Friday 03/11/17: I’m on the last section of my African trip and heading from Namibia to Capetown in South Africa. Capetowners (no idea if that’s right but I’m going with it) I’ve met en route have warned me of scams, ATM robberies, fake taxis, gun-point abductions… but always finish by saying how much I’ll love it. I’m apprehensive but fired up!
The overnight bus takes 22 hours but is a comfortable, reclining-seat affair, luxurious even by UK standards. Out of the windows in the darkness, we’re followed for hours by an almighty thunder and lightning storm. We can’t hear it, however, as the ridiculous comedy/action/farce “The Pacifier” plays on the overhead TVs (though even this is preferable to the earlier low-budget religious film, so sanctimonious that I started to doubt my own choices in life). Anyway, Wagner would be fitting for this awesome display of nature, Vin Diesel’s nasal drawl is not.
My neighbour is called Immanuel. He has almost no English and has never previously left Namibia but we get along well enough. I apologise for my storm-induced excitement and leaning over to take photos every 5 minutes by keeping him fed on crap service-station sweeties and processed junk.
We arrive at the border crossing at 3am and after a laborious 2 hour faff, we’re allowed into South Africa. I help Immanuel fill out his exit card and notice from his passport that he’s almost 70 – about 15 years older than I’d placed him! There’s obviously a lot to be said for not regularly gorging on sugar and rubbish.
I fall asleep and don’t wake up until 07.30. The sun is up and the road descends a mountain range, breaking though the clouds. The air is cool with soft morning light – much like a spring morning in Scotland. We drive on through the western Cape region passing fertile farmlands and fields of lush crops. The Olifants river neatly winds its way along side us. Rows of triangular stacked hay bales (or the remains anyway – not sure who thought that design would work) dot the fields like ancient ruined pyramids. At 1.30pm, we take a turn that gives us our first glimpse of Table Mountain in the distance. It’s shrouded in a roof of fluffy white clouds and my neighbour across the aisle explains that the locals call the cloudcover its tablecloth. It’s very pretty.
We pull in to the bus station an hour later and I rebuff the taxi guys at the doors like a pro. I’m a seasoned traveller as I navigate my feet to the hostel with (nearly) no wrong turns. My pride is a little bittersweet however as it means that my trip is almost over. I don’t feel ready to say goodbye to Africa yet. I’ve got ten days before I fly back to Scotland for two days then head to Nepal. At least I won’t have long to mope.
Wednesday 08/11/18: If Swakopmund in Namibia was a beautiful but quiet, wallflower version of Africa then Capetown is its mental extroverted cousin that knows exactly where it’s going and wants to shout at everyone about it. It’s loud, brash, and bustling with tourists and locals together. It’s got attitude. The South African habit of saying, “is it?” by way of confirmation feels sarcastic in such a self-assured town – the equivalent of the scathing Glasgow put-down: “Did ye, aye?!”.
I’ve been busy. I’ve taken the open-top bus tour (twice actually as I didn’t understand that the buses only go one way); eaten in some terrific restaurants; had a squiffy day touring around multiple vineyards; visited a township; seen a play (at a national theatre where the tickets cost a value-tastic £3 each!); almost been blown off the Cape of Good Hope (I didn’t realise how close I was to the edge); took a street-art tour; visited the adorably scruffy penguins of boulder beach (they look like little homeless waiters); visited countless art galleries… It’s been intense!
I’ve still got almost a week to go…