A Life on the Ocean Wave: Cape Town Part I

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The Achille Lauro

Hello. My name is Emma and I go on cruises. Mostly, so far on P&O ships out of Southampton, but other perfectly good cruise companies are available. ;-) When I can, I con my parents into paying for my ticket.

When I travel, I blog. If you would like to read it all, it can be found at my PS. The Post have asked me to proffer some edited highlights of my ramblings, which I shall now inflict on you forthwith. Enjoy.

Cape Town

Cape Town is lovely. We quite like Cape Town. If we could just stop P&O and every South African we ever meet blathering on about how dangerous it is, it would be ideal. South Africans seem to take a strange pride in how dangerous their country is. It's all they talk about. I dare you. Next time you meet a South African, get them into conversation about their home country and I'll place a standing bet of a pound that in less than five minutes, they'll have mentioned the violence and crime where they're from, and how dangerous it is to live there without barbed wire and dogs and armed response units. I'm starting to think it's a form of camouflaged racism. They're not allowed to say "coloured people1/black people are bad/evil/lazy/scary", so instead they bleat on about crime and violence and car-jackings and this leads them to mention unemployment and poverty and... TADA... we've found the darker skinned residents in the conversation. Amazing. I suppose it could just be me being cynical, but that's how it seems to a rather jaded outsider. In fact, the only local I've ever met who DOESN'T talk like this is our Cape Convoy guide, Rob, but more of him later.

Anyway, Cape Town is beautiful. Not the town itself, which is a city like any other, with pretty bits and ugly bits and office blocks and concrete. The waterfront, purpose built for tourists, to corral them in a place that they can fill with security guards and tell them is safe day and night, is, of course, lovely. Bars, restaurants, live music, restored old buildings, and quite possibly one of the world's most disorientating shopping malls, full of names such as Gant, Hugo Boss, Keedo and anyone else with the chutzpah to charge those sorts of prices.

You may be able to tell by my tone that we've been here before. We've done the open top bus ride before. We've been up Table Mountain on a clear day (which apparently we were inordinately lucky with). Most days the Tablecloth comes down, which is a cloud that pours over the top and obscures everything. On days when the wind is strong enough to blow away the cloud, it is too windy to take the cable car up and it's closed! So getting up there on a clear day seems to be somewhat of a lottery. It certainly wasn't to be for those here for the first time on this trip. This time we had two days in Cape Town, the first of which there was absolutely no wind whatsoever. The Tablecloth was beautiful from the ground, but I can't imagine they saw much from the top. And the second day was windy so the cable car was closed. Ain't Mother Nature grand?!

We booked a private tour on Day 1, because, once again, P&O didn't do tours that covered all the things we wanted to do. I suppose you have to limit things when you have a 60 seater coach. Getting P&O passengers on and off of these things is a bit like herding cats, and I wouldn't want to be a tour guide trying to do so! When we have a small car or taxi or minibus, a photo stop is a minute, maybe two. On a tour, it's a minimum of fifteen. Five to get everyone off – some have mobility issues, bad knees and so on – five to push in front of each other to take the photo and another five to get them all back on again. And there will always be two short when they do the headcount, so you have to wait for them before you can leave. Unless you're in parts of the world that have a tendency to drive off without you, such as Mumbai.

So, anyway, our private tour. Pay attention. The company is called Cape Convoy. They have no big buses, only little minibuses and vans. So no cat-herding required. The lovely Rob, with the Ilford accent (I kid you not, he's an Essex boy), picked us up from the ship (once he'd found it, that is – they really plonked us in the back of beyond this time!). Because the marathon was on, he reversed the route of the tour he had planned, as there were a few road closures, although by the time we got up and going, the marathon was almost over anyway. They start at 5.30am to avoid the midday heat.

We drove first to Simon's Town, which, despite its naval port history, is one of the prettiest little towns I have seen in a long time, and certainly the prettiest I've ever found in South Africa. We stopped for a coffee and some photos with the statue of Just Nuisance, the Great Dane dog who is a legend around here. When it was a naval port, he used to get on the train and come down to the port to see the sailors, and he would drink with them and walk them home if they were too sloshed to make it unaided. When the train company threatened to shoot him for riding for free all the time (nice people!), he was formally inducted into the British Navy, which entitled him to free train travel and meant they couldn't shoot him as he was a British officer. When he got married (!), he had a full British Naval honour guard, and when he died he was buried with full military honours, gun salute, the works. You've got to love the British colonial way of thinking. No one else would be mental enough to do stuff like that.

Our second stop was Boulders, the penguin sanctuary. They have built a wooden boardwalk over the beach so that you can walk among the nesting penguins without disturbing their nests, which are just tucked into the sand. Beautiful, silly little creatures. So enchanting. We could have watched them for hours. How they felt about the screaming toddlers and shouting Japanese tourists, however, is anybody's guess. In the little shop, I suggested they might put some signs up asking the visitors to be quiet, but as I was making this suggestion to a man who thought that staring hard at a malfunctioning till would make it work, I'm not holding out much hope for the poor penguins. (For those who are wondering, his telekinetic powers failed him and he had to eventually press a button and start again, after which it worked just fine.)

To be continued...

A Life on the Ocean Wave Archive


13.12.10 Front Page

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1'Coloured' here means mixed-race. It's a specific term. It doesn't cover all non-whites, like it does in the USA.

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