Diary of trip to South Africa

Feb. 4-14, 1999

Thurs. Feb. 4

I worked until 1 p.m. and biked home. Louise had everything packed and new luggage wheels. Took X39 bus to Heathrow. It was windy and 10 deg. Took Heathrow Express train to Terminal 4. Hardly anyone there. The girl at the British Airways check-in desk said when it's crowded, she gets yelled at for 8 hours a day. It took a long time to get seats as the flight was full, so we went to customer service and got a coupon for 8 and bought tea and cakes. Louise was worried we'd spend the night in Slough instead of South Africa. Sat until 5:30, then the man said have a nice flight. The plane was a 747 holding 425 people. The stewardesses looked tired. Had chicken teriyaki, beer and wine at 8 o'clock. Couldn't sleep. Had a snack for breakfast. Flight took 11 hours, cloudy all the way over France, Spain, Algeria, Nigeria and the Atlantic Ocean.

Fri. Feb. 5

Landed at 8 a.m. local time, just 2 hours' time difference from England. It was 26 deg. and sunny. Took a little bus to downtown Capetown for $20. Saw shanty towns beside the airport and freeway -- all the people from the townships in the north moved there. There was a big traffic jam because they were fixing the road and it was the morning rush hour. Got off near the Holiday Inn downtown, got money from a bank machine and went to the tourist information centre. The city was modern like Toronto, but with black people selling carvings, fruit and wrist watches on the sidewalk. Picked out a bed and breakfast place, Altona Lodge in Green Point to stay for 3 nights, then took a taxi there for $5. It is on a quiet back street and is run by a large German lady. She showed us around the place -- not exactly glamorous but comfortable. It cost $62 a night with breakfast. Slept for 2 hours, then went out after searching without success for my sunglasses which had been left at home. Changed into shorts, then went out along the main suburban road and bought some clip-on sunglasses, 2 sandwiches and drinks. The lady in the drug store told us to watch out for pickpockets and not go downtown at night. Sat in a grassed park by the ocean under brilliant sunshine and the deep blue sky and watched big container boats come in and out of the harbour about 2 miles away. Went to a bicycle rental store but the man said the conditions weren't very friendly for biking there (the roads are too busy and the cars go too fast). Walked along the beach road. Louise talked to a chap at an outdoor bar who recommended the informal bus service. Waited by the street and several local minibuses stopped. They cost 50 cents each. Took one out to Camps Bay. Various girls got on and off. The white people seemed condescending to the negroes. Walked around Camps Bay and saw rocks, beach houses and big hills behind. Went to a sandy beach and sat. Lots of people there, very nice facilities, very clean with no litter anywhere. The sun is very strong as the air is clear and pollution-free. The sun is in the north instead of the south. The water (on the Atlantic side) was too cold to swim in. Saw hang gliders coming down from the top of the hill. At 4 o'clock it started raining so everyone left. I said "I didn't come to the beach to get wet!" Walked a mile into the town of Camps Bay (one main road with lots of cottages up the hill). Talked to a guy who said Capetown is well off and lots of people work in tourism. However, in Johannesburg or other areas there are lots of poor people with no hope of getting a job, so they just steal. Never saw so many BMWs and Mercedes cars with white people yakking on mobile phones. It felt like a smaller version of California. Felt tired by 5 p.m. so went to St. Elmo's Fire pizza restaurant and had pizza, wine and dessert for less than $20. We thought that the South Africans were louder and more outgoing than the English. The people are a mixture of Dutch and English. They seem healthy and physically active. After dinner, we sat near the beach but I was tired so we took the municipal bus back ($1 each) and went to bed at 7:40 p.m.

Sat. Feb. 6

It was raining at breakfast time but the German lady said they needed rain. It stopped soon thereafter so we set off on foot. Lots of people out on the main road. Walked about 20 minutes to the Victoria and Alfred Waterfront, a new touristy area that used to be the dockyards. Saw a hotel that cost $250 a night. Went to the Twin Oceans Aquarium ($7.50 each) which had excellent displays of fish -- sea horses, coloured tropical ones and sharks. Saw a girl feeding penguins. A South African lady heard Louise talking so started talking to her -- this would never happen in England! We liked the kelp forest with big trees of kelp waving back and forth. In front of the aquarium were 2 big boats in dry dock. Fellows were spraying them with jets of water to remove rust and barnacles. Went to the Marine Museum beside the aquarium ($1.25 each) which was in an old warehouse. It didn't seem to have much in it but saw some interesting displays of artifacts that had been removed from shipwrecks and a display about container ships. Looked briefly through the Waterfront area (very touristy) so left on a local minibus to downtown Capetown about 2 miles away. There were lots of black people selling stuff from stalls or anywhere they could set up on the sidewalk. We bought cooked chicken, patties and french fries from a take-out shop for $5, then went to the park in front of the train station to sit under a tree. Walked around downtown but the stores all closed by 2 p.m. Bought a black backpack from an outdoor stall for $7.50. Went into the train station but the offices were all closed, no information available anywhere. Walked on to see the District 6 Museum which was about a negro and coloured area that had been "resettled" (the white people waltzed in in the 60's and said you can't live here any more). It was closed because they were moving. Went to the Castle instead. Met a young couple from Calgary who gave us their map. Got in free to the castle and looked around for 40 minutes. We left at 4 when it closed. Louise found a small coin on the ground so gave it to a negro boy sitting by the parking lot. Then another one came running up and said "What about me?" He said he slept outside. We suggested (nicely) that he try washing cars which is what alot of them do for a living. Walked by the city hall. It felt a bit dangerous downtown. A dark fellow was pushing his crippled girlfriend around in a shopping cart. Another chap came up and said he was from Lesotho and wanted bus fare to go home and see his kids. Another one had the bottom frame and wheels of a shopping cart and made it into a soap-box racer. Walked to the botanical gardens, a park beside the South African parliament buildings. There were dozens of HUGE rats running around in the park. Louise talked to a white fellow who was a security guard for President Mandela and told us lots about the conditions there. He said it used to be nice there for white people but many had left. People don't make much money and the South African rand has been devalued tremendously. The politicians are corrupt and they are appointing blacks to jobs ahead of white people. Lots of young people go away to England and bring back $5,000 which they can live on for 6 months. The chap showed us where Mandela's office was. We left and it started raining but we had umbrellas. Saw big rainbows over the harbour as we walked up the hill back to our hotel. Capetown is very picturesque with the mountains behind the city and lots of nice suburbs. All the suburban houses have razor wire over their garden walls and alarm systems. Saw a dark man and lady struggling up the hill with their groceries. Returned to our hotel and I lay down. Louise talked to the German fellow at the front desk. He said something had to give, or there'd be a revolution. Changed clothes and walked west along the main road towards Sea Point. Decided to have Chinese food. The waitress came from mainland China and spoke good English. Only 2 tables in the restaurant were occupied. The waitress said people were too poor to eat out; even 2 years ago, the restaurant would have been full. Dinner cost $25. Bought ingredients for tomorrow's lunch at 7-11 store. Saw hookers on the way back to the hotel. Put on the TV in the lounge but there was nothing on.

Sun. Feb. 7

After breakfast, walked to the main road and caught a minibus downtown. It was clear unlike yesterday so we decided to hike up Table Mountain. The bus driver said he'd take us to a spot where we could start walking, so I gave him $2 extra. (He wanted to drive us all the way to the cable-car but we said no thanks). It was sunny and hot. Walked a long way up the hill to the cable-car station, seeing lots of cars and tour buses. It was 1 km straight up from the cable-car station so we got tickets ($16 each for the ride up and down). Talked to some other tourists. The gondola held 60 people and was made in Switzerland. Its floor rotated as we went up 3500'. Saw 2 fellows rock climbing. Walked around at the top and looked at the views. It was not windy at all, just nice and sunny. Agreed that Capetown has one of the most beautiful settings of any city in the world. Sat on a rock and had our picnic. The sun was strong so we got sunburned. There were lots of tourists and groundhogs running around. Met some people who'd walked to the top, but they'd set off at 8 a.m. Returned on the cable car and hoped to visit Kirstenbosch Botanical Gardens where there was a concert on later. Caught a minibus downtown but there was no transportation to the botanical gardens (except cabs for $20 each way) so we set off on foot for the waterfront. Wanted to get more South African money but the bank machines downtown were all locked up inside closed doors. When we were below the expressway, a white fellow drove up in a little red car and asked us if we were lost. He said it wasn't a good idea to wander around outside the tourist areas so gave us a ride all the way to the waterfront. He had a pretty Indian girlfriend. He lived in Capetown and loved it there. He dropped us off at the front of the waterfront shopping mall which was modern and air conditioned. Walked through and heard some African boy singers, an Australian hippie playing a digeridoo, and a string octet playing semi-classical songs. Got money from the bank machine and decided to go and see "Everest" at the BMW Imax cinema at 5 o'clock. It was very well done but we decided mountain-climbing wasn't for us. The cinema was in a beautiful new building which had displays about BMW engineering and a 2' diameter marble model of the earth sitting in a pool of running water. You could spin the globe yourself which was endlessly entertaining. Afterwards, we walked out on the pier by the sea and saw helicopters taking off and landing with people on sightseeing tours. An east Indian (coloured) man told me all about conditions under apartheid. He said they had separate buses, bus stops, train cars, washrooms, restaurants, theatres, post offices, etc. The whites got first pick at everything and the negroes and coloured people were really second class. They weren't even allowed to enter white suburbs. Now, the prevailing attitude is that anything white is bad. At 7:30 we left the waterfront and walked up to the main road. We thought of having Thai food but the restaurant was too fancy and expensive, so we went next door to a fish restaurant called Fishmongers. We had a big Greek salad, white wine and 2 kinds of fish. Louise chose tooth fish which was excellent. Talked to a 79-year-old man at our hotel. He was a travel writer, the most famous one in South Africa. He had lots of interesting things to say.

Mon. Feb. 8

After breakfast, we packed up and a lady named Rikki phoned around to get a rented car for us. She was typically South African -- very blunt and abrupt, almost rude, on the phone. (It's just their way of operating; no one takes any offence.) The rented car didn't come til 11 a.m. so we sat and chatted to the German guy at the front desk. He had lots of opinions and said Winnie Mandela was a ruthless murderer (and not too bright) and Bishop Desmond Tutu was a complete disaster. A white kitten and little white terrier dog were playing together. The car we got was a little blue Toyota "Tazz" 4-speed with 4 doors and a hatchback. It had an "immobilizer", a special key that you had to put in the ignition or it wouldn't start. We drove southwest through Sea Point and Camps Bay. I kept getting the turn signal and windshield wipers mixed up. They drive on the left just like in England but these 2 controls were the opposite of my own car. It was sunny and hot, 27 deg. At Hout Bay we stopped to go through Bird World ($5.50 each). We saw hundreds of parrots, flamingos, hornbills, owls, tropical love birds, monkeys and lemurs. The great things about the aviary were that it wasn't crowded and you could walk through every cage, which had screen doors held shut with weights. There were 104 cages in all. The grounds had nice flowers and shady trees. We had our lunch overlooking the flamingoes. One bird with a long beak tried to untie Louise's shoe laces. The owls and monkeys were really cute. We stayed there til 3 p.m., then drove south along Chapman's Peak Drive, a road that hugs steep cliffs about 300' above the sea. Stopped a few times to take pictures. It was very windy. Headed inland and over the hill to Simons Town, a small English village on the Indian Ocean side. Went to the tourist information centre and the lady called a bed and breakfast place which we booked for 2 nights. Took 2 films to get developed and then went to the Cheriton Guest House. It was owned by Pip and Shirley and their spinster daughter Linda. They'd moved there from England 30 years ago and used to own a farm in the Transvaal but sold it and moved to their summer place in Simons Town. He'd fixed it all up and put in a swimming pool, 3 guest rooms and an English pub. It cost $80 a night and we were the only guests. It was too chilly to swim so I had some of the complimentary sherry. Our room had its own entrance and a dutch door to the garden. We changed and walked down the hill to the beach. We saw 4 wild cats and then a young girl asked us to sponsor her in a walkathon. We went onto Seaforth beach and saw a small bunch of penguins sitting after their day of fishing. The wind was very strong so the waves were high. We talked to an English couple walking their dog. Their daughter lived in Maidenhead. They gave us a ride downtown to the Simons Town quay and recommended fish and chips. We didn't like the looks of it (too reminiscent of England) so walked up the main street and ate at the Blue Bayou Cafe. It was very nice and dinner (with 2 beers) cost only $15. We were almost the only customers there. Walked back to the guest house (1.2 km) and the wind was so strong, you could hardly stand up. The "southeaster" had come early.

 

On the main street of Simons Town


Tue. Feb. 9

I slept well even though the wind was fierce all night long. Shirley and Linda served us a huge breakfast and were glad to have someone to talk to. Pip was the energetic one and he was out buying pool supplies. They had an English sheepdog who followed you around everywhere. We drove downtown to the Simons Town museum and signed up for a walking tour of the town. The leader was called Bobbie Wise. She led 6 of us along the main street and recounted the town's history and pointed out all the historic sites. All the stores on the main street were 2 stories high with ornate balconies and faced towards the harbour. Simons Town used to be the headquarters of the South African Navy and still has a huge naval base. It had lots of hospitals and one of them was a sanitorium on top of a 700' high hill. The Victorians built a cable car up to it, and the towers from the cable car are still there today. The town had lots of interesting stories, mostly about sailors and how they liked to drink. Bobbie said she'd seen ghosts 3 times. After the tour was done, we picked up our pictures and bought groceries. We returned to the Simons Town museum and looked through it all. The town's mascot, commemorated by a brass statue in the town square and a big display at the museum, was a great dane dog called "Just Nuisance" who lived there during WWII. He tagged along with sailors who took the train up to Capetown on their day off. The dog would lead the inebriated sailors back to Simons Town, making sure they caught the train and made it back to base. The train conductor didn't think a dog should be riding on the train and threatened to shoot him, so the sailors had him enlisted as an Able Seaman, so he got a free rail pass and full military rations. The dog became a hero, helping raise funds and morale during the war with a well-publicized wedding and 2 puppies. Unfortunately, he died from exhaustion (and being fed too much beer) and was given a touching funeral with full military honours. When we returned to the car, it was very hot (too hot to touch the steering wheel) so we drove out of town south towards the Cape of Good Hope about 12 miles away. Stopped at a beach hoping to find a picnic place but the wind would have blown the meat out of our sandwiches.

 

 

Continued on to the nature reserve at the Cape of Good Hope ($2.50 each) and found a sheltered picnic area by the sea. Walked on a hiking trail and took pictures of crashing waves, big hills and springbok (antelope). Drove to the parking lot beside Cape of Good Hope. Lots of tourists there. Saw wild baboons hanging around the restaurant and sitting on people's cars. They did not have very good bathroom habits. I took a picture of one sitting on top of a phone booth. Walked up a big incline to the lighthouse (500' above sea level), fierce wind at the top. Walked along a cliff trail with wooden boardwalk. Can't complain about not getting enough fresh air. Nothing but open ocean from here to Antarctica. Drove down to sea level, saw wild ostriches and guys surf-sailing. Left the park at 6 o'clock and returned to Simons Town. Went to Boulder Beach near town, parked and found a beach with around 1000 penguins sitting after their day of fishing. Some were sitting on eggs. It was a great scene. Returned to bed & breakfast place, changed and drove into town to Pescado's restaurant. They served wood-fire cooked fish and pizza. We had pizza and a carafe of red wine for $17.50. The restaurant was noisy, lots of fun and was owned by an English couple, both of whom were real characters. Felt we were starting to get into a holiday mood.

Wed. Feb. 10

Shirley and Linda showed us the view off their balcony, which overlooks the sea, harbour and mountains across the bay. It is a great vista. Saw an ice breaking ship being towed into the harbour. It was still pretty breezy but the wind wasn't as ferocious. They told us about the helicopter crash in Capetown and were upset about the 4 men who were killed. Pip had gone away to work; he decorates banks and office buildings so the sheepdog was forlorn without him around. Shirley and Linda cooked another huge breakfast, then said goodbye, come back soon, etc. We drove east along the beach road through Muizenberg and Strand. There were lots of organized beaches, with parking lots, pavilions and water slides. The black men were busy scrubbing them even though each place was deserted. They also featured tide pools -- constructed swimming pools that would fill with sea water at high tide. We saw a township area full of poor houses. Some were prefab and others were made out of scraps of lumber and tin sheets. It said in the paper that only 27% of negroes have running water in their houses. We stopped to look at the view over Gordon's Bay and an older gentleman gave us his map of the whole area. Louise wanted to go on the "Garden Route" which I calculated was 6 hours' drive away so said forget it. We wound our way along more undulating roads that followed the coastline with spectacular views of the sea and hills above. There was hardly any traffic at all. Some of the towns on the south coast looked desolate, like Newfoundland. Saw a dark fellow pushing a shopping cart piled high with firewood. Decided to head for the wine country to the north instead of going further east so crossed the freeway and saw spectacular hill country with huge views of rolling wheat fields (the wheat had been harvested) leading off into the wine country. We stopped for a picnic overlooking a huge valley with a lake and hills behind. There were lots of transport trucks carrying apples, gravel and bricks. Went through Villiersdorp and then Worcester where we stopped at the tourist information place about 3 o'clock. The 2 negro ladies there had plenty of customers and we selected 2 bed & breakfast places. The first one was full but the Osdrift farm seemed to have what we were looking for -- a swimming pool and canoeing on the Breede River. It was broiling hot out. We walked around Worcester which was a fairly quiet place laid out on a grid plan with a big grassed park at its centre. Went to Woolworths and I bought some cotton khaki pants for $27. Drove to the Osdrift farm 5 miles back the way we'd come, and met Stefan. He was Afrikaans and the farm had been in his family since the 1600's. The name Osdrift means Ox Ford because it used to be where oxes forded the Breede River. Our room was in a cottage -- a large thatched-roof building with separate accommodation for 2 couples, a full kitchen, dining room and enormous living room with stereo, TV, etc. We'd need a week to take advantage of all this so changed into our swim suits and swam in the pool which was about 18' x 80'. Their son and friend were playing tennis. We played with the dog and talked to Stefan who said he had 4 kids, 3 dogs, 15 full-time employees and 30 people who pick grapes. And a wife. That's what I call real farming! The big tree beside the pool was an Australian gum tree. He was really friendly and it was all quite exciting. We had a bottle of white wine grown on his farm (the wine came from a cooperative). For dinner his wife Pam cooked home-made lasagna in the microwave oven which we ate with salad and fresh bread. Pam looked like a fashion model. The other couple staying there came from Yorkshire and were travelling around for 3 weeks. They spoke very well.

Thurs. Feb. 11

Our bedroom was painted light yellow and had pine furniture and indirect lighting. I slept well. There were water sprinklers on in the flower gardens all night long; they really depend on irrigation even to grow grapes. Breakfast was prepared by 2 negro cooks. Pam came in and explained that their chauffeur takes the 4 kids to school at 7:10 a.m. as school starts at 7:30. She goes to the gym every day, then spends 3 hours every afternoon driving the kids to sports and lessons. We met Marcus, their 18-year-old nephew. Stefan arranged for us to go canoeing so Marcus drove us to the river after I dropped off the rented car about 4 miles downstream. Louise and I got in a blue plastic kayak. She tried steering at first but we soon switched. It was a bit windy but the current carried us downstream and we got onto the paddling OK. The scenery was very peaceful, lots of willow trees by the river and big hills behind. Saw cormorants that dove into the water to catch fish. We kept cool being splashed by the paddles as the sun and temperature were hot. There were a few gentle rapids, nothing like the rivers we canoed on in Canada. We didn't see anyone else for 2 hours. When we got to the bridge where the car was parked, a South African fellow and girl were there. He started talking in Afrikaans and said they were looking for some other people. We drove back to the Osdrift farm and gave Marcus our money for the night -- $75 for the room and kayak ride and $7.50 for dinner. Not a bad deal! We drove into Worcester, bought groceries at the 7-11 and ate them sitting under a tree in the main town square. It overlooks a big Dutch church and mountains behind. It was very hot so all the black people were sitting or sleeping under trees. They live in a huge settlement of cement-block houses, far away from the town centre in a big dusty field with no trees. We drove north through more wine country to Wolseley and Ceres. There was a big mountain pass going up to Ceres where we stopped at the town museum and looked through it. The girl said it had been 45 deg. the week before. The museum explained how the mountain pass was built. It was used by ox carts hauling stuff to mines many miles away. Stopped at the Botha winery, saw wagon loads of green grapes being brought in by truck or tractor and bought 2 bottles of wine for $6. The winery goes through 20,000 tons of grapes in a season. Headed for Paarl via another mountain pass. There's a new tunnel you can take for $3 but the old road is free. It had spectacular views at the top overlooking Paarl and the wine-growing country. Could see why they needed a tunnel -- the route down to the valley was an enormous hill about 7 miles long -- not very good for trucks, I'm sure.

 

Overlooking Paarl


Having been accustomed to the rural peacefulness of Worcester, Paarl in comparison seemed very dirty and full of people loafing around. We left it and drove south towards Stellenbosch. It was almost 6 o'clock so we stopped in at a bed & breakfast place on a wine-growing farm. They had 8 rooms but only 1 vacancy for 1 night so we took it ($87.50). The owner said he'd been up since 5 a.m. harvesting grapes and it was important to get the crop off, heat or no heat. His helpers were washing down his grape harvesting machine. Our room was in a row like a motel with its own door to a covered patio. We changed and swam in the pool which was set in a meadow by the river. The pool was made from red stone with red granite boulders for decoration all round. Other tourists were there from Switzerland. The water was warm and we enjoyed swimming with little girls and the owner's bull terrier who liked to lick Louise's face. He was a good swimmer, except he decided to swim away with the hose from the kreepy krawler in his mouth and almost dragged it out of the water. We got ready for dinner, took off in the car and lots of black children on the laneway to the highway asked for money. Found a nice restaurant near the university in Stellenbosch. I had Redds beer which was fizzy and tasted like apples with ginger. There were lots of stars out when we came back.

Fri. Feb. 12

Our room was comfortable and quiet. Louise used our first trip south of the equator to experiment with the bathtub and see if the water went down the drain the opposite way from the northern hemisphere. It did! At breakfast, they served lots of fruit, including dried fruit, a local specialty. Louise laughed because the farmer was sitting in the kitchen with the servants, eating eggs like a stevedore. His wife seemed very capable and could do a dozen things at once. In the dining room was a history of the farm going back to 1650. We drove into Stellenbosch, seeing tremendous scenery on the way. Decided to go to the nature reserve on the far side of town ($2.25 each). Put on hiking boots and set off on a stone trail through the flower garden. It was about 5 months past its prime but we saw lots of flowering cactuses. The hills were so dry I could hardly believe anything grew at all. Hiked for 6 km and only saw 1 other party of hikers. Got quite sunburned on my arms especially. Drank all our water in the first hour so was glad to find a mountain stream with fresh cold water. I wanted to see wild leopards but didn't. Saw a dam and reforestation areas. Returned to the car and had a picnic under a tree. Slept in the shade. Got swim suits and hiked back to a water hole in the river. It was great swimming and good to cool off. Another young couple came and swam too; they were from Johannesburg and hoped to move to that area. Left at 4:30, felt we'd gotten our money's worth. Parked in downtown Stellenbosch which seemed like a driving nightmare. A dark fellow warned Louise not to leave anything on view in the car. Looked around and bought cold drinks. Saw lots of negroes pushing shopping carts and 3 guys pushing an old man's pickup truck about 10 blocks. Decided against staying in Stellenbosch overnight (or driving to north of Capetown, as it didn't seem like there was much accommodation there), so drove south to the Indian Ocean and the resort town of Strand. It only took 15 minutes to get there. Strong wind and big waves on the ocean by now, quite a few people swimming. Followed a sign to De Beers guest house but they were full. An 11-year-old girl invited us in (she wanted to practice English) and Mrs. De Beer said they'd already turned down 10 couples before us. She noticed Louise's sunburn so put cream on it. Tried the next place she referred us to. Instead of saying "we're full" and slamming the door, the couple invited us in and chatted for 15 minutes, then phoned another place which had a vacancy. We drove over to the Seascape guest house right on the ocean. The owner was a young fellow who'd fixed up their house and added 3 rooms. I felt very tired and just wanted to sleep but Louise said let's go out for dinner. Walked along the seafront road; the wind was fierce, blowing sand everywhere. Nice pink sunset. Went to a restaurant called MacRib's where the waiters wore Scotch tartans but had South African accents. Had soup, salad and fruit. Put my bank card in the machine on the way back, but it was broken and kept the card. Returned to the bed & breakfast place and slept.

Sat. Feb. 13

The wind howled all night long and we heard banging like doors slamming (it was the neighbour's roof). The owner's wife served us breakfast in the front room which had big windows overlooking the entire beach and bay, all the way down to the Cape. She was young and very pleasant. She said most of the dark people are not very bright and can't hold jobs. Drove up to the bank which fortunately was open and got my bank card back. On packing up, Louise couldn't find her camera, so we phoned the De Beers guest house where we'd stopped yesterday and they had it. Glad at this turn of events, as it briefly seemed like circumstances were ganging up against us! Drove to the De Beers and the owner was full of information (he ran tours and safaris). Phoned Avis to say we'd return the car to Capetown airport. Then we went to Somerset West shopping mall which was very modern and was a real mecca for all the white people. Its two anchor stores were Woolworths and the "Pick & Pay" grocery store. Saw cat show and young girls twirling batons. Bought groceries and black pants for me for $35 at Woolworths. Filled up the car with gas ($25). The gas station had 2 black teenagers helping every customer -- one of the first places I'd seen black people performing front-line service. Drove up to the Helderburg Nature Reserve in Somerset West ($1.30 each). It was so hot all we wanted to do was sit under a tree and drink gallons of water. Looked through the small nature centre. Lots of families were having picnics. Walked up the hill for 20 minutes, then had lunch under a tree with a beautiful view of the scenery below, all the way to the bay. There was lots of smoke from a grass fire -- they are quite normal. Saw antelope with curly horns. Sat under a tree; there was no swimming there so we left and went back to the beach in Strand. It was so windy, the sand had all blown off the beach. Louise watched while I swam. The water was very nice and the wind blew off the spray from the waves. We'd thought of returning to Green Point in Capetown for the final night but Louise suggested trying Gordon's Bay which was not very far away. Tried one bed & breakfast place but the lady pointed to another house across the street. Went to it and received a very nice welcome from the owner Jeanette who was Afrikaans. She offered us tea and beer which we had on the back patio with her and the dog. The room only cost $50 a night and was very large. We changed and walked down to the lower road to an Italian pizza restaurant. The waitress was a teenage girl who wore her bikini with a little black dress over it. A customer in the restaurant said she liked Louise's hair. By the time we finished dinner, the wind was so fierce I thought the restaurant was going to blow down, so we went back to the B&B place. Louise talked to Jeanette in the lounge. She said the winds were 130 km/h and the southeaster had lasted for a week.

Sun. Feb. 14

The wind howled all night long. At breakfast, Jeanette chatted to us and said not that many South Africans were rich. The net worth of the whole country is only about $100 per person. South Africa has 11 official languages. Last year, the interest rate was 25% but now it's only 21%. We learned about all the different ethnic groups and how they stack up. Took off in the car on the main freeway to Capetown. Saw lots of poor shacks on the way and people going to church. Saw the building in downtown Capetown where the helicopter had crashed, also a huge oil drilling rig that was blown across the harbour by the wind. It smashed into 5 ships before colliding with the dock. Parked in front of the South African museum and went in ($1.25 each). Looked at very interesting displays on the history and culture of such ethnic groups as Bantu warriors, Tutsi warriors, Zulu warriors, etc. There were lots of artifacts from thousands of years ago. It was a bit hot and stuffy in the museum so at 1 p.m. we saw the star show in the planetarium where it was nicely air conditioned. The show was given by a scientist whom Louise found awfully dry and boring. But he explained that in the southern hemisphere, you can see 2 galaxies with the naked eye. There is no equivalent of the north star in the southern hemisphere, so to navigate by the stars, you have to extrapolate between several obscure stars and constellations. It was broiling hot when we left. We stopped at the Waterfront to buy a couple of souvenirs, then left the city heading north past lots of factories and an oil refinery. There are picture-postcard views of the city of Capetown with Table Mountain behind from the resort town of Bloubergstrand. It seemed like half the population of Capetown was up there enjoying the scenery but mostly sitting in a traffic jam along the beach road and looking for parking spaces. We finally got through that and stopped at a roadside park and had our lunch at 3 o'clock. There were lots of people of all nationalities having picnics and barbeques. Some black boys managed to scrounge dry firewood for their BBQ. There isn't much but wide open country north of there. We headed south again on the 4-lane freeway and saw lots of smoke from grass fires. The eastern part of the city had quite a few poorish areas. Saw 2 negroes pushing a shopping trolley; it was filled with fence posts and barb wire that they'd found somewhere. Arrived at the airport at 5 p.m. and returned the rented car to Avis. Sat outside and watched planes take off. Changed into warmer clothes and looked at gift shops with African crafts. The plane was full. I sat beside a South African girl, now living in England, who'd been to visit her family for 2 weeks and was sad to leave them. Landed at Heathrow at 6:30 a.m. after a tiring flight. It was 3 deg., cloudy and damp in England as usual.

 

Conclusion and Postscript: We wouldn't normally take a big international trip so soon after our Xmas vacation in St. Petersburg, Russia, but we took advantage of a newspaper promotion to get 2 for 1 tickets to Capetown. The offer was only valid in the winter and Capetown proved to be a popular destination. They got a record 50,000 overseas visitors in the month of February, many lured there by the low prices. We are glad we didn't venture any farther afield than we did as the game parks were over 1,000 miles away, too far to go when we only had 10 days.

We suspect that much of Simons Town was burned down in terrible brush fires that swept through in November, 2000. We have met many South African white people living in England.

 

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