Saturday, May 20, 2006

Rain, rain, go away

The journey down to Cape Town was reasonably uneventful, but tiring all the same. Virgin Atlantic is quite cool -this was the first time I've flown with them. When making announcements the captain used the Thunderbirds music -what a wag! The entertainment system broke at first though and he had to reboot the whole thing. Interestingly (for me, because I'm a nerd) the system runs Linux of some flavour.

The cliches about Cape Town being beautiful are all well deserved. The backdrop of table mountain is stunning, and I was suitably stunned on the drive in from the airport. Unfortunately that was the last we saw of it for a couple of days as the cloud descended over it and the rain started. The hostel (The Backpack) we stayed in was quite a posh one as these things go. We were quite tired when we arrived and someone told us that there were riots in town so we decided to have a nap instead of going out. We later found out that it was striking security guards that rioted, which is a little worrying. The hostel has a Braii (barbeque) on Tuesday nights, so we availed ourselves of that, very nice. Beers are R10 (about a pound) a bottle, so we tested them out. Unfortunately it seems like Amstel and Carling Black Label are the nicest beers on offer.

Wednesday we wandered around the city centre to get a bearings. We found a cool cafe on Long Street, the main backpacker/cool cafe strip in the city bowl, called Mr. Pickwicks. Their tea and breakfast was very nice and served to the sounds of dub reggae. It started raining more heavily again so we hid in the hostel before having a super nice meal at Madame Zingarras round the corner. I think it came to R350 including a bottle of wine, 2 mains, 2 desserts and a tip. The Rand has fallen against the pound recently so thats less than 35quid and it was super nice.

Thursday was playing hunt the best car deal. In the end we booked through the hostel as it had a pretty good rate. After seeing some beetles coughing their way round the city I was a little concerned about using a beetle hire company. It probably would have been a little bit cheaper, but we decided a more modern car would be a bit better probably.

On Thursday evening at The Backpack, they have a drum tuition thing. We were a little concerned as the time for it approached because it looked like we were the only ones doing it. I think Gemma managed to convince some Canadians at the bar, and then a few more people signed up. It was really good, our tutor, Master Eddy from the Congo was excellent. It took a little while but he had us all banging out rhythms on the Djembe. We were mostly in time. A couple of other workers at the hostel joined in and he had them singing while we drummed which was pretty cool. As the stuff got more complex we all started getting more tired though and messing up a lot more. It was a lot of fun but very tiring.

The hire car turned up on Friday morning and we jerkily pulled off down the road. Gemma was a little bit stressed getting used to the car (and kept saying, "I want george" (that's her old car)). The difference between driving a tractor and a modern car was obviously quite marked as at first she had trouble with just slightly touching the pedal causing it to rev massively. By the time we reached the Chapmans Peak scenic drive she had it down though. The drive around the mountain was absolutely gorgeous and we stopped a lot to take in the view.

We motored on down to the Cape Point national reserve stopping first at Cape Point and then at the Cape of Good Hope. We avoided doing the cheesey standing behind the sign photos. The area there is beautiful, rugged coastline and miles of Fynbos vegetation. Cape Point was quite busy with tour buses, so we walked to the old lighthouse then drove to the Cape of Good Hope, which was much less busy. All along the way we saw baboons and ostriches and at CoGH we saw rock dassies. I saw one poo.

From the Cape we went up to Simonstown, which has penguins on the beach. Simonstown Backpackers is a bit shabbier than the hostel in Cape Town, with a very relaxed proprieter. When we asked about the fact we were parked where we shouldn't be he said, "hey, no worries, it's OK, relax". I think it was his Dutch roots showing through. We saw the penguins. They smell of rancid fish.

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