• Joanna

Been Here Before

Updated: Mar 21

“Nothing but breathing the air of Africa, and actually walking through it, can communicate the indescribable sensations” William Burchell

Another tour today. My life is tour after tour right now and will be until January 13th. No wonder I can’t relief myself of jet lag. I crash in my little van seat, between stops... and my neck pays for... then I’m up all night writing about it.


Today was the Cape Penninsula tour.  


AlI I really knew was that I was going to be seeing some coulorful huts, some penguins and standing at the most southern tip of Africa.

Other than that... sky was the limit. I was picked up at 7:08AM (time intended was 7:30-8:00, so I was just in the middle of my much needed morning coffee when the hotel doorbell rang) and after an extensive tour of the city, picking up other tourists from various hotels, we headed south.

There were TWO tour guides in the van today. John - driver and main guide. Santana - brought on solely because she was bilingual and could translate for a couple Portuguese that were joining the tour. By the time everyone had boarded, there were zero Portuguese speakers. It was then that they all realized that the main office had messed up and the language that needed translating was, in fact, Japanese. As Santana didn’t speak Japanese, she tagged along for the ride. I think there was a little bit of a tour guide power struggle going on between her and John, because if either of them made a suggestion or contradicted a decision, the other would respond, in a terribly polite manner, “Thank you so much for suggesting that...” and the day would continue.


Along the way, we made our way through Sea Point, Bantry Bay, Camp’s Bay and Hout Bay... Stopping along the way for the much appreciated tourism photo ops.


Stunning.


There is no other word to aptly illustrate the views that we encountered along the way.


Breathtaking.


That’s another suitable description. For reasons unbeknownst to me, the tour guide, John, became convinced that every stop we made, I had somehow been there before.

I had not... and answered ‘No’ a lot today.


Every single town. Every single location along the way down the Cape Penninsula...


You have been here before?”


No.


Do I look familiar?


It all started with a bad horse joke. One lady in the tour mentioned at our first stop that she would love to try horseback riding. The only reason she brought this up was because we spotted horses on the beach off in the distance. I pointed to a nearby stable I spotted. I would attribute it to luck and not my failing eyesight, but the truth is that horse stables can usually be recognized easily from a ways away. Suddenly I was the expert of the area.


Our first major stop was in Hout Bay and it was there that we were given the opportunity to board a crowded vessel and head out to a remote location known as “Seal Island.” I opted out of joining in this fascinating & educational adventure because it cost money, the boat was literally sinking there were so many crazy tourists on board and...  well, I don’t really care about seals. I feel strongly that if you’ve seen one seal, you’ve seen them all.


I wandered around the dockyard and was harassed by the local craft market vendors instead. They really try to push the things on you that will never fit in your backpack... large wooden carvings of giraffes, stone decorative hippos, wall hanging tapestries... no, no, no thank you... I already mentioned the lady who wanted to ride a horse... well, she was annoying and there with her equally annoying husband. She is one of those people that might as well be giving the tour. She finishes sentences, continuously nods and moans & grunts about everything that she either does or doesn’t approve of.  She has seen everything and knows everything and can one up everything.


Carol.


Carol and Ron.

Ahhh Ron with his 19 combed over hairs and his pink pants... having to listen to everything Carol knows, all day long... without a break.

At different points during the day, she would almost have a full on orgasm, squealing with joy... and when she finally would realize that no one was paying any attention to her nor would they bite on what she was making such a fuss about, she would announce something stupid like “There is just SO MUCH information on this cute little map!”


We all continued to ignore her, regardless of what trivial crap came out of her mouth. If I asked John, the driver, a question, she would immediately jump in to answer it. I eventually had to be rude, in an attempt to try and make her stop. It didn’t work.


Nothing did.


While we were driving south, I asked John if the officials at Cape Point did anything special, like stamp your passport upon arrival? Some unique places in the world will do that... like Churchill (polar bear capital of the world), Machu Picchu, Cuidad Mitad Mel Mundo of Ecuador (equator) and Llanfairpwllgwyngyll-gogerychwyrndrobwll-llantysilio-gogogoh of Wales (longest town name in the world)...


... is everyone picking up what I’m putting down?


Not Carol.

She automatically turns around, looks at me and says, “I think that John is trying to say that if locals want to enter the national park at a reduced rate, they need to provide passport proof that they live here.”

No, Carol... that’s not what I was asking.


Her claim to fame was being able to speak English and German.,,, and narrowly surviving being pushed out of a bus by me today.


Next big stop... we traded seals in for African penguins.


Are the penguins in captivity?”


Nope... it’s a national park.


I’m in!



And zero regrets... Now anyone that knows me can confidently say that I‘m not one of those people that  normally prides myself on being much of a ‘birder.’ I do NOT incessantly photograph birds... except for today.  Today I could be placed in the category of crazy bird lady. Today I was a penguin fanatic. I have no idea how it managed to mesmerize me as much as it did... thousands of the cutest little penguins... just standing there, almost frozen in time. Like prestigiously placed little tuxedoed statues, scattered all over the surrounding rocks and sand. The place was called Boulders Penguin Colony and it is nestled in a sheltered cove between Simon’s Town and Cape Point. It’s quite shocking really, to believe that these endangered birds are thriving set in the midst of a residential area. The area they wander freely in (or stand there straight as a statue) is protected and it remains as a natural an environment as can be..

*Insert funny... because of their donkey like braying, they were previously called the Jackass Penguins. This tour gets more and more interesting and more and more... thought provoking.


Carol was terribly put out that she couldn’t get up close and personal with the entire waddle. Apparently the brochure badly misrepresented the relationship that she was planning on developing with the penguins.


I didn’t kick Carol... bravo me! I did remind her that we were in a natural park... not a zoo.


You have been here before?”


No.

I have to mention how lovely it was to drive with a responsible driver who, not only had respect for us minions in the back, but also for the law and the well being of everyone else on the road. Of course, I remained buckled up...  just in case GG was out and about with another tour and barrelled right in to us.

Last stop was the most southernly point of Africa... and I walked all the way up to it and I have the $3 certificate to prove it. The young German girl on the tour accompanied me and I almost died trying to keep up with her long legs. At times, I had to stop and either take my jacket off or take some pictures... just to get a break. She was a typical young 20’s and continuously wanted her picture taken in front of something or other, doing a variety of odd poses.


Ok... I do think that I put some concerted effort in when I either take photos or when someone asks me to take their photos. I find the best angel, try to omit background crowds, zoom in... zoom out, vertical... horizontal... I like to be taking a photo that they can be proud of. I think that I have become this way due to millions of photos taken by strangers over the years- disappointing to say the least!  Blurry or on an angle or someone’s head is cut off or it’s too far away to make out who it is or there are too many people in the photo... always something!

I gave Germany my camera and click, photo shoot done. Shittiest photos ever.


I understand NOT being a photographer, but I can’t understand NOT putting an effort in. I let her continue down the hill, while I waited for another opportunity to have my photo taken. I got a couple more... and then was able to discard the ones that she had taken ... even though the new ones needed editing too.


As I made my way down the hill, I found her getting more photos of herself sitting on the cobblestone barricade, looking out at the ocean, appearing to be deep in thought... her blonde hair flowing in the wind... Stupid... I tried the exact same pose around the corner, but I just managed to look like a cross between a blob and like a growth. Delete!

That was the end of our tour for the day, although we did stop in Muizenberg to see the colourful change rooms that you see in all the tourism videos and photos advertising Cape Town.


You have been here before?”


No.

John was so diligent in his role as a guide, that at one point, he slowed the van down... pointed to the left and said, “Those little blue buildings are bathroom facilities for the construction workers.”


They were port-a-potties.

Bless his heart.


Some baboons slowed us down for a brief time, because they felt it was important to jump on a car ... and just stay there.


Carol and Ron HAD to be dropped off first because they were complaining that they’d been in the bus too long - whaaaa - and they desperately needed to get back to the hotel to see if there was a shuttle to the Waterfront they could catch. So we all had to detour out of everyone’s way to accommodate them.... and then I don’t even think they tipped! They could have just been dropped at the Waterfront, like most of us, but they didn’t want to...


Goodbye Carol and Ron... and good luck to anyone else that encounters them along the way.


The Waterfront is unquestionably the most vibrant part of Cape Town. Someone warned me about going to the waterfront alone at night, but there is no safer place to be. It is brimming with tourists and absolutely bustling with culture and cuisine and crafts and excitement. To sum it up, it’s as if Cape Town found something to celebrate and decided to keep the festivities going every day and every night.

Paid performances and people dancing & singing in the street... buskers and breweries, crafts and cuisine... the trees were all wrapped in white fairy lights and it was all nothing but brilliant at every turn. Right directly in the middle of it all was an enormous Ferris wheel, shopping mall, food market, aquarium, Cape Town’s tallest hotel, a stunning view of Table Mountain and Signal Hill... and, of course, the harbour.


I bought too much... but in my defence, it was necessarily. I completely destroyed my already destroyed shoes at Zip Lining... and desperately needed some new Safari attire...


My bag is enormous and heavy.... this coming from someone who (I’d/ say?) travels a lot... and consistently overpacks a bunch of things I never wear. I have bid adieu to a lot of my old favourite clothes.  They have now been left in a paper bag... in my hotel room ... intended to be either thrown away or donated to good will.  I have a feeling that more will be disposed of as I continue my journey.

Saying goodbye is tough.


My entire warped frame of mind told me that at the end of my journey, I could just dispose of my sleeping bag... easy peasy... and then I would have so much extra room for presents, new clothing and all the other crap I was planning on purchasing ... etc, etc...


Do not be fooled.


This is all a big lie.


... and I know what that means... clothes or souvenirs... Unfortunately I envision me freezing to death at Vancouver Waterfront Station, waiting for my train without any winter clothes on. Maybe I’ll be able to wrap myself in my beaded necklaces and hand painted tapestries... To reiterate, my bag is oversized, terribly awkward, hard to pull on to my back... and the sleeping bag remains dangling from one of the straps.


Life is definitely a struggle...


And yes... I’ve been HERE before..

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