South Africa - Round The World Tour 2003 Day 31
Saturday 12th April
For the second day straight, today, we took no photos at all. I think one of the cameras may be exhibiting withdrawal symptoms. We mostly rested today. The weather did not cooperate so we didn’t take the cable car up to the top of Table Mountain or visit the Penguin colony that live on the West coast, about forty-five minutes away by car, down towards the Cape of Good Hope. In fact, we haven’t yet done any of the attractions that Cape Town has to offer. We haven’t even seen any beaches yet. It has to be said, though, that this break in the schedule has been a welcome one.
Curiously, since we’ve been back in civilisation (a major metropolis), we’ve started to slowly but surely fall back into the routine of a stressful lifestyle. This dawned on me this afternoon. We shopped around a few Bureau du Change kiosks, down at the mall by the waterfront, looking for the best rate to buy some US dollars with. We spent the first twenty minutes trying to find a parking space before we ultimately decided to park in the underground multi-story. Once we determined where the best deal was to buy the cash, we waiting for about thirty minutes or more in line only to be told that we needed our passports (which we didn’t have with us at the time) before they would sell us any cash. I got very frustrated at this and we walked off, having spent a couple of fruitless hours on this task this morning only to come up empty handed. It was at this point that the epiphany hit me. I yearned for the wilderness and found myself looking forward to getting away from it all, again. If this is how I feel after just one month of travel, what are we going to feel like after returning back to the rat-race after another year or more?
South Africa has proven to be a country full of contradictions and contrasts. It is a very different place to the western world as we know it but there are also a lit of similarities. Even the things that are the same are not really the same, though. Tomato ketchup and vinegar, for example, are as readily available here just like back home but they don’t quite taste the same. The KFC fast-food places have the same food but you can’t pick the chicken bits you want like you can back home. Silly, subtle little things like this are the things that stick out in my mind but there are tons of others that I could mention.
One of the things that we were most worried about prior to our arrival here was the food and how we would manage. As both of us are finicky eaters, we were initially concerned that we would not have access to the few foods that we like. Luckily, South Africa is a meat and potato kind of place and we have enjoyed the food here immensely. I’ve had more toasted egg & bacon sandwiches in the past few weeks that the past few years. Chips (as they are ‘correctly’ termed here – not like in America where you would otherwise be referring to crisps) are available everywhere. Fish and chips also seems to be as popular here as in the UK with the most obvious difference being that Hake is the fish of choice to accompany your chips. Hake tastes very good and you’d probably be hard pressed to tell the difference between it and the more customary Cod.
When I describe these differences between South Africa and the western world, as we know it, I’m referring largely to White Africa. Black Africa is a world of its own. For the most part, I’ve felt like we’ve been travelling across the sea of Black Africa trying to navigate between little islands of White Africa – trying not to get our feet too wet in the process. Our accommodation and transportation in particular, as well as the majority of people that we’ve met here, have been White Africa, I would say. This has been largely by design, when I think about it. We’ve felt a little uncomfortable in certain Black Africa environments and find that we feel most comfortable after reaching one of our White Africa islands, such as reaching a destination and securing a B&B accommodation, for example. After being here now for a month or so, I’m by no means convinced that this mind set has been necessary. It’s probably a holdover from all of the preconceptions we brought along with us on the journey. In writing these thoughts down, I can’t help but feel a sense of prejudice and perhaps even a little bit of guilt for thinking this way and in those terms. I feel a little bit angry with myself when I realise that I feel nervous or anxious in a Black Africa environment. Am I justified to feel uncomfortable in these situations or is this simply an autonomic reaction that is has been conditioned into me by the sum of my lifetime experiences to date? These are some profound issues that I find myself tackling with but at the end of the day, I’m glad that this travelling experience is bringing these thoughts out into the open (in my mind at least). If nothing else, this travelling experience is broadening my mind and I consider that to be a very beneficial and worthwhile side effect. I hope it continues. We have a long way to go yet.
Tomorrow (actually, it just turned tomorrow) looks like the weather is going to be overcast and dull again. This was the forecast according to the travel guy that we went back to see again this morning. We had to take him some money for a deposit for the first of our two overland tours. In addition to the R600 from yesterday, we gave him another R5000 today. This was more than enough to secure our places with the next departure with Wild Dog. The second tour from Victoria Falls through to Tanzania will be with Nomad. Depending on how much money the ATM gives us again tomorrow (it seems like R4000 per day is the limit we are running into), we may or may not make the remaining R5000’ish payment on the credit card. The 5% charge will not kill us on this now reduced amount, however so the pressure is off.