Goodwill

Dias Beach

My favourite Cape Point lookout spot – often overlooked by visitors.

I swore I would never ever conduct a Cape Point Tour in the week between Christmas and New Year, and certainly not on the day formerly known as Boxing Day and now known as the Day of Goodwill. No way would I EVER accept such a booking.

But of course, this year I did. So sue me, I can’t turn away work and the clients nagged.

I did it on ONE condition: we depart from their hotel no later than 07:30. Late the night before they were trying their luck with emails asking if we can leave at 08:00 because they didn’t feel like rushing breakfast. Not advised, I said, that half-hour could have a huge impact, but you’re the client…. ok ok they said, 07:30 it is.

So of course I had to drag them out of the breakfast room at 07:40 but we were soon on our way. No traffic, no queues, we were at Cape Point by 09:30 … no cars, no traffic, up and down to the lighthouse, not too many people, clients starting to think I lied, that I overstated the road congestion.

Until we drove out of the Cape Point reserve at about 11:30, and saw the queue of cars coming into the reserve.. the line stretched all the way to Smitswinkel Bay. Ha ha ha .. these people were going to sit in their cars for at least one hour, we laughed as we cruised by.

Boulders was busy and the parking lot full because of the popular little beach next to Boulders.  I directed clients and waited for them in an illegal parking spot, in the shade, as they made their way alone to the penguins. 45 minutes later they were back and we were off to Kalk Bay for lunch.

We decided on a short stroll along the beachfront before lunch. The sight of the little beach packed full of bathing bodies and frolicking children and fathers braaing and drinking beer right under the ‘no fires’ and ‘no alcohol’ sign and scolding mothers and pouty teens and passion gappers was something to behold. Almost all beaches were full that day but this is a very small beach with a railway line running above part of it and it is basically inside the small fishing harbour that makes Kalk Bay so pretty and famous – not your ordinary beach.

Lunch at Harbour House was excellent as always and it was a peaceful cool oasis after the heat and throng outside.

Clients were back at their hotel before 6pm happy and tired – mission accomplished and they were thrilled that I got them cracking so early in the day.

Bless the blesbok

eland

Eland

I’ve just spent 2 days with a family of tourists and I’m still not quite sure why they came to Cape Town. They were good decent people but left me more than just a bit frustrated. This was a last-minute booking, no planning or prior discussion.

Apparently they were here to see animals. Wild animals. Problem is, they didn’t research at all in advance so hadn’t a clue that the best game reserves and safaris are not to be found down here but in the Kruger National Park which is many miles away to the north. Cape Town is famous for many wonderful things but authentic game viewing is not one of them. They hadn’t actually ever heard of Kruger. In fact they wanted to go to the zoo. Except we don’t have one. So, we first spent a day at Cape Point where I happily showed them a group of bontebok a few metres away from us, along with some ostriches on the beach and baboons on the road, but they didn’t think much of those.

They asked for a safari so the next day we went to a small game reserve just 2 hours from the city. It’s not the ideal way to see game but it’s all we have. The property is small enough that the rangers always know where the animals are and you can see almost everything in just 2 hours.

Within minutes of starting our game drive we had seen zebras, giraffe, wildebeest, springbok and eland. Clients didn’t say much, didn’t listen to the guide, but took a lot of photos with an iPad. I hadn’t even brought a camera and my phone stayed in my bag. I amused myself by looking for game.

Suddenly, I spotted a blesbok in a dry water hole and called out to the ranger. He drove closer and as we approached we noticed a very young calf with the blesbok. Our ranger, Hyran, became extremely excited and told us that the calf must’ve been born in the last few minutes because it wasn’t there a few hours before.  Sure enough, we could even see its umbilical cord and the placenta wasn’t yet fully expelled from the mother. I whipped out my camera. Mother started moving away very rapidly with the newborn stumbling along behind so we stopped and didn’t go any closer. Hyran and I were beside ourselves, not least of all me for having spotted it first!!  Hyran explained that this was extremely good news because the park only has 2 blesbok. Clients didn’t care one little bit and asked to move on. Where are the lions? they wanted to know.

Blesbok

This is the best I could do with so little time as the mother hurried away with her newborn. Look at his spindly little legs!

So, we drove to the lions. In their big enclosure, one old male was lying next to the track, didn’t even move as we stopped next to it. Client, who had asked to see lions close-up, freaked out and asked that we move on. The other 2 lions were high on a koppie so all we saw was their silhouettes. Then we saw 2 elephants quite close-up playing, as young elephant males do, but client was very scared that they would turn on us, so we drove on. We saw rhinos from a distance but they started walking in our direction, so we drove on because client was scared. This reserve has a rhino conservation project and Hyran is closely involved in it and I asked him a lot of questions, but the client was not interested, so we moved on.

The ‘safari’ ended with a visit to a rehabilitation enclosure where 3 lions are being looked after being rescued from canned lion hunting.  Client was happy now: lions, very close-up but behind a fence. Perfect. If they’d only said so from the start, I would’ve taken them to that lion park place just outside town and they could’ve spent the whole day taking photos of lions behind fences.

On the way home I stopped on Du Toit’s Kloof for a look at the view. Client looked down and asked if we were back in Cape Town.

“Not yet,” I said, “Cape Town is over there, see where Table Mountain is?”

“What mountain?”

Turns out they’d been here for almost a week, staying in Green Point, and hadn’t noticed, let alone visited, Table Mountain.

I think the blesbok and her calf saved my sanity yesterday.

elephants

Elephants having fun

Lion

This poor old boy managed to find some shade on this hot day, without having to go too far. He didn’t even turn his head as we stopped, just looked at us. No zoom used, that’s how close we were.

Flowers for Madiba

I didn’t make it to the memorial last night, which was a glorious tribute to Nelson Mandela, but went to place some flowers at the City Hall this morning. In some ways it’s a silly gesture but it felt good to do that and to mix with people feeling as I did. Afterwards I walked around the CBD and felt something palpable in the air … it wasn’t just summer and tourists and buskers, it was ‘gees’, it was history being made – and it wasn’t the first time we’ve experienced it in South Africa.

These photos are not in the order I want them but WP is playing up tonight and won’t allow me to re-arrange them so …. well, whatever… this was the scene in front of City Hall.

Agang

A new political party gets in on the act.

Angolan

One Angolan or all of Angola? Doesn’t matter, the thought was there.

Bangladesh

Almost a typo from Bangladesh.

big screen

The big screen is there to record your moves,

City Hall

City Hall looking very gorgeous with potted plants and trees and stuff.

City Hall1

The famous balcony where Nelson Mandela first addressed the world after his prison release in the 90s.

Digital tribute

You can sign a book by hand or give a digital tribute.

DRC

The Democratic Republic of Congo is there, too.

flag

People stroll, place their flowers, stroll some more, look closely at messages, take photos, walk on ….

Flowers

Until you go there and see the flowers you don’t realise how much there is. They’ve been pushed very tightly up against the railing (to leave walking space and for more flowers) – the first flowers placed must be quite rotten – you can barely see them under the new ones. I wonder if they’ll be composted and the messages recorded?

My flowers

My bunch with secret message hidden inside the flowers. The selection and process of buying them from the famous flower sellers was as much a part of it as placing them.

Nelly

Nelly Mandela? My sister moment!

Sampler

Someone went to a LOT of trouble making a Mandela sampler…

Tree

Now this made sense – a tree. I hope it gets watered and eventually planted .

Tree2

And another tree

Wine is the answer

Yes, I agree – wine is the answer, with a Coke for the next morning.

More than u think

Madam and Boss

I bought a cheesy top from this lady but it bothered me that she called me ‘Madam’ and another bloke “Boss’ – told her those days are over, no more addressing white people as Madam or Boss!

Nelson Mandela – RIP, and thank you!

paarl statue
It’s 2 in the morning and I am obsessively reading online tributes pouring in from around the world for Nelson Mandela who died just a few hours ago at the age of 95, at his home surrounded by his family.

Wherever you go in South Africa you can’t avoid reminders of this great iconic man. We’re immensely proud of him and in his death we are united in sadness and memories of his smile, his dance moves and what he meant to this country – peace and forgiveness. He was not a saint, did not want to be perceived as such, and there are many, like myself, who disagreed in part with some of his decisions post-apartheid. Be that as it may, he stood higher than most men ever will or ever have and as one friend put it, he lived his life to the complete fulfillment of his destiny – not something one can say about many humans, ever. He was put on a pedestal but he lived up to it.

Many ordinary people were lucky to have met him but I never did. The closest I’ve come to standing next to him is my regular visits to his cell on Robben Island where he was incarcerated for 18 years of his prison sentence, and also the prison gates in Paarl from which he walked as a free man (top photo). Incidentally, one of his nicknames is Tata, an isiXhosa word meaning ‘father’ – my siblings called me Tata when they were young.

We were prepared for his death and we expected a huge reaction from around the world but the reality is still very emotional. I’ve even received email condolences from several clients overseas. Strange how we in South Africa have been his biggest critics and yet we feel the pain as if someone in our own family has left us.

In typical South African fashion we are crying and also singing and dancing, because that’s what we do here. Two of my favourite tweets I’ve seen are: “We must not mourn his passing but must rather celebrate his life” and this one: “Anyone who doesn’t know us in SA would look at our singing/dancing and assume we’re happy he died. Truth is, we’re just happy he lived”.

So, as trite as my words are, this is my little tribute to one of the greatest statesmen who ever lived and whom we are proud beyond measure to count as a South African.

Here’s one of my favourite Mandela quotes. It’s been pinned on my wall for several years in the hope that it’ll inspire me:

“There is no personal misfortune that one cannot turn into a personal triumph if one has the iron will and the necessary skills.”

another table mt view

View of Cape Town from Robben Island.

cell inside

Mandela’s cell as it looks now. It’s a great pity it isn’t more representative of how he ‘furnished’ it and lived in it – he had many books, a desk, pictures on the walls, and later a simple bed.

cell window

Mandela’s cell block from the quadrangle.

Lime quarry

The lime quarry where the prisoners laboured under the hot sun and where Mandela contracted the lung disease that finally contributed to his death. The cave at the back is where he and other prisoners held secret meetings and took refuge from the sun. There is a pile of stones to the right in front of the quarry which was created by ex-prisoners when they returned after 1994 for a reunion. Each person placed a stone in symbolism of their freedom.

view from ferry

The ferry ride to the island can be very choppy at times but this photo was taken two weeks ago when it was a very hot and still day and we were able to stand outside and enjoy the ride and the view.

(I couldn’t bring myself to finish this last night hence it is dated the 6th, the day after Madiba passed away)

Baboons

baboons

Last week I was at Cape Point 2 days in a row. This meant that on the second day I knew exactly where to go to see animals and my client thought I was the bomb of an expert on game spotting! I enjoyed my day enormously because he was keen to see all the animals, flora and every corner of the reserve, instead of just zipping in and out as so many people do.  Despite the wind, we managed to find a sheltered spot for a quick picnic. I did warn him that eating from the back of the car was a better option than hauling everything out – because of the baboons. I’m very wary of the baboons at Cape Point because so many humans have fed them that they now associate humans with food. Given the size of their teeth, I’m not prepared to take the risk.

These 2 were highly entertaining. First the male sat on the roof of this car trying to open a sheet of canvas at the top and waving a small cooler bag around (the small red item you can see). The car’s owner returned from a hike to see the baboon entertaining a bunch of vehicles that had stopped to watch the show. Then came along a female – the male abandoned the canvas and cooler bag and began to try having his way with her. She turned on him very aggressively and he gave up. As I drove off they were lying on top of the vehicle picking at each others’ ticks or fleas.

Just another romantic moment at Cape Point.

cape point

Disclaimer

A note to all accidental visitors:

I am not a photographer and do not claim to have any particular skills whatsoever in that department. I have enormous respect for those who can see the potential in a scene and can create a great photo. Good photography is an art, in my opinion.

I am just a happy snapper, I have no special lenses or accessories, my camera is very simple and it's usually best to leave the setting on auto.

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