Warmth, wine, white sandy beaches, surfing, hip restaurants, yoga, mountains, wind, and a wonderful city. All within a 100 km radius. This is day 16 in Cape Town – South Africa.
Welcome to South Africa
Load-shedding or no-electricity-to-regions-of-South-Africa is the inability of the South African government to produce enough electricity for all residents. With its outdated infrastructure and power plants, the energy monopolist “Eskom” has not been able to supply enough electricity since 2007. Corruption, of course, also plays its part. For this reason, depending on the region, entire areas and cities are switched off from the power supply. This can range from a period of 2 hours to 96 hours. That’s no joke. Like “wearing masks outdoors” “back then”.
Back to our cute little restaurant on the harbor at Simons Bay, where we were the only guests hastily ordering our food. After a long day. We also paid instantly since the credit card terminal and the, therefore, Internet only works with electricity.
What did South Africa use before candles? - Electricity
From Istanbul… I know, I know. Yes, Istanbul. That is also why we start here in this blog with South Africa and, therefore, reflect the country we are in, not something long gone. From now on, we want to be up to date with our blog and social media posts. Nina insists.
Where was I? Oh yeah, Istanbul. Our flight departed at 2.30 am. So a foolish time to travel relaxed. Especially when we had a good 1 1/2 hour drive from Istanbul city to the airport. At first, we thought the flight was empty as we were almost the only ones at the gate. We had this mental picture of lying stretched out in our row of seats and spending the 11-hour flight to Cape Town chilled. About half an hour before boarding, the “Germans” came. A lot. How Germans usually appear. In packs. So our flight went from “almost empty” to “overbooked”. In addition, chaos reigned as all seat reservations were lost in the system. Tears flowed as couples and families were not allowed to endure the ordeal of a long-haul flight together for the next 11 hours. A few older couples didn’t seem too unhappy about this, and I saw a smile or two on their faces. We had seen the missing seat reservation online the day before. After a 2 hour parody within the Turkish Airlines Hotline, we got our seats back. An adventure in itself.
The 11h flight time was significantly reduced thanks to sleeping pills. So I only had pain in my legs when we landed. The seat pitch on this machine didn’t seem to be made for people over 180cm. My legs only had room when my knees pushed the seat in front of me forward. Poor thing, the seat fell backward every time I pulled my legs up to take the pressure off my kneecaps.
The Entry to South Africa could only be described as unorganized. We waited 90 minutes until we were in front of the border guard, who was hiding in a small wooden cell shielded by plexiglass. He wore a hoodie with the words “Los Angeles” on it. The black hood pulled down over his forehead. He leaned forward and looked at his phone. He held his right hand to the Plexiglas, said “Passports”, and waved his fingers. With his left hand, he typed a reply on Whatsapp. We gave him our passports. He opened one of the passports to a random blank page without looking at the data page and popped his stamp inside. Boom. “How long?” he asked without looking at us. He frowned at his phone. Apparently, he didn’t like the news. “27 years,” I replied, referring to Nelson Mandela’s imprisonment. Of course, I didn’t say that. “3 months,” I reported instead. That was the maximum time we were allowed to stay in South Africa with our passports. He typed a determined answer on his phone, then he took a pen and wrote the last day of our permitted stay in the blank space that his stamp left out. Then he took Nina’s passport and looked for a free page, Baaam. Stamp. Pen. Typing messages on Whatsapp. Passports back. “NEXT!” he yelled. Nobody listened. Welcome to South Africa. We retrieved our luggage from the baggage carousel, which had long stopped turning. Everything is fine.
From there, the usual procedure in a new country. Get money from the ATM (not successful because it’s out of service; the other two too). Buy a SIM card with data (complicated) and pick up our rental car. Of course, the usual chaos awaited us at the rental car center. I will never understand why it can take up to an hour for a rental car that has already been reserved and paid for to be handed over. Of course, it was no different here at the Europcar stand at Capetown Airport.
The clerk first wanted to see my reservation and passport, then my driver’s license, birth certificate, and baptismal certificate. And very important – what did you have for dinner yesterday?
Ok, ok, maybe I’m exaggerating a bit here. Of course, the lovely gentleman also had an upgrade up his sleeve that would only cost me 1000 Rand more per day (about 60 EUR). When I asked which car I would get for this abnormal surcharge, he didn’t have an answer. Then we discussed a little more about the return date. “You’re returning the car on December 4th?” he asks casually. “No, it’s January 4th,” I remarked in the same tone. “I’m sorry,” he said, coughing slightly and laughing a little like old Mortimor in the movie “Trading Places”, “that would be more than a month,” he continued in an amused tone. “Exactly,” I replied. “It’s 64 days, which is a little longer than TWO months,” I continued in my unique voice reserved for rental car salespeople and two-year-olds. “But we don’t rent cars for more than a month”. And so it went on until we had discussed an extraordinary procedure. We needed two additional colleagues of his. After a month, someone would call me and ask about the mileage. I would then have to tell you the truth. Then the deposit would be refunded to me and debited again in the same phone call—this same procedure for the month after.
I was tired when we finally entered the parking lot with paperwork and keys and opened our gray tin can. We loaded our three pieces of luggage and were amazed to find that our Suzuki was new. 18km on the odometer. Then I got behind the wheel. It wasn’t there. Another side. Left-hand traffic. My forehead mentally hit the steering wheel (if it had been there). Switch sides and off to Simons Town. One hour south of Cape Town. We drove longer than expected. Our Google Maps, which we use worldwide for navigation, was still set to avoid “highways”, “toll roads,” and “ferries”. So we drove straight from the airport through the townships. Very interesting.
Here is a brief explanation if you have never seen or experienced townships. Just imagine thousands of corrugated iron shacks standing close together, with rubbish in between, a tangle of power cables above, and a satellite dish on each shack. Oh yes, in front of the sheds, many people are going about their daily lives on the side of the road. Talk, scream, sell something, have a barbecue, and relieve themself. There were also a few cars parked around. Some were burned out, and some were in the worst possible condition. The roads that led between the individual “sectors” were the most interesting. They were new, wide, and even had neatly finished curbs. The only problem was a lot of garbage on the street. Broken glass was everywhere—our poor new little car. We would have been shocked if we hadn’t experienced worse areas in Mexico. So we were glad nobody threw stones or beer cans at us. A real plus.
A good two hours later, we arrived at our Airbnb accommodation. We were tired and just wanted to eat and shower. Our uncommunicative landlady hadn’t been much of a writer beforehand, and now she was conspicuous by her absence. A garden gnome guarded the key, and soon we had opened the heavy iron door blocking the front door. Then the front door and …. A stale, musty, slightly disgusting smell struck us. But that wasn’t the best. It was dirty, and the apartment was used as a storage room. The walls were moldy, and mouse poops were everywhere, even on the slightly damp bed. There was no hot water, the fridge was musty, and there was foul-smelling black water in the washing machine. Small notes were stuck everywhere with various instructions such as “do not switch on”, “do not touch,” or my absolute favorite, “private” (on the fuse box). First, we took a deep breath – or better not. I should mention that we didn’t feel exceptionally comfortable in the apartment. So we took the opportunity to try out our newly acquired mobile internet to contact our landlady. Nothing. Then we called the Airbnb hotline. An hour later, we had our money back. We’ve had bad experiences with Airbnb’s support before, but there was nothing to complain about this time. Now, all we had to do was find a new place to stay before it finally got dark. At first, we wanted to find a replacement for the whole month, which we quickly gave up. The high season was just around the corner, and everything in our price range was fully booked. So we took another Airbnb nearby, just for two days. We arrived, unpacked, quickly took a shower, then drove to the restaurant our new landlady recommended.
We still had the light on when we ate. After that, we sat on our tiny balcony with candlelight and LED light and overlooked the almost dark bay around Simon’s Town. Apparently, some households had solar, batteries, or a generator. We had arrived. New country, new continent. We will solve the problems with the accommodation tomorrow.
"A coming-together of cultures, cuisines, and landscapes. This is Capetown"
Our first experiences
One of the lovely things about South Africa is the English language. Finally, back in a country where we can have an extensive conversation with our language skills! English is the language here alongside Africans. It resembles the British more than American or Australians. A clear indication of speaking to a South African is the “Ja”. [ya] It’s used for “yes”, “ok”, “definitely,” and of course, “I-don’t-know-what-you-are-saying-and-have-absolutely-nothing-to-response”. It’s pronounced low and long as straight out from a pirate conversation. “Arr! All right, ye’ bilge rat! It’s time to teach ye’ how to talk like a real pirate!”, “Jaaaa”.
“No man should travel until he has learned the language of the country he visits. Otherwise he voluntarily makes himself a great baby – so helpless and so ridiculous.” - Ralph Waldo Emerson
Parking-in-and-out-helper OR park attendant:
They are everywhere where the car can be parked. On the beach, in town, in a parking garage, and even in small parking lots along the sea. Most unofficially, some of them officially. Many with yellow or orange warning vests that say something about security, parking, or something else. What are they here for? They help to park and indicate free parking spaces. They (try) help to get out of a parking space, even if they usually position themselves directly behind the car or in a blind spot. They would like a small compensation for this service. From 2 to 5 Rand is the usual tip here. That’s about 12-30 cents.
So far, we have been able to note on our list: 100 jumping humpback whales, ostriches, turtles, antelopes, zebras, baboons, penguins, and brown bears. Of course, we also had the obligatory African gecko in our room. However, he wasn’t doing his job. So it was up to us to remove the spiders, flies and small things from our accommodation. Now I have to admit that I lied about the brown bear. I just wanted to see if you’re paying attention 😉
The water is ice cold. Really cold. Iceland cold. We had followed the Atlantic coast from Portugal to Norway, and nowhere had we experienced the Atlantic so cold. Except for the islands off Vigo in northern Spain.
"An astonishingly diverse region characterized by its abundant wildlife, stunning landscapes, and deep-rooted cultures, South Africa represents Africa at its most memorable. "
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