On checking into my hotel in Cape Town, South Africa, I had a message waiting. That?s always so exciting. It?s usually just a note letting me know that the materials for an upcoming sales training program have arrived. This time it was a bit different. The message was from someone named simply “Kurt” and said?
?Please note you will be collected between 08:20 ? 08:30.?
Not wanting to disappoint — or completely sure what was coming — I set my alarm. A lesson that would prove valuable in days to come.
Well, it turned out I was collected for a half day tour of sites throughout the City.
In 1652, the Dutch decided they needed a refreshment station for the Dutch East India Company?s ships. I can’t blame them. It was a long haul by airplane, I can’t imagine it by schooner. Regardless, Cape Town?s European roots were set. Of course, the area is so much older than that. Table Mountain, for example, dates back some 360 million years ago. Or so they say, I wasn?t there to validate.
During my visit to Table Mountain, there was nothing disappointing. It was truly an awe inspiring place for any number of reasons. Not least of which was that the Amazing Race was being filmed there.
The Dutch built a structure called the Castle of Good Hope to protect against invasions (like the ones from U.S. Reality TV Show Film Crews). It?s a fairly interesting fort with a nice military museum that goes into a bit of detail about all conflicts in South Africa, including the Boer Wars (a part of history about which I?d like to learn more because apparently, I?ve got relatives who fought).
In the Castle of Good Hope, there was a lovely painting of the Confederate Raider Alabama capturing the Yankee Ship Tonawanda on 9 October 1862. It was nice to see a reminder of America?s venerable history in a small museum in South Africa.
During the morning?s tour, I met a few wonderful people. Brad, from Chicago, and Victor and Thelma from Mexico City. We had lunch at a caf? across from the Greenmarket Square, which is a negotiator?s dream. There are plenty of “real” African treasures by “real” African “artisans” available for very negotiable prices. There are two things that everybody in Cape Town will tell you when you meet them. First, the world’s first heart transplant was made at a hospital here in the 1960s and second, don’t pay full price at the Greenmarket Square. Really, those are the first words out of the mouths of every cab driver, tour guide, and local.
After negotiating, we all agreed that a beer was necessary. But there was no beer on the menu.
?If you promise to order food here, I can organize your beers,? we were told. It turned out the waiter had some kind of underground deal going with the Turkish Bar next door. We didn?t ask questions.
Thelma, Victor, Brad, and I spent the rest of the day together exploring the area in and around Cape Town. We had a great time together.? During dinner, we talked politics, and technology. ?What?s an icepad,? asked Victor at one point. Brad kindly showed him the iPad we were discussing.
After a late night sipping scotch while eating Impala and Springbok (best meat I?ve ever eaten!), I got back to my hotel to discover that Kurt wanted me collected at 6:00 the next morning. Ouch.
I didn’t set my alarm properly so I woke to a call from the lobby saying the ride was ready. ?Oh. I?m so sorry, Kurt.? I threw on some clothes, ran down, jumped in, and two hours later, I was at a game reserve.
Unfortunately, I forgot my jacket. The weather wasn?t looking good during the 2 hour journey to the Aquila Game Preserve, but I held out hope because it is in a “semi-arid desert.” On the way, we drove past places with exotic names like the Drakenstein Mountains, Olspaase-Stasic, Touwsrivier, Karootuin, and Paarl. We saw Olive Farms and Grape vines. Here, they grow grapes for eating and for wine.
Upon arriving at the preserve, we were handed a glass of the local sparkling wine ? tasty ? and given a big breakfast ? even tastier. Entertainment was provided by the soundtrack of Lion King. No, I?m not making that up.
With temperatures hovering in the 50?s and sustained winds of 30-40 mph (gusting to 60), my jacket was sorely missed.
Once we?d had our fill, we were loaded into Safari Vehicles for the time of our lives . . .
Everyone is keen on “The Big Five,” which are the Rhino, the Elephant, the Lion, the Leopard, and the Buffalo. I got them all. I saw a Buffalo while I was at lunch, but was too busy thawing out to take a photo. Sorry. Instead, you get me:
On the way back to Cape Town, our driver began a conversation with a British couple about some kind of game that the South African national team of the sport and the British national team of the sport were playing against one another. I gathered it was either (1) rugby, (2) cricket, or (3) soccer/football. Fearing ridicule, I chose not to ask. Instead, I just slumped down as low in my seat as possible. I didn?t want to do any damage to US Foreign Relations by indicating my lack of knowledge of these sports.
I was relieved when the subject changed. Our driver put on some music so I could sit back up — my back was staring to hurt. It was a CD with synthesized instrumentals of rock classics like ?Bohemian Rhapsody? and ?We Didn?t Start the Fire.? The beat was kindly provided by the snoring ladies behind me.
By this point, I was busy nursing my sore back (from slouching) and my newly forming sunburn.
Cape Town is incredible. It?s Europe meets Africa in the most accessible way. Sure, crime is a concern — as I was checking into the hotel, a guy was on the phone with his credit card company about his stolen wallet — but, if you stay vigilant and listen to advice from locals, you?re okay.
Anyway, time for bed. Kurt wants me collected tomorrow at 08:30!