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Beer and Biryani :: The Travelling Adventures of Matt & Donna  
Jackass Penguins at Boulders Beach, South Africa
February 27, 2007 (17th - 27th)

Kaapstad Capers

Our first real transport test was getting from Simon's Town to Cape Town, we decided to risk the metro train against most white people's advice. Everyone who doesn't use the train has a story to tell about so and so getting thrown off the train by gangs of roving black fella's. After a 1km stroll down to the station, we boarded in first class for a whopping 12 rand each (just over $2).

The one hour train ride was over in no time and finally it felt like we were really in Africa. Simon's Town felt like a little German village compared to Cape Town Central Station. We walked out into bustling street markets with people selling everything from tv's to fried food from shacks along the footpaths. We pushed through the throng and made our way into the city to Long Street, the Kho Sahn Road of South Africa, where there are a hundred different Backpacker lodges and cafe's all in the centre of the city shadowed by Table Mountain.

The cheapest mode of transport around South African towns are the Black Taxi's, or mini busses. These are vans that run on a semi fixed route, you hail them from the street and they will tell you if they are going near where you want to go. Now from my reading – and from what most white Safas have told me – these things are not safe, and most whites don’t take them, so I was a little worried, especially as this type of transport will probably be our bread and butter over the next year. A quote from the South Africa Lonely Planet: "outbreaks of gangsta style shootouts", and "crowded taxi's were machine gunned".

Now after a day or so of relaxing taking in the markets and cafe's, we decided it was time to breakout of the Long Street triangle that seems to suck you in, and head out to the Water Front district, obviously by minibus. Luckily for us, and a massive load off my mind, it was so simple, so quick, and the people on the bus were the happiest most helpful people we have met so far. It really seems that one of the biggest problems in South Africa today is the white South Africans portraying the Blacks as dangerous bad people. Oh, and the Water Front area was nice, though it was way to touristy.

We had planned on two major walks in Cape Town, Lions Head, and Table Mountain. Donna had been complaining of pain in her groin for a few days, I assumed it was either a hernia from the Simon's Town climb, or a swolen gland. On the day we were scheduled to climb Lions Head, Donna woke covered in bites and with extreme pain in her groin. At 8am I took her down to the hospital, luckily for us we were able to go straight in and see a doctor before he went into surgery, and after a very very detailed examination she was told she had a septic gland (infection), was put on a course of antibiotics and told couldn't walk for at least three days. The bites, were from fleas, that night we changed rooms in our hostel (Carnival Court) and the people were so embarrassed they threw in a free nights accommodation as well.

Matt's first death threat :
We were walking back along Long Street in the middle of the afternoon, we'd spent the day strolling around Cape Town, I was tired and not really paying attention to what was happening. Next thing I know this guy's in my face asking for money, I said my standard response to beggars, "Sorry mate, I don't have any change", then noticed that Donna had walked past us, and a second guy that had been hassling her had rounded up behind me.

The guy hassling me kept pushing closer and closer to me with his mate edging me sideways, and said a few times, "Cmon Bro, don't make me use my knife, gimme some money, I don't want to have to kill you". I just kept saying I don't have any, then tried to step off the sidewalk onto the road, i was blocked by a car so had to edge backwards slowly, these guys pushing closer to me, at this point another group of people approached us and the two guys walked off.

Thanks to Donna's injury, our time in Cape Town was a fairly relaxed affair, with Donna not up to much physical effort, we did a lot of easy walks including the Company Gardens, the National Gallery and the District 6 Museum, and generally spent our time de-stressing. We extended our planned stay by a couple of extra days and managed to fit in our two major activities, Climbing Table Mountain (once Donna was fit and able), and taking a bus out through district 6, the area where all the blacks were forcibly removed, and into the townships.

We visited Langa, one of the smaller townships, where we had a beer in a local bar, a smokey little place built from corrugated iron, down a dirty little alley off the street. The beer was brewed in the street in what looked like old 44 gallon fuel drums, and served in communal buckets that are basically passed around who ever is drinking at that time. After that we walked around a bit, and were shown by a local through one of the shared hostels. In one room the size of a a single bedroom, eight people, three beds and all their worldly possessions were kept.

Beer in a Langa ShabeenBiggest Beer I've ever seen, pity I had to share.

After Langa we took the bus over to the third biggest township in South Africa, Kylitshna, where we were able to visit a community project for women, where they were trained in looming, the products they made were sold and the money then helped the sponsors to educate their children.

Kids playing on the streets of LangaKids playing on the streets of Langa

This was maybe the biggest highlight of our time in Cape Town, although we only spent a morning out there, it was really an eye opening experience to see the squalor, hundreds of thousands of people are forced to live in. Yet through it all, everyone was so happy, the kids had the biggest smiles and loved having their pictures taken. One of the hardest things for us to get over is our inbuilt fear of the local black people, yet when ever we have put ourselves out a little bit, they are the nicest people who have been extremely helpful.

In the end we probably stayed a couple of days longer than we needed to in Cape Town and so after two weeks in SA we were keen to get a few kilometres under our belts. Jumping on the train again we headed 50kms East to Stellenbosch to take in the much talked about wine lands of South Africa, finally it seems we are on our way...

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  Was the beer cold?

Anonymous - February 28, 2007

No, it was served at room temperature.

Matt & Donna - June 25, 2007

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