Saturday, 9 May 2015

May 6: The Cape of Good Hope, and Penguins (and baboons and eland and…)

We booked a tour to the Cape itself today, which was challenging given our lack of phone. After numerous e-mails, we agreed to an 8:30 pickup time. We were out there by 8:15 and they showed up at 9:00 (that's called "Africa time"). What with picking up the other tour guests, the days was kind of rushed, so we raced down to Hout Bay just in time to catch a boat…
The Calypso, one of several boats taking tourists to visit the seals
…that took us (and about 50 Chinese tourists) out to Duiker Island to see the resident Cape Fur Seal population.
Every lump is a seal 
Wet ones 
Napping dry ones 
Anywhere you can fit 
Half wet, half dry
Then we hustled down the Chapman’s Peak drive that hugs the coastline like the Hana Highway on Maui, only with no greenery.
That's the road scratched into the hillside 
Island with seals just off the point on the left
This gave us a view of Long Beach, which isn’t that long but it’s sure wide. There are people on the beach. Can you spot them?
There are shark spotters standing here, too
Our next stop was Boulder Beach, home to African Penguins, AKA Jackass Penguins for their strange braying (though we never heard it). Not as cute as Melbourne’s Fairy Penguins, but still, they’re penguins, and they had babies. Our tour only allowed 20 minutes here, which was not enough time.
Reminds me of my cat 
Hangin' on the beach 
In their nests 
Youngsters left on their own while parents are out feeding 
Out for a walk 
Made it 
Taking care of the kid 
This baby was sadly dead. Mom was trying to revive it 
Bad hair day 
Penguin love
From there, we drove into the Cape Point National Park, grabbed a fast lunch, then hopped on bicycles and rode to the Cape of Good Hope. On the was, I was blocked by a… tortoise crossing the road. Yep. Tortoises cause animal jams.
Not in a hurry, but determined
But there were other critters, too, and they, too, blocked the road.
Yet another ostrich
The ride was only ~6 km (it took longer to prep 14 bikes for riding than to ride the 6.4 km), but it was nice to do something other than sit in a mini van.
Karen coming 'round the bend
We made it to the Cape itself…
You are here 
We were there
…where there were more seals on rocks.
And gannets
Then we climbed to the lighthouse about 250 m up from the sea.
You're here now 
Cape Point in the distance 
Looking east down the coast

Looking north. Atlantic on the left, False Bay on the right
The park has wildlife, like eland (there are supposedly zebra and brontbuck, but we didn’t see them. We did see rock hyrax, but no great pictures of them), 
I suspect we'll see lots more of these guys 
…but there were the dreaded baboons. In addition to these…
They're cute when they're not being a pain 
Getting a ride on mom
…this guy tore the rear windshield washer squirter head off an SUV and ate it.
Satisfied with himself
There were baboons that were rooting in the garbage in the ladies washroom, which scared some ladies half to death. Baboon stories are real.

It was cool to get to the Cape, but in hindsight, it would have been a better tour to do by yourself in a car because it’s well signposted and easy to get to. And doing it yoursel would have been far cheaper, too (R400 to rent a car vs the R750 per person we paid). On top of that, doing it yourself gives you the ability to take your time at the places you want to take your time. Boulder Beach and the penguins come to mind. In addition to penguins themselves, the parking area featured an AWESOME acapella street performing group called the Abonwabisi Brothers. We got to hear about 15 seconds of them, and they were great. I didn't have time to buy their CD, but it turns out they have 2 for sale on iTunes, and I bought them both the moment I got home.

For the record, the Cape isn't the dividing line between the Indian and South Atlantic Oceans. It IS the meeting point of two main currents that makes False Bay a darned sight warmer than the Atlantic. And the current on the False Bay side does come from the Indian Ocean. But the actual dividing line between the Atlantic and Indian Oceans is at Cape Arghulas, which is about halfway back to Mossel Bay, and almost 200 km south of the N2, in the middle of nowhere. I thought about going there, but... no.

I also learned that Cape Town is on the same latitude as Sydney and Perth in Australia, Santiago and Buenos Aires in South America. So technically, the farthest south I have ever been in my life remains Phillip Island, Australia, beating out Ancud, Chile and Cape Point.

We got back to town at 5:45, and rushed over to the local grocery store to pick up some wine. Wine sales close at 6 PM. I was standing in the checkout line at 5:50 PM. But because I didn’t make the till by 6 PM (the store was busy), I couldn’t buy the wine. Sigh. We came home despondent, only to find a power outage affecting our building. We couldn’t get in the building’s front door for a while, then when we could, we had no lights so worked from flashlights. Sigh. We left for dinner early, making the wine unnecessary anyway. This is the 3rd power outage we have been though thus far.

Coming to Africa? Bring a flashlight. And a headlamp.


Today’s Africa Travel Tip: Who will you meet?

Tonight, we met a South African. That’s not really that common. In Wilderness, while our hotelier was South African, his staff was from Malawi. Our waiter two nights ago was from Zimbabwe. We keep being served by folks from every country EXCEPT South Africa. There are folks from Zambia, the Congo, Cameroon, Somalia, Zaire, Mozambeque, Burundi, Kenya – you name an African country, you’ll meet them here. Shopkeepers tend not to be South African. Market people (especially street market people) are never South African. It makes for interesting conversations. One Cameroon person was trying to convince us to visit his country because the need the tourism money. One from Zimbabwe said they would go home in a minute if the political situation changed and the economy was back to the way it was. All are in South Africa because there are jobs to be had.

Sadly, this last few weeks, this is erupting in violence against some cultures in the country. There have been stoning of Somali citizens. Violence has been committed against Malawians and Mozambicans, and this is spreading to Ethiopians, Bangladeshis and Zimbabweans. All of this violence has taken place in the Townships, which are the slums where the poorest live, mostly in Durban and Johannesberg. Poor South Africans are unhappy that poor Malawians are taking their jobs.

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