Published: March 5th 2012March 5th 2012
There’s an age old quote I once heard that said "Forget worrying about life after death, make sure there's life before it”. For me this is it, living the good life on the road. Problem being, unlike the days in University or time on the road thereafter this is only a short stint, a holiday of sorts - but I need not complain right? March in Wales is briskly cold, likely depressing and generally wet this time of year so hey ho. On the plus side I'm not at my desk looking out of the window and into the pipes of Port Talbot wondering what ifs, too many what ifs..
Fascination buy ways of life, culture, religion, landscapes and societies has always had its allure. To paraphrase Bill Bryson by saying I can’t think of anything that excites a greater sense of childlike wonder than to be in a country where you are ignorant of almost everything. Suddenly you are five years old again. You can’t read anything, you only have the most rudimentary sense of how things work, you can’t even reliably cross a street without endangering your life. Your whole existence becomes a series of interesting guesses. Bill
A fun day out in Cape Town
Hmm, that's a big dolphin?
is bang on the money, there’s nothing quite like it. My famous five adventure began in the heart of Cape Town, the three amigos - Camarthens Matty, Mark the Farm and my wave frothing self.
After 10 days here we've come to realise, as anticipated, that the country is rife with some of the earths most pristine beaches, a deep blue ocean, incredible mountains, meandering rivers and abundance of wild life. By day the vibe here is relaxed and the locals uber friendly. As the sun goes down in the midst of the cities then it can be a matter of caution. SA is a tale of two halfs. Beauty and the beast. Common sense and wits are essential, as are time and patience for the slow pace of life on the coastal regions especially the garden route.
In South Africa, the words regarding the endangerment above are certainly poignant but not apparent at each pit stop. So far I’ve felt about as safe going through the cities and poorer areas as I would do skulking around Brixton with a Swastika tattooed on my forehead or wearing a klansmens white robes and a capirote sat on my shoulders.
The mixed divide in societies here is very apparent. In some parts of the Cities specifically on public transport we stand out like a set of fake basketball DD's on a slinky size 8 porn star wanna-be as do white tourists with cameras around the necks and back packs on our shoulders. No doubt a prime target to the pick pocketers and violent muggers, slashers they call them. Plenty of homeless and immigrants here will carry knives as most people at home carry a purse - like its nothing, just for satefy or a tool to hold onto their prized possesions. I wish I hadn’t brought so many valuables now as for one I feel guilty for having belongings (even if the poor here had nothing then it would be something – some don’t even own that?!), and secondly – we may easily be robbed at any given moment by knife, by gun or even by sharks teeth (my legs that is). Given a wrong turn by night. By day life is tranquil. You could be on the East Coast of Australia and never even know the difference besides color and an adundance of police cars.
Last Sunday we
Nelly and co
had an incident where we left the magical 4000 ft Table mountain after the most awe inspiring day to become stranded in the hectic bus station of the centre. One extreme to the next. One minute we're sitting on the most beautiful perch in the world. Views to the to West of the cold blue Atlantic and the wealthier beach suburbs then to the eastern greener Indian Ocean, townships and rugged Southern Mountains. To the Cape of Good hope. Next thing we know we're in the most uninviting area of Central Cape Town trying to get some transport, any kind we can find just to get out of the way of being stabbed, mugged, or even murdered. After a few minutes hassle with some local guys trying to shoe us into a van we ran, and gave it legs. If in doubt hey..?! Looking back we can laugh but only seconds away the situation could have bcome serious and likely intense.
SA has 10 % of the 50 million population being white, the rest a mix of Africa predominantly which are classed as colored, black or Asian (a large Indian population here in Durban). That 5 million here still
On the prowl..
hold the vast majority of power and money (come hand in hand don’t they – generally?!) although the ANC have held Government for the last 4 terms since the apartied ended in 1994. It’s actually appalling to think that less than 20 years ago ‘colored’ or black people couldn’t even sit on the same part of the beach as white people, nor sit in the same carriage on a bus. More than two decades on and there is still that embedded air of resentment towards the wealthier white folk but due to local legends like Desmond Tutu and Nelson Mandela SA is blooming into a country with deserved authority and growth.
The beauty of Cape Town is intense, you couldn’t draw a more magical looking city with a mountain so huge and far and wide that you can take in the views from the Atlantic Ocean meeting the warmth of the Indian Ocean in the Cape of Good Hope. Picture the Himalayas perched on the edge of the Carribean Sea, it isn’t 100% accurate but its very funny familiar. We could have sat on the ‘table’, a spot at the same height and level of Snowdon in Wales, for
weeks and still never getting bored of the jaw dropping views. Only the fact that we’d run out of daylight and time sent us back to lower grounds.
S.A is home to not only some of the best right hand (and left respectively) point breaks in the world, and several potential future world champion surfers. So based on these facts alone I’ve anticipating good to things to come, provided Jaws larger cousin doesn’t take a liking to my limbs. For the first time ever I refuse to hose in my wetsuit, if I was a girl with that ‘time of the month’ then I wouldn’t set foot in the ocean either, this place has far too much of a lively ocean. Sharks are witnessed on a daily basis, attacks monthly. Off all the places on the planet South Africa is tarnished with a brush for having an abundance of large men in grey suits. Sightings in the Southern Cape area are daily, especially around the beaches of Fish Hoek and Muizenburg where we stayed as well as the other fishing bays surrounding. Essentially this is due to ‘seal island’ being only kilometers from false bay, it's basically feeding time
at the zoo out there. If Steve Irwin were still alive he’d likely be jumping off the boats and jamming a finger in their butt holes for some sort of discovery channel documentary.
Interestingly enough the South African government have taken challenge with combating the problem with shark attacks, in abundance. To give local surfers and swimmers alike the confidence to swim without feeling like part of the food chain Cape Town set up a shark spotters program where the spotters are placed high on the hills overlooking the beaches. Due to the clear waters (mainly) the large shadows of the 10-18ft great white sharks that surround the area are usually easily spotted, whereby an alarm goes off for bathers to choose whether to stay in the ocean of sit on the safety of the beach. I know where I’m headed when the horn sounds. The locals don’t appear to care as there are more surfers than speckles of sand on the beach. Taking a surfboard to South Africa is like taking a cold to Wales. Everybody has one. No one seems to care about the grey suits and their razor teeth. Crowds in the lineups can be a problem, the learners accidentally trying to kill you with a 9ft mal another.
High volumes of sharks and Jaws cousins around the Cape Town peninsula are due to the abundance of seals in and around ‘seal island’ only miles off the coast. Hopefully keeping most whites pretty well fed, although often the case a surfer or swimmer is taken down by one of these beasts usually leading to a loss of leg or even a meeting with the grim reaper. On average there are 7 attacks in the whole of SA per annum, some years worse than others. More people die from bee stings or nut allegies. I’ve come to realize after settling my paranoia in the water that the biggest of threats remain on land due to the high poverty, huge homicide rates, muggings, rapes and general theft. After traveling to many continents and seeing a variety of walks of life I don’t think I’ve ever felt so unsafe in the evening. Although as a vast majority here, everyone seems to be welcoming towards us Welsh. Locals here have a wide smile and big heart to go with.
So far we have meandering along the coast from Cape Town through to the shark spotting bays of Mossel Bay then Plettenburg - SA's equivalent of Byron Bay, moving on in the latter days to Port Elizabeth - a hub for Addo National Park, and finally landed in the Indian population of Durban. Moseel Bay and Plettenburg were nothing short of stunning. Rolling hills surrounding the most beautiful beaches of the Garden Route. A paradise of sorts, less hectic, sleepy in fact and non too dissimilar to the East Coast of Australia and the rugged hills of New Zealand. Safe, tranquil and somnolent. If you can't wind down here to relax, you never would, or never will.
Yesterdays adventure in the national park was amazing. Addo is home to the big 7. Elephant, Rhino, Buffalo, Lion and Leopard plus Great White Sharks and Whales in the ocean out front, all in an area similar in size to the Brecon Beacons. We ticked 3 of the 5 land predators, the ocean we didn't even venture to as the whales are out of season and for the great white's you need a boat. The 3 were enough, more than enough. We got to see an abundance of wildlife outside of the top 5 in their natural environment and given more time we would have seen the full array of beasts and beauties. Only a couple of rules applied to ensure visitors stayed out of dangers way. Don't get out of the vehicle, stand your ground if confronted (elephants and rhino's) and no fruit (oranges or lemons - as the elephants once had an addiction hence would tear your van apart given the slightest whiff). We stuck to the rules and came away unscathed. Fear factor was like wind street in Swansea at 3am on an international day with the roiders in an England jersey. Make your choices wisely and keep low key as possible. From my point, surfing the sharky waters has a way bigger fear factor, or having Stu 'the spinkler' Ellis sleep on your sofa after a night on the beers.
Tempting as it was in the park I'd love to have run out with a steak in my back pocket as the Lions would have come much closer. A story the guide gave us veered us away as rhinos have rammed the van as well as elephants over the course of time. You really felt like you were in natures hands. Its their hunting ground and survival of the fittest. Once or twice I shit a brick with 6 ton elephants only steps way but they just cruise on by, going on with their day and probably wondering what the hell the jeep and the people are inside doing with their cameras. Or in my case, their beats headphones and Eminem blazing out of their mp3.
The final leg, Durban. Here, safe and sound.. Awaiting the cyclone swell to die down and life in board shorts. The Indian turf of South Africa and potentially some really good waves. Please come?! There's only 4 days lefts until the cold, and until I gaze out of the office window again praying spring is bringing offshore winds, good swells and possibly even some warm weather. Failing that, a green card for the sunny shores of the pacific.
This place has ticked most every box going so far, although specific surf spots have hindered better waves and the lack of back packers in south africa lead to a more low key party life. This isn't the typical Asian or Australasia travel route but at the same time segregates the odd harder core traveler to the those seeking British life with sun. It's certainly the most cultural experience I've ever known and appreciate every last minute.
That's all for now folks. Thanks for listening. Stay safe, and pray for a perfect summer of love.