Shosholoza: The Train to Joburg

25 July

At 8AM we awoke to the buzzing of my cellphone alarm. I greatly enjoyed naturally waking up the last several days, but today we were on a schedule. The overnight Shosholoza train to Joburg departed at 12:30 PM, but we needed to pack, grocery shop, check out of our room and be at the station an hour before departure.

over the past four days we had taken full advantage of the space in our room by spreading the contents of our backpacks all about. As a result I expected it to take us some time to pack, but it went rather quick and we managed to fit all our souvenirs into our backpacks, except for my kelp art.

Finished with packing we walked around the corner to Woolworth’s Food on Long Street to get snacks and lunch/dinner for our trip because we did not know if there was a dining car on the Shosholoza train. We thought it would be logical for them to have a dining car since it was the sleeper train, but we have learned when traveling in the 3rd world to never fully rely on what we consider logical. With sandwiches, fruit, water and chocolate in hand Alex and I strolled back to our backpackers to check out.

Believing that check out for Cape Town Backpackers was 10AM, we were ready to leave before having breakfast. However, upon further investigation we discovered that check out was an hour later at 11AM, so we were able to eat. Alex was tired of traditional ZA breakfast so he chose to eat a donut on our patio before going upstairs with me to the cafe where I had eggs and toast.

Just before 11 we gathered up all our bags. Alex carried the big blue backpack on his back with the Timbuk2 electronics bag over his shoulder. I carried my daypack on my back, Alex’s daypack on my front, the food bag in one hand and my kelp art in the other. Good thing we were only walking upstairs to checkout and catch a cab because I would not have wanted to walk to the train station like that.

Upon arrival at the train station we observed that the Shosholoza ticket offices were closed and wondered where we needed to go in order to get our car and coup assignment. Continue reading


Relieving All The World Cup Aches in Cape Town

24 July

We woke early this Saturday to see if the spa a block away had returned Alisa’s request for an appointment. Alisa sounded pretty horrible this morning, and as this was no less than the 7th day of this cold, her need for relief was of the utmost necessity this morning. There was no reply, so she rang them and learned they she would have to choose between a massage or a pedicure at 1pm, not both. Disappointed, she called her back up, who she thought was also close, but was actually located on Klook Rd in Seat Point, rather than Kloof St here in the City bowl. She was given a bunch of different times, and 11am was the most convenient so we dressed, had reception at Cape Town Backpackers call us a taxi and we were off. Continue reading

Museum Time in Cape Town

23 July

Woke this morning after a great 10 hour sleep, perhaps our record on this trip and slowly got ready for another day in Cape Town. I had made a long list of random things to do, that would be more secondary to-do items in Cape Town, but as I had seen most of the A-List things in Cape Town, this was next up. With Alisa not getting a hot shower, and her cold still unrelenting, she was not in the best of moods, so I was hesitant to track her from museum to museum today, but we set off nonetheless with the goal to end at the Two Oceans Aquarium where we could see Alisa’s squid (the one that was making predictions at the World Cup).

We paused at the Spar one block away for donuts and flavored sparkling water and headed off down Long St before cutting over to the South African Parliament. I had walked this way in 2007 and hadn’t seen an entrance and since Alisa had not walked the Company Gardens we leisurely walked around the grounds to the other side where we finally found the Entrance to the Visitors center only to be told we had just missed the last tour. I didn’t realize that there wouldn’t be any tomorrow (Saturday), and so was a bit bummed I had missed a chance to tour the place. We set off to go next door to the Iziko Museum at the Slave Lodge. It was an interesting place, very well done, telling the story of Slaves in South Africa and how they arrived at the Cape. It had a few interesting facts that I hadn’t come across before, such as slaves born in the Cape often had van de Kap affixed as their surname, but only had exhibits that took up half of the space in the oldest remaining building in Cape Town (was the original structure used to house Dutch East India Company Slaves at the Cape, then ironically the Supreme Court). Also interesting were the two Tomb stones expatriated from Java bearing the names of Jan van Riebeek and his wife. Van Riebeek is considered the founder of Cape Town, and also one of the few early originators of apartheid, having planted an almond and thorn bush to demarcate the European claimed area and keep out the native population in 1652. It is always interesting to see how South Africa museums combine very different and often contradictory items from its past under one roof. It could be symbolic of the unity the country is trying to forged, but it is often the remnants of the telling of history of the country pre-1994 (the massive tombstones were part of a paster wall in the court yard, as this was once the South Africa Cultural Museum). The second half of the museum was dedicated to Nelson Mandela. Walked clockwise around the building actually starts you off at the end of the exhibit, and as I learned a good deal in the middle part (it went chronologically) much of the info was just a repeat as I went through. However, it was quite a comprehensive history of Mandela and the struggle, one that someone not as fluent in the history could gain a great deal from. I was quite surprised at the end a full poster of Mandela’s faults and missteps, two hitting on his biggest (Lack of HIV/AIDS policy, and the transition from RDP to GEAR).

After leaving we headed downtown towards the train station, and though we went through a roundabout way of getting there, we eventually found the Shosoloza Meyl ticket office at the North end, and picked up our tickets for Sunday. The station had definitely undergone a make over for the World Cup, but I would have been very interested to know how many visitors used it for local or national trips.

Even though I was starving, Alisa was still suffering and not hungry so we made our way over to the exhibit put on by the District 6 Museum on the development of Cape football. The Sacks Futeran building was the host of Fields of Play exhibition displaying info and artifacts from local football clubs from the turn of the century all the way up to the present. While they made brief references to apartheid and how it affected membership of a club or how football was made into a way to protest apartheid’s laws in the 1980s, there was very little correlation drawn except for these bits. I think that had to do with the fact that while apartheid/segregation determined the make up of the clubs and the pitches they could use, sport was for the most part used as a distraction, as it is in many cultures from the tribulations of society. I was surprised by the amount of soccer history possessed by the Cape, and think that it bodes well if the Premier Soccer League (Division 1 in South Africa) and Bafana Bafana can expand its fan base from its near African-exclusive supports. One of the nationals newspapers had the Local Organizing Committee (of the FIFA World Cup) discussing pairing with the rugby and cricket institutions to make use of the stadiums, but they also floated the prospect of rugby-soccer double headers at the WC stadiums. A Pirates – Sundowns and Lions – Bulls (Joburg and Pretoria team match ups, respectfully) could be hosted by the 98,000 seater Soccer City in the future. This I think would be fantastic for continuing and fostering cross over between cultures and races, plus provide a fantastic sporting atmosphere, building off regional rivalries (Why didn’t MLS try this in its infancy? – DC United vs NY MetroStars before a Redskins – NY Giants game).

Upstairs was Offside and collaboration between District 6, the British Council, Kick it Out, and Football Unites, Racism Divides (FURD) organizations. It detailed the best footballers that South Africa had produced in its history and how Apartheid affected their careers as they followed their dreams overseas. A bunch of great information on a two whole teams of South Africans, many that I knew from their football exploits, but didn’t know their ancestry (this owing to the fact that white South Africans got around the visa requirements with their British heritage, often becoming capped for one of the Home Nations as a result). Who knew ____ was born in Durban, but held a Rhodesian/Zimbabwean passport?

Alisa was still not feeling well and being already 1600, we decided to skip the squid and head back to Long Street to solve my rumbling stomach. We were on the way back to Simply Asia, but Alisa decided to stop early at Tong Lok, a Chinese place that Morgan Bubel and I had frequented during our stay in Cape Town. I couldn’t remember if it was good, but I thought we had been their twice, and thought it was a good enough shot. Alisa’s Sweet and Sour Chicken was fairly bland, and the chicken fried rice wasn’t terribly good either. My sizzling beef had a good kick to it, but was nothing special. We can probably cross it off our list on trips to Cape Town in the Future.

We’re headed to the internet cafe we used in 2007, but learned they had no port for laptops, only offering limited date for wifi through Skyrove. Dismayed, I search the web and came across Mainonline, saying they didn’t charge extra for downloads. I walked up the street only to be told they don’t allow any downloads OR uploads, because it ‘slows the network’. So much for First World.

Alisa is off to get her massage/spa day. They didn’t get back to her about her request for a time, but let’s hope she gets one because it would be good for her to be semi-refreshed before she goes off to Kenya for three months.