Howzit? A common Southern African greeting. In fact, the puppy at the last hostel I stayed at in Windhoek was named exactly that: Howzit.
Anyway, I am currently writing from beautiful Cape Town. It's good to be here. As you might of seen from the last email, I have less to tell. Really, it's not that I'm doing less, but more the amazement and excitement I had in my first month of traveling has somewhat diminished. It's funny because when I first hitched that ride on an overland truck three months ago, I was so fresh and all the travelers on the truck were not. When I saw a monkey for the first time I was so amazed and they all seemed so unfazed by it all. Now I understand. It's not that you lose interest, but that you do get used to the scenery and the animals, and the novelty wears off a bit. I still would love to see an elephant cross the street like I did in Vic Falls, but the everyday amazement has lessened. Also, I find I'm a bit removed in the moment of writing all about the current happenings of my trip, so it's hard to conjure up the scene again. I'll try a little harder in the future since Namibia and South Africa are just as compelling as the other countries, just in different ways.
So, now that I've gotten my disclaimer paragraph out of the way, I'll just give a little write up on my current digs. I've had friends ask me what I thought about this part of Africa and I think my reactions and feelings are similar to most: South Africa is so very much like Europe. At least this part of the country is - quite a change from East Africa. The roads, banks, garbage system, etc., actually function. The number of white people is great, and they hold some of the service jobs which were only held by blacks in other countries I visited. Cape Town from what I can tell is a pretty cosmopolitan place, and if I were to take a township tour I'm sure I'd quickly remember exactly what continent I'm visiting. The City itself has everything you could want in terms of amenities; even a McDonalds, the first I've seen in over three months.
When I was told about Cape Town, and from the pictures I've seen, I was expecting to feel quite at home. The climate and landscape are somewhat similar to that of the San Francisco Bay Area. There are the mountains and the coast together in one. Plus, famous Table Mountain often is covered with fog. Oh, lovely fog. Anyway, at first glance from the bus I wasn't as sure that I had hit home, but now after a week, I'm definitely feeling that there are enough similarities to fend off the slight homesickness I've acquired from three months of constant travel. On a side note, seeing "She's got Mail" on the 20 hour bus ride from Windhoek didn't help either. I'm not from NYC, but it is still enough of home to make me wish I was there for a week or two... But back to the details. In the bus we passed through beautiful green valleys with orange trees and rivers, and green fields with plateau-like mountains in the background. I realized I prefer this kind of landscape to the starkness of Namibia. I really like green, and currently South Africa is just that. Maybe that's another reason I still hold Uganda as one of my favorites places I've visited so far.
Sure enough, within a day or two of arriving, the fog rolled in along with some rain clouds. So, the tablecloth covered Table Mountain as they like to say. Remember, it's winter down here and I'm finally experiencing the temperature change, since up north and east it remains warm even in the winter months. I even have a slight tan if you can believe it. That will soon disappear. If you imagine Marin County or SF during January or February - wet and green with some beautiful clear warm days - that's about what you have here. And in their summer months (our winter), it gets dry and brown just like home too, without fog however.
A big highlight which is not all that interesting but has made a huge difference in my trip is the Hetheringtons. Family friends of ours back home have cousins that live here in Cape Town. I was given their email and phone number, and upon heading down I sent them a small message. They happily replied back saying that any friend of their cousin's was a friend of theirs. Therefore, for the past three days I have stayed at their wonderful abode in Fishhoek, a suburb of Cape Town, looking out on the cold, beautiful Atlantic ocean. They have two dogs, a cat, and a cute five year old named Ben. He has a great little accent from the area. Alex is the husband and blood relative to my friends, and Pippa is his wife. They have been so kind and generous, and have allowed me to have a few days where I'm not a typical backpacker moving from hostel to hostel. I was even given my own room with a comfy double bed and a nice view of the mountains. This is luxury for a weathered traveler like myself. I went to a party their friends were throwing yesterday. The house was set on the beach against the cliffs looking out onto the harsh, huge waves of the Atlantic. It was great to see, especially as I sat by the fire eating a wonderful meal. When the weather clears up, I hope to get out there and do a dive or two.
I took a nice short day trip to the nearby town of Simonstown. While there isn't all that much there, nearby is Boulder Beach, a local hangout for the native penguin. There were tons of penguins everywhere who are always fun to watch. When I had gotten my fill, I headed back to town and relaxed looking at the beautiful view of False Bay. I hope soon to go to Cape Point, which is where the Atlantic and Indian Oceans converge. It's farther south of Simonstown and part of a nature reserve. All in good time. For now I'm just taking it easy and trying not to be a tourist. As to the Skeleton coast, it's called that because there is nothing there and when ships were wrecked upon the coast, that was pretty much it for all aboard. There's no way you could survive out there for very long, or long enough to get to any kind of civilization. It brings a new meaning to desolation. Most people don't like it, and although it wasn't a favorite place of mine, I had to appreciate the expanse of pure nothingness. Not often that you find a place like that.
I don't think there is that much more to add. As I alluded to above, I'm a bit pooped from continual sightseeing, so it's nice to be in a city where I can just amble along window shopping as I might do back in San Francisco. It's just such a big contrast here to what I've seen in the past. You can tell people make enough money here to have a disposable income. That means lots of shops - for the first time I'm really wanting to go on a shopping spree, and get rid of all my lovely traveler type cloths. However, I know ultimately that I'm still on the road and practicality is key. Also, (yes, another digression) do me a small favor and take the time to reflect on how much you have - go through your wardrobe and picture frames, TVs, cell phones, CDs, tapes, appliances, and appreciate them. I got really tired of always being asked to give, give, give while up in Zimbabwe, Malawi, Tanzania and Kenya. But you look at what you have and what they have, and there's just no comparison. The scale is definitely imbalanced in a very big way. Even better, my first item to be stolen - a nice Panasonic sports walkman - was taken at a hostel, most likely by a fellow traveler. The irony!
I saw a play/musical the other night in Cape Town that was a parody of Idi Amin - the ex-dictator of Uganda that forced all the Asians out and killed so many Ugandans. It was quite something to see a take-off like this on such a horrible person. They made it so grotesque that you had to laugh. A different approach to what was done in "A Beautiful Life" regarding the Holocaust but the same idea in terms of laughing at something that is not usually deemed humorous.
Well, I will now leave you with an anecdote or two from my southern Namibia tour. I forgot to tell them last time and while they're probably only funny to me, I might as well add them to those that feel compelled to read on. Have you ever played the game Bulls**t? Seems all the card games I know have names like A**hole, Bulls**t and Sh**head. Anyway, I taught everyone in our tour how to play this fun game. It's pretty much about bulls****ing, and when you catch someone doing so, you call them on it and they have to pick up the whole pile of cards. If in fact they were being honest and you called out "Bulls**t!", then You get the whole pile. Anyway, it was me, Emma (the English girl), three Germans, and the two French couples. It's quite funny to hear the word "Bulls**t" constantly fly through the air. The two French couples were funny because they protected each other, even though one of the wives could easily look are her husband's cards and know if he was telling the truth or not. At one point when it was pretty clear he was lying, I said to Mado (his wife), "You know, you can say "Bulls**t" to your husband." Upon my saying that, she looked at him and said, "Boollsheet!" with a heavy French accent, and of course, that's exactly what he was doing. The look on his face when he was caught lying by his own wife was priceless. It was hilarious to see this very sweet couple catching each other "Boollsheetting" so to speak.
To those of you that have made it all the way through this email: congratulations - I'm quite impressed. To those of you who didn't: well, I wouldn't know one way or another anyway.
'Til next time,
PS: Pictures to come soon.