The End Has Come

Trip Start Sep 15, 2009
Trip End Nov 21, 2009

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Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Cape Town 11/17
Morning was not a good time for us all and we all packed up for our final leg of the journey back to civilization.  We made the 6ish hour drive past Cape Town and to Cape Point and the Cape of Good Hope.  If you didn’t really look at a map, one might think that this was the southern most point of Africa, but that is not correct.  We were driven into the park and let loose for a bit to either walk up to the lighthouse on the tip, or down to the ocean.  I made the walk up to the top because it looked funner than down.  Afterwards, we were driven to our departure point and a few of us checked into the hotel.  I got my room and showered up.  We had dinner reserved at an all-you-can-eat game meat restaurant.  The place is one of those reservations only places and you have to reserve days in advance.  Backdrop:  The reason we were eating here because there is a long standing bet between a few of the guys.  Ras the Dane and Nick the Aussie have become pretty close over the weeks and have talking about how much they can eat.  So it has basically been a month of them talking about how they are going to out eat each other.  They are always trying to psyche each other out when eating food by the campfire.  It’s a pretty funny sight.  And now, it’s time to see who the winner will be!  Ras the Dane is favored because of his mental ability.  Well, all of us show up to the restaurant and sit down and look around.  The place looks like a regular restaurant and we ask the server what the deal is.  She says to look at the menu and order your food.  Menu???  Apparently the place wasn’t a buffet or a place where the guys with cuts of meat walk over to your table.  So the eating contest wasn’t going to happen with them.  They were all bummed and so were all of us.  I wanted to see some entertainment for the night and now it wasn’t going to happen.  Oh well.  Most of us ordered the set menu which was an appetizer, and the main course was a few cuts of game meat.  It was soooo tasty!  I had crocodile kebab, kudu steak, springbok steak, ostrich kebab, and game sausage.  Again, it was so tasty and well deserved.  My dream of eating zebra steak with the black and white skin on it wasn’t going to materialize but that’s ok.  I think I’ve eaten 5 or 6 different game meats so that’s good.  The night was filled with talking, watching bongo guys in the restaurant that were excellent, and an early night at home.  
I woke up and slowly packed my bag because I would be leaving the hotel for a much cheaper hostel.  A friend and I met up to catch the cable car up the famous Table Mountain overlooking the city.  We took a taxi up there and got in line.  As soon as we went to pay for our tickets somebody told our ticket guy that it was closed.  The mountain was closing because of high winds and couldn’t sell anymore tickets.  We were the first ones to get denied for the day.  I didn’t really care because I have another few days but he only had today to get up the mountain because he was flying out in the evening.  We decided to head down to the waterfront area which had a bunch of shops and other touristy things.  Had some lunch which was a pancake with Thai chicken curry inside that was awesome!  Afterwards we walked up through the city along the famous Long St and just took our time.  Sushi dinner happened then a few of us from the group saw him off for the last time.  The remaining people in our group met up for dinner again and there were only 6 left out of 12.  
Cape Town 11/19
Four of us decided to rent a car and head east down the coast of South Africa.  We had a plan to head to the southern most point of Africa which was 2 hours away.  Since it was my idea and I thought it wouldn’t happen if I didn’t do anything about it, I took it upon myself to get the rent-a-car in the morning and pick everyone up.  The hostel called the car company at 8am and by 8:30 I was picked up and taken to the rental place.  I got the cheapest car available for the day which was $35 and picked the rest up.  Since this is an ex-British colony, they drive on the left here.  Luckily I drove in Japan on the left side for 2 years back in the day so I wasn’t too bad.  It was also a manual and again thankfully I drive a manual at home.  It was my first time driving a manual with my left hand though.  It took some getting used to but not too bad.  I drove and Paul the Dutchie was navigator.  We set off down the coast and the weather was wonderful.  Donna wanted to check out a town called Stellenbosch which was the second oldest town in S. Africa.  We finally made our way there from crummy maps in guidebooks and found a tourist office.  With our newly tourist map of the city, we did some walking around the city and saw the sites they had to offer.  It was basically one of those small towns with beautifully manicured lawns and nice shops.  A few hours later we left on the road again and decided to drive through vineyard country.  We found a nice place and stopped for lunch.  This place was so picture perfect it was so incredible.  All we saw while eating a nice lunch and tasting wine was blue skies, horses in the pen, grape fields as far as the eye could see, and a beautiful vines hanging overhead.  It was almost too perfect.  We set off once again and decided to take the slow route along the coast.  We spent the next hour or so driving along the beautiful coast with blue water and spectacular mountains in the back.  After another hour or so we saw a sign for a penguin colony and decided to check it out.  We paid our $1.25 and walked up and saw hundreds of penguins just sitting there.  Some were walking around up in the backs of peoples yards and others were swimming around.  I don’t know why, but I was so fascinated by them and thought I could watch them all day.  When they would waddle it was so amusing to me and just put a smile on my face.  But what didn’t really put a smile on my face was what they smelled like.  Gross!!!  It was weird to see wild penguins in Africa.  You don’t really associate Africa with penguins.  Always the lions and elephants or what not.  I enjoyed it though.  We set off again and were finding out that it was getting pretty late.  We were still pretty far off now and seemed like we were never going to reach it.  We were thinking whether or not to turn back because we had a dinner date with the others at 7:30 but that wasn’t going to happen.  So we decided to just go for it since that was our original goal.  We ran into some good fortune as the speed limit was going up to 120 kph so that helped.  We finally reached it right before sunset and it really wasn’t too much to see.  Just a small shrine with a plaque declaring this was the end of Africa, and a marker saying this is where the Indian and Atlantic oceans meet.  Kind of cool but not really a big deal.  We snapped our obligatory pictures and headed back the way we came.  Nasty Italian food for dinner.  Then I asked Paul the Dutchie if he wanted to drive since I was dead tired and probably a danger to drive.  He was unlicensed(with him) but drove anyway.  The next three hours back home were pretty scary.  This guy was a horrible driver and would ride cars dangerously close.  Upon passing a slow truck, he swerved right after another driver prematurely and hit that plastic divider marker and luckily it was plastic.  I tried to sleep but was unable because I feared for my life.  We made it home at 11:30 completely exhausted but had a great day road tripping through S. Africa.

Cape Town 11/20
Four of us met up to go check out Table Mountain since I was denied the first go around.  We arrived really early and went up the cable car.  The cable car takes you up about 1,000 meters very quickly which was nice.  The platform in the cable car actually spun 360 degrees as you were in it which was nice because certain people like to hog the good views.  It was really incredible to see the rock-face as you were going up and had steep vertical drops.  We made it to the top and walked around for about 30 minutes before heading down.  One of us in the group decided to walk down instead being lazy like us.  The remaining three of us headed down to the waterfront because they hadn’t been there yet.  We had a seafood lunch and booked a champagne cruise on a decent size yacht.  It only cost $25 and it was 1.5 hours long.  We hopped aboard and set off around the harbor.  It was nice to see Cape Town from a different perspective and it was really relaxing.  We walked up Long St again on our way back to the hotel and then it was time for another farewell dinner for Ras the Dane.  Ras the Dane and I have been together on the entire trip and we are the only ones to do the full 8 weeks together.  Most of the others were 6 weeks with us.  Ras is an interesting character and will sorely missed.  I hope we get a chance to meet up again sometime soon.  There was talk with Nick, him and I about maybe a South America reunion in a year and a half or so.  It would be really cool if that happened but who knows what will happen between now and then.  Dim Sum dinner happened and we saw Ras off for the last time.  It was a quick goodbye from him because I think he was pretty emotional about the whole thing.  He had been down for a few days because he just had the best time of his life.  I did too so I can totally understand!  Going from a 2-month period of sheer joy back to the real world is never hard.  
Cape Town 11/21
This day I met Paul the Dutchie and we headed down to the waterfront once again to see if we could get tickets for the Robbin Island tour.  It’s basically like Alcatraz.  An extinct prison on an island that held some famous prisoners.  Among the most famous is Nelson Mandela.  We heard that the tickets were all sold out but we were told that there might be cancellations and we could try to get them.  So we asked the ticket guy 30 minutes prior to the ferry leaving, and he told us not to bother.  That broke our spirits but he said we could buy a ticket for tomorrow at 10am.  Since I had no real plans for tomorrow, I bought a ticket.  Paul and I split ways and I headed into the city on the east side of Long St because I hadn’t been there yet and it had a few places that I wanted to check out.  I started to walk a bit and stumbled upon the Castle of Good Hope.  It’s basically an old garrison originally built in 1666 by the Dutch.  I paid my small fee and entered.  I walked around a bit and seemed to find the modern exhibits more fascinating than all the older stuff there.  They had an exhibit on AIDS with artists from all over the world displaying work.  After an hour or so of putzing around, I headed up south and stumbled upon a clothing market.  Nothing of interest for me so I moved on.  I again headed north and found a bookshop that drew my attention.  I really love but hate bookstores.  When I just go in to have a look at a book, I end up buying at least one.  In this case I bought two books.  One on the psychology of persuasion, and the other an adventure travel book with Ewan McGregor and another guy.  They took a 20,000 mile bike ride around the world.  Awesome book I must say so far!  I wish I could do that.  I think I need to star in the next Star Wars flick for that.  Afterwards I had lunch at a sandwich shop which was quite tasty.  I then went to the District Six Museum.  It’s a museum on what happened with S. Africa and especially District Six.  60,000 blacks were forcibly removed from their land in the 60’s and displaced elsewhere as the white-man bulldozed their homes.  It was a sad state of affairs that took place at the time.  It was only recently that some of the original land owners have gotten their land back.  Then I again headed south and found a pretty good Botanical Gardens.  It’s basically a big outdoor park that spreads pretty far out there.  I relaxed in the park for an hour or so reading my new travel book and enjoyed it.  I got back to my hostel mid-afternoon and just wanted to relax with my new book and check my email for a bit.  I was reading a book when I started talking to a German guy there and he asked if he wanted to meet up later for dinner.  I was kind of apprehensive.  I just spent the better part of 8 weeks in confined spaces with a ton of people and really just wanted to do my thing alone for a bit.  I ended up saying ok to meet up because I knew he was just looking for a friend to hang with.  -6:30 came and we met up and we went to a place called The Burger Joint down the street.  This place was always packed and for good reason.  I ordered the ostrich burger with goat cheese and cranberry sauce.  This burger was really awesome tasting and I really enjoyed it!  We talked for a bit until it was time to meet up with some of my tour group people.  I invited him along but warned him that we would probably just be talking travel stories because it’s our last day together.  He didn’t mind.  The remaining four of us plus two met up at a bar down on Long St and  talked the night away.  It was kind of sad that it was the probably the last time I was going to see them again, or anyone on the tour ever again but for me, I was kind of excited.  It meant that chapter of my life was finished and the next one was just beginning.  But it sure was sweet to be a lazy-ass for the last 6 months.  I mean, who can really say they did that.  There sure was a bunch of us on the trip that were doing it, but I think we are a very select breed of people.  The other American on the trip Barry, is taking 16 months off and flying all over the world.  I wish I could do that and maybe I could have if I wouldn’t have spent so much in super-expensive Europe and a very expensive trip through Africa.  But I don’t regret it for one minute.  At the end of the night final hugs and goodbyes were given and we all split ways.  
Cape Town 11/22
This is my last day in Africa before I will fly home to the US.  I pretty much have all day to do what I want since my plane leaves at 10:40 pm.  So I made my way to the waterfront yet again and boarded my ferry for Robbin Island.  The ferry took about 45 minutes to land on the island which was nice because it gave me time to read my new book again.  We were hoarded onto buses and given a 45-minute tour of the island which was decent.  We saw the Leper Graveyard, Lighthouse, and the Rock Quarry where prisoners were forced into hard labor.  Then we got off the bus and were shown around the maximum security prison by a real ex-con.  He served 5 and a half years there back in the day and is now leading tours for tourists.  Like most of the prisoners there, he was probably there for political reasons and not for a crime.  We were given a talk on the treatment there and how prisoners would smuggle messages and contraband around the different cell blocks.  It was all pretty fascinating.  We saw the jail cell where Nelson Mandela was held for 18 years and where his personal garden was.  In all the tour lasted 45 minutes and I personally wouldn’t rate it as exceptional but at least worth a visit once in your life.  Ferry back then a quick taxi to the hostel because I was lazy and didn’t feel like walking the same street for the third time.  I would rather piss away the afternoon with a book or online.  A few hours later, I was driven to the airport and now here I sit finishing up this blog before I head out of Africa.
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