Travels With Myself

A Personalized Periodic Update, just for my family and friends, of the Ongoing Adventures of Your Favorite World Traveler

Location: Budapest, Hungary

After nearly 30 years in the financial industry in the US (mostly California and New Mexico), I decided it was time for my second life. I sold my house, sold my car, sold all my furniture, took a TEFL course and moved to Budapest to teach Business English to the business people of Hungary. Amazing mid-life change! I taught for about eight years, then pretty much retired. Since then I have traveled extensively, and have been to nearly 75 countries. I have had six books published, mostly about my travels - see my author's page on I have made friends all over the world. Becoming an expat is the best move I ever made and I plan to continue my travels indefinitely. Come join me on this blog and enjoy the places I've been and the people I've met in the past and present and hopefully will meet in the future.

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Cape Town Follies - Episode Three

It Just Keeps Getting Better
(Be sure and read Episodes One and Two first)

I had checked the weather and had set aside Thursday morning for my visit to the top of Table Mountain, Cape Town’s number one sight and a must-see-and-do for all visitors. The top of Table Mountain is 1000 meters above sea level and overlooks all of Cape Town, so from the bottom it’s a pretty amazing sight. Now, I’ve been to the tops of mountains before, I even lived more than 2,400 meters above sea level in the mountains of New Mexico and I have seen spectacular views, so I thought the experience would be good but nothing out of the ordinary. How wrong I was!
The day was perfect for a trip up the mountain. I chose the HOHO again, as they stop at the Tramway and, after finishing there, I could hop on again for a trip out to Camps Bay and a seafood lunch at the beach again. The bus dropped me at the tramway around 9:15 AM, and there was no line for tickets. I bought mine and walked right onto the cable car, no waiting. Cool. The cable car is round with windows all the way around. I found a spot at a window and grabbed one of the safety bars as I looked out over the landscape. The cable car started its ascent and suddenly I found my hands sliding along the safety bar as it slipped away off to my left. WTF? I finally realized the floor of the car was rotating, all the better to see 360 degrees of the scenery during the ascent. How cool is that?! Guess I haven’t been on a cable car in awhile.
We arrived at the top and I walked around to the edges of the mountain, fenced off and safe for visitors. Well, it was truly spectacular, different, awe-inspiring. It was….special. It has to be experienced to be believed. I could understand why it was the number one attraction of Cape Town. Don’t miss it. I stayed for an hour and a half, checking out the sunning dassies (like ground hogs, but closely related to elephants), watching the Cape Town Abseilers hanging off the rocks, staring wide-eyed at the scenery and the clouds gathering below the mountain and the beaches and the whole of Cape Town spread out before me. Wow. I bought a bunch of souvenirs and finally tore myself away to make the trip back down to the tram station, which was by that time crowded and sporting a long line to buy tickets. My planning was, once again, immaculate.
HOHO was waiting for me at the Tram station, so I hopped aboard for the trip to Camps Bay. The day was still sunny and hot and it was just great to laze back and enjoy the ride from the open top of the bus. My suntan continued to deepen. Off at Camps Bay, this time I decided to try a place a touch less costly than the last one. On my previous visit I had spotted a place called The Mussel Bar, and the day virtually screamed out for a potful of mussel and fries and a cold beer or two. So that’s what I had. For around 11 euro I got a large bowl of about 25-30 mussels in their shells, swimming in a creamy sauce and accompanied by a couple of dipping sauces and some fried potatoes. Just like Brussels. Only better, due to the beach and sea view across the road.
Back on HOHO to the V&A where I continued my shopping tasks, finding pretty much everything on my list. I was pretty bushed by that time – all that sitting and eating, you understand – so bused back to the hotel for a well-deserved rest. After a shower I walked up Long Street again, finally stopping at The Dubliner Irish Bar and restaurant. I sat on their terrace balcony, overlooking Long Street; I passed on the free buffet (silly guy!), and instead went for the beefburger and chips with a Guinness or two to wash it all down. For the first time in Cape Town, I found a bar service not great and smiling. And in an Irish pub! Ah, well, it was still a lovely evening. Back at the hotel I decided to see what the local TV channels had to offer, as I don’t get English-speaking TV in Budapest. The choices weren’t too bad, some movies and local sitcoms, but what really got me were the commercials. I love commercials in foreign countries, and South African TV was no exception. My favorite was one selling products to overcome “weak erections, premature ejaculation and other penile dysfunctions.” On television, yet. Nothing like telling it like it is.
Friday March 2. The week is rapidly coming to a close. This day was my tour of the Langa Township, one of those shantytown, slum areas that seem to infest South Africa due to overpopulation in the cities coupled with inadequate and insufficient housing for everyone. We began our tour at the District Six museum, dedicated to the 60,000 people in the old District Six who had been forcibly removed from their homes in 1967 and resettled in other areas to make room for more whites-only housing near the city center. More than 40 years later, no housing has been built, due to squabbling among the various groups involved, lawsuits, popular indignation, etc. And some of the former residents of District Six are even moving back into a few of the newly-constructed small apartment blocks in the area. Then we drove to the Langa Township, which consist of partly “nice” apartment blocks and partly tin shacks. Our guide took us on a tour of the area, which makes Watts in Los Angeles look like an upscale beach community. The shacks are merely four tin walls and a roof cover to keep out the weather. There are a few communal water pipes scattered throughout the area, along with communal shower buildings and communal toilets (serviced twice a week!). And yet, for all that, the people we encountered seemed, if not exactly happy, at least resigned to their lot for the present. They all smiled at us and welcomed us and seemed to take life as they found it and hoped for something better for their children.
A favorite on this tour was a visit to a local Township shebeen, really just another tin shack, but one where a local woman makes and brews and ferments her own brand of beer each day. Our guide told us the name of the beer, but since it has a tongue click in the middle of it I can’t reproduce it here. Ask me sometime. Anyway, in the shebeens, the customers sit around the edges of the walls while the brewmistress uses a small bucket to scoop out a bucketful of newly-brewed beer from her brew vat (looked like an old washing machine to me). No cups or glasses are used in the shebeen. The bucket is passed around and each person drinks directly from the bucket, careful to hold it steady so there’s no spillage of the precious liquid. The beer looks like dirty dishwater, and has a consistency of a rather thin porridge, but it’s pretty much tasteless. Yes, I did drink some; see my pix on Facebook. The two brave tourists (me and a German guy) who opted to try the beer were offered the first tastes, undoubtedly by design, so the bucket was as uncontaminated as it would ever be. To this day I haven’t suffered any major side effects, and the rash on my tongue is almost fully healed.
Next we stopped at the smallest hotel in the township area of Khaylelitsha (I can’t pronounce it either), right in the middle of shantytown. People actually pay to stay there. It was clean and neat and run by a friendly (what else?) matron. Just a short visit until we turned a nearby corner on foot and entered a local township pre-school. Three-to-five year olds, eager to see visitors and have a break in their daily routine. Bunches of cute little kids who put on a brief show of songs and dances for us while their teacher made a dignified plea for donations. For a good cause even I will give something. After the van dropped me off at my hotel, I opted for another mezes and beer lunch at Baran’s balcony overlooking Greenmarket Square. More local shopping and a short nap to recover from my exertions in the township, where, I forgot to mention, we witnessed an old woman burning the fur off of sheeps heads in a wood fire. Maybe I put that out of my mind on purpose.
I thought I’d try another Internet place I’d found to watch the sunset that evening, a place called Rafiki’s on Upper Kloofnek Street. When I got there the balcony was filled with backpackers and somewhat grubby twenty-somethings. It was loud and noisy and everyone smoked, and even outdoors the smoke on a balcony is not much fun to be around. I had one beer and left. Not my cup of tea anymore, if it ever was. Instead, I walked down to Mama Africa’s, another place on Long Street that had gotten good reviews. It’s an African food restaurant with a nice bar area next to a bandstand for the musical entertainment, which each night is a marimba band. Three guys play the xylophones, one regular drummer, at least one African drummer and one or two singers who have to be heard to be believed. Truly astonishing. They didn’t use microphones, as their range was sufficient to carry into the main dining room, and probably even over to the V&A Waterfront. I bought three CDs, one for me and two for gifts.
As is my usual wont, I sat at the bar to have dinner. My choice for the evening was Mama’s wild game platter: servings of kudu, crocodile, ostrich, springbok and venison sausage, with sides of dipping sauces. Really tasty, tangy food and, accompanied by that fantastic band, it was another fun evening in Cape Town. And for the over-indulger, next to the bar area was a Breath-alyzer, to make sure you were sober enough (at least, legally sober enough) to drive home.


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