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April 15th 2023
Published: April 15th 2023
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After returning to the ship we have a day in Cape Town and plan to go to the botanical gardens at Kirstenbosch. We visited them several years ago but on one of those tours where you have 45 minutes here, a photo opportunity there and feel there was so much you didn’t see. We promised ourselves if we ever had the chance we would return and today is the day.

We stop a taxi and he quotes a price. Ian never thinks of haggling and just agrees. The price (while cheaper than a Cunard excursion by some margin) is still much more than we expected. We are driven to the gardens and it is agreed the driver will pick us up later in the day. Ian offers to pay half the fare but the driver waves that off.

The gardens are magnificent. I would say the gardens at Sydney, Singapore, Kew and Cape Town are the best in the World that we have seen, all very different but all splendid and worth a day of anyones time.

The beds are laid out by plant family and information plaques provide a wonderful array of facts, most previously unknown to us and frankly amazing. For example, the plant who’s seeds are covered with a coating attractive to a specific ant. The ant collects the seeds, takes them to their nest, eats the coating and the seeds are now underground just awaiting the perfect condition for germination and growth, safe from grazers. All this and numerous beautiful flowers and plants.

All this and iridescent sun birds flitting about. Tiny birds which while entirely unrelated to American humming birds, look and act the same way as they occupy the same evolutionary niche in this ecosystem.

The Cape is regarded as the richest botanical region on the Planet, and the fynbos vegetation is found no where else. Majestic proteas, cycads and so forth are spread over the huge grounds. Numerous footpaths wind through the gardens and onto the slopes of the mountains behind the city. Several require 5 - 7 hours to complete and must give great views over the bay.

In short we have a good time, but the taxi fare is still gnawing away at Ian. We agree he will raise the matter with the driver on the return trip. We exit the gardens and there as promised is the driver. I think he has actually been parked there all day.

The journey starts back and Ian begins to engage the driver in conversation. It emerges he is 22 and came to South Africa from Somalia with his mother when he was a young child. He is studying for a business degree and works for a taxi company to pay for his education and living. His ambition is to qualify and get somewhere safe in the World. He repeatedly says being safe is the greatest thing. (Obviously the crime and violence we have been warned about isn’t just directed at tourists.) He asks where we have been and where we are going.

The conversation ends when he drops us off where we ask. Ian pays over the full sum previously agreed and never mentions reducing the fee to what we might consider a ‘more reasonable figure’. As we walk away Ian just says, ‘here we are sailing around the world, having just had a cosseted safari experience and we were about to quibble about a few pounds with a man who is trying hard to make something of his life in a place where there is a permanent threat to his safety. I just thought, the money means a lot more to him than it does to us.’ I agree absolutely. Strangely over the next few days we feel more and more relaxed (and even pleased) about the taxi fare.

A final observation from Ian.

Ian - We used the shuttle bus in Cape Town. This was a standard South African vehicle and externally identical to coaches in the UK and elsewhere in the World. Internally however they have a key difference. Instead of 4 seats in a row separated by the central aisle, it has five seats, three on one side then the aisle then another two. While the seats are marginally smaller than we are used to the majority of the space required for the fifth seat is obtained by reducing the width of the central aisle. On this bus it was 34cm, yes I measured it. The capacity of the coach was recorded on a plate as 70 passengers rather than the 48 - 52 on a UK coach.

Now 34cm is slightly less than 14 inches. Many of the guests on Queen Mary 2 are obese or morbidly obese. I will leave it to the reader to imagine the difficulties faced by all using the coaches as our larger compatriots worked their way up the bus.


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