Today we arrived in Cape Town on a glorious winter’s day on the Greyhound bus, straight down from Kimberley. I was surprised how much I slept on the journey, either I am getting used to overnight bus trips (my third on this trip so far) or I am so used to uncomfortable journeys, that the the cushioned seats of Translux was too much for my body to resist. Alisa slept just as well, which was important, as she is now facing the brunt of the head cold that I had just a few days ago. I think neither of us has seen as much green stuff come out of our orifices as has the past week. We have been been coughing hard, but I look to be on the end of the worse, and hopefully Alisa will catch up in a few days. It would be nice if my month long nasal congestion also ended, but I have a feeling only the 90 degree heat in Virginia is the only thing that will wipe it out now. The fresh and light air of the Cape Peninsula will also help. Breathing in big deep breathes hasn’t been that difficult in Joburg since we’re acclimated to the altitude, but it was a nice change to breath in the fresh ocean air of the Atlantic.
Only having one piece of luggage under the quarter full bus, we were quickly on our way out of the bus station and on our way up Adderley street and across to Long St, then up to New Church St. Alisa had sketched out directions prior to our arrival, something I have requested for her to do often this trip, but on the time we’re prepped, we’re in the city I know well enough to navigate without needing Lonely Planet. It’s a 30 minute walk to the backpackers, at the end of which we both have cold sweat dripping from our bodies as we had both been layered on the semi-warm (but better than nothing) bus. I didn’t expect Cape Town to be so warm, but it was expected to get up to 24 degrees later in the day, so this was a good sign for our weather.
We checked into our room at Cape Town Backpackers, and talked with the woman at reception, Liz, about going up Table Mountain. She said today was going to be our best chance to do it as the weather was changing tomorrow. I thought the rain was coming Friday, but when we got to our beautifully spartan room downstairs, I checked the iPad, and there was in fact an Alert for 85kph winds for tomorrow.
Alisa wanted to do something special for her grandfather’s birthday that is upcoming, so we set out to gather the supplies needed for construction after we got a late breakfast at the cafe down the street.
We returned for Alisa to construct her present, and I took a nap, but then pitched in to help finish it off.
We were ready to ascend, and I went up to the backpackers in store travel agency to check on the best way to get up to the Cable Car station. Learning it was only a R30 (turned out to be R35) taxi ride, they called us our ride and we were at the bottom of the Calbeway just as 1600 rolled around. We walked right up and bought our tickets with no line (our taxi driver said this was the best time to go up because of the small crowds) and went right inside to have our tickets scanned and waited to ride the cable car. We were about halfway before Alisa’s fear of heights kicked in, which was intensified by the moving floor of the cable car that moves around the car to give the passengers a 360 degree view while going up the mountain.
Finally on top we took in the sights of Cape Town from a site we had never visited before, and admired the views of the Atlantic, and the Seven Apostle Mountain Range that stretched down to the Cape of Good Hope. It wasn’t a crisp clear day, but the visibility was good enough for a visit that had been thwarted three times in 2007, and was high on the do due list this time around. The park on top was very nicely done with cement walkways providing easy access to manmade viewing points, that provided great views of the vistas beyond. We began to walk to the other side of the mountain,
but as it was a 90 minute round trip, we knew we would not be back in time for the sunset and last car down, so we strolled around our quarter of the mountain, just after finishing off Alisa present to her grandfather (you can see what it was on his birthday). I was surprised by how much vegetation was at the top, as I somehow had this impression that it would be a pure rock surface at the top, but besides lots of green shrubbery, there were many gold flowers as well.
By the time we had returned, the primary gift shop had closed, which seemed a bit odd since the park had another hour of operations, but we went and claimed our spot to watch the sun disappear over the Atlantic. It would be my first ocean sunset in months, for Alisa nearly a year. It’s a sight that is taken for granted when you live on a western coastline, and one that I miss greatly whenever I am away. There is something uniquely peaceful about those last few minutes the sun remains on the horizon.
The large air horn signaling high winds approaching the mountain sounded 15 minutes till 6, and not sure if it was to make sure people knew the last car was departing or whether it was for high winds, we slowly made our way back to the cable car station at the top, and then descended the mountain at 10 metres per second and were treated to a sunset of intense purple and pink borders.
Once back on the ground, we negotiated our way back down the mountain with a taxi driver and got back to Cape Town Backpackers just after 1800, time enough to change and go out to meet Fabio for dinner.
Walking down Long St, I was surprised how many street beggars approached us and how persistent they were. I cannot remember a single one from my multiple times here in 2007, and they persisted throughout the night. Fabio remarked that he has seen a rise in street poverty in all the places he has been on his return. I wonder how they were handled during the World Cup…
He requested to meet at Church and Long St, and while I had a feeling he had misread my SMS saying we were on New Church St, we briskly walked down Long St to meet him. Then we walked all the way back up Long St in order to find the restaurant that had fascinated Alisa, NOVA. Turns out that after walking to the top of Klook Nek street, the map in Lonely Planet that Alisa was using was backwards from how Alisa had been reading it, and so upon seeing the address for Nova on New Church, we found our way back to our backpackers and then proceeded down the street past a Ginja restaurant and then back up the street past the Protea Hotel, thinking we must have past it, but only came to 73 New Church when on the serve side of the Ginja building. Upon climbing up to the entrance we’re faced with a closure sign, and so now hungry from walking many blocks, we decide to head back to Park St to dine at one of the four chic places there. We settle on Greens, as Fabio likes the name not giving away exactly what kind of food it is.
Turns out to be a little of everything, with burgers, fish, pizza, pasta, and breakfast. They even make mojitos, a real sign that we have returned to civilization. Dinner was excellent, and as Alisa faded from conversation, I began to worry that the discussions Fabio and I were having on SA history, culture, and politics was boring her. As much as Alisa loves South Africa, she has never taken a history class on the country, but it turned out she was suffering from her sore throat and lots of mucus coming out, so we eventually said goodnight to Fabio and got Alisa back to Cape Town Backpackers and tucked into bed. She says she wants to ‘rise naturally’ tomorrow, as she’s taking this part of our trip as a real holiday. Quite rightly too, as she’s off to three tough months in Kenya after this. Even though I have found a substantial list of things to do around the city (most importantly a tour of Green Point Stadium), getting Alisa healthy and rejuvenated, something we could both use, is the main priority for the next few days. Being in Cape Town though means there will still be lots to do and explore and we relax and take in the Mother City.