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Published: January 18th 2010
Day 29 - Orange River
Today we left Namibia behind, crossing into South Africa at the Noordoewer/Woolsdrift border crossing. We’re camping tonight at Fiddler’s Creek campsite, just 10k from the border post and on the Orange River which separates South Africa from Namibia. We arrived for lunchtime but with nothing else planned for the rest of the day (the canoeing option wasn’t popular) it’s a fairly dull day, especially as the heat hasn’t dissipated and the bar here doesn’t open till five. Can’t help but feel that the trip is ending on a whimper. Day 30 - Cedarburg
Today was a longish drive down the coast towards Cape Town. We stopped briefly for money and supplies in Springbok, had our last roadside lunch (hurray) before arriving in the Cedarburg wine growing area and our campsite for the night, Highlanders. Fabulous campsite with great views of the vineyards and mountains and excellent facilities. We did some wine tasting of the local wines at the campsite bar which was good and had an enjoyable last nights camping on the trip. Day 31-37 - Cape Town
The final leg of the trip was the short drive south
to Cape Town. It was pretty exciting seeing Table Mountain come into view, knowing the trip was almost complete and the beautiful city of Cape Town was just ahead. We drove through the city centre (passed the Convention Centre where the World Cup draw was taking place that night) to our hostel called Ashanti Lodge in the Gardens. It's a beautiful place, right underneath Table Mountain with great views from the bar terrace.
After a futile attempt to get a train ticket to Joburg, I headed into Long Street, Cape Town's main street for bars, restaurants etc. Turns out there's a huge party there tonight for the World Cup Draw. The atmosphere there was amazing and probably just a glimpse of what it will be like next year. Also bumped into Ruud Gullit as he was leaving his hotel on the way to the Convention Centre.
Unfortunately we had planned our group leaving dinner just as the draw was starting and, in a move typical of some of the organisation on this trip, had booked a restaurant right at the top of Long Street. Inevitably, given that 50,000 people were squeezed in there, we couldn't get near it
so we found a nice tapas restaurant further down the street, though we would have been far better off just heading down to Long Street earlier and enjoying the party. Still it was great to arrive on a day like this and experience the atmosphere.
Cape Town is a great city - a superb location by the sea and under Table Mountain, nice climate in the summer and an interesting mix of cultures living there. There's also loads of activities to do, if you've got the budget and energy after such a long trip. On Saturday I didn't plan to do too much, wanting to just chill out after 5 weeks on the road. Unfortunately I had to get up early to get my train ticket at the station (why they don't have online sales, who knows?) which involved a 2 hour queue but was eventually successful. After relaxing back at Ashanti for a while, we headed into town for lunch at Nando's - I'd been dreaming of it since Maun and it was worth the wait. That evening we headed up Table Mountain on the cablecar (half price after 6pm). Luckily it was a clear evening and the
views from the top were superb - you can walk around and check the views from all sides, the city, suburbs and the sea. To top it off there was a gorgeous sunset over the Atlantic and then time to see the city lit up before heading back down. Most of the days since had the mountain covered in cloud (the “Table Cloth”) even though the days were otherwise sunny and clear so we were lucky to get a clear day.
On Sunday I headed down to the Waterfront (shops, restaurants etc around the docks) before taking a tour down the Cape Peninsula. The only reason I wanted to do this was to go to the Cape of Good Hope and have a picture taken by the sign but it turns out this wasn't part of the itinery on the half day tour. Still, we visited an ostrich farm and got to feed a couple of them and went to see the tiny Cape penguins on the way back. That night we had a disappointing and rather bizarre experience at Mama Africa's, supposedly one of the best restaurants in town but clearly just a tourist trap.
I went on a wine tour around the region and this was much better. We visited four vineyards in Paarl, Frankshoek and Stellenbosch (Fairview, Tokara and a couple of others) and tasted some superb wines, about 5 or 6 in each place so was feeling quite happy by the end of the day. It's a beautiful mountainous region too so was an excellent day. That night we caught up with Corinne from the Zimbabwe trip who's living in Cape Town and was working at the World Cup draw. Tuesday was more laid back. I slowly wandered down to the Waterfront, had a nice Cape Malay curry and then went on the tour to Robben Island where Nelson Mandela and other anti-apartheid campaigners were imprisoned for many years. Very interesting experience and we were given a tour by a former inmate, Sparky.
Wednesday was finally time to leave Cape Town and begin my long journey home. After getting supplies for the train and saying final goodbyes to Nina (everyone else had left by then), I got a taxi to the train station and waited for the train. And waited. And waited. The super-expensive Blue Train was stuck on our platform
so they had to get a new locomotive to move it so our train (the Trans-Karoo to Joburg) could pull up there. It might have been easier to just use another platform but TIA. We eventually set off 2.5 hours late which made me glad I booked the later flight, though it's still no means certain I'll make it to Joburg on time. Shosholoza Meyl's (the train company) rather modest motto is “A Pleasant Experience” but even then I think they're being ambitious - “A frustrating experience” might be more appropriate.
Once it got going though, the ride was pretty cool. We travelled initially through the mountains and wine-growing valleys of the Western Cape which made for a really scenic route. Unfortunately the delayed departure meant most of the trip through the Karoo was after dark so I missed the supposedly impressive scenery of the region. After fish and chips and some beers in the restaurant car, I retired to my cabin for probably one of the most comfortable beds of the trip (luckily there's no-one else sharing the cabin) and fell asleep rocked by the train.
By morning we were in the flatlands of the Northern Cape
and when we arrived in Kimberley I noticed we had somewhere lost another hour from the schedule. Pole pole. It'll be almost another full day on the train - nothing to do but gaze out the window, have some beers and reminisce about the past five weeks in southern Africa.
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