7/27 Sat: A Restorative Day
Today is Departure Day for most everyone, except for those of us (well, me) who misread the schedule or were looking for cheaper flights and won’t fly out until tomorrow. I guess this gives me the day back in Cape Town that I lost at the beginning of the trip when I missed my flight.
The beginning of the day wasn’t auspicious. For one thing I was out of cash, and had to find an ATM machine so I could pay the night’s lodging (R350 – R for Rand – < $40 – though everyone is using the 10 to 1 conversion rate.) But the ATM at the Spar Grocery 2 blocks away was out of order, and the liquor store next to it was closed when I walked over at 8:30 a.m.
Well, it gave me more time to hang around the lobby to say good bye to people – though as I wasn’t really part of the group, it was a lackluster hit and miss affair. I did catch Bob and Steve on the street when I went back to the ATM later, so that was good. In any event, once I squared up with the Check Inn, it was time to get on the day.
The weather forecast of 80% chance of rain was playing out – but as the rain seemed to be intermittent – 5 to 10 minutes of fine showers every 45 minutes – I decided to stay with my plan to go back to Kistenbosch, the National Botanical Gardens, that we only spent an hour at, on Thursday.
With my rain jacket (thank you Isle Royale trip) shielding me from another light shower, I walked through Green Point Park to catch the City Hopper tour bus – blue route. However, as I was a bit fuzzy about the scheduled time, or how long it would take me, I ended up missing the bus by 5 minutes. Rather than wait 30 minutes more for the next one, I walked along the waterfront to V&A to catch it. Same bus, but at least I was walking and seeing a bit of new area on the way.
After buying my ticket, and with 8 minutes to spare, I walked next door to the Aquarium to find a toilet. Was that every a new world! No, not the fish or other sea creatures. I had to walk through the cafe to get there, which was filled with families and young children — a haven for the 4 to 8 year old crowd. As sweet as it was, I did decide that perhaps I was not in the target audience, so I’d pass on the aquarium even if I did have time.
On the bus – upper deck but under the roofed part – I stared talking to a young woman from Victoria, Australia, who was on a 4 month holiday, just coming from 2 months in SE. She found this company which would drop you off – coming back every 3 days – at a village in Laos, with arranged home stays. Great stories. She was about to embark on another long Africa tour, but due to flight timing had an extra day in CapeTown. Our conversation was cut short when it started to rain, and there was some seat shifting. I ended up next to a family from Scotland, with a 8 to 10 year old girl – they were headed out to “Monkey Village.”
Yes, it did strike me again how easy it was for me to talk to people I met, on contrast to keeping a conversation going with those in my group.
The tour bus was a ‘get on / get off ‘ affair – with earphones provided if you wanted to listen to a narration, which did add some color, even if the music interludes were insipid. Perhaps if the weather was better I would have made one or two more stops, including at the Slave Lodge, a museum about the Slave Trade, but also with a current exhibit on Oliver Tambo, one of the great Apartheid resistance fighters, along with Mandela, Sisulu, etc. (see http://www.and.org.za/list_by.php?by=Oliver%20Tambo ); the International Airport out of Jo’burg is named after him. I also never found the Civic Center, where there was a Mandela Exhibit and this was my last chance.
Instead I carried on out to Kirstenbosch, to emerge through the turnstyle into another fine rain. Fortunately there was a gift shop right there, which I was happy to duck into. In fact, several times in the next 3 hours, it rained similarly, and each time I was close to a shelter, not something one takes for granted there. Especially welcome were the few benches that were covered with massive stone shelters – just a nice touch, esp. as the views were magnificent.
If I were a botanist, I would go on for pages about the wonders of these gardens – massive in size, and with so many, so many, so many specific habitats and plants. For a description and pictures (alas due to dead camera batteries and not wanting to take my iPad into the rain, I have no photos myself) see http://whc.unesco.org/en/list/1007 : “The Cape Floral Region has been recognised as one of the most special places for plants—in terms of diversity, density and number of endemic species—in the world. Covering less than 0.5% of the area of Africa but home to nearly 20% of the continent’s flora, these protected areas conserve the outstanding ecological, biological and evolutionary processes associated with the beautiful and distinctive Fynbos vegetation, unique to the Cape Floral Region.”
What I will say was that I had 3 hours of special moments. There were very few people there; cold winter rain here will do that, though for me it felt like a cool Spring day with occasional light and brief showers, so it was just fine. The only concession I made was to not hike the outer trails leading up to Table Mountain due to the mud and slippery conditions, along with the certainly I’d get caught in a downpour. Instead I walked the paths slowly and appreciatively, each minute coming to a new wondrous universe of plants, flowers, birds, and scurrying mammals – the overcast wet weather did bring out more fauna – and quickly rushing streams.
The standout flowers were the proteas – of which there are 2,000 kinds of great variety, though the King Protea stands out. I was researching the web and found a quote which totally encapsulated my experience at Kirstenbosch:
“An experience not unlike that bit in a movie where a child wanders into some weird wonderland and ends up gazing about in slack-jawed delight.”
(I will admit though that I came across this due to a misspelling; I entered “Proteus” and this quote was on a computer game site, but it still applies!)
Picking up the bus, I still had over an hour en route, most of it along the ocean overlooking seaside communities, cliffs, and beaches. Quite impressive, and likely would have been more impressed had we not just driven the coast down to Cape Point. Again, with a better weather, or plan, I might have gotten off at Hout Bay Harbor, or Camps Bay, or Clifton, or Bantry Bay, or Sea Point, which itself was familiar as it’s the end of my Esplanade runs.
Instead I rode all the way back to the V&A Waterfront – where I checked out the craft market and food emporiums and such – but did quickly find my destination – the store, Musica – where I bought 2 more jazz CD’s; well, one jazz, and one of Vusi Mahlasela, whose concert I missed in Grahamstown: “Vusi Sidney Mahlasela Ka Zwane is a Sotho South African singer-songwriter. His music is generally described as “African folk” and he is often dubbed as “The Voice” of South Africa. His work was an inspiration to many in the anti-apartheid movement.”
So yes, a good day, and it was going to get even better!
Back at the Inn, I eschewed a run – the weather was still cold and iffy, and I had been on my feet much of the day – and instead took a much needed nap. But I was up at 7 in time to head back to The Crypt – the Jazz Club and Restaurant, underneath St. George’s Cathedral.
I had been there on Wednesday, when it was decidedly uncrowded, to the point I had a table right in front of the band, and had a nice conversation with the owner. The weekend is different. While I arrived just a few minutes after the stated start time of 8 p.m., the place was packed and the trio had already began. I was shown to a table where another gentleman was seated (fine with me – I was looking for people to talk with) and a third came along a couple minutes behind me. It turned out to be a superb grouping.
Mike lives in Cape Town (Green Point, as it turns out) and is 78, retired, and living here 4 years after moving from Jo’burg. Vernon is 62 (! – my age – which played in a great deal with the success of the evening), African-American, born in Cincinnati, and now a professor at Western Washington University, near Seattle. He is in SA for 7 weeks, having brought students who are volunteering their time to work with an NGO in Plettenberg Bay. He has done this for 5-6 years, and this year found a way to spend half of HIS time in CapeTown.
So much was right about the evening. First an appreciation of jazz among the three of us. While the place was packed, most were young people who seemed more interested in being at a cool place, though not necessarily for the jazz. Though Vernon – I’ll call him Damani, his middle name, which he goes by with friends was quick to point out it was our job to teach them about jazz – how to listen, when to applaud solos, etc. Of course we were both teachers by profession, so had that in common. He was also quite aware of the jazz tradition in Detroit.
Also being from the Midwest, the subject of Detroit came up aplenty – perhaps more so with the bankruptcy being in the news world wide. That brought Mike into the conversation as well. Mike also served as a reference point for our discussions about SA – past, present and future.
You know, we didn’t talk all that much – just between sets – there were 3 of them – as we were listening to the music (A standard trio, with a female vocalist from Italy: NIC WILLIAMS TRIO With Special Guest FRANCESCA BIANCOLI) we did pack a lot in when we had the chance. Damani picked up on every reference, from Diana Ross, to working on the Assembly Line, to Kwami Kilpatrick (we were making comparisons of corruption in govt, there and here.) And maybe it was his schtick, but it was like he was my biggest fan. I soaked it up.
To top it off, while Damani was staying in a flat a block or two away, when I said where I was staying, in Green Point, he goes, “You’re going to *walk* – well, of course you are; you’re from Detroit and can handle anything.” But it turns out that Mike lives in Greenpoint – right behind the Check Inn in fact, and he offered me a ride home, an offer I gladly accepted, as much for the friendship significance as the convenience.
In the end, the two big events of the day – Kirstenbosch, and The Crypt met and surpassed every expectation I could have hoped for, finishing up my time in Cape Town on a high note.
7/28 Sun: I went out for a long run this morning – stopping and finding a bus station even closer than the one I found midweek. This is just 2 blocks from our hotel. I hadn’t seen it as it’s UNDER the roundabout. I only thought to look at it, as I picked up a flyer for M, who left earlier today – and it had a map of the stations. I find it fascinating, that each day I learn the neighborhood a little better – little things and big things. And I do because I have been exploring and looking both, but much is still serendipitous. Anyway the bus comes every 20 minutes, so I’ll pick up a bus around 1 p.m. and get to the airport nearly 3 hours early.
I planned to spend the 2 hours after 11 am when I had to check out, on the esplanade, taking pictures and just finding a bench and enjoying the last views of the ocean. On the walk way this morning there were super big piles of sea foam, which had blown over the walls – it was cold enough still (about 50ºF) that it hadn’t melted yet. Super big waves crash into the rocks and bounce over the sea wall. But otherwise the sky was pretty clear and it looked like a nice place to spend my last hour or two. But just now the sky has clouded over, and likely the expected rain will come. Signal it’s time to go.
I fly Cape Town to Jo’burg to JFK, arriving about 6 am EST. I shuttle to LaGuardia for a 1 p.m. flight, unless I can go standby on a 10:30 flight. That would get me into to Detroit Metro at 12:30, in time to catch the AirRide bus to Ann Arbor that leaves at 1:05. If I take my scheduled 1 pm flight I’ll get in at 3, and Vickie will pick me up, as I’ll miss the bus, and there’s a 2 hour gap at that point. Seems awfully fast, to get in less than 24 hours – clock time (not counting the 6 hour time zone change) – than I depart Cape Town.
But I guess it’s time to go, after 5+ weeks, ready or not.