too there were many people selling their "works of art" to punters on the beach. I got chatting to a young Zimbabwean man who had earned a degree in Civil Engineering in his home country. In order to work in South Africa as an engineer he had to pay a massive fee to get the permit, so he was left trying to sell pieces of art on the beach, which barely covered his rent and food. Very sad situation.

Today was really a rest day, so I didn't do much beyond check out the beach down at "Camps Bay" (which was crowded due to it being Sunday, I'll go back and check it out next week) and sampled the local brew (Castle beer.. yum!) while watching the sunset over the Cape of Good Hope.

As with every big town in the world you've got yer local variation of the Chav, driving down Camps Bay main street in their souped up Honda Civics, busting out heavy raga while scaring old ladies.

tomorrow I do some exploring... watch this space...

3 Comments for this Travel blog entry

Avi Says:

5 February 2012

Hahahaha, really enjoy how you exolain everything. Real fun. Hope you having a splendid time in the Cape.


mum Says:

6 February 2012

Ye gods Peter, that was quite a nightmare of a flight!! glad you made it - please keep safe! we just back in dubai after a lovely weekend in a hotel in the middle of the desert-most amazing red sand dunes etc. keep safe and look forward to your next

Bro Says:

6 February 2012

Woah Bro, flight sounded a bit dodgy...glad to know you got there tho! Keep safe. G

Sithern Efrika

Travel blog by peterforan

Great White Shark cage diving

Great White Shark cage diving

20 days to sample the "other" down-under... a trip covering parts of South Africa, Namibia, Zambia and Zimbabwe in February. Cape Town to Vic Falls get the treatment, while I mix in a safari or two... Now where did I put that elephant gun?

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  • Camps Bay on...

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    Camps Bay on a weekend
  • Cable Car up...

    Cape Town

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    Cable Car up Table Mountain
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    Cape Town

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    Camps Bay from Table Mountain
  • Sitting atop...

    Cape Town

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    Sitting atop Table Mountain