The International Journal of Sport and Leisure
(Some sport. Some leisure. Also, schistosomiasis.)
Galapagos Islands (5)
About Me (1)
Ecuador: Quito (5)
Honduras: Utila (4)
Rio de Janeiro (2)
South Africa (13)
Temporary Update (1)
* South of Durban
* Escape from the Cape
* Skydiving for Bacon
* Rage Against the Machine
* Bite Me
* Africa Cold
* Scum-Dodging on Long Street
* Cable Cars, Lentil Soup and Bart Simpson
* Cape Town
* Cape Drear
* Lows of Travel ("Welcome to Africa")
* High Entertainment
* Paradise or Miami Vice? (Part 2 of 2)
* Paradise or Miami Vice? (Part 1 of 2)
* Don't Make Me Cry, Argentina
* Hago el Vago en Buenos Aires (Part III: Final Week)
* Gloom at the Top
* Its The End Of The World As I Know It
* Perito Moreno Glacier
March 28, 2005
Cape Town, South Africa
Sunday - Monday, March 27 - 28, 2005:
My first two full days in Africa fell on the Sunday and Monday of the long Easter holiday when many shops were closed and the streets of Cape Town were all but deserted. To top it off, the weather was dismal with plenty of rain, strong gusts of wind and perpetual masses of gray clouds hunched over and choking out most of the view of Table Mountain, the 3200 foot tall flat-topped rectangular plateau that rises up from the center of the city, dominating most views of the skyline. Because of all of this, I didn't get a lot done. The jetlag I was experiencing didn't help me either, keeping me up during most of the nights and in bed for almost all of Monday. Nevertheless, this whimper of a beginning in South Africa didn't keep me from starting to get some sense of where I was and acclimating myself accordingly.
On Sunday I woke up barely in time to check out of my hostel before the 10 AM deadline. I found a budget hotel for the same price a half-block down the street and the owner there seemed very friendly in contrast to the ambivalent attitiude I had received from the place I had stayed in the night before. In addition, one of the guests, a longtime lodger named Robert, enthusiastically offered to give me advice on just about anything I needed to know (as I thanked him and moved on to sort out details with the manager, his voice fell to a whisper as he told me "Just be careful... Stay alert... Please"). Because full cash payment for my room was required in advance (something that is standard at almost all of the budget hotels here), I had to set off in search of a working ATM machine that accepted cards using my banking network (and that would not eat or steal my card). I was relieved to find a supermarket with one of the "swipe" mechanisms where you never have to let go of your card at all. And, incredibly enough, it worked and I finally had an assuring amount of cash in hand. As I was walking out of the supermarket I noticed something I had not seen since my trip had begun: Beef Jerky. In fact, a whole display of different types of Beef Jerky. Yes, sadly, after six months on the road, I found all of this to be very exciting. It turns out that Beef Jerky is pretty much the unofficial snack of South Africa and this alone is reason enough to command respect and admiration as far as I am concerned.
I went back to the hotel, paid for the evening and caught lunch at a cafe. Little did I realize until after I had ordered myself a drink that the place was entirely vegetarian. Nevertheless I stuck it out and ordered a very good burrito with beans and cheese. The place was tiny and short on seating, so the waiter asked me to share my two-person table with a university professor from Hawaii who was living and working in Amsterdam but staying for several weeks in Cape Town to interview and write a paper on gay and lesbian Muslims.
After lunch I decided to explore the city on foot by walking down toward the (Queen) Victoria and (Prince) Alfred Waterfront, which is supposed to be a very developed but visually stunning part of the city with views of old (and still used) harbor buildings and large Victorian-style houses. I began to walk down Long Street (my street, with numerous hostels, trendier restaurants, bars and stores) toward the commercial center of the city. From there I planned to turn left and follow the main road down to the water. As I made my way from the hotel and the area around it, I noticed fewer and fewer people walking about. In fact, there were very few people at all, even in the rare passing car. After an earlier downpour the sun had emerged from the clouds, but even so it was eerily quiet. I began to keep a careful eye on the side streets, stopping from time to time to look behind me.
I turned left onto the road that I planned to follow to the V&A Waterfront. I passed a few men in bright yellow security officer vests as I made my way up a hill. There was more traffic here but there were still very few people walking. As I passed a liquor store I noticed crowds of young men sitting around up front and passing bottles around, obviously having nothing better to do than sit there for the day. A few of them stared at me for a while from where they sat in the distance but there were police nearby and I didn't feel threatened. But as I continued on past this scene to an area where I could not see anybody on the street, I had a sudden moment of strong doubt. This isn't smart, I thought. Chances were good that nothing would happen to me but it didn't seem worthwhile to risk it. I turned around, walked back past the liquor store, and made my way back to Long Street. The Waterfront would have to wait. I later noticed a passage in my Lonely Planet guide specifically warning people not to walk to the Waterfront from other parts of the city because it can be dangerous, even during the day.
I spent the rest of the day on Long Street, basically consigned to reading and catching up on the blog. I fell asleep at about 10 PM, woke up for several hours at 4 AM and then fell back asleep until 6:30 PM on Monday evening. I had ripped the battery out of my alarm clock sometime during the morning and when I woke up I could tell that it had to be very late even though it was still sunny outside. By the time I showered and dressed, the sun had started to set, confirming this.
I resolved to stay up for the entirety of Monday night and remain awake until Tuesday evening, figuring that this would set my sleep schedule straight. Fortunately, an internet cafe under my hotel is a 24/7 place and so I worked on the blog some more and read. The crowds at the bars and restaurants passed in and out until very late in the evening and, at about 4 AM, two adolescents chased a third one into the cafe where the latter slammed the doors shuts and began screaming and shouting "What do you want?! What do you want from me?!" clearly terrified by the intent of the other two to attack him. There was a lot of yelling and an exchange of threats, until a host of seven or eight security men who patrol the streets all night jumped on all three boys, ultimately (for reasons I do not know) throwing only the one who was running away into the back of a police van and carting him off. Through it all the kid working at the internet cafe remained calm and generally unimpressed. He later told me he sees this sort of this all the time.
Posted by Joshua on March 28, 2005 01:13 PM
Category: South Africa
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