When I wake, without alarm and fully rested, the windows are half shuttered and outside it's raining from a grey sky that hides Table Mountain. The weather immediately validates yesterday's snap decision to climb Table Mountain; I feel happily satisfied. On bare feet I patter on the wet tiles outside and afford myself another hot shower. Munch away a slightly dry minneola (=tangelo) as appetizer, while waiting for Dagmar to share breakfast. I will always associate minneolas with Cape Town; the love for them began here. Brief conversation with an Australian couple planning a tour along the west coast, punching into Namibia. Sounds delicious. Unfortunately, the resolute Dagmar hadn't been waiting for me, and next time I see her she has long finished her breakfast at the hostel's café. Bugger. No breakfast for me; need to get moving.
From AroundAboutCars, we arrange the cheapest available car which comes with unlimited mileage within 200 km. That's plenty to bring us to Cape Point, our main destination for today. Although for me it's also about the journey, not the destination: after seven years, I finally can scratch one resolution from my list. Chapman's Peak drive.
It's about noon when Dagmar swings the car around Table Mountain and through Camps Bay area, the most expensive place in the country to buy a house, if you'd believe Leon who knows these endless factoids. I do know that there are too many fancy cars tailgating us, for the rest the drive is remarkable in many ways. Dagmar and Leon are possessed with twirling the dial of the radio attempting to find music to both their liking; they can't seem to drive at peace without music on. Unfortunately for them, and to my roaring delight, Cape Town's radio-stations reflect the jazzy, funky atmosphere of the city and soul and funk dominate the airwaves. There's not much else, so Barry White is doing his thing as we hit Hout Bay.
But what's really madly strange is how both siblings are besotted with speed. Leon, who shortly before was irked about not being an additional driver, now daydreams away what it would be like to drive a Porsche across the road curling around the mountainsides; Dagmar, a feisty driver herself, is irritated with the doting Toyota in front of her. "Stupid women in traffic," she mutters when overtaking the female Toyota driver. I can't help looking askance at her, shaking my head. Because how is this the place or time to care about driving fast, or dedicating concentration to finding a silly guitar riff on the radio? The vista is stupendous and full of character. Storm clouds amass against the sullen, steep cliffs, the road, an amazing feat of engineering, clings to the cliffs' sides like a string of rope, the turquoise Atlantic is tumultuous with spray below. The whole route of hidden bays and delirious coastline is a gateway into paradise. Perhaps it was seven years of anticipation, but I'm spellbound, sucking in landscapes brought into view with every turn of the wheel. Too short, if you'd ask me.
The ominous clouds miraculously lift when we part ways with the Chapman's Peak drive and make for Simon's Town, which we find with sunlight sweeping across the naval ships, the expanse of False Bay sparkling metallically, a solitary jackass penguin on the rocks. Fond memories: I got bitten here by a penguin at Boulder's Bay seven years ago. The buffs of Cape Point curve into view. The entry into the National Park is a pricey R55 per person - apparently entry price is increased every year. Never even see a zebra or a baboon. Inevitable buss loads and tourism shops at the Cape Point, although the architectural design of the shops is pretty.
Climbing the 100 meters towards the top with the lighthouse (no longer in use) is an exercise in masochism - all six legs are sore from yesterday's rush of conquering Table Mountain. We make ourselves run part of the stairs, have a photo-shoot at the lighthouse, drawing bemused looks when we compete in making the most daring looking picture on the stray boulders with the steep cliffs underneath. (Of course it will turn out that I've my eyes closed on the best ones.) Dagmar and Leon, who'd visited the Cape Point previously, remember there is another lookout platform, further down the cape. More masochism, another photo-shoot. Now we want to push on, visit the final beacon: the operational lighthouse jutting proudly at the very tip. Of course the trail leading to it is "No Entry" - we slip in regardless because sometimes law is an ass. A vertigo inducing set of stairs that leads down to the lighthouse's door discourages us to entertain the final daring stretch. We settle for a third photo-shoot at the last buff cliff from which the stairs start trailing down. "Dassies" scamper some 50 meters below us and again, like on Table Mountain, we feel pleasantly liberated from the touristy world. Sad, though, that we have to break the rules to get this feeling.
Double back. Rush through the mini-museum with an overview of splendidly wrecked ships through the past centuries. Apparently naming the cape "Cape of Good Hope" is based on a translation error. So it goes. My biggest frustration in the museum is the absence of snacks - I've been living on one minneola and a left-over of dried fruit until now and we're nearing three o'clock.
Cart to the geographical Cape of Good Hope - "the most south-western point in Africa!!!!" reads the obligatory sensationalist sign. Ok, I made up the exclamation marks. Honestly, people who have made it their mission to visit the extremities of continents should head for Cape Agulhas instead. Can't be bothered with more pictures of me and signs. Thick black braids of kelp drape the shore's boulders - like monstrously spilled intestines. Dagmar darts off again, and we end up scaling the inclined ridges of the cliffs. Directly below us roll magnificent waves into the cliff side, booming and exploding into spray. Cracks and fractures, flushed irregularly, make for fascinating, dreamscape sights. I'm starting to get hungry enough to shuck a bivalve but each one fortunately sucks itself firmly stuck, overcoming my prying fingers.
That's it for the Cape. We trace the Atlantic coast by car and remarkably now Dagmar feels inclined to take pauses and just watch for a while how the ocean's waves are ripped into foam by the strong northern winds. At the small fisher's town of Kommetjie we break for drinks, which turns into early supper because the vibe of the place feels so pleasant. I'm not complaining and heartily dig into my Yellowfish, rendering me without any talk except for groans and sighs of pleasure. Not a particularly outstanding kitchen, but hunger makes raw beans sweet, as the Dutch saying goes. Hot cocoa before the fireplace. Bliss. Recharged, I take the wheel for the last stretch that brings us back into Cape Town and we find a radio station that has pure gold psychedelic music (89.9FM). Whooooooooo. I resent not having lived in the late sixties.
Time for another promise: Mama Africa, the restaurant at Long Street that serves African dishes and scintillating marimba bands. I can't wait to be reunited: like minneolas, the sound of the marimba has become one of my greatest loved discoveries in Cape Town. Darting down the hill, Dagmar shows me karate moves while Leon is on the phone with his girlfriend in Jozi. Both siblings want to check their emails first so I sadly find out on my own that Mama Africa is closed on Sundays. Ridiculous!!!! It's my last night here!!!
Grouching, resort once more to The Dubliner. Interact for a while with a small group of French, who've freshly arrived from Reunion and are looking somewhat phased. I try to flirt with the French hottie, but her English (and my French) is too poor for a decent attempt. Leon and I have started testing out whiskeys. He knows a lot more about whiskey than I do; I've ignored exposing myself to whiskey until three years ago - I still think it's a good thing to avoid dabbling in certain things so you can enjoy the thrills of first exposure later on in life. I find Jack Daniel's resembles something the cat brought in, Jameson is a memorable standard but Tellamore Dew (at Leon's suggestion) really knocks my socks. That made my night.
A jazz band starts up and the six stringed bass and a mad drummer make up for my lack of marimba. All band members look so extremely ordinary; if you'd pass them on the street you'd never be able to tell these men are capable to produce the wildest jazz rhythms. The vibe mellows with the inclusion of a golden voiced singer. A barrel of a man in a suit ambles perkily into the crowd, sucking a cigar with aplomb, and plucks out Dagmar for an impromptu swing. Obviously we cheer her on, but Dagmar realises too late the man is happily inebriated and she dashes out at the first opportunity. That's it for tonight.
Outside a grimmer facet: a street kid, not older than ten, chases us down Long for spare change. I now know how rude it is in South African cultures for small children to speak up to elders and especially without greeting; it irks me enough to scold him for it and then ignore him. Although I immediately feel bad about that too; there is a very reasonable chance the kid won't even know any better. Still. I thoroughly detest it when I'm treated as I am because I'm white. In South Africa, there is plenty of black-on-white discrimination too (black people discriminating white people overwhelmingly based on stupid prejudices).
Somehow this night was destined to end in ambiguity concerning South Africa. We watch the late news at the hostel. Dagmar, Leon and me, now thoroughly steeped in the running affairs of this country, confuse a few of the denser British girls with our outings of frustrations and comments. Lee, the British scoundrel behind his laptop with whom we haven't had much interaction, suddenly launches into the conversation; I can't remember how he got involved. It turns into a semi-monologue of nearly two hours. Lee works in energy or, more precisely, in energy conservation. With a background in electrical engineering he's now making bucks by selling light bulbs. In the millions. To national governments. Or at least, that's what he's telling, and he's very transparent about his work, showing his spreadsheets, the website on alternating streetlights to save energy. I can only barely cling to the subject because of what I've learned about energy matters (that is, on ET!). He doesn't bother to use laymen terms, hence loses Dagmar and Leon almost immediately as an audience. He doesn't care; if you can't keep up with his level he's not interested in you. He's arrogant, foul-mouthed, lives dangerously and allegedly has contacts at the highest levels of Eskom and ministries. A grain of salt may be in order, but still: everything that's verifiable turns out to be as he said when I check things on the internet.
Lee also has seen prison a few times. In fact, he's seen a few: in the UK, Bulgaria, in Russia. He doesn't like the South African ones. Says he got framed by the police, that they just picked him up on Long Street, didn't let him make his phone call, kept him overnight so he missed his flight for a business meeting in Pretoria, that the police did not return him the money they took off him. Says he hasn't been the only one getting framed: a similar thing happened a few weeks earlier to a British backpacker who had to bribe her way out of prison - which was the entire point according to Lee: bribes. I can imagine that police corruption and South African's migraine bureaucracy form a formidable mechanism for abuse. But again: grain of salt in order? People in hostels usually talk big. I don't know what to make of this. I say goodnight after this tale and snuggle into bed. Too tired to contemplate, but the stories do haunt the next days.
(1) Pierre, Tom & Sharon
(2) Nina & Henri
(3) Cape Town with Dagmar & Leon - Part 1
(6) The Car