I feel lucky to arrive back in Cape Town on the eve of Nelson Mandela's funeral. He was laid to rest in his home village of Qunu, but Capetonians came out in droves to mourn his passing and celebrate his legacy. Events took place the entire week, and the day of the funeral screens were set up right in front of City Hall. People sat together and watched all morning, mostly silent with the intermittent cheers of pride. It was incredible to be a part of it all and be in South Africa to celebrate such a revolutionary figure. There were many who thought Madiba's passing would drive people apart, but at that moment it felt like we were all in it together. It was a great way to begin another week in Cape Town.
American #2 & I stayed once again in Observatory, but moved over to the Green Elephant to mix things up. Mavis made it feel like home :) Over the week, we explored the city. Table Mountain was closed due to wind most days, but the drive up was gorgeous. Around the peninsula is Camp's Bay - a bit fancy but it's a bustling part of town right on the beach. Long Street seems to be always busy if you want nightlife, and retail is all over City Bowl and along the Harbor.
The District 6 museum downtown shares the stories of people who lived in the Sixth Municipal District of Cape Town in 1867. Originally established as a mixed community of freed slaves, merchants, artisans, laborers, and immigrants, this all changed during apartheid. In 1966 it was declared a white area under the Group Areas Act of 1950, and by 1982, the life of the community was over. More than 60 000 people were forcibly removed to barren outlying areas aptly known as the Cape Flats, and their houses in District Six were flattened by bulldozers. The District Six Museum, established in December 1994, works with the memories of the District Six experience and with that of forced removals more generally. Worth a visit for the touching exhibits and learning experience.
Back in Obs, there was live music at the Armchair, mexican food at Panchos, poached eggs for breakfast (with lots of rocket of course), and Trash Caberet at Desperados with their great live show. That, and catching up on sleep in that delightful real bed.
And, on December 23, American #3 arrived for some adventures. We were off on another road trip Christmas Day, but first the 3 of us caught the Christmas Eve showing of Scrooge at the Baxter Theatre. Marc Lottering and the cast were hilarious and the children's choir sang beautifully. It was one of the best performances I've ever seen and I'd love to make it an annual Christmas tradition. Cape Town, I'll be back!
It's dark by the time the taxi pulls up to Observatory Backpackers. Reception is friendly, the kitchen is stocked, and the room is clean. And there is a big bed, and a door that closes! Now, this may sound very simple, but after 3 months of living in a tent and riding in a Land Rover, this is heaven. Who knew a room with a door and a bed could make me so happy!
The next day American #2 and I took a walk around the neighborhood, and instantly felt at home. Obs is a diverse neighborhood, near the University of Cape Town so it is abuzz with student life. There are plenty of restaurants, retail, and even life music within walking distance. Hooray! We found a music shop, which thankfully had 2 new purple egg shakers just waiting for me, and even hung out for a bit, testing them out with a local musician - too much fun.
After 2 days in Obs, it was time to see the area. Three of us rented a car and took off. It was my first experience driving on the left, and the nerves showed! Especially when I would mistook the windshield wipers for the blinker! No worries - off we go! We decided on Stellenbosch, with a stop at the beach on the way. Gordon's Bay was pretty close, so we took a dip. No wonder only the children were swimming - seemingly unaware of the frigid temps. Brrr! The drive to Stellenbosch was lovely, with wineries all along the roads. We stayed at the Stumble Inn, right near the center of town. There are 2 buildings, and we were lucky to get the one with the pool. The town was cute, but there was definitely an air of pretension I hadn't felt anywhere else so far along the way. Pinkies up!
The next day it was time to explore the wineries. There are a myriad of choices, but we decided to rent bikes and explore the region on 2 wheels. American #2, the German, and I got a map and off we went. Well, the first winery was closed. The 2nd winery on the map wasn't a winery. The third was also closed. So we kept biking - 2 hours, 20+km in hilly countryside, and still no wine. When we finally came upon Mont Marie, we were famished and very thirsty so we got a bottle of white and settled in to rest. There was no food, however, so as soon as the bottle was finished we kept going. We made it to Dornier for lunch, with the final tasting at Waterford Estate for a wine and chocolate pairing. Nice end to a lovely day, although none of us wanted to face the return trip!
The next day it is back to Cape Town via Simon's Town, Cape of Good Hope, the African penguins, and cliff road R30. Simon's Town is a bustling little town, with a cute harbor where I enjoyed tasty fish & chips. There is also a penguin colony close by, and if you buy a ticket you can even swim with them in the lagoon. Cape of Good Hope was beautiful, and somewhere I've always wanted to go. There were many tourists, but we hiked to the lighthouse and even got a free cablecar ride down the mountain. After exploring the National Park, we took the scenic route north and ended up on Chapman's Peak Drive. It is gorgeous, but a bit hair raising if you feel like a new driver! But we returned to Observatory Backpackers in one piece, ready for more of Cape Town.
And we're off! Or not. We begin the trip with the South African saying “Let's go run out of gas!” The gas station in Ais Ais is out of petrol. Wow. So it is only a matter of time until we putter out – let's see how far we can go! Well as it turns out, not very far. I'm sitting in the very back of the Landie, so all I can do is watch the others try to flag down assistance. I'm looking out the back window as a very large truck is getting closer, closer... not slowing down … he passes us on his phone. Wait! He's coming back – very large truck in reverse. Turns out to be a very nice South African guy driving potatoes from Angola to Cape Town and back. Talk about a long day on the road! He gives us quite a few liters and goes on his way – won't even except a few Rand. We make it to the next gas station, and we find the trucker there waiting for us to make sure we made it... wow! So nice. Full tank, ice cream, snacks and we're back on the road. I turn the back of the Landie into a cinema and hunker down for the long haul.
It's after dark by the time we arrive, but dinner is ready and another real bed awaits! We stay 6 days in Kuruman and enjoy a farm party, dinner out, wifi at the Spur or Wimpy, my birthday pizza, and some much needed down time. Kuruman is known as the “fountain of Christianity” in Africa due to the flowing springs of Die Oog, and its missionary history of the Moffatt Mission. I don't foresee a return trip to Kuruman, but the hospitality was wonderful. During these few days I also had some time to prep for the next chapter. The band was breaking up – the South African was no longer driving to Cape Town and the others were off on their own road trip north. So, Plan B was to drive to Kimberley and fly to Cape Town on South African Airways. Much faster route! It was a sad goodbye after 3 months and more than 16,000 km bonding in the Landie, but I am confident that wasn't our last trip. The 2 Americans had places to see. Off to Cape Town!
After a gorgeous drive we reached Fish River Canyon. The tents went up quickly so we could hop in the car to catch sunset over the canyons. Spectacular. The next time I'd love to stay a few days to hike the area. The campsite was quiet and peaceful, and I awoke to the chatter of birds and monkeys. After a hearty South African breakfast, a short but lovely drive around the canyons led us to the Ai Ais Hot Springs. Ai-Ais means 'burning water' in the local Nama language and refers to the sulfurous thermal hot water springs found at the base of the mountain peaks at the southern end of Fish River Canyon. The water is fed into a large outdoor swimming pool and smaller pools within a resort, and is rich in sulphur, chloride, fluoride and said to be good for anyone suffering from rheumatism.
Well, when we arrive the is pool empty - they just happen to be doing some cleaning. We set up camp anyway, and take a look inside. It feels very much like a resort, but there are a few pools both hot and cold and they are delightful. After a dip, I arrive at the camp site for a big Sunday lunch. Turns out the South African has been busy! After our meal the 5 of us go for a sunset hike in the Fish River along the dry sand bed. We see baboons, a few small fish, bats, and birds. A nice way to end the day. By the next morning the water in the giant pool is mid-calf so in we go. While it is not the natural hot springs I had imagined, the water is very warm and feels revitalizing and healthful. Now – back on the road – another 665 km to Kuruman!
We didn't make it very far from Luderitz when we decide to stop and check out the ghost town of Kolmanskop. In 1908 a worker found a diamond while working in this area and showed it to his supervisor, a German railway inspector. After realizing that this area was rich in diamonds, lots of German miners settled in this area and soon after the German government declared a large area as a "Sperrgebiet", starting to exploit the diamond field.
Driven by the enormous wealth of the first diamond miners, the residents built the village in the architectural style of a German town, with amenities and institutions including a hospital, ballroom, power station, school, bowling alley, theatre and sport-hall, casino, ice factory and the first x-ray station in the southern hemisphere, as well as the first tram in Africa. There was a railway link to Luderitz. The town declined after World War I when the diamond-field slowly exhausted and was ultimately abandoned in 1954. Now nature is taking over!
After Kolmanskop we stopped at a watering hole to try and catch a glimpse of the wild horses. We were lucky to see 2 and some oryx then it was back on the road. Off to Fish River we go!
Only 350 km to Lüderitz from Brukkaros - a nice short drive for a change. Now that there are 3 of us, I commander the backseat and stretch out to relax. As I lie back, there is a shooting pain in my shoulder... Yikes! I look down to see a giant yellow wasp. I calmly tell my companions that I've been stung, and the South African promptly pulls over, grabs the med kit, and proceeds to extract the giant stinger from my shoulder like a pro. Not 2 minutes later, we're back on the road. Pain subsides some, and I'm very happy with his reaction time! The rest of the drive was pretty uneventful in comparison. A stop in Aus was planned, but there wasn't much there so we carried on.
We arrive just before dark and start looking for a place to stay. We happen across Element Riders Backpackers, who doesn't have camping only rooms... Real bed #5! I say yes please! It's windy and chilly in Luderitz, and at this point in the trip my tent-tolerance is dropping! Element is a very laid back place, and the owner, Rainer, is an avid kite surfer. Highly recommend.
It was Thanksgiving when we arrived, so went out to search for a nice dinner. We found one of the only restaurants in town - Ritzies – where we wait 2 hours for frozen fish but have plenty of time to talk about how thankful we are we made it that far :)
A visit to Dias Point is worth it, where you can make the treacherous climb to see the Dias Cross or sit below and watch the waves crash against the cliffs. It is lovely, and there happens to be a cute little coffee shop with excellent chocolate cake. There is also a spot to see a colony of penguins, if you are lucky not to blow away. You can also see oryx, flamingoes, and springbok on the way to Agate Beach where you can go treasure hunting - and perhaps come away with a lovely new diamond. We tried!
We end up staying 6 days in Lüderitz for no concrete reason. I was enjoying a real bed, we all made some friends, and there was Diaz Coffee Shop around the corner with delicious toasties on homemade bread. Civilization was a welcome change. One evening a group of us even stopped by a church service to check out the famous Pastor Isaac Lucas. Check out my video clip "Holy Ghost Naked Wire".
While at Element, we met some great fellow travelers - two of whom ended up joining us for our drive to South Africa. This couple had purchased a car in Cape Town to travel around southern Africa. They had gotten nearly to Luderitz when it broke down, so they had it towed to town. Each time they went to get it, something else was broken. Finally - the day it was supposed to be ready - they were told it needed a new engine. They were still stuck in Luderitz! The South African felt bad the couple, and generously offered them his other car... incredible! It is in Kuruman, about 1,000 km east, so we'll have some time to get to know each other :) We finally leave Luderitz for Fish River Canyon ~ once again with a full Landie :) 1 South African, 2 Americans, 1 German, and 1 Brit!
Combining a passion for travel, the desire to make a difference & a love of maps, MaggieMaps was born.
Unless otherwise noted, all prose, poetry, maps and photography posted on this blog are Copyright 2013 Maggie Maps
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