That's Unbelievable, Jeff!

Trip Start Mar 13, 2010
Trip End Feb 13, 2011

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Flag of South Africa  , Western Cape,
Tuesday, June 22, 2010

With the departure of our home for the previous two months, we had seven remaining days to enjoy Cape Town - one week to see all the city on the sea had to offer before we were to travel across South Africa and arrive in Pretoria to spend time with Annie's aunt, Kate. So, first things first, we jumped into a taxi to head over to our new accommodation, Riverlodge Backpackers, which was about 4kms out of the town center. The hostel had a really nice feel, and with the local train station literally over the road was only a 10-15 minute journey away from Cape Town station. The weather was even going to be good enough to make camping comfortable for us for the first time in about 5 weeks!

           After sorting our stuff into our new tent, we headed for the train straight back into town as we were meeting up with some of the remaining people from our trip to watch the last of England’s World Cup group games. Much like the previous two, we could have used the time better. Also (a bit of a reoccurring theme) we had had to say another sad goodbye – the Kiwi on our trip, Mal, had already left early in the morning, and now we had to watch our Norwegian friends, Petter and Helena, also head to the airport. We took the train back to our hostel that night feeling both excitement over the events of the coming days, but also sadness as we knew there would be several more goodbyes to be said.

            We were both up early the next day as we had planned to visit the District 6 museum and the Castle of Good Hope. The District 6 museum was a fascinating experience; a museum dedicated to the history of the District 6 area in Cape Town, but shown through the eyes of former residents. This had been a thriving, culturally diverse part of Cape Town until the Apartheid regime had decided to slowly move out undesirable ethnic groups before labeling District 6 as a 'White Group Zone’, forcibly removing around 60,000 people from the area, and then demolishing their houses. The museum, when opened about 15 years ago, was intended to be a temporary exhibit on the effects of the Apartheid regime but its popularity forced it to become a permanent feature of Cape Town.

After spending several hours taking in Apartheid-based history, we walked the short distance to the Castle of Good Hope – an old fort built in the time of the Dutch East Indies Trading Company (or VOC) to defend Cape Town from naval attacks. This struck me a slightly odd; the Dutch had built a fort in the center of the city to defend attacks from the sea. Puzzling. Until we were told that the Castle was originally located by the sea, which had then retreated the best part of a mile away from the Castle – at least that’s the story they’re telling now! When inside the Castle we were treated to a show of how the soldiers stationed there would perform their ceremonial duties, and we were even lucky enough to see a demonstration of a canon being fired. One of the girls from our trip, Rachel, asked if they were going to use a cannonball – I guessed probably not…

After a day of so much culture, the best (for me, at least) was still to come. I had been lucky enough to be offered the chance to go to two World Cup matches with our Dutch friend, Esmerelda. These were the Holland versus Cameroon game, and the second round match between Spain and Portugal. That night was the Holland game, and there was one proviso for the ticket – I had to be an Oranje fan for the night. As the pictures show, I took to the challenge with gusto! The atmosphere walking up was quite simply amazing. Hats off to the Holland supporters who seemed to be appearing from everywhere, and filling the streets on the way to stadium. There really was a carnival feeling that night.

            Over the next few days we relaxed into the general laidback, fun Cape Town vibe, mainly watching football, sorting out post back to UK, and having leaving drinks with people heading home. We went to a fantastic Kurdish restaurant called Mesopotamia for a mass leaving meal (with a wonderful belly dancing performance thrown in), found an excellent cake shop called Charlie’s Bakery, and Annie had a dream come true when we got to watch Ladysmith Black Mambazo perform for free.

            After all this fun it was time for some more serious culture-vulturing. So myself, Annie and Esmerelda decided to visit Robben Island. We were lucky, as the day we had booked for was beautiful and sunny, and we could lounge in the heat on the back of the ferry to the island. The entire tour was really interesting, although with the extra number of tourists in for the World Cup it did seem slightly rushed and crowded. Hearing about life on the island from a former political prisoner definitely gave you a different view from the history books and documentaries. However, the most exciting part of the Robben Island experience was undoubtedly on the ferry back to the mainland.

The three of us were sat on the top deck of the ferry when I happened to glance over Annie’s shoulder and saw a face I was sure I recognized. I leant over to Annie and asked, "Is that Chris Kamara standing over there?" After we had finally decided it was the Sky Sports legend, I managed to pluck up the courage to go and ask for a photo – a request that he happily obliged to. He then spent several minutes chatting to us, although I was so star-struck I could barely managed to put two words together! Annie immediately went into embarrassing mum mode, and hilariously managed to get his catchphrase wrong when saying it to him – one of the guys in Chris Kamara’s group said Annie was the only person he’d ever hear get his catchphrase wrong! And to add to the entire experience I managed to get a photo with Chris Kamara in which I’m grinning like I’m mentally incompetent (no comments from the peanut gallery, please) and my head looks about twice the normal size! Now that’s ‘unbelievable, Jeff’!

The very next day Annie and I went to the Slave Lodge museum, which had been recommended to us by a fellow traveler. The museum is situated in the building that actually acted as the VOC’s slave lodge in Cape Town, and is unsurprisingly dedicated to the history of the slave trade within South Africa, and primarily Cape Town itself. As well as the normal museum exhibits, ranging from an amusingly acted video on the treatment of slaves (reminiscent of acting from Crossroads, I kid you not) through to recreations of living conditions on slave ships, the museum had a special Nelson Mandela exhibition which was really insightful.

Later that day, we met up with Es and a few other people who had tickets to the Spain v Portugal match later that night. Unbeknownst to Annie, I had also managed to get her a ticket from Danny (one of the guys from our trip) who had to leave South Africa earlier than expected. Everyone else knew, but I managed to keep it a secret from Annie until just before the game. She had wanted to experience a match before we left but didn’t think there was any real chance of getting a ticket – so I waited until just before the match, and when Annie turned to leave I handed her the ticket. Expecting a smile as a reaction, I of course was told off for not consulting with her before buying the ticket…typical! However, despite her initial shock response, we both had a great time at the match.

It was a good way to end our stay in Cape Town, as the next day was our last. We met up with the remainder of people from our trip. It was only Annie and I, Chad and Xi, and Elwin and Es left out of the 24 who had descended on the city but a week before. As it was Chad’s birthday we pitched in to buy him a small gift – a travel monopoly set! And Es had also been kind enough to buy Annie and I some magazines and chocolate for our forthcoming drive to Pretoria. We had time for one last meal together before we had to leave for the bus terminal. So with a tear in our eyes, we departed Cape Town early that evening with a short 23-hour bus trip ahead of us.
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Es on

Hey Smithies, just read all the stories and it makes me smile and almost cry at the same time!!!!
Such very good memories, can't believe time went so fast and I miss it!! 'But I'm sure we'll meet again, either on the way or in London or Holland!

Stay safe and enjoy Asia as much as Africa! Love ya!
Big Dutch Hug!!

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