Tuesday, January 2, 2007

Cape Town At Last

And God smiles upon us. We are in perhaps the most beautiful city in the world enjoying every minute of it. Our view is spectacular with "Lion's Head" mountain to our left, the beach at Camp's Bay down below and Table Mountain behind us. The evenings bring spectacular sunsets, and the meals have been remarkable. Megan had a pastry stuffed with rabbit and porcini mushroom last night while I enjoyed springbok marinaded in mint and some sort of berry. For those who don't know, springbok is a beautiful antelope-like creature that also happens to be the mascot of South African rugby. I don't feel guilty--it was really good.

Spent today exploring and doing some shopping. Cape Town has recently seen the rise of socially conscious artisan shops, and we enjoyed them immensely. Monkey Biz is our favorite--their crafts are made by women and children with HIV, and the profits go directly back to those individuals (www.monkeybiz.co.za).

But we reflect fondly on East Africa. Sure, it left us in one logistical lurch after another, and, sure, I'm now on Cipro hoping to leave the last of East Africa behind me . . . . but we have some great memories from there.

We learned some Swahili phrases that give a taste for what the people were like. Common adages include "Jambo, mambo?" (Hi, how are you?), "hakuna matata" (we've all seen Lion King), and "pole, pole" (pronounced pole-ay, meaning "slow, slow"). While "pole, pole" is a nightmare for someone trying to travel on a schedule, it makes for the most relaxed, easy-going people. Their carefree happiness was infectious (at times).

We were fascinated early into the trip by the very tall, lanky figures walking on the horizon, seeming to appear out of nowhere, the Maasai. Usually dressed in a bright red cloak, the Maasai grow very tall and thin on a diet consisting exclusively of milk, animal blood, and meat. They are nomads, and we grew accustomed to the sight of their small, squaty huts built of straw, dung and acacia wood. They carried long, smooth sticks also made of acacia that served as defense and a tool for herding. Their appearance always invoked a certain dignity while showing their strong connection with nature. While a visit to an actual Maasai village revealed some of the darker aspects of tourism (culture for sale), we will miss the Maasai.

Without need for much explanation, the animals were really cool, and we have hours of camera footage to prove it. While most of us have seen these creatures in zoos, seeing vast herds in the wild is without parrallel. At times we would look across a field and see around twelve or thirteen different species. At one point, we caught up with the "Great Migration" of wildebeest. We scanned the horizon and saw hundreds of thousands of them . . . . amazing.

The safari experience itself was thrilling. We loved the air rushing at us through the roof of the Land Cruiser as we raced toward our next find (or as the find raced toward us!). While the trip did get dicey at times (see prior posting), we were awed by our surroundings finding both fear and exhilaration. The camping experience added to the fun. Having to watch for lions and hyenas seemed like a piece of cake compared to the camp at Ngorogoro Crater, where we were told that bush pigs would eat their way into our tent if they smelled food inside. Random, intimidating animal calls at 4 AM also add to the fun.

And Zanzibar was Zanzibar. The fruit was unlike any other we've tasted--I may never be able to eat a pineapple or orange again. The people were delightful except when they wanted to sell you something . . . like a "jambo, jambo" CD of African songs . . . which were offered 17 times a day.

The modern culture also gave us plenty to scratch our heads at. The vehicles tend to have names (our bus was named "Freddy"). One vehicle was named "50 Cent" with the name of 50's hit song, "Mdaclub" written on the side. Later Megan spotted the "G Unit" hair salon. Eventually, we started noticing G Unit apparel. Anyway, according to Captain Salem (who sells fish on the sidewalk next to the beach in the evenings in Zanzibar . . . and is definitely not any sort of captain), Zanzibar misses 50 Cent (not that he's ever been), and Zanzibar needs him to come home. Come back to Zanzibar, 50. As the good Captain would say, "Delicious is here" (speaking of his fish stand . . . which looked questionable . . . he served barracuda).

But . . . delicious is actually in Cape Town . . . at the Atlanticview. We're overwhelmed with possibilities, but we've heard of a vineyard where you can taste wine and eat lunch while watching Cheetahs run wild . . . not sure, but it sounds like a "honeymoon" all of a sudden.

PS: No longer using a squat toilet.

PPS: We have air-conditioning, potable tap water and hot showers.

PPPS: The tub is spherical.


wes said...

I am so glad that you have finally landed in a setting that is more "Honeymoonish".

emelise said...

sounds like fun!ps i am glad now you have clean toilets!

Dean Lampman said...

Thanks for sharing your experiences via your blog. I just took a few moments to review the postings and found that you seem to be having quite the adventure -- some parts expected, others not. I agree with your statement that some of the worst parts will become actually treasured memories. That works well for young couples like you; not always so well when you get older like me. Anyway, your current location sounds heavenly. Enjoy, as I know you will!

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