The flight from Australia to South Africa seemed endless; I actually watched seven or eight movies during this time which I am sure will annoy Ruth when these movies are released on TV and I tell her I have already seen them. Eventually after 17 hours the aircraft landed at the O. R. Tambo airport in Johannesburg at about 5pm.
The arrivals area at this airport is one of the worst I have transited, I was able to withdraw cash from a teller machine but there were no shops to change any of this cash to coins, which made calling my hostel to arrange a pick up near impossible. Eventually I did manage to scavenge some coins, but then the phones wouldn’t accept these. Eventually a local took pity on me and let me use his phone card which finally got me through to the Purple Palms.
The driver eventually picked me up after a significant wait and we headed to the hostel which was about twenty minutes away. On arriving I went straight to bed (in the Lion Room) as my flight to Cape Town departs at 4.30 in the morning. I then spent a restless night waking
every hour or so to check the time as I feared missing my flight. I rose from bed at 3.30am had a shower and packed up to go.
The hostel is built like a prison to keep criminals out, and to my alarm guests in. I searched the hostel for an exit, eventually discovering a button to call the manager (driver), if I hadn’t found the button which no one had bothered to tell me about, I wouldn’t have been able to wake my sleeping driver and subsequently would have missed my flight.
I arrived at the airport a little after 5am and asked for a window seat hoping to catch a glimpse of Table Mountain on my arrival into Cape Town; I was assured that this would not be a problem only to later be disappointed when my assigned seat was nowhere near a window.
Cape Town lives up to all the hype written about it and is an extremely attractive city reminding me somewhat of Wellington and Hobart. By 9.30 I was in ensconced in a seriously nice room (Meerkat Room) in one of the best hostels ever (Backpack Cape Town), even my wife would
be happy to stay here bathroom or not.
After checking in I had a quick shower and changed out of my smelly clothes before heading off down to the Waterfront to catch a ferry from the Nelson Mandela Gateway to Robben Island the prison where Mandela was incarcerated for so many years and now a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Robben means Seal in Dutch, apparently there was a large seal population on the island in the 17th Century, none there now though. Robben Island was a leper colony before it became an infamous prison so it has had an interesting history. The trip to the island was quite fast and afforded some great views of the Cape Town waterfront and the new World Cup stadium at Green Point.
On arrival the passengers were all corralled into a number of buses for the obligatory forty five minute tour of the island, which details the history of the various sites on the island and includes Irish Town where the carers of the lepers lived and various other historical buildings including the solitary confinement block were the founder of the Pan African Conference was incarcerated.
On completion of the
bus tour we returned to the prison itself where after an initial information session regarding the harsh conditions experienced by the prisoners, we were guided around the prison by a former inmate, apparently he was incarcerated for attempting to destroy a fuel tanker with an RPG.
Eventually we visited Mandela’s cell which was small and bare before returning to the dock via the gift shop where I made a few purchases. The return trip to Cape Town was scenic if uneventful, on arrival I wandered around the shops at the Victoria and Albert Wharf before heading for the main shopping area and visiting a dodgy pub on Long Street where I tasted numerous African beers and ales before returning to the hostel and indulging in great pizza and a few more drinks in the bar.
I was still suffering from jetlag so I headed off to my room quite early, I awoke at about 6.30am, after a breakfast of cornflakes and toast I bumped into Ben one of the guys I was drinking with the night before and ended up joining a small tour down to the Cape of Good Hope.
It was a great day, which
started with some panoramic views of the coastline as we headed for Hout Bay. On arrival we browsed through the many vendors selling a range of tourist paraphernalia, some of which was really nice, before boarding a glass bottom boat to cruise out to a see a colony of Cape Fur Seals at Duiker Island, unfortunately there was nothing of interest on the sea floor. After watching the seals basking on the rocks or swimming around the boat for roughly half an hour we returned to the dock and reboarded our bus.
Some thirty minutes later we arrived at Boulder Beach near Simon’s Town to visit one of only two mainland based colonies of Jackass Penguins on the African Continent. There were literally hundreds of birds including many young birds and I had a great time photographing them on the beach and in the dunes.
It was then on to the Cape of Good Hope National Park, where we were issued helmets and bikes for the fifteen kilometre mainly downhill ride, I hadn’t ridden a bike in about a decade or so, so at times it was a struggle, but still enjoyable flying down hill with the wind
in my hair. About half way to the Cape of Good Hope we stopped for a big hearty lunch before cycling on to the Cape where we climbed a large hill to enjoy sweeping views of the Southern Ocean.
I saw my first African wildlife as I rode along the beach, a group of ostriches and a few baboons, very exciting. It is a beautiful area and I had a great day though I was a little weary by the time I got back to town stopping only for ale and a plate of nachos before going to bed.
Next morning I walked down to the harbour to get my World Cup tickets, all went well so I headed for the Castle of Good Hope, it is designed in a star shape and has a moat but its not really a castle in the classical sense, I was lucky enough to see the Handing of the keys ceremony and the firing of a really tiny cannon. After that I went to the District Six Museum, District Six was a suburb that was forcibly emptied and demolished during the sixties apartheid era.
On the way back to the
hostel I returned to Long Street in search of a camera shop as I had left my camera cable at home, a quick beer in a pub and some really spicy Nando's and I was on the way back to the hostel.
I have really enjoyed my time in Cape Town it is an incredibly interesting place and the best city in South Africa - I look forward to returning here in a few years time.
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