South Africa

This will be the index of postings to the Travelblogue that documents my visit to London and Cape Town. The nature of blogging results in the latest posting appearing first on screen, so that later events appear first. This Travelblogue index will list the postings in chronological order from leaving Vancouver to the termination of the trip, as a guide to your reading. Until the index is complete note that the story commences with this post.
 

As I planned this trip I really did not know what to expect in terms of my emotional reactions. The thought of returning alone to Cape Town, ten years after my last visit there with Bob, engendered a real concern that I would find the experience very painful. And perhaps because of that, uncharacteristically I did not do my usual meticulous preparations, bring my family research files, make lists of people to see, and things to do.

A pattern of travel seems to be developing for me. Fortunately most of my journeys away from home are uneventful, but something generally complicates the trip home. The problem on my trip to France was the nasty ankle, knee and shoulder sprains I sustained the day before I was due to travel home. There as I wrote in my blog, miraculously total strangers materialized seemingly out of nowhere to hoist my suitcase onto trains, and up stairs for me.

On Monday morning I took a Rikki down to the Waterfront from 10-12 to pick up some gifts and then off to dance class at Camps Bay from 3-5. The weather has been almost unbearably hot. Reading about commuter chaos in Vancouver because of snow seems quite surreal. I think I prefer cold to heat because it is so much easier to warm up than to cool down.

This morning I had brunch at the Waterfront with an old friend, Majiec, and his wife, Sandra. I met Maciej about 40 years ago when he and Bob joined IBM. Shortly after we were married, I was still in med school and Bob was working as a chemical engineer when IBM SA advertised for new recruits. Bob ended up joining IBM in sales and Maciej became a systems engineer.

Have you ever heard the term “load shedding?” I had not. It refers to the electrical utility, Eskom, switching off electricity to conserve energy. South Africa has a major energy crisis due to a combination of inadequate infrastructure and a growing population and economy. According to the newspapers and television reports the country spent billions on arms purchases and virtually nothing on expanding and modernizing the energy infrastructure, although well warned of a looming crisis. Actually while I was commenting scathingly to Michael about the problem he reminded me that California had a term for the same thing – rolling brownouts! I guess that would be politically incorrect usage here.
 

I arranged to meet Brin and Sherida downstairs at 7 am so we could drive out to the Boulders and then out to Muizenberg, to swim. Sherida’s mom, Olive, who helps with her in her clothing shop, came along too. We are all cryptic crossword puzzle nuts!

The morning started off with another unpredictable Rikki ride to dance class at 9 am. After it took twenty minutes and several dropped cellphone calls to get through to the dispatch, I was told “ the cab will be there in 4 minutes!”. Ha! So even though I know by now that 4 minutes could be anything from 10 to 20 minutes I rushed like mad to get downstairs. The cab actually arrived in about 8 minutes. Then we went on a majorly circuitous route that got me to the Scout Hall with about 10 minutes to spare.

My morning got off to a slightly slower start than usual as my dance classes were scheduled for 3 to 5 at the Camps Bay Bowling Club. I was picked up at 11 by my cousin, Sandra, and she suggested we visit the Rhodes Memorial area which has a magnificent view of the city- and have lunch at the restaurant there. We sat at a table under the trees, at the edge of the mountain side and caught up on a decade of news.

I realize that most of my photos involve people sitting round a table ready to eat. Or else beaches and mountains. More coming.

Maybe it was just the heat but I was not very impressed with any of the wines that I tasted today. I found the white wines, mainly sauvignon blanc and chenin blancs very thin for want of a better word and I am not much of a red wine drinker. So after the second tasting we decided to go back to Sea Point for a rest and shower before driving back to Stellenbosch to Moyo, the restaurant at Spiers.

The heat here has been unrelenting with highs over 35 degrees. Fortunately the humidity is not too bad. We had planned to drive out to wine country for some tastings and Carole had booked for dinner at Moyo, an African restaurant at Speirs, one of the large wine farms near Stellenbosch. So the idea was to drive out in the morning and visit a number of wineries before dinner. But in view of the extreme heat we decided that we would drive back into town to shower and change before going out for dinner.

That evening I asked Barry and Carole to join me at another dinner theatre show downtown. The venue was a club called On Broadway. It’s a long room with a row of tables on a raised dais lining each long wall and many more tables in the central well of the room. We were about three tables back from the raised stage and had an excellent view. The show was called “Strictly Come Jazz”, a play on the title of “Strictly Come Dancing” which is the UK and SA version of our “Dancing with the Stars”.

On his way to work, Barry dropped me off at the Scout Hall for my dance class at 9. I was sitting on a bench trying to figure out the cell phone Carole had loaned me when Edwin arrived. He gave me a strict warning about never using the cell phone in the street or in an exposed environment. Apparently it is a very common occurrence that phones will be snatched out of one’s hands. Nice. And I was just beginning to feel a greater sense of security.

Caught a Rikki out to Orange Street for my dance lesson at nine. Brin took a day off work and picked me up at the hall. Two hours of very vigorous dance ending with jive, in the Cape Town heat - and I thought I really needed a shower to cool down and re-energise. So after a stop over at the flat we headed back into town to visit the newly enhanced South African Jewish Museum, and the Holocaust Centre. Amidst the photos and documentation of that awful stage of history, what sticks indelibly in the memory are the first hand testimonials of survivors, recorded on video.

Headlines in this evening’s paper are about a failure of the cable car that takes people to the top of Table Mountain. It seems that, following a power failure, the cars got stuck and it took hours or so to get them moving again.

Time is speeding by – I have already been here 6 days. I decided to take some quiet time so Barry and Carole headed off to work this morning and I sat down with my coffee and my PDA phone list to try to contact old friends who I have not seen for a decade. But before that I finally managed to get through to BA at Cape Town airport, who did not seem at all surprised by my tale of suitcase theft. In fact they have a section for “pilfered” luggage! Sad isn’t it. I wonder if the same thing exists at YVR and Heathrow. Its just that the items stolen were so petty!

Barry and I were out on the beach front just before 8 this morning. It was the perfect temperature, warm but not humid, sea breeze. We passed joggers, walkers and people walking their dogs. The sea was that deep violet blue, almost black, that brings to mind Homer’s “wine-red sea” and the surf was crashing against the rocks. We just don’t get that sound of crashing waves in False Creek.

Barry and I were up and off for our beach walk at Langebaan quite early this morning. The wind was not quite as strong morning but for the first part of the walk along the water’s edge the wind was in our faces. There is something about the tang of sea air that is not like any other wind. Maybe it raises vestigial memories of the waters our progenitors emerged from millions of years ago. Have I got my time frame right? I know it’s not 6,000 years – oops, no sarcasm, this is a travelblogue not a polemic on evolution and intelligent design. Anyway for whatever reason, wind blowing off the sea is specially invigorating.

Ok I have here neither my copy of Lear nor access to Google but I think that was how he began his rant - sort of. Suffice it to say that the wind on the west cost howls like a banshee. Undeterred however, Barry and I set out early to walk down to the beach and had a brisk invigorating stroll (hmmm… can you stroll briskly? Oxymoron? Oh whatever) - a brisk invigorating stroll along the seemingly endless white sand. It was packed quite firm – a nice smooth hard surface – like a dance floor. Maybe tomorrow my IPOD will accompany me and I can get a nice workout on the beach.

Being away for nearly a month, I was concerned about keeping up my level of fitness and not putting on weight – what with no gym, no dance classes, and having to try all the new and exciting restaurants in Cape Town . I was also concerned about withdrawal symptoms from my growing dance addiction. So being a trained researcher and all that, I used the Internet back in Vancouver , to find a dance instructor in Cape Town who taught international dancing. I found someone that sounded promising and gave Brin his cell phone number.

After a long walk on the white sand beach, occasionally letting tiny icy wavelets ripple over our bare feet, we met up with surfer dude and headed off to Jimmy’s Restaurant for an excellent lunch. I had grilled calamari and shrimp, and I confess – the chips/fries that were cooked to perfection. SA knows its chips!

Emerging from Customs into the warm slightly humid Cape air, I wondered how I would feel. My first visit to the place of my earliest memories, in almost 10 years  and the first time returning alone to Cape Town. Would there be a sense of returning home? Probably no. Vancouver has been home for a long time now.

It was quite interesting to compare the configurations of the seating in Club world with the newly configured seating in the AC Executive Class. Both have seats that recline to fully horizontal and for a petite frame they are quite a comfortable length. While AC has chosen to incline the personal spaces in parallel, BA alternates them sort of like a yin and yang arrangement.

It will be really interesting to see how the Vancouver Airport-downtown line alters passenger patterns. My transport here from downtown London to Heathrow was really smooth. Taxi arrived promptly at the hotel at the exact time it was ordered. The drive to Paddington took not much more than 16 minutes although the lady cabbie warned that the rain and the traffic may make it take longer.