Getting set in Cape Town

Trip Start Feb 21, 2007
Trip End Jul 09, 2007

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Flag of South Africa  , Western Cape,
Monday, March 26, 2007

South Africa

The driver stormed into customs, announcing he was leaving without me and that I was wasting their time. Uncertain of his resolve to abandon a passenger and quite keen to get my 40 VAT back, I stuck it out in customs. The official was on my side doing did his best to drag out the process, antagonising the grumpy driver.  Finally with all the forms complete, the official wanted to see every item on my receipts; which were buried far beneath everyone else’s luggage in the coaches trailer. I explained this as best I could, and luckily he was happy with the rear wheel of my bike poking through the mountain of rucksacks.
After a beautiful drive through the wine region we arrived in Cape Town around noon. I safely assembled my bike in the fenced off area of the coach park before tottering off under all my luggage to the Cat and Moose backpackers on long St.
After dumping my things I ventured out to see the town and address my shopping list. I bumped into a friend from Swakop before perusing the bookshops and camera stores. A guy with a handful of sunglasses approached, pestering me to buy some. When I said “no thanks” he replied, “Give me your wallet and your phone, otherwise I’ll fucking stab you” He flashed a knife at me and pushed me into a side street. Looking into his mad, glue sniffing face, I was unconvinced of his resolve to hurt me; so I tried negotiation. The story I’d heard of someone’s best friend being stabbed to death in day light Cape Town was running through my mind. I  asked whether he had any other glasses for sale, pointing out he only had ladies designs. He called over his scarred buddy who opened his bag. Inside, next to a gun was a pile of sunglasses. I tried on an OK pair before calmly asking how much he wanted for them. I beat him down from 100R to 20R before rushing off with my new acquisition. The first guy was getting pretty angry, so I ducked into a camera shop. After enquiring about repairs to my desert damaged camera I was about to leave when the security guard stopped me. 5 minutes later he checked the coast was clear before I rushed off in the opposite direction to the knifemen.

10 minutes later, a little further down the street a different couple of lads approached me. They also wanted my wallet and phone in return for leaving my face as the pretty one you remember. After ascertaining that none of us had eaten lunch I agreed to buy them some bread from the local supermarket. Declining their offer to accompany them to a dark basement store I dashed
across the road to a ‘pick n pay’ where they closely escorted me around the shop until I was installed in the bakery queue. They then seemed to vanish, for once I’d bought 3 of the cheapest buns on offer I couldn’t find them anywhere. I decided my luck couldn’t last much longer, so I returned towards the hostel. On the way I bumped into the sandboarding guy from Swokop again, who couldn’t believe what had happened in the hour since we last met. I walked around with him in the afternoon, trying to restore my own confidence  and faith in Cape Town at the same time.

Over the next few days I cautiously drifted around town, eventually finding camping gear and a PSION MX5 series pocket PC, with which I am writing this email. I bought a helmet and a variety of accessories, tools and spares for my bike. One morning I was walking along Long St. when I bumped into Beccie, a girl from the truck. She’d been backpacking along the coast for the last few weeks, having a great time and meeting many other cool backpackers. We went with some friends, (amongst them Zoe, a lovely girl from Manchester who’s promised to show me around the city next year) to a selection of pubs and clubs for a couple of nights, sampling local wines and ciders. It was nice to be part of a group again, because being scared and alone in such a big city can be quite lonely.

One day I overcame my unhelpful and irrational fear of being mugged by cycling out to a far flung suburb. A wrong turn had me pedalling right through district 6; but all was fine and it was great to be cycling at last. Most of my cycling in Windhoek had been done on borrowed bikes, so it was great to be on my own steed, with which I shall become quite familiar and dependant!

Today I’m being picked up by my sisters friend, who I’ll stay with on her farm for a few days. Sewing some pannier bags together, familiarising myself with my camping gizmos and catching up with emails etc before my cycling adventure begins. The plan then is to cycle 500 miles along the coast before getting a coach to Zimbabwe. Cycling through Mozambique, Malawi, Tanzania, Rwanda, Uganda and the DRC then lie ahead. I’m uncertain where to go after Uganda, but the idea of pedalling to Kisangani in the DRC and getting a boat down the Congo river for 3 weeks to Kinshasa seems strangely appealing.
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