Thursday, January 5, 2012

A road trip to the end of Africa

the sound of the waves crashing against the end of the day;
i think back on this place, all the things that you could have saved
if i'm sleeping through the day, i feel like from this dream I'm awake,
as the sun is making its way down to the edge of the shining lake

all these thoughts spent on you,
they're the only things that are getting me through
all the heartache and the pain,
but i know that summer will come again someday

-"Beach Dreams" by Teen Daze

Cape Town! Everyone who mentions the city does so with a certain sparkle in their eye and excitement in their voice. Cape Town! A hidden hipster hotspot tucked in the corner of Africa, known as the Las Vegas, San Francisco, and New York of Africa, all in one. Cape Town! “I might get robbed once a year in Windhoek, but in Cape Town, it’s more like seven times a year,” says my Namibian friend. We’re certainly not in Windhoek anymore.

We checked into our fabulously luxurious hotel suite and then I grabbed dinner at Mamma Africa’s with Joseph, who I’ve started calling my Road Oppa. Cape Town natives claim the restaurant’s too touristy – and really, anything on Long Street will be touristy – but we still enjoyed it our Zimbabwean dovi and lamb curry, with a side of sweet live music, a band that sounded almost like an African jazz version of Tortoise, with mesmerizing marimbas and drums, culminating in a percussive cover of Shakira’s Waka Waka. Cape Town!

I didn’t think it was going to be a late night, but then we hit up some clubs, including a lively place called Cubana’s, and then all of a sudden we found ourselves in a McDonald’s drive-thru, arguing about what South African laws are about public urination. Yes, Cape Town has McDonald’s. Happiness is going to bed at 4AM with Filet-O-Fish on your breath.

On our first morning in Cape Town, we went for a road trip to the end of Africa, driving around the Cape Peninsula to see what we could see. The entire area is absolutely beautiful, flanked by the ocean and mountains on both sides and palm trees throughout. As you know, the three things in nature that make Gloria happy are oceans, mountains, and palm trees, and so I was very happy (sadly, my hometown Ottawa has none of this).

We drove through the beautiful beaches of Clifton and the beautiful people bathing there. The houses overlooking the water are, as you might imagine, ridiculously affluent. I decided I need to make friends with people who have houses there, maybe set Allison up with a rich Afrikaner boyfriend so I can invite myself over and use the oceanside swimming pool.

clifton beaches

clifton houses

In the midst of all the affluence, we suddenly came across a much poorer informal settlement. It came as a bit of a surprise, because Cape Town is generally very effective at keeping its social problems like crime and poverty hidden out of sight, swept under a rug. With rich mansions surrounding the settlement on all sides, I can only imagine that there must be pressure to push the settlement out for its valuable real estate. Whatever social problems it might face, this ghetto probably has the best scenic view in the world.

We drove through more little towns, stopping at various lookout points to take in the view. Eventually we got to Simon’s Town, a quaint little place with all sorts of neat little shops and more importantly, penguins on the beach.

cuddling penguins

Yeah, I totally thought they were cute too, until one bit me. What a jerk. I like to think it was just a love nibble though. I like to think I have that kind of effect on penguins.

i've been kissed by a rose

Boulders Beach is kind of a magical place where these African penguins hang out, and people swim alongside them. It’s like right out of a friggin’ Disney movie, except the Disney movies don’t portray how much the penguins stink, and also, the penguins bite.

boulders beach

We drove on.

The sun was starting to set by the time we hit Cape Point, which has a lot of great hiking trails in the area. One of them was a very high, narrow and freaky looking walk to the light house at the edge of the cliff. Of course my fear of heights and water kicked in. Of course Joseph made me do the hike anyway. I do what the Road Oppa says to do.

cape point

the walk to the you see it?

it's a pretty hike, but pretty narrow and high...

When we got back into the car, we were confronted, quite randomly, by ostriches on the road.

Eventually we got to our final destination, the Cape of Good Hope, the most southwestern point of all of Africa. We’d basically driven to the end of the continent. It was a surreal feeling, not just because there were ostriches grazing around us. I just kept envisioning a map of Africa, and seeing the exact spot on which I stood. I get these moments sometimes, where I just can’t believe that I’m here where I am, in this faraway place in Africa.

By the time we got back to Cape Town, it was night and time to go for a Mexican dinner at the Mexican Kitchen, washed down with a Naked Mexican beer. We had a great server who we called Awesome Chris, who personally ran to the store to buy bananas for our banana dessert because the store had run out.

We also had a creepy restaurant manager who we called Awkward Nick, who was trying to sell us drugs. I think. He actually asked me for drugs, and when I said I didn’t have any, he told us that we could buy some from Rasta Joe, off in the corner of the restaurant. I asked Awkward Nick why he didn’t just buy the drugs from Rasta Joe himself. I didn’t really get an answer. I don’t know if Asian stereotypes are different here in South Africa, but for some reason people keep trying to get me to sell/buy drugs. Even at the South African border, while the South African police had their dogs searching our luggage for drugs, a guy sauntered up to me and asked me for rolling papers at the same time. Apparently there’s something about Gloria – it makes penguins want to bite and people want to do drugs.

After our yummy Mexican meal, we hit up the gay clubs in Greenpoint, which was nice because Cape Town actually has an overt gay scene, unlike Windhoek. The two clubs Bronx and Cruz were right next to each other, and both full of beautiful sweaty boy bodies bumping into each other on the dark dance floor. The bartenders were all shirtless toned guys wearing silver spandex shorts – and were all straight men, I found out. I imagine the tips must be good in a place like this. There were actually a lot of shirtless straight guys in the club too, as apparently gay bars in Africa are a great place to pick up women – go figure. I got my dance on and didn’t leave until four in the morning again, which was rapidly become my new bedtime. Cape Town!