After 5 years studying in Cape Town (or maybe anywhere else if it comes to that) there comes a time that everything you know ceases to no longer matter, the comforts that you found invaluable become unsatisfying and the colleagues, friends and anchors that have enriched your existence have upped and left for the elephant’s graveyard that is Johannesburg in search of career advancement. Like Simba the darkness beckons but unlike him, for the moment, my continuing education tethers me still to the hunting grounds of Cape Town.
However, I feel like I have exhausted the opportunities in the area or rather more likely I have become bored with the same diet and am in need of some choice exotic game. Now since I have proven incapable of finding new and interesting pursuits on my lonesome I prayed to the gods of let’s-get-drunk-and-be-stupid and i-am-bored-entertain-me and my pleas were sent forth on the great oracle that is Facebook, an oracle so reaching and powerful that even the gods themselves cannot ignore. And thus my little series of adventures in and about Cape Town were born. My simple quest is to experience Cape Town anew, visit old haunts, find new ones, take lots of
photos and savour the experience. Who knows, I might just find the answers I
am looking for, to the questions I haven’t yet asked nor am I aware of.
Like in all true great quests, my pleas did not fall on deaf ears but were
answered after a torturous wait by the old ones, the weavers of our tapestries.
I had waited long, anxiety eating me to the core, despair having set in, that
even this simple search for answers would abort even before I set out. They
came to me not in the guise that Macbeth was so unfortunately familiar but
through the mist as shades of friends past and far. Charlie told me I must walk
as much as I can as I could only truly appreciate some of what I was seeing if I
took my time and savoured it on foot. I myself prefer to cycle but I would try
the two-legged shuffle as much as I can. Mila gave me the rather cryptic advice
to ‘embrace the rain’ whatever that means. Lastly, Mushy, who not only
determined the last leg of my journey but is to join me too; a trip through
Camps Bay and a view of the sunset overlooking the sandy beaches and overpriced
housing in the shadows of Lion’s Head and a cycle down the deathly steep
slopes of Kloof Nek. So it was ordained, with the City split into six sectors; the
Harbour and the Waterfront, Muizenberg and Kalk Bay, C.B.D, Blaauwberg and
the Boerie Curtain, Seapoint and Camps Bay and lastly, the surrounds unknown
simply depicted as monsters and beasts with the simple caption ‘Here be
Dragons’ on my map; I was to set forth in my attempt to leave no nook unseen
and my map, black spot free.
As a sampler of what my year was going to be I decided to cycle from my now old place in Mowbray to the harbour and the Waterfront. Not having a bike of my own, I borrowed one from one of my underlings at work and set forth. I still have to find out if I have somehow wronged Phineas (underling) because that bike was a death trap on two wheels. The roads are already unmerciful to cyclists and that bike was either meant to induce some sort of bodily harm or exhaust me to death. The seat has to be the most uncomfortable I have ever sat on, the front brakes didn’t work and the gears didn’t shift properly. By the time I was done cycling back and forth my ass was killing me, I couldn’t feel my left nut and the lack of gears and the poor traction it gave me had worked my knees and thighs to such an extent that I wasn’t just wobbly, I just couldn’t stand. I was beat but boy was it worth it. As a training exercise for the challenges ahead it only served to whet my appetite for more, this city is amazing.
I started my journey on Main Rd around 1200hrs and made steady time towards town. I had dedicated my whole and one of preciously few free afternoons to my little escapade and I intended to fully utilise it. Even with the now discovered faults of my not so trusty steed I made swift speed through the traffic as I meandered and navigated around the always swerving and never indicating taxis, pedestrians who believe they own the road and the well-meaning but poorly executing folk and grannies. Cycling on a busy main carriageway is not for the faint hearted and certainly not for folk who get distracted by the many shiny things found beside the roads. Keeping a strong lookout for marauding taxis I got into town within 20 minutes and navigated my way up the bridge to head towards the harbour. My journey so far had been a slight continuous downhill but upon climbing the slope of that bridge I came to fully realise how bad the gear problem was. I barely made it to the top, and not because my beer baby was throwing a fit but rather that I was fighting the very laws of physics and it’s a tasking process. Going up I couldn’t get any traction or pull so the ascent was all wasted energy and effort, the descent though not more difficult was more irritating. This because beyond the initial burst in acceleration thanks to gravity, physics on my side for now, I still couldn’t get any pull on the gears to maintain said acceleration or speed no matter which permutations of the gears I tried. I remember one particular heart wrenching moment as I tried to cross a rather large intersection with me trying to paddle across but not getting anywhere and now beginning to slightly hold up traffic. I could sense their frustration as they barely restrained themselves like chained hunting dogs having scented the fox as I moved too slowly for their comfort and mine too for the matter. I eventually made it past and then to the harbour and managed to get through security having mumbled a half truth about going to Panama Jack. What I meant I was passing round about there at some point but I wasn’t going there per se. Besides, why do they care where I was going? I was pretty sure if I wasn’t meant to be anywhere someone there would stop me. I was kinda hoping that I would see something I wasn’t meant to see and have my own little scene of running through the dockyards being chased by some thugs before cleverly outwitting them with accompanying explosions and special effects to set the mood. I didn’t get that, shame really, but I was refused entry into the Royal Yacht Club – Members and their guests only, stupid elitist pigs. I told the dumb guard I just wanted a picture of a boat, any boat, even a rubber dinghy. He wasn’t having any of it. It would have been better if he had told me they didn’t have any rubber dinghies. Idiot doesn’t realise I’ll be there for a 21st soon and I’ll be able to snoop to hearts content. I’ll uncover the smuggling ring/human trafficking ring they have operating there. There is something there I tell you but I digress.
Beyond that though the harbour area didn’t give me much to work with, the lesson learnt I think was that I have to improve my snooping skills plus I need a better camera. It seemed anywhere remotely interesting was guarded and needed a pass; the place that was repairing a tug boat, the area with the ship offloading or the fairly distant part with what looks like an oil rig anchored inside the harbour area. Next time I’ll find out if they do guided tours or something. I’ll admit to getting a greater appreciation of the sheer size of ships having seen them close by in the dry dock or when I walked underneath a yacht that never got completed. They are huge. An even greater sense of awe overcomes me, awe over the power of nature when I realise that even though they are so big, they sink. Such strength and power snuffed out like a candle in the wind. Craving a drink, surprise, I headed off towards the tourist sanctuary that is the V&A Waterfront. The cycle to the Waterfront is sedate as I was beginning to savour the experience a bit more. My earlier struggles with the bike not yet forgotten but now accepted that it was going to be hard and there was nothing I could do about it then. I avoided the main roads as I was a bit self-conscious and used the back entrance by the 2 granary towers and popped up by the old red Clock Tower. Having secured the bike I set about exploring the area. I’ve never quite understood what the fuss about the Waterfront was all about. To me it has always been one large shopping mall with expensive stores and that so happens to be by the water and one could take a trip on said water from there – nothing special. I was mistaken. There are actually quite a lot of things and places to see surrounding the mall shopping that I didn’t quite get around to them all. I’m going to have to do it again, again with a better camera. Next to the granary like buildings is a part of the harbour which is used to assemble/disassemble (one couldn’t tell) wooden vessels. The water here is a really inviting aquamarine colour that I was sorely tempted to jump in and the oppressive heat had nothing to do with this. There was a myriad selection of boats on view and frankly, a wider range than I expected. I was expecting to see a series of barely different expensively put together set of yachts and they were there but there was also a set of vessels that definitely served a purpose that was not the occasional jaunt about the sea whilst flaunting the owner’s wealth but rather were working vessels and I have to say, if anything they made for better viewing and added more ambience and character. I wanted to head over to the Coca-Cola humanoid construct but I needed a beer first so I headed over for lunch at Vivo Telo. I love this place. If hipsters weren’t allergic to the Waterfront this would be their favourite spot and I’m so glad they don’t. It’s décor is light – all pine and crème and a shade of green that reminds me of guacamole, the beer selection leans towards the craft side of things and the food is sandwiches, pizzas, pasta and breads and by jove it’s delicious. I sat there for the better part of 2 hours savouring my Darling brew and occasionally watching the tourists scurry about. It was whilst I was doing this that my next story idea popped up so I found myself occasionally jotting down notes and a line here and there throughout. I was so comfortable there that I didn’t want to leave even though I hadn’t even begun to scratch the surface and had already spent 2 hours there. I eventually picked up my gear, left and headed in the direction of Sevruga and the cruise stands. Beyond the cruse stands docked was an imposing and unexpectedly pristine ship. I’m still not sure if it was a research ship or a fishing one but the equipment suggested that dredging things from the deep was part of its repertoire. What really caught my eye was actually what was next to it, the small colony of seals that had made one of the wooden platforms home. I stood there leaning over the railings and watched the antics of several of the cubs and what I’m sure was a mating. The contrast between their rather clumsy gait on the platform and their grace in the water never seems to amaze me. Watching them swim is an incredibly calming experience, I zoned out and pictured myself too in the water, flowing………
I gathered my wits about me and trudged off past the Cape Grace and onwards to the barrier that encloses the Waterfront harbour area. I took a nice walk to the end, sneakily took a slash in the bushes, and watched as dolphins swam just a little further on in the ocean. Behind me was the now discovered helipad where it seemed every tour operator in Cape Town is based and it seemed busier than Heathrow with every manner of helicopter either taking off or landing throughout the period that I watched. They even had a Huey and I was tempted to go over and ask how much a fly bye would be but the reality that I wouldn’t be able to find enough extras to act as the Viet Cong in time for me to re-enact scenes from Rambo, with me in the title role, killed that idea so instead I turned round and headed back.
By now it was rather late and as I didn’t want to cycle at night I decided it was prudent I left. This was despite the fact I hadn’t been to the aquarium yet or the Nobel Prize statues or been up the wheel, or been to the Coca-Cola thing or the craft barn or the new food section by the red clock tower. Heck, I’m probably missing some things still. Resigned to another visit or two I climbed onto my not so trusty steed and begun the arduous ride back. In traffic. The least said about that ride the better but I got home fine, sore and tired but fine. I made several resolutions after my little trip: 1. Get a better bike 2. Get a better camera 3. Forget about a timetable, it is going to take a lot more trips than I had planned before this little odyssey is completed and I finally reach end. I just hope that unlike Odysseus I don’t arrive at the end and find myself with still more work to do.