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Thursday, August 26, 2010

Final Days in the Cape...

After my EXCITING weekend getaway, I only had TWO days in the city...I had felt as if I really hadn't seen much though I had been in Cape Town for nearly two weeks. I didn't see much because I spent most of my days waiting for my paperwork to process my Russian Visa. Since I had signed up for the overland tour, I only had TWO days left to see whatever I hadn't yet seen in Cape Town.

The following day, Peter was kind enough to loan me his car again and I went back down to the Cape Peninsula. I got up early, 7ish, but perhaps I should have gotten up earlier. By the time I got there, it was nearly 9AM. I had also signed up for the Robben Island Tour that day which was scheduled for 1PM. I thought I'd save the Robben Island Tour for my last day but then I heard that many trips are canceled due to inclement weather and in Cape Town, you really didn't know. So I booked my ticket online and needed to make my way back to the Waterfront by 12:30PM. I also needed to allow myself extra time too since it was my first time driving there and I didn't know how the parking situation was going to be.

I spent about 1.5 hours or so at the Cape Peninsula which I felt wasn't enough. Well, maybe I saw enough but I didn't like the idea that I was rushing through and the idea of not getting my SAR75 value was probably what was killing me more. I was insistent on coming here because this is where I thought the two great Oceans meet: the Atlantic (US east coast) and Indian Oceans. I was surprised to find that this belief is incorrect. Many probably are led to believe this because it is actually the most southwestern part of the African continent. A bit westward, Cape Agulhas, is actually where they meet and it is said that it's an interesting sight with different shades of water meeting at a random point in the ocean, pushing against each other in different directions. A National Park, Cape Agulhas is only a stone's throw away from Betty's Bay and had I known that this was the real location, I would have, no question, stopped here. Oh well, I suppose I have to save some things for my return.

Cape Peninsula
Cape of Good Hope

So at about 11AM, I made my way back up to the city and headed toward V&A Waterfront. I only had 1.5 hours to get there and I was hoping that I would be able to get there without getting lost because I really had no time to spare. The drive was smooth besides the one point where I found myself driving in acircle, and then a few minutes later when I got pulled over by a traffic cop! Thankfully, Peter, is diligent ingetting all of the registrations and licenses sorted that I was quickly waved through after showing off my Hawaii Driver's License. I was also most worried that I wouldn't find parking quick enough OR, more importantly, that I would find parking but it would cost me more than I was willing to pay. Fortunately though, when I was at the Cape of Good Hope, a tour bus was also there and when I had asked they suggested that I park near the Clock Tower. Luckily, since I had done this drive the night before, I had more or less an idea of how to go.

When I got to the Clock Tower, it was 12:15PM so I still had 15 minutes to find parking and get to Robben Island. Nicely, the signs were very well displayed in large letters and I arrived but still didn't know where to park. It seemed that I was heading into the parking lot in the wrong direction (and we know that is NOT a good thing!) so I called out to a man walking through the lot. I asked if he was from around here and told him that I was trying to find parking. He told me that I needed to go around the lot to get to the entrance. I must have seemed fairly desperate and the idea that I would miss my $30 tour and the chance to see the cell that Mr. Mandela spent 18 years in that he said, "well, I have a boat here so I think I can find a parking for you". REALLY?! It was as magical as turning and finding my backpackers in Stellenbosch! So I asked if it would be okay and had him show me the way. This good samartian, Tiago, was my angel and he helped me get to my tour! I had him hop in my car for the 100 meter drive (getting a bit too comfortable riding with strangers in the car!) and we turned off to the side and parked literally around the corner directly across the entrance. The entrance to Robben Island was right across the way unfortunately though there was a bit of water that prevented me from getting to the entrance! There were a bunch of guys nearby so I asked them how I'd get there, they pointed to the delivery entrance. I thought I wouldn't be able to get in since it was guarded by security. I went over and she asked me where I was going and I told her that I needed to get to the Robben Island ticket desk and so she quickly opened the door and let me in. After getting in, I had no idea where to go! It was like a scene out of 007, where I was chasing the bad guy. I had to creep around and finally had someone help me get through the backside of the entrance. 12:35PM and I made it in time for my tour!
  Nelson Mandela's Prison Cell for 18 Years

The tour was divided into two parts after we traveled by boat to the island. Upon arriving, we were herded onto tour buses (3! there were a lot of us!) and went around the island by bus. I was so lucky to have a really good tour guide and I thoroughly enjoyed my tour because of him. After about an hour or so, we were dropped off at the main prison area and were guided by a former political prisoner. The ratings of the tour started to go down as the second guide who should have made my tour even better because he actually spent time in the prison for some years, was disappointing. I could barely understand what he was saying and he didn't seem to be as passionate about the tour as my first guide. It seemed as if he just did it because it was his job and he’d get a lot of tip money. At least we got to see the cell that Mr. Mandela had spent years living in.

The tour was about 4.5 hours and I got back just about 4:30PM. I was attempting to cook Hawaiian food for Peter and his fiancée, Claudette, so I needed to do some grocery shopping. I was trying to figure out where I would go and where I could park. Like any big city, parking is always going to be an issue. I think were quite spoiled in Hawaii where we have many large parking lots and if it's grocery shopping, parking is free. So after contemplating for some time, I decided to continue to leave my car there as I went shopping. It took me about an hour to try to find the closest ingredients to what we find back home. I was finally on my way about 6:00PM.

Dinner was okay though I couldn't get the Kalua Pig right. I don't think I bought the correct cut of meat. It came out quite dry and hard but my guinea pigs said that they enjoyed it (I ended up making kalua pig and cabbage the following night which was much better). On the menu that night was: Kalua Pig (sub-average), lomi salmon (descent), ahi poke (excellent!), chicken adobo (not so good because I had to use Kikkoman shoyu!), rice (could have been better) and haupia (excellent!). That night I had an idea that I should really try to hone my cooking skills as this is really the only way (the best way) to bring a bit of Hawaii to these far corners of the world; I think with some practice, I can eventually pull it off! It did start to make me start to consider culinary school too...I did come up with some pretty great items to sell at our restaurant! If I could only learn the technical part of cooking...
Kalua Pig and Cabbage

The following day was my last full day before I would be leaving on my tour the following morning. Woke up early to head down to pick up my passport from the Russian Consulate. I was a bit nervous because even after all the hard work of applying for a visa and forking over the fees, you really don't know if you'll be granted a visa. I waited about 30 minutes before they finally called me to the window and presented me with my passport that had one full page dedicated to my Russian Visa! Woot! I was relieved to have received it in South Africa and not have to deal with it in London (everything is just more expensive in London and I didn't want to have to pay $8 just to get to the Consulate).

Peter was again kind enough to let me borrow his car again (bless you Peter!) and so I spent the remaining part of the day driving out to Kirstenbosch Botanical Gardens area. First I had lunch with Tamsyn (she works nearby) and spent our last meal together eating meat pies from the convenience store. I love those pies! After her lunch hour was over, I found my way to the Gardens to enjoy the peacefulness and tranquility that this beautiful garden had to offer. It's places like these though, gardens, couplish places that makes you really bored and lonely that you're traveling alone. It was a beautiful garden with wide open green spaces with a portion of the foliage very similar to what we would find back home. There were also many other plants that were only found here at this site.

Photos from Kirstenbosch Botanical Gardens
After the park, I decided to head home and start packing. I'd be leaving for the tour the following morning and needed to be there at 8:00AM. Peter was kind enough (AGAIN) to drive me to our meeting spot. Since I'd be getting there a little early, I asked him to drop me to a place nearby where I would be able to connect to free wi-fi. While sitting on the side of the road, there was a man that actually stopped his car and came out to ask me if I was okay and if I needed a lift anywhere. I must say South Africans are truly nice people! I declined, finished up on my internet and walked over to our meeting spot.

Peter dropping me off early in the morning to join my tour...

The tour was costing me almost $100/day for 7 days but I had decided to do it because I found that this would be the only way that I'd be able to travel to Namibia from the south and would be able to stop at a few of the southern towns as well as see some of the famous natural beauties that the country was known for.

I couldn't believe that my time had finally come to leave South Africa...well not really, I'd be back after traveling around to Namibia and wherever else I ended up, but I couldn't believe that I was leaving Cape Town. I still felt quite cheated (having my time usurped by Visa matters) and that there was still so much more for me to do in this vibrant city but I had to go and I guess whatever I didn't get to do, would be done on my next trip back.

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