road trip south africa – day 9 to the end

day 9.  cintsa.  horse-back riding on the beach.  our guide rides bareback, shoeless and chainsmoking with a constant stream of commentary (about her method of collecting rainwater, about the rising price of local real-estate, about last weekend’s string of break-ins in the area).  we meander through sun-bleached hills, down rocky coast and learn to trot on the beach.  despite sara’s fear of riding large animals, we manage ok (the mount and dismount being the only tricky parts requiring a less-than-lady-like stomach flop and a helpful push from behind).  afterwards, we pack up camp and hit the road with bruised bottoms and bow-legged swaggers.

port elizabeth.  we sleep inside for the first time since arriving, in a cozy old victorian near the movie theatre.  we watch angelina jolie beat the * out of james mcavoy on the big screen.  ah, civilization.

day 10.  the highway.  we head down the coast and push through to the interior, pausing only to take pictures of benches, to be soothed by ‘traffic-calming speedbumps’ (i feel so calm now), to eat bread and cheese sandwiches (road-trip staple) in the spray of some sizable waves, and to hit a shopping mall in search of bikinis and smoothies.  coastal cliffs and rainforest rise to become desert plains back-dropped by formidable rocky mountain ranges.  sara is now a pro at driving stick (on the wrong side of the road on the wrong side of the car), even through stoplights (called ‘robots’ here).  tonight’s campsite is in someone’s backyard, next to a swimming pool. (it says this pool is lagoon-like. i have some tiki-torches in the garage.)

day 11.  oudtshoorn.  we follow a skinny dirt road as it curves through the steep swartberg pass and are almost blown off the top of the mountain.  sara is bitten by an ostrich.

view from the swartberg pass sara being attacked by ostriches - funny game they play at the farm the little karoo desert with swartberg mountains in the distance

me cleaning the windshield in the wind (dad would be so proud) me peering out over the mountains, leaning into the wind from the top of a mountain ostriches in a huddle

day 12.  montagu.  accommodation is in the stables of an old farmhouse.  we hike through a ravine then soak ourselves in the hot springs (not that hot actually – more like lukewarm springs, tepid even).

day 13.  the highway.  we book it out of montagu at the crack of dawn and head for the cape of good hope where we visit… a penguin colony!

day 14.  the cape of good hope.  our last day with chica.  we drive around the southern-most point of africa and hike around the park where i get my first glimpse of the atlantic in a year and a half.  here it collides with the indian ocean in a mess of waves and blended ecosystems.

me closing my eyes for the camera penguins on the beach at simon's town the cape of good hope

the road to cape town.  we are thwarted from the start.  the scenic route from cape point into town is closed for maintenance.  sara successfully navigates me through a series of also-scenic-but-not-as-scenic roads into the city.  the hostel has misplaced our booking and there’s no parking.  we can’t return chica because the rental office is closed.  our tickets to robben island (where mandela was in prison for 18 years) are cancelled due to high seas.  the cable-car to the top of table mountain is closed for the winter.  and the new batman movie is sold out.  and it’s raining.

day 15.  cape town.  a chilly sunday morning.  all of yesterday’s hassle is forgotten.  the weather is fine.  we explore the waterfront (big shopping mall full of designer boutiques, expensive souvenir shops, and fancy restaurants), visit the aquarium, get a boat to robben island with beautiful views of the city, come back and watch christian bale battle wits with the whims of heath ledger (may he rest in peace).  a wonderful day.

day 16.  cape town.  sight-seeing.  museums.  shopping.  good food.  good wine.  relishing the city.

day 17.  cape town.  our last day.  we take a morning tour of the townships.  these are low-income housing projects at best and miles and miles of shanty-towns at worst.  the contrast between the poverty here and the extravagant wealth of the waterfront is jaw-dropping.  this is the south africa of movies like tsotsi.  a developing country hidden behind barricades next to the superhighways so the wealthy (mostly white) south africans don’t have to think about where their poor (mostly black) countrymen sleep at night.  three families bunk in a room only slightly larger than mandela’s prison cell.  unreal.  the sad thing is, after two weeks here in this country, this is the first day i’ve felt like i’m in africa.  children come smiling for hugs, there’s african music on the radios, colorful hand-painted signs, bustling outdoor markets, bus parks with drivers shouting for customers, friendly people to chat with as i wait for the other tourists to pile back in the bus.  i tell one xhosa man about my life in rwanda and he has lots of questions.  what’s it like?  is there still a war?  have the refugees returned?  what am i doing there?  he tells me i am an african woman now.

maybe not.  but i will be glad to go home tomorrow.  and i’m glad that home, for now at least, is still in africa.

table mountain behind the waterfront south african kids at a nutrition center in khayalitsa township the khayalitsa township

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~ by aliciawolcott on July 29, 2008.

3 Responses to “road trip south africa – day 9 to the end”

  1. i’m fairly sure i’m wearing the same sweatshirt in all of the pictures you have of me.

  2. funny, i’m reasonably positive i was wearing the same sweatshirt when taking all those pictures.

  3. match the caption to the picture:

    – This was the tissue that Dad gave me for my 10th birthday, originally pulled out of the Kleenex box in 1976. I’m not sure it’s going to pull through.

    -Alright, now on my mark, everyone shake their butts, and Harry and I will wiggle our heads back and forth, and maybe those humans will think we’re a huge scary black monster.

    -clearly a ripoff from my smooth criminal video…

    -does anyone else think that ‘good hope’ is a stupid name?

    -you know what that guy just told me? he said if I face this way I can see my shadow, but if I face this way I can’t.

    -how many buckets of ostrich vomit does the recipe call for?

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