South Africa Trip: Day 4 – Table Mountain

A View from Below

We decided that we would hike up Table Mountain today.  I had to check out of my Hostel in Milnerton, and since I owed some money still, I wasn’t left with enough to get a taxi to Arnold’s.  I took the shady bus again, and luckily I had exact change, because the caller/money taker was trying to skim money from the passengers and from the driver.  He ended up getting in an argument with the driver, and insisted on being let out on the side of the freeway.  Luckily, I will no longer need to be taking the Minibus. Once I was let off at the station, I got some money from an ATM and then got a cab the rest of the way (considering I didn’t have a map handy).  I got in a cab, which turned out to be an unmetered cab, and at the destination, the driver haggled with me on how much to pay.  I wish I had smaller bills, but the ATM only gave out 100 Rand bills, I ended up having to pay 65 Rand, after haggling with him.  All in all, it still ended up being cheaper than a cab from the hostel in Milnerton, which would have ran 100 – 140 rand.  (about $15-$20), and in total, I paid 71.50 Rand.

We swung by a checkers, a grocery store, and grabbed a few snacks before we headed up to Table Mountain.  With my trusty lumbar pack on, we trudged uphill toward Table Mountain’s lower cable station, which is about a 3.3 mile trek from Arnold’s.  Minibuses drove by, offering rides up to the mountain, but we decided to continue on.  The view just kept getting better the higher we got.

We got to the lower cable station, where all the other tourists waited in line for tickets to take the cable car to the top.  We decided we’d take the long way, and hike up.  We were told it was only an hour hike, but at this point, I could already feel my legs tiring out.  The hike up was really doing knee high step ups.  I felt like I was lunges up the mountain.  After about 45 minutes of this, my calves decided they didn’t like the hard work, and cramped up, so I told Rob, Bert, and Amanda to continue on with out me.  It’s nice when you are carrying a camera around, so you can make it look like you stopped to take pictures, and not to rest.

My friends carried on, and I ended up meeting them at the bottom, before we ended up hiking back down into town, and we spent the remainder of that evening recovering at Arnolds.

South Africa Trip: Day Three – The Boys Are Back In Town!

A Bafana Bafana fan sings along to their National Anthem…

My friends, Rob, Roberto, and Amanda, arrived in Cape Town basically the same time I did.  I had known they were in town, but I realized I had no way of getting in contact with them… The day before, I had spend the day at FanFest, and was secretly hoping that they would randomly show up there.  Unfortunately they didn’t, and so I had to figure something else out.  I ended up getting access to the wifi at my hostel, and I had received an email from Berto and from Jenny (Glickman), a friend who is now a capetonian, with their phone numbers.  I strolled down the street and caught a minibus taxi, and headed again to FanFest.  This time, I had a plan to pick up a SIM card for an unlocked phone I brought with me.  The minibus took quite a different (much longer) route than the previous day, giving me a glimpse of the not so nice areas of Cape Town.  Luckily, it was broad daylight, and I felt safe inside the bus.  I made it to the bus station, and headed for fanfest.  After talking to the MTN rep (MTN is one of the cell phone carriers in South Africa), I was able to buy a sim card for 50 cents (south african cents), and loaded it with 200 Rand.  Apparently, they had a deal that if you spent 40 Rand, you get a yellow and black soccerball bucket hat, and 60 rand would net you a big curly yellow vuvuzela.  Spending 200 rand, the lady brought me 1 crazy I’m-compensating-for something yellow vuvuzela, and two hats.  I had some issues not being able to send text messages (turns out I had to change some settings on my American phone), and was unable to call berto and amanda, but I was able to get a hold of Jenny (whom I hadn’t met yet) and left her a voicemail.  I headed for their hostel, and luckily, Jenny was able to relay to them that I was downstairs, and they came down (this section of the story has been edited for time).  We headed over to Arnold’s for lunch, and it turns out that Jenny’s boyfriend (Enoch!  My man!) is the night manager there.

I had my first experience with an Ostrich Burger (at Arnold’s on Kloof St.), and it was flippin’ amazing.

Rob finally made an appearance, as he had been MIA that morning. Turns out he went for an early hike to Lionshead, and had just gotten back.

We finished our lunch and headed to the Green Market, to explore the stalls there.  But we stopped off to grab a drink at the gas station, and check out one of the many shops on Long St.

At the Green Market, they had many stalls, with many similar items throughout, but pretty unique, very African, things.  However, there are rules you needed to follow if you wanted to survive Green Market Club.  First rule of Green Market Club… don’t make eye contact.  Although everyone there was really nice, these South African’s really know the high pressure sales game.  You can’t linger or look too long at a stall.  Looking for more than 5 seconds resulted in the stall owner calling out to you, “Come, my man, let me show you something!” or “Touch whatever you like!” or “We are almost closing, I’ll make good deal for you!”  Walking around alone, implied you weren’t just looking, or walking through with a group, so that invited further catcalls and whistling. People saw my giant vuvuzela, and would comment “Now that is a vuvuzela!” and would encourage me to a blow-off.  I was new with my vuvuzela, and my blowing skills just weren’t there yet.  They had a few laughs at my expense, but after a short while, I figured it out.  My horn didn’t have the loudness of theirs, but sounded deeper and more like the horn of a Viking.  In any case, I didn’t make it out of Green Market Club unscathed.  I tried my best, as I didn’t want to be hauling around souvenirs everywhere; I figured I could save the souvenir shopping for when I got closer to the departure date.

With that said however, I received a high pressure sales pitch for some paintings I saw on cloth.  I lingered as I locked eyes with a beautiful black and white painting of giraffes on a 18”x72” cloth.  I caught me, and so I asked how much it was.  He said 1500 rand (about $120), but said he’d give me a great deal. (He set me up good with that high number). I declined, and looked at the smaller paintings.  I saw another one of giraffes, and inquired about it.  He said it was 450 rand, and then asked how much I wanted to pay.  I said… hm.  300 rand (about $42).  He agreed a little too fast, and instead of me feeling like I was an awesome negotiator, I felt like I got hustled.  I walked through the market for a little while longer, while I was greeted with friendly inquiries about my nationality… “Korea?” “Japan?”  I told them I was from the US, and they excitedly proclaimed their support for our team, and I engaged some conversation, as we both talked about the excitement behind the South African team (BAFANA BAFANA!, which I’ve heard literally translates to BOYS BOYS!  Which is something I can totally get behind… wait, what?)

Rob and I made our way to FanFest to watch the Spain v Switzerland game, where the Swiss decided they no longer wanted to remain neutral, and won the match. Rob spent that time writing in his Emo Diary…

We made our way back to Arnold’s to meet up with Berto, Amanda, Jenny & the gang.  We spent the remainder of the evening there, and watched the home team lose in a heart breaking fashion to Uraguay 3-0…

I again had a difficult time with the Taxi, as the driver had never even been to Milnerton… he explained, “I’m just like you.  I am a foreigner here.”  Great, that’s really reassuring.

That’s all for now…

South Africa Trip: Day Two – Cape Town Arrival and Shady Bus

Flight to Cape Town was a crazy 11 hour flight.  We arrived just shy of 10 AM, but I had been up since at least 7 AM (Midnight, central time) for some on the plane breakfast and I had slept for the majority of that flight anyway.  I was picked up at the airport by the people at the hostel I was staying at.  I had inadvertently booked a hostel for the first couple of days out in Milnerton, so the pick up cost me 230 Rand (about $32).  Highway robbery.  It’s not that expensive really, but I’ll explain why I say that in a second.

I got to the hostel, and met a couple of people that were currently staying there.  One was a Mexican guy that was currently living in Paris, and spoke really good English, on top of Spanish, and now French.  Already more worldly than me.  We chatted for a bit while we watched a replay of the Italy/Paraguay game, I believe it was.  Then I talked to Martin, a bloke (that’s a British guy, for those of you not in the know…) who was visiting with his 13 year old son.  Super nice guy, and we talked about sports (not my forte, but I managed to hold my own), and then I told him I was probably going to go into Cape Town to explore a bit.  He recommended I tried the “bus”.  You know, to experience it.  He said, it was totally legit, and super cheap to get to Cape Town. So I decided even though it sounded a little shady.  And let me tell you, it was exactly as he described it, I didn’t really believe him when he first told me.

Basically, I left my hostel and walked a couple blocks to a main road, and crossed the street.  I walked toward the “bus stop” except for these “buses”, stops are not required.  The bus is actually a Van with 4 rows of seating. In front is the driver.  His sidekick sits in the back next to the sliding door of the van, and basically leans out the window whistling at people that look like they need a bus and yelling, “Cape Town” but with their accent it sounds like “CapTime”.  So, obviously, when you see an Asian guy walking on the side of the road, you gotta assume he’s travelling.  Anyway, I made it on the Bus and was told it was 6.50 Rand (pronounced as Six Rand Fifty, less than $1 US).  I handed the “Caller” a twenty rand bill (i suppose you would call it), and he handed it to the driver. The driver simultaneously drove, slowed down for potential customers, and made change.  These buses were pretty common it seemed.   We caught up with another one, and the driver honked.  He told everyone going to Cape Town to get out, and go to that van.  He gave that guy some of the money, and it was basically a bus transfer.  I hadn’t been on the bus for 5 minutes when this happened.  This other van took us the rest of the way.  We all got out, and everything was good.  Overall, it was good, albeit a strange experience. Also, I’d like to add, that while on the bus, I thought about how I should have done a little more to remember how to get back to my hostel (like, what the major intersection nearby was), but more on that later. The bus though, was just like Martin had described, it was something I had to experience for myself to believe.  Everything he described was to the T, with the driver, caller, and potential for bus transfers.   He also said it was kind of shady at night, so he recommended taking a taxi home.

I ended up going finding the FIFA Fan Fest and just hanging out there the rest of the day.  They were showing all of the games on a big screen in the middle of Grand Parade, the oldest square in South Africa.  It rained a little bit throughout the day, but was nice, if somewhat chilly for the rest.  I also ate at Nando’s for lunch/dinner, based on a recommendation from a girl I randomly met in Milwaukee a few weeks back on my friend Matt’s Bachelor Party (one of the guys commented on her unique shoes, and she said she got it in South Africa, so we started talking and I facebook friended her so I could squeeze her for more recommendations/advice).  The food was really good, and definitely better than eating at mcdonalds.  (Although, I’d like to see what different things McDonalds has to offer here in South Africa.)

One of the great things about soccer/football, is that how much people love the game.  I have some great fan reactions of people and them celebrating for every goal, save, near goal, bungled play, penalty, or missed penalty.  The games that I watched today were New Zealand vs Slovakia (1-1), Ivory Coast vs Portugul (0-0), and Brazil vs N. Korea (2-0).  The Ivory Coast fans were awesome to watch.  I’m pretty sure it was just a unified support for any Africa team in the World Cup that really showed.

I headed home around 11pm, and tried to take the minibus/taxi.  I got in one headed for Milnerton, only to be kept waiting, as there was no driver.  There were a few others on the bus as well, but there also was a lingering odor of perspirant in the minibus.  I sat for a little bit (maybe about 5-10 minutes) debating whether or not I should get off the minibus, whether I should say anything. I decided, the BO in the air was a sign from above that this wasn’t the route for me.  I ended up getting out of the bus, and walking away quickly, and when the man called after me asking where I was going, I said I was going to talk to my friend.  I ended up getting a taxi cab, and I told him the address of the Aloha Lodge in Milnerton (6 Algoa Rd), and he said yes, get in.  However, he failed to mention he’s not familiar with that address.  We ended up stopping and looking at a map he had of cape town, but unfortunately, his map ended right before milnerton.  We continued driving, and I started to recognize some landmarks (a gas station I had walked by that morning to catch the minibus), and I was eventually able to make it home…

Fun Facts:
In South Africa, they sell soft drinks in 500 mL sized bottles.  I think this is a better size bottle; a little smaller than a 20 oz, just right for quenching my thirst.

They don’t have “Diet Coke” but “Coke Light”.  It tastes different than Diet Coke, I think.  But strange they’d call it something else if it’s the same thing.  They also have Regular Coke and Coke Zero.

These people love their vuvuzelas.  Basically a plastic horn that you blow in to make noise.  And it’s really loud too.  I kept thinking there was a person right behind me blowing it in my ear when actually they were a good 10-15 feet away.  It’s also funny to see grown men, blowing on it, having the time of their lives, when nothing is happening.  They must be just bored.  Or can’t deal with awkward silence.  Also, I think by the end of the trip, I’d like to do a beer vuvuzela (like a flabongo, which is a beer bong made from a plastic famingo, a vuvubonga).

Vuvuzelas are annoying.  Unless you have one.  Which I do.

My Trip to South Africa: Day One – JLe-Over in London

I had a 10 hour layover in London, so I had planned to meet up with my friend/Ex-College Roomie, Thien.

Unfortunately, several delays (plane, and “Tube”) resulted in our time spent together being cut short.  But, we had enough time to get some “Fish & Chips” from one of the “Top 10” Fish & Chips places in London, according to some website Thien looked it up on.  The place was a greek restaurant called Costas Grill.

I should have known better than to trust a Greek restaurant to serve good old-fashioned British Fare, but I couldn’t give Thien a hard time, considering when Thien came to visit me, and my results searching for a fun bar to go to ended up being biker/metal themed… awkward.  Thien then took me to check out some famous sights/sites that we got to see.  Big Ben, Eye of London, and a phone booth.  The good stuff.

This was awesome of Thien to do, considering he had hurt his foot earlier that morning trying to impress somebody by biking 36 miles and then running 6 miles.  In any case, we had plenty of time to catch up on what was going on in each other’s lives (must not have much going on if you can catch up within a 5 hr period), and it’s always good to see a great friend.  We parted ways just in time for me to get back to the airport for my flight to Cape Town, South Africa, and for Thien to meet up with one of his many lady friends to go to the Leona Lewis concert… Good timing on my part, I must say.  Off to Cape Town!

My Trip to South Africa: Day Zero

My bags were packed, and I was ready to go… but before I left, I had asked my friend, Lynn, to exchange some money for me ($200 US American Dollars) into the new currency of choice (AKA the New Gold)… South African Rand.  As it turns out, it was a good investment for me, because that $200 quickly multiplied into 1360 Rand.  So, I am now officially, a South African Thousandaire!  Yeah, that’s right.  I’m kind of a big deal. In addition to exchanging my money for me, (like the Jews used to do, before Jesus kicked them out of the temple… Yup, that’s a bible joke for all you heathens!), Lynn made a spectacular quiche for brunch!  It really got me all fueled up for all the hours I would be spending on the plane in the following days. Roommate Dan dropped me off at the airport like a good roommate should (Thanks Dan!), and I was able to check in to my flight with plenty of time to spare.  Luckily, I thought I would have to pay to check my bag, for my multiple legs, but apparently, checking up to 2 bags on American Airlines was free, and it was all connected to my British Airways flights as well, so no extra fees x3!  I got to use my passport for the first time, and it was quite exciting.  Anyway, enough about travel talk… Travel was uneventful.  Time to talk about fun stuff…