21 December 2013

15. - 21 Dec.: Cape Town to Franschhoek

In the morning we visit Cape Town's famous Aquarium. It's a kids' attraction, with colorful boards and touch pools, but it is most interesting for adults as well. We are most kindly invited for a guided tour by Kevin Spiby, whom I don't really know but whose father Geoff I met a few years ago while diving in the Maldives. Kevin has an innate passion for nature in general and the ocean in particular, has worked here for a few years and thinks this is the best job in the world. Geoff and I were on the same liveaboard then and shared a passion for underwater photography. We then kept in touch via Facebook, and when I messaged him that I was on my way to the Cape he put me in touch with his son. Magic of modern technology.

As we walk in the Aquarium Yan and I are painted with magic ink mark on our wrist so we can go in and out all day. Unfortunately that won't be possible as Yan has to catch a flight home to China in the afternoon.

Of the many tanks and pools we saw, ranging from the cute to the impressive to the most bizarre, the huge tank with turtles and sharks is what I enjoyed the most. There is an elaborate weekly feeding schedule for the fish and turtles here and we happend to be there when Kevin is scheduled to drop bit and pieces of fish to feed the pelagic animals who circle around the thick glass (really thick, as is 25 centimeters!) in anticipation.

There are a few microphone problems so that the master of ceremonies down with the public can't talk to Kevin who is ready on top but in the end it is all sorted out and we can witness some voracious fish dart around to grab their food. Kids seem to enjoy the touch pools, where they can stroke rays, more than anything else.

Final walk through the waterfront. Yan buys me another pair of shorts with countless pockets, the kind of Indiana Jones style clothes I have grown to love most. South Africa is a paradise for outdoor gear and clothing: good quality stuff and very very reasonable prices.

For our final lunch together in Cape Town we head to the Food Market, which is just steps away from the shops and the aquarium.There is so much variety of food from all over the world it is hard to choose. "Ho fame!", says Yan with impeccable pronunciation, it's her second favorite Italian phrase. (Her favorite one is "Ho molta fame!") She has some Chinese noodle served bya smiling Taiwanese lady while I grab a refreshing frozen yoghurt with walnut topping.

But the main feature of our lunch will be fresh oysters which we buy from the "Oyster Lady", a small stand run by a lovely superblack lady that sells only oysters, excellent fresh South African oysters for what is to us a cheap price.

No drinks, no bread, nothing: just oyesters and oh yes some lemon. Not to be missed in the Waterfront Food Market if you like oysters.

Oyster lady
Well time to go to the airport. It's the end of our trip to South Africa, though I will continue on my own for a few days and then join a bunch of Italian photographers for a further tour of more sides of this multifaceted ountry. The airport is small but comfortable. There is a huge parking lot adjacent to the terminal, but it is almost completely emtpy and has an almost uneasy feeling to it even though it is still broad daylight.

I drop Yan off and, after waiting a bit for her delayed flight to take off, I sadly drive all by myself to Franschhoek in the late afternoon. Check-in at the Auberge Clermont was supposed to by at 7:00pm. I honestly had overlooked that detail on the reservation form but they gently remind me at 7:15 that check-in time is past but they will extend me the courtesy of waiting until 7:30. Because of the delay there is no way I am going to make even that deadline, so I am told that I am welcome to come later if I don't mind that the reception will be closed and only the night watchman will be there to see me to my room.  No choice, I am on the road by 8:00 pm.

It's a bit eery to drive at night in the countryside. The roads are good but there is very little lighting and virtually no one around. Well, almost no one: as soon as I leave the city I witness a nasty brawl by the roadside among half a dozen big black guys who scream and yell and throw punches at each other.

I hope my night watchman is there when I arrive and have to get off the car to ring the bell. Night watchman, in Dutch speaking country, I instinctively think of Rembrandt's masterpiece. Well it won't be nearly as grand but the very black and unDutch watchman will be there for me and do his job and then some.

When I finally make it to the hotel, all the lights are off and the gate is shut. I am not really at ease as I get off the car in the dark and start ringing the bell a few times. After about ten minutes I am welcomed by the night watchman who kindly shows me to the parking lot and helps carry my bags to the room in the second floor attic where I will spend the next few days.

Time to go to sleep, but not before reading the traveler's poem which I find on my pillow, written in a delicate almost translucent rollof paper and tied with a straw string.

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