Saturday, September 29, 2007

22. September - Springtime in South Africa

Less people are travelling to Johannesburg than there are to Jerusalem, so our plane is blissfully half-full. We get to stretch out a bit and doze as best as possible in postions that are still only comfortable for a contortionist. Large continent alert: this is an 8+ hour flight south to “JoBurg” and then as quick as possible through customs & the airport, with Finn still ill, for the 2 hr connector flight to Capetown. Landing in Capetown, actually outside of the city, like many airports, we cram our luggage into our rental car. It is a higher-end Honda sedan - a large vehicle by worldwide standards outside the U.S. - and once loaded up, we hit the M3 to Hout Bay, our final destination.

The roadside scenery is lovely: the craggy peaks of Table Mountain and similar chuncky mountains fronted with lush hillsides with fantastic trees that look like a forest of the “Go, Dogs, Go” dog party trees, piles of succulents and roadside wildflowers that include things like cala lilies. It’s a chilly, misty spring day with fog and an enormous cloudbank straddled just atop the mountains - leading one to believe the mountains could be reaching up twice as high as we can see. They don’t, but are a significant size from sea-level at about 3500ft. As we wind along canyon-type roads with a sprinkling of vineyards, sub-tropical flora & fauna and gated stucco estates, there is a bit of a California feel - perhaps Montecito or L.A. Hills... but more moisture.

As we reach our rental house, “Wild at Heart,” the famous cape winds pick up and begin to blow steadily. Our pretty summer cottage with cool cement floors now feels freezing, so we head out to dinner at the total tourist trap restaurant on the wharf replete with servers in goofy sailor garb (Abbots/S&P Oysters, anyone?). We order fish dinners, against the advice of some re. seafood in Africa, and all was delicious and very inexpensive. Somehow, the dollar is stronger against the South African Rand at about 1:7 than it is against the Egyptian Pound at 1:5. Go figure. After dinner we walk out onto the wharf, past enormous, security-guarded fishing boats and watch roly-poly seals play around the boats & pilings (signs ask not to feed them) and the fading light rainbow and play across the mountainsides. Photo by M.P.

Back at the house, we meet up with Jill, the owner, for extensive instructions on operating the security system. She insists that everything is safe & there’s never been a problem, and she becomes the third (white) person of the evening to add the caveat “...but this IS South Africa.” The entire town has named and gated homes, all with armed-response security and alarmed cars and many dogs that are oft aggravated by the security frequencies we can’t hear.

The frequency that we can’t quite seem to get going is the wi-fi. After the system being down at our hotel in Cairo, we were wanting to touch base with friends & family (and do this blog, and some work-related things....) We rented this particular cottage due to the assurance of wi-fi, and so check it right away, but it doesn’t seem to be up and running. Figuring we’ll sort it out in the morning, we wrangle some plug-in heaters to cut the chill of the unheated cottage and snuggle under down comforters for our first night in South Africa.

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