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Tuesday 7 Feb 2012
Cape Town, South Africa

A wasted day.... almost

The previous day I had managed to secure what I assumed was a guaranteed rental for the following morning when the car was due to be returned. It was crucial to my itinerary that I had a car of my own as I wanted to drive down to Hermanus (and surrounds) for the Great White Shark cage diving, plus get to take in a little of the famed Garden Route.

So, up early, I headed in directly to the Cape Town "bowl" (the name given to the flat city centre area bordered by mountains like Table Mountain) where the office was and they regretfully informed me that I had arrived 5 minutes too late! The last car had just been rented out, again! Gah!

And so over the next few hours I wandered the streets of downtown Cape Town, enquiring at rental place to rental place whether or not they had anything, literally ANYTHING, to rent. I also had to find somewhere to stay that night (the plan had been to leave Cape Town today). Nothing. Bloody mining conference! Yell

While looking at one hostel the girl at the desk gave me the number of a company called "Aqua Car Rental" that specialise in renting cars to backpackers. I hiked back up to the tourist info office (who weren't terribly helpful as the girl on call was a trainee and didn't have much tourist information!) and gave them a call. After several attempts to get through, and spending close to 100 rand in coin (about 10 euro), I eventually managed to talk to a lady who introduced me to her "backpacker special": an end-of-the-line 10 year old struggling Mazda. 17 euro a day (and probably destroying the ozone layer all by itself), it was like a dream come true! I was finally gonna start my trip proper!

They offered to pick me up at the tourist office. So I waited ... and waited ... and waaaaaaaaaaited. About 3 hours passed and I gave them another call... turns out they had to pick the car up from the airport before they could pick me up.. yeesh! It was around 2pm at this stage, but thankfully South Africa doesn't get dark until around 8pm in the summer so I would still have a little time to get out of the city when they did eventually decide to turn up.

When the car DID arrive it was 3.30pm! A shabby piece of shit with no power steering or AC, at least it had 4 wheels and fairly decent engine, plus at 17 euro per day it was a bargain! In the meantime, while waiting to get picked up, I had booked a shark cage diving trip down in Hermanus for the next day (I managed to find out they had a 50% off backpacker discount too... only condition is that you had to be staying in any hostel... somewhere!)

By the time I got back to my guesthouse and packed it was around 4pm ... completely wasted day in one of the most beautiful places on earth... really rather annoying. Surprised

All was not lost though, and as I sped on out of Cape Town, south-east toward Hermanus I passed by some of the most stunning scenery I have ever witnessed on a coastal route and, if anything, driving during sunset amplified the beauty. I passed through a beautiful town called Strand, where I instantly thought I would settle if I ever decided to move here. I also got to see my first glimpse of a large South African township while driving through an area called the Cape Flats: a ramshackle collection of corrugated iron roofs along the road (behind a security fence). Funny thing I noticed though, it seeemed townships were not relegated to large settlements like Cape Town; even small towns that I passed on the way to Hermanus had their own miniature townships on the outskirts.

The townships would have been where the blacks servicing the industries controlled by whites would have lived during the apartheid era. In a lot of ways this is still the case (most of the taxi drivers I met lived in the townships).

Welcoming committee
Welcoming committee

African Penguin colony...
African Penguin colony...

On my way down to Hermanus I took a detour to a small town famous for it's African Penguin colony (the name of the town escapes me, but it's clear that all it had going for it was this tourist attraction). As I had arrived around 7pm, the colony entrance was shut, but a welcoming committee of penguins came out to greet me. It was indeed odd to see penguins in a relatively hot place like the Cape, but this is all due to the cold currents coming up from the Antarctic that make the sea around the Cape pretty damn cold (I wondered why I hadn't see many people swimming at Camps Bay... the winds coming off Table Mountain were also another known reason for the cold water there)

I eventually arrived at the lovely coastal town of Hermanus just as the sun finally set at 8pm. I checked myself into the Hermanus Backpackers hostel where I got a lovely room for around 30 euro a night. A very well put together place... the staff were excellent and directed me to a fantastic local restaurant where I dined on fresh fish and got extremely drunk on tasty wine. The drive back to the hostel was fun I can tell you (let alone because the streets were a confusing mish-mash of one-way roads).

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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...

    Cape Town

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    Camps Bay on a weekend
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    Cape Town

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    Cable Car up Table Mountain
  • Camps Bay...

    Cape Town

    South Africa

    Camps Bay from Table Mountain
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    Cape Town

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    Sitting atop Table Mountain