Saturday 30 May 2015

South Africa: My last full day

Far away in the same place
When I left Johannesburg just two weeks ago, I had an 11-hour stopover in Cape Town. This being my first trip back to Africa in 25 years I thought of breaking down my return leg by visiting at least one other city besides Johannesburg, I chose between Cape Town and Nairobi.
The distance from Johannesburg to Cape Town is just about 1,280 kilometres by air, if we did that in Europe we probably would have flown over two countries or more, we never really grasp how vast Africa is.
It was a two-hour flight to Cape Town and I arrived just after 11:00AM, stepping out into the Arrivals area I saw the Cape Town Tourism stand where I thought I could get some information about where to visit and what to see.
Quite a let-down, I say
I cannot say they were very helpful and they were most unhelpful when it transpired that they did not have a chip/PIN payment system but had to take an imprint of my credit card. In this day and age, one has to be suspicious of such payment methods, the smallest stores I visited in South Africa had electronic means of payment, and a tourism desk in an international airport not having this facility is unacceptably beyond the pale.
To add insult to injury, they refused cash and then proceeded at attempting to blackmail me into adopting their payment system or having to join long queues to go to the top of Table Mountain.
I did not relent, I asked for my card and the imprint they had taken and left to make my own plans.
A short tour of Cape Town
Thankfully, a colleague resident of Cape Town had checked that the weather around the Table Mountain was not particularly fair, he suggested I take an UberBlack taxi cab to the Victoria & Alfred Waterfront from where I could board a tour bus.
Victoria & Alfred, the monarch and her second son, should not be confused with Victoria and Albert, the monarch and her consort. Prince Albert laid the foundation stones of the harbour in 1860, hence that name.
From the airport to the waterfront, you could see that South Africans have many things to be proud of, the UberBlack cab driver gave me Cape Town in a nutshell, pointing out landmarks and historic places before telling me of the hospital where Christiaan Barnard conducted the first heart transplant in 1967.
Of Cape Town and the people
From the waterfront, I boarded the CitySightseeing Bus that had an electronic payment system having excluded going to the top of the Table Mountain apart from the long stop at the landing point of the cableway car that goes to the top.
I doubt if we ventured to any place apart from the richest and most salubrious parts of Cape Town before we returned to the waterfront where I was picked up by my colleague.
The journey to his place had us go through a very English-looking suburb and a tour of public schools of the English kind where rivalries were very much like Eton versus Harrow, there is privilege and opportunity that comes with many things like race and ability. You must never pooh-pooh the privilege of a good early education.
At his home, over the sampling of some fine South African wines we had a braai, a South African barbecue. Having run out of fire-lighters, my host drenched the middle of kitchen towel paper with cooking oil and then lit the dry ends over which he placed the wood. The slow burn of the kitchen paper was enough to set the wood alight, and soon we had a barbecue fire.
As dusk fell, I got another UberBlack cab to the airport and prepared to board my 11:30-hour flight back to Amsterdam. That was the end of my 13-night working visit to South Africa.

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