Posted by: The Only Gringo on the Bus | December 23, 2010

The end of the world (trip)


Episode 34: Langebaan/Cape Town/Johannesburg, South Africa

Skin colour (both): Blue

Location: Alsager/Preston

Date: 23rd December 2010.

11 months, 4 continents and 17 countries later, our trip has ended. We are shivering in our respective parents’ houses and the clear skies and hot sunshine of Cape Town seem a world away.

Since my last update, we’ve braved the wild seas of the Western Cape, a cable car with a revolving floor and BA’s airline food.

The sailing was super and we were put to work pulling on ropes, tying fenders and even taking the helm on the high seas.

Heeeeeeeeaaaaaaaaaaaavvvvvvvvvveeeeeeeeeee

I opted in for the night sail on the first day, where I was harnessed like a small child (as were the other crew members) and conditions were extremely choppy. I was relieved that my jobs were limited to shining a torch and sitting quite still. I politely declined the offer to take the helm on this occasion. Jane wimped out altogether and polished off a bottle of wine in the flat we were all sharing.

Jane's future career

The following day was very windy and whilst our skipper made a good fist of things, the fact that our engine wasn’t working and the winds were up to 35 knots meant that our day was cut short for safety reasons, but not before my waterproof coat had failed to protect our new camera, which is now salty and quite dead.

At home at the helm

The early finish meant a leisurely lunch and a drive to Cape Town in the late afternoon sun. Table Mountain had been ominously shrouded in smog as we passed Cape Town en route to Langebaan for the sailing, but it was revealed towering over the city as we approached.

In spite of the sun, it was windy and freezing cold

The tent was now stowed for transportation, so we were in a hostel in Cape Town, close to the Victoria and Alfred waterfront. Yes, Alfred – we were surprised too and still have no idea who the heck he was. The hostel was nice enough and, after spending so long under canvas, quite a treat. The only downside was having our lovely (and enormous) juicy steak stolen out of the communal fridge one day.

While in Cape Town the first thing on our “to-do” list was Table Mountain and, on our first day, the skies were cloudless and Sparky, now unladed, fairly roared up the hills to the parking area.

Table Mountain

We decided against hiking up the mountain, instead forking out for the cable car, where Jane clung on for dear life – the open windows and revolving floor didn’t exactly help those with a faint heart. The heavy jolting on the way down, coupled with the return of my notoriously bad back, meant that I was the one with the white face on the return trip.

Got a head for heights?

The views from the top were spectacular, although our decision to undertake a lengthy walk to see pretty much nothing at the top was soon regretted. We did encounter rock hyraxes (dassies), which are small rodents related to elephants (yes, really) and have the look of something that’s about to tear your face off.

The strangely scary dassie

The centre of Cape Town, where we went to do some shopping one day, was very quiet and less than glorious. In contrast, the rejeuvenated Waterfront area was lovely, with some pricey but well-appointed restaurants, where we treated ourselves a couple of times.

One meal must be commented on – the night that we went to a German Brauhaus. We ordered the house platter for two and were licking our lips when the platter arrived piled high with pork – 2 crispy pork knuckles, a couple of thick slabs of roast pork, 6 or 7 various sausages, mountains of sautéed potatoes, sauerkraut, mustard and gravy. We washed it down with a couple of flagons of their home-brew. I’ll be lobbying for this at Christmas lunch next year, it was delicious.

Our camera ate the picture of the German meal, so this is the view from Table Mountain

Robben Island was disappointing though– the prison which was the home to Nelson Mandela and other political prisoners was a blur as our guide whizzed through like a disinterested estate agent. Our ferry across had been delayed, so we had to pay the price by being dragged so quickly though the tour to make the return ferry.

We did have the pleasure of seeing the ugliest family in history whilst there. The father looked fairly normal, but the wife and two kids looked like they belonged in an institute with a sign saying “Mind Your Knuckles” on the entrance.

Special

We gave Sparky one final hurrah on our last day with him, driving down to Cape Point for a few photos and a fish and chips lunch. We really put him through his paces on the way back, when we realised we were late for dropping him off. We made it in time and Jane generously tipped the rental company by leaving my wallet down the side of her seat. We realised as we walked away thankfully, so no harm was done.

So, before we knew it, we were landing at Heathrow just before the snow set in and they shut up shop, and we’re now back in the bosom of our families contemplating a chilly Christmas. The oddest thing is wearing “normal” clothes again.

We really had a terrific time. We spent far more than we anticipated, but it has been worth it. We’ve seen some stunning things and had some superb experiences. Now for the rest of our lives, starting with a bang on the 4th January, back at work.

This will be the last blog entry then (for now), I hope you’ve enjoyed them and I’ll leave you with the highs and lows of our trip. Cheerio!

Highs

  • Being within touching distance of a pride of wild lions in the Kruger National Park, South Africa;
  • Seeing the night sky as never before in San Pedro de Atacama, Chile;
  • Watching sunrise over Lake Rotorua, New Zealand;
  • Doing synchronised underwater acrobatics with sea lions on my birthday in the Galapagos, Ecuador;
  • Drunken tubing in Vang Vieng with a couple of random Irish girls (and emerging unscathed);
  • The visual and gastronomic delights of Tokyo, Japan; and
  • Being blown away by the natural features of Argentina – Glacier Perito Moreno, Iguassu Falls and the mountains of El Chalten being the highlights.

Lows

  • Getting mugged in Quito (yes, family members, the bag snatch was slightly more exciting than we told you);
  • Java – at least we weren’t spat at (like Jane’s sister was when she visited);
  • The constant attempted scams in Vietnam;
  • Australia – we expected so much more;
  • Our “cruise” in Halong Bay, Vietnam, which took us in 2 straight lines with 2/3rds of the trip moored up – although the bay itself was superb; and
  • Having toilet related “accidents” in Brazil – must have been all those beans.

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Any comments or questions are very welcome. Now that we’re back, we’ll be able to respond within seconds!

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