MARCH 25 – PHINDA – DURBAN – CAPE TOWN, SOUTH AFRICA
After our final game drive this morning, a mind-numbing travel day reunited us with the Queen around 6 PM in Cape Town. Today, 1,428 passengers got off, and 1,432 got on. The last leg of this grand voyage starts now. We have sailed over 33,000 nautical miles since leaving New York on January 4th.
This is only the third port we have “overnighted in”. The other two were Hong Kong and Sydney. We got the “good side” again. From our balcony we saw the iconic Table Mountain as a back drop to the city. A climatic quirk causes clouds to settle on the 1,300 foot plateau and spill over the sides like a colossal waterfall (think Niagara). This visual effect is known as the “Table Cloth”. We saw it once, and I don’t think the words exist to properly describe it. Even Hollywood would find it impossible to mimic.
We fell into a deep coma at 9 PM after staggering into our bug free bed. Our waiters thought we developed narcolepsy while away.
MARCH 26 – CAPE TOWN, SOUTH AFRICA
Those of you who are well versed in modern history know that Apartheid ended here a mere 19 years ago. The dictionary defines it as…
“A system adopted by the successful Afrikaner National Party as a slogan in the 1948 election, apartheid extended and institutionalized existing racial segregation. Despite rioting and terrorism at home and isolation abroad from the 1960s onward, the white regime maintained the apartheid system with only minor relaxation until February 1991”.
1994 was the first democratic national election. The transition to an integrated society was considered to be peaceful, but racial tension is palatable here. Our white shuttle driver from the airport refused to produce identification to a black gate agent when returning us to port. He was rude and dismissive as he drove off, before a white officer stepped in front of the bus to halt us. It was clear to us why it happened. Our guide from the airport wistfully reminisced about the days before blacks were allowed to live within city limits. She cautioned us to be careful; evil doers brandishing deadly weapons are on the rise. We heard of two waiters and one passenger who were mugged at knife point in the wee hours of the morning. The passenger asked a group of black guys “where he could exchange money”. The police brought him back to the ship whimpering in his skivvies. Taking his clothes must have been punishment for sheer cluelessness. I mean, come on, a speck of common sense please!
Our plan today was to explore the dramatic coastline near the city. After picking up our rental car, we headed off. Steve has now completely mastered driving on the left, although the dyslexic blinker behavior continues to cause trouble. I wouldn’t be surprised if Avis slaps us with an extra charge for Windshield Wiper Fluid, after the group of rental locations we’ve patronized tally up the lost gallons.
We drove half way up Table Mountain to the gondola terminal to see the sweeping view of downtown and Table Bay. We opted not to take the gondola to the tippy top. The queue was huge, and we didn’t want to take the time. Wise choice.
Next, we headed south and drove along the craggy cliffs that fringe the Atlantic Ocean. The vertigo inducing Chapman’s Peak Drive is chocked full of staggering vistas. The frenzied surf beckoned from 1,000 feet below.
Back at sea level, we were seduced by over 3,000 rock sculptures, for sale in a roadside field. Handmade by African artists, and perfect to dot around our yard. An exhaustive “narrowing down” process ensued. Five pieces entered the negotiation phase. Steve hadn’t done any serious haggling since Oman, and he was electrified. We were seconds away from handing over a credit card when a tiny voice in my head whispered… “scrape the stone with your fingernail”, so I did. A waxy substance flaked off to reveal unpolished rock below. Whoa! Wait a minute! We learned that the glossy surface is achieved by frequent “wax jobs”, and that reapplication would be necessary once a week to keep it. I DON’T THINK SO. We assumed the finish came from buffing. So we left, downtrodden, but thrilled that we hadn’t made a huge investment in yard art we would have been pissed at, every time we saw it.
We lost two hours, and now we had to rush. We zipped down to the southern tip and drove through the Cape of Good Hope Nature Reserve. A hiking nirvana, if we had more time. On the way back to Cape Town via Simon’s Town, along False Bay, we encountered a family of baboons strutting along the road. Traffic halted to watch them. We were warned that they are aggressive and vicious when food is present. If you have it, they want it. We’re not talking cuddly monkeys that break into rooms here. A large male jumped onto the hood, shielded his eyes from the sun’s glare, and leaned forward to see if we were chewing. I stopped gnawing on my gum, but not before he saw my jaws move. While bearing his humongous teeth, he tugged back a windshield wiper and repeatedly thwacked it against the glass. I dropped my camera and raced to crank up the window, while thanking the “voice in Steve’s head”, telling us not to upgrade to the shiny red mustang convertible for a pittance of $20 more per day. With startling speed, our tormentor sprung onto the roof, and tried to peel down my window before hoping to the ground. After he was safely harassing the car behind us, I lowered my window a few inches to take a shot of three youngsters sitting on a nearby wall (below). They watched attentively as Mama taught them how to terrorize the tourists.
We cleaned the slobber off the windshield when refueling the car, and stifled giggles when the Avis rep asked if we enjoyed our day.
The ship set sail at 6 PM, heading east in the Southern Atlantic Ocean on the way to the island of St. Helena.