Friday, October 19, 2012


Last flashback to Julia’s trip: Cape Town!

When Julia was here we spent three full days in Cape Town and, like the rest of her trip, everything went perfectly! We stayed in Penthouse on Long backpackers, where I stayed last year, and it was great again. Last year we had met some cool people also staying there, including PCVs from Cameroon, but unfortunately it wasn’t the same kind of crowd this year. Our first day we met up with Stephanie, a former Moz 13 (if you’ve been reading since the beginning, almost exactly three years ago I went to stay at her house for a few nights during my Pre-Service Training for my “site visit”) who was in Cape Town for a summer internship, and her roommate from the same program. We did a “hop on hop off” bus that tours all over Cape Town city and some of the surrounding areas and there are many buses running throughout the day so you can hop on and off multiple times. We went to a museum, stopped and had a picnic on the beach, walked around a few other touristy areas, and ended with Thai dinner at the V&A waterfront.

Since we had three full days, our plan had been to do this bus tour one day, do a wine tour the second day, and then climb Table Mountain the third. I kept checking the weather and it looked like it was going to be really nice the second day, then rainy the third day. I didn’t want to be hiking a mountain in the rain and I figured the weather didn’t really matter for the wine tour, so last minute we switched our wine tour to the third day. Like everything else on the trip, it worked out perfectly, our second day was sunny and dry, while our wine tour was cold, rainy, and overcast (which would have been particularly problematic, since many days Table Mountain’s top has a “table cloth” of cloud cover). Things so rarely work out this nicely here in Africa, so it was a pleasant surprise!

The next day Julia and I set out to climb Table Mountain. Somehow I came to Cape Town at exactly the same time two years in a row—right when the cable car was shut down for re-servicing. Last year we had seen the cable car schedule and gone up Table Mountain the very first day, because it was shut down the rest of the time we were in town. I was actually glad the cable car was out this time while we were there. I don’t fancy myself a “hiker” or “mountain climber” and Table Mountain is fairly intimidating looking, so I don’t think it ever would have occurred to me to hike it if the cable car was an option, but climbing it was a truly wonderful experience. We left the hostel right as the sun was coming up, so we got to watch it rise and witness the day come to life as we were climbing. It took us about 2.5 hours to get to the top, then we found a nice rock at the top and had a wonderful picnic overlooking the city of Cape Town. Since the cable car was out for re-servicing, everything else (the gift shop, restaurant, etc) on top of the mountain were closed too, including the bathrooms. There were no bathrooms on the whole of the mountain—even the port-a-potties were locked. I thought this was pretty strange, since there were still tons of hikers that day, even without the cable car. Good thing I had a friend with me to stand watch while I squatted behind a rock.

I found the hike down the mountain rather unpleasant. Sure, it was much physically easier, but I didn’t like staring down my potential fall to death with every step. Julia laughed good-naturedly at my suddenly manifested fear of heights, of which I had had none on the climb up. At one point we were going down a narrow series of steps straight down. Since the path was too narrow for two people to pass, a man waited at the bottom for us to pass, getting a chance to catch his breath. This was one of the points where I could just picture my misstep and roll/plunge hundreds of feet down the mountain, so I was a little stressed out. “You look scared” the waiting man said to me. I’m not sure if I got momentarily distracted in responding to him, or if his timing was perfect, because in the next instant my foot slipped and I landed right on my butt. The man of course felt like he had caused my fall and felt terrible—Julia laughed hysterically at me. Over the next two days, she took many opportunities to tell me that “I looked scared.”

When we got down to the parking lot we were instantly accosted by the taxi drivers waiting there. One man wanted us to pay 80 Rand. We had only paid 60 Rand to get up there that morning, so I was trying to argue him down. But since we were stuck on top of the mountain and we were running late to meet our friends for dinner, we didn’t have much bargaining power. I argued with him for a few minutes, demanding only a 70 Rand trip. Finally his friend, who has stepped in to mediate, suggested “70 Rand with a 10 Rand tip?” I shrugged and we were on our day.

Our last full day we did a wine tour, coincidentally (and luckily, because I had loved them) with the same company/guy as last year. It was a great day—our tour guide and the other five people on the tour were really cool, including one PCV from Swaziland. There was one more girl who was supposed to come, but before we left the city she changed her mind, since she didn’t like drinking or being around drunk people. Obviously wine tours are about tasting lots of different kinds of wines, but we thought it was a little strange that she had signed up in the first place. By the end of the day we counted—we had sampled 42 different kinds of wines, and had learned all about the wine-making process and the art of wine-tasting, and had filled up on delicious cheeses too. At one winery we were standing at the counter choosing our next wine to sample and chatting with the middle-aged white South African woman working. She commented on our matching scarves—which I had gotten at the Bushfire music festival back in May. I explained that I had gotten them in Swaziland, one for myself and one for Julia, since I knew at that point that she would be visiting. “Oh, it’s so nice of your daughter to come visit you!” she responded. There was a confused silence and then Julia and I smiled and said “okay…” The woman then must have realized that I was clearly not Julia’s mother, because she then got extremely flustered and apologized profusely. Luckily, after being in Mozambique for years, I am used to people thinking—and telling me—that I am fat, have a dirty face (freckles), and am well into my forties, so there’s no offending me anymore.

The last day I caught a taxi back to the airport by myself, since Julia’s flight was a few hours after mine. The taxi driver chatted with me on the drive to the airport, asking where I was flying to. “Are you going home?’ he asked me. I hesitated, then responded “yes…I’ve been living there for three years.”

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