South Africa 2016

Posts from our early 2016 trip to South Africa and Namibia

#StreetLife in Green Point

B+E this morning. No, not another break and enter at the 7Eleven in Steinbach — bacon and eggs in Green Point. It’s Saturday!

After lunch we went for a walk — I wanted to see how preparations were progressing on our road for the big parade tonight. They’d already blocked off our corner at noon and were setting up barricades and bleachers beside the route. The parade will start at the Buitengracht corner and end at our corner on York Road. We stopped at a bakery along the way to check out options for tomorrow — we’re invited to Marina’s for lunch and will bring dessert. We’d invited both Paddy and Marina to come watch the parade from our balcony but by early afternoon both had replied that they would not be able to make it. We saw a few floats parked on the side roads with people busily fixing and painting and getting things ready. There is excitement on the street.

From the starting point we headed to the Southern Sun Waterfront Hotel, which used to be the Holiday Inn and was where we stayed for a month back in 2002. I wanted to walk our ‘old’ route from the hotel to down to the V&A. Fourteen years ago that route took us through a bit of an “iffy” section and we seldom walked there in the evening. Today it is all cleaned up, nice sidewalks and good lighting and lots of tourists and visitors out on the street. We walked past the marina and the Cape Grace Hotel, two of the landmarks we remembered from all those years ago.

The Waterfront was as busy as ever. Saturday. Lots of people sitting in the outer cafes, entertainers spread throughout the area, children playing in the play areas, shops busy. We wandered around for a bit, stopped to get more cash from the ATM, bought some new shoes for me, and then headed back home. As we were walking the air suddenly got a lot cooler, and the sky turned misty and foggy — we were walking through some low clouds. We thought for sure we are going to get rained on, but that didn’t happen. That’s how the weather can be here between the ocean and Table Mountain — sudden changes like this, when the ‘table cloth’ cloud that we often see on top of the mountain comes swooping down to the sea. I wondered how wind and rain might spoil the parade tonight, but needn’t have worried.

By 7 o’clock the streets below us were packed. Thousands of spectators were out to watch the parade of costumed performers, musicians, and floats. Loud thumping dance music was all around us. I stood out on the balcony, barbecuing our ‘boer wurst’ and watching the goings on. Since so many streets had already been blocked off, one of the few roads INTO the area was the one-way coming down past our place. There was a zoo of parked cars, all along both sides of our street, blocking garage entrances and plugging up the sidewalks. And the self-proclaimed ‘parking attendants’ were having a great evening, gesturing and conducting and yelling as the cars just kept coming into the area.

The parade route was jammed with onlookers on either side, so all I could really see from our first-floor balcony was the big lit-up floats. But they were only coming by every 5 or 10 minutes — while I still heard cheering and saw cameras flashing in between floats. So I had to go down to the street and see what was happening. And what a party it was! All the restaurants and bars on our street were PACKED! People were hanging off balconies above in the hotels and apartments on Main Road. Families sat in lawn chairs right on the street. The crowd along the actual parade route was at least 10 people deep here, and probably even more dense further up the street. Lots of onlookers had come prepared, dressed in exotic costumes and ready to party. As I pushed my way closer to the parade route I could see that the spaces in between floats had plenty of entertainment — marching bands, street dancers, large groups of school children all in costume, clapping, chanting, singing, dancing. REALLY dancing, like you see in the old Michael Jackson videos, where large ensembles dance in practiced and choreographed moves. They were good! No wonder I had heard so much cheering and clapping.

I returned to the apartment where Sue was still sitting quietly, playing Scrabble on her iPad and complaining about the loud throbbing bass coming from the floats. We had a little dish of yogurt for night snack and turned on the TV. The last thing I remember is Sue laughing at me as I desperately tried to keep my eyes open and my head upright, watching some highlights from the late-night talk shows. She hauled me off to bed while that party on the street was still going strong, the pounding was as loud as ever. But it all ended when our heads hit the pillow.

Sunday Lunch with Marina

When we got up this morning and looked outside at the street, we were surprised to see that things were mostly cleaned up from yesterdays big parade and street carnival. No ‘Africa time’ here in Cape Town — they are organized and efficient.

After breakfast we went for a brisk walk on the Sea Point promenade — all the way to the swimming pool and back to the lighthouse and home through the park. We showered and got ready to head out for lunch. We took the car and made a quick stop at the Limnos Bakery where Sue picked up an assortment of sweets for dessert. Then we drove up to Marina’s house, about a 15-minute drive from our place.

Rowan had come to join us for lunch. Lukas, Marina’s partner, was looking much better than he did at our first visit. His foot was still in a cast, but the infection was clearing up and he was quite a bit more mobile without having his antibiotic drip thing attached. He was up at 5 in the morning baking bread and getting ready for our lunch. He loves to cook and he’s good at it. The fish bisque (snoek and mackerel in a prawn base) we had as a starter was very good. Then we went outside where Lukas had already lit the coals on the Weber earlier, and now put a couple of big Yellow-tail fillets with an Indian curry topping on the grille. Dinner was delicious. A side dish of pearl barley, a tomato salad, that fresh bread Lukas had made this morning, and the Yellow-tail. Sue’s sweets from the bakery for dessert.

We visited with our friends until Rowan had to leave at around 4pm. We too said goodbye, with a promise that we will get together at least one more time before we go home (in 2 weeks!).

When we got home Sue read and I took a little nap. The internet was down so that meant my programming would have to wait. Sue woke me up when she got a text that the kids wanted to Facetime. Well, how could we do that without internet? So I set up my phone as a hotspot and we talked to Alex and Max until the data on my phone plan was used up — and the call abruptly ended.

I went out to the Spar store and bought a bit more data. I’m not sure how much I ‘need’, since most of the time we’re using the wifi here at the apartment. And sure enough, soon after I got back from the store our connection improved and we were up and running as normal again. That meant I needed to write my journal for the day and post it. Which I did.

One step forward, two steps back

Back at the golf course again first thing this morning. It’s not as busy as it usually is — and it’s probably because some of the ‘snow birds’ (Europeans) are heading home. And who are we paired up with? Why it’s our old friend Fritz, from Germany, and his girlfriend (and caddy) Suzanne. Fritz has a house here in Cape Town and essentially ‘lives’ here. He has to go back to Germany every 6 months, and he stays there for a couple of weeks and then comes back here again. He golfs 3 or 4 games every week. He has a very unusual swing, but his game is not too bad. He and Suzanne don’t speak English very well, and so it takes a little more effort to ‘visit’ while we golf, but we do okay. We’ve sort of arranged to golf together again next week.

And after the disaster I had here last Wednesday (with the Russians), by the end of the first nine I had regained much of my confidence — finishing with a birdie 2 on hole nine for a front 9 score of 45. After a brief ‘snack’ stop at the clubhouse we headed back to the 10th hole to continue our round. Oh boy! Things got ugly in a hurry when I lost one ball in the brush, another in the creek, and another in the bunker! Ten on a par 5. The Lord giveth and he taketh away — sometimes all in one game!

We hurried back to the apartment for lunch. Sue did a second load of laundry in the afternoon. She read, I computed. Lovely day outside. Leftover Yellow-tail (from Marina’s yesterday) for supper. A bit of s-l-o-w internet again tonight — no photos to upload today. Tired and gone to bed by 10:30.

West Coast Road Trip

After breakfast we went on a road trip. A few weeks ago we were visiting with a couple who we’d just golfed with and they raved about the west coast north of Cape Town. They urged us to take a drive and they even recommended a couple of restaurants that they thought we should stop at. One was “The Noisy Oyster Restaurant” in the small town of Yzerfontein, and the other was “The Beach Restaurant” up in Paternoster a little farther up the coast. Today was the day for that.

I guess we should have done a bit more research before heading out. We were expecting to drive along the coast — to see beaches and rugged coastline and ocean waves, etc. Instead we were a few miles inland and only saw the water a couple of times. What we DID see was a lot of road construction. That meant ‘stop-and-gos’ — where we waited in for minutes at a time in one lane while the oncoming traffic was let through, and then we could continue. Still, we were near Yzerfontein, which was supposed to be our lunch stop, but it was only 10:30. Okay, we’ll just continue and make Paternoster our lunch stop.

We got there at around 12:30. Just about the perfect time for lunch! Paternoster is a small beach town. The restaurant we were looking for was called The Beach Restaurant. We can find this without the GPS — we’ll just drive along the beach…

Cute little town — it reminded us of Greece, Santorini in particular. All the cottages were white with blue trim and blue roofs. Yeah, but no “Beach Restaurant”. Okay, I’m hungry. I’ll just pull over and type ‘restaurants’ into Google Maps and SURELY it will be just down the beach from where we are. But when I typed in ‘restaurants’ the first one on the list was “The Noisy Oyster Restaurant” — hmm… I thought that was supposed to be in Yzerfontein. So we had our towns mixed up! We followed Google’s directions to the Noisy Oyster restaurant. What?? Closed? Open hours are WEDNESDAY to Saturday, 12-3. But today was Tuesday. We drove 150 kms of road construction for this?

I drove past the closed restaurant and continued up the hill. Spectacular views! And a few more restaurants, most of which were open. We parked behind the “Blikkie Pizzeria” and got a table out front, with a view of the miles of white-sand beach along the coast. Very nice. And the wood smoke from the pizza oven helped us to decide what to order — a bacon and banana wood-fired pizza.

After lunch we chose a different route back to Cape Town. We were hoping to avoid construction. I guess the government’s road improvement program was going strong — lots of construction on the ‘longer’ way home only made it EVEN longer. But the scenery was different — it reminded us of fall in Alberta — miles and miles of harvested grain fields, and even a few vineyards once we got a little further inland.

When we got home I went uptown to get some supplies — my cell phone had run out of airtime and I needed to top it up.

Sue and I had G&Ts on the balcony. Just before sundown we went out for a walk along the sidewalk on Main Road — heading for Sea Point. We were going to try a Greek restaurant called Ari’s Souvlaki; Marina’s friend Lukas had highly recommended it. The walk was about 5kms. When we got there we were a little surprised to find such a small, old, simple restaurant. We got a table. Sue ordered Moussaka, I the Shwarma with beef from the spit. The food was better than the ambience but neither of us was very hungry and left at least as much as we’d eaten.

We took the bus back to Portswood and made a pitstop there to pick up some fruit and another tub of ice cream.

Back at the apartment we watched some news and ate our ice cream. In bed by eleven — we’ve got an early golf appointment tomorrow.

 

A visitor from Malawi

The first part of today’s journal is all about golf. If you want to skip to the ‘visitor’ part, click here.

We used our final ‘discount coupon’ (we’d purchased a 10-pack when we first arrived) at the Metropolitan Golf Course this morning. We were a wee bit early and not at all surprised to see that the course was not nearly as busy as it was earlier in the summer (next Monday is the first day of Fall here). We registered at the pro shop and asked if we might start early and go as a “2-ball” (just the two of us). No problem, said the nice young man behind the desk. Just inform the starter. So we did. And the starter said okay. I teed up my ball and was about to blast a shot straight and far and down the middle of the fairway when another golfer came up to us, pulling her golf cart. “What time is your tee time?” she asked. When we told her we were starting a bit early she was indignant. “You can’t do that! WHO told you you could do that?” Etc, etc, etc. Well, the poor starter got an earful and the lady was adamant that the guy inside and even the management would certainly hear from her. “What if someone has requested this tee time so that they could have a friendly competition and SOCIALIZE with others? No one wants to golf alone. This is not right.” Well, she had a point. I guess we were a bit scared of ending up with a couple like those Russians we golfed with a week ago — NO socializing there. The starter looked at me, asked if we would mind golfing together with Terri (we had made introductions by this time). No problem! Join us. As Terri headed for the red tees the starter quietly says to me: she is VERY particular and can be a bit difficult. We’d been warned.

Well, poor Terri had got herself so worked up she blew her drive. And her second and third and fourth shots. And her first two putts. And in between there was a LOT of muttering about the incompetence of the people working the pro shop. And then it got worse!

We were halfway down the second fairway when the starter comes zipping up in his golf cart — he’s delivering Anne, the lady who was to be our fourth. Now Anne (from Ireland) got into it. How dare they start without her! She’d been only 1 minute late and was told we’d already teed off. So now Terri had a (much more) sympathetic ear for all her bitching and complaining. And we two poor Canadians (who had caused all the disruption) were caught in the middle of a confrontation that was only getting worse, and all we wanted was for everyone to be happy!

And so we golfed. And every time Terri missed a shot she cursed that guy in the pro shop. And every time we went BY the pro shop (3 more passes because of the layout of the course) she stomped into there looking for that guy so she could give him another piece of her mind. And when at one point A COMPLETELY DIFFERENT pro shop person came by on a golf cart she gave HIM a what-for — and of course he’s all innocent and finally yells back that he doesn’t even know what she’s talking about! So, says Terri, not only is he an incompetent, but now he’s a LIAR too!

Well, for all the talk of how she valued the SOCIAL aspect of the game, she sure didn’t socialize with us. Anne and Sue visited as they walked the fairways; Terri marched directly to her ball without a comment or question. She insisted that none of us step on the green until ALL of our balls (most importantly, HER ball) were on. She seemed to be a very unhappy person. (By now I wasn’t completely surprised that she didn’t want to golf alone — she probably had trouble finding people who would play with her! Sue asked if she was married! No. We were not surprised.)

Now I don’t have a problem with abiding by the rules, but this round was not at all competitive and not much of a ‘social’ event either! When at the 18th green it was time to shake hands, the only nice thing I could think of to say to her was ‘you golf very well’.

We left our clubs at the clubhouse, since we won’t use them again before next Monday morning. We headed home, had lunch, and cleaned up the apartment — getting ready for our guest. Sue went to get a haircut. I Facetimed with Max and Alex. The Flight-tracker told us that the flight from Johannesburg to Cape Town would be delayed by about 15 minutes, so that meant we should be at the airport by 4:15.

We got to the airport in the nick of time. We met Jessica as she was coming through customs. After a little kerfuffle trying to get out of the parking lot — I was 2 minutes over the ‘free 30 minute parking’ and had to circle back and pay a dollar — we were on the road back to our apartment. We showed Jessica to her room and then sat outside on the balcony and had happy hour. We discussed options for what we will do for the next 4 days. There are many things on the list — but Jessica seems flexible and relaxed and easy to please. She is two months into a 6-month stint volunteering at the Malawi Union of Savings and Credit Cooperatives, a credit union in Lilongwe, Malawi. We hope to hear more about her experiences there in the days to come.

Shoe shopping at the V&A
Shoe shopping at the V&A

We walked to the V&A to get a few important things out of the way. Jessica needed to (1) get cash, (2) get a phone card, (3) buy some runners, and (4) eat supper — well, we ALL needed to eat supper. We managed to get all four things done at the mall. We ended up at San Marcos, at a table outside, where we ate and visited for the next hour or more.

When we got home we had a dish of ice cream and watched (yesterday’s) CBC National. Nothing new. We’d already read about all the US primary results earlier in the day (Rubio is out, Trump keeps on winning). Apparently I fell asleep sitting on the couch while the girls tried to figure out how to switch on the light and the fan in Jessica’s bedroom. Went to bed at eleven. Tomorrow we plan to go on a little road trip, ending up in Hermanus for an overnight.

Back to Hermanus

After our usual fruit — oh wait! no toast today! Sue went to get chocolate croissants from Giovanni’s this morning! Must be a special breakfast — oh yeah, we have a guest in our house. Jessica Dyck is staying with us until Monday morning.

Soon after breakfast we packed a few things into our overnight bag and headed out in the Volvo. Turned left at the traffic circle and pointed the car south. We went over Chapman’s Peak and down across the peninsula through Simon’s Town. Just past that, we saw the signs for Boulder’s Beach, where we were hoping to see some penguins. We parked the car and started down the boardwalk. We saw quite a few penguins ‘nesting’ on the other side of the fence along our walk. But we could see that there was a spot up ahead where LOTS of people were gathered and taking photos. THAT was what we were heading for.

Before we could get there we had to pay admission at the counter in order to walk down the long boardwalk, out towards the ocean, and see the ‘real’ penguins. Lots of them. Waddling around. And tourists. Pose, click. Another pose, click. Selfie. Click.

After the penguins tour was checked off our list we drove the short way back into Simon’s Town. Found a parking spot. Found a small restaurant. Found a table on the patio overlooking the harbour. Lunch. The girls went a did a bit of shopping while I went to check out the pier. Took a few photos of boats. Back in the car. Back on the road.

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The next hour of driving was along the coast, with the ocean on our right and big sand dunes on our left. A bit of road work gave us a chance to pause every once in a while so the slower big trucks could catch up with us. We were making pretty good time and had sent Shirley in Hermanus a text letting her know that we were about half an hour away. And then we hit a “Stop and Go” that was mostly “stop”. And we sat there for 15 minutes, in a long line of cars and trucks. So close, and yet so far.

IMG_2450We arrived at Paul and Shirley’s at around 4 o’clock. Shirley welcomed us and showed us to our rooms. Great house! Great host! Not a lot of time for us to get changed and head out to the beach for our ‘low tide beach walk’. But we made it. Unfortunately for Jessica, the weather was cool and very misty, obscuring the mountain and the fynbos on our walk. But it was good to get a bit of exercise after sitting in our car for a good part of the day.

Back at the house we showered and got ready to head out to Megan and Casper’s for dinner. Shirley packed a half-dozen bottles of assorted wines and we all got into her Land Rover. When we arrived at Casper’s the table inside their lovely black and white (everything inside was decorated in black and white) home was all set. And another couple, Brian and Joy — neighbours of theirs, were there for supper as well. Shirley walked us down to the beach to let us see the great yard.



Casper showing some of the wild flowers growing in his backyard.
Casper showing some of the wild flowers growing in his backyard.

Unfortunately, due to the cool weather, we would not be having drinks out there at one of the several eating and braai areas. So we made our way back to the house and sat down to enjoy appetizers and wine.

Megan's table.
Megan’s table.

Megan made several Malay dishes for the eight of us, including lamb curry with rice. We enjoyed the meal and the conversations around the table. A highlight was Jessica telling us about her less than pleasant introduction to life in Malawi when she and her roommate were visited by thieves in the middle of the night in their apartment! We also talked about the political and economic problems here in South Africa, and it was good to hear how the people who have lived here for all of their life see the prospects for the future. We helped Shirley get rid of some of her wine, tasting and offering opinions and trying different varieties with different foods to see how one enhanced the flavour of the other. Casper hauled out a couple of chocolate bars and we all thought that wine and chocolate were a very nice combination to cap off the evening.

Shirley, who had been tasting and ‘spitting’, drove us back to her place at around 10:30. We were all tired and went directly to bed. A good day in Hermanus.

Back from Hermanus

Shirley, the consummate host, had coffee and fruit and toast waiting for us when we got up. (Although bread is NOT part of the ‘Banting diet’, she had bought bread for us.) The day was the opposite of the afternoon before: sunny, warm, no mist or fog. We could see the mountain behind the house and the ocean and the beach from the front balcony where we sat and ate our breakfast.

And then it was time to get our walking shoes back on. We were going for a ‘cliff walk’. Sue was excited to take Jessica for this walk, to show her what we thought was such a highlight of our time in Hermanus. We walked about 4 or 5 kms along the walk, then back again, stopping to dip our feet in the surf at Grotto Beach before heading back to the house.

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IMG_2468We showered and then Jessica, Sue, and I drove down to the town center to check out the shops and restaurants. We parked the car and walked around. Shirley had recommended a lunch at a winery restaurant just out of the city and had made reservations for the four of us for after one o’clock. So after a bit of walking around downtown, we drove up into the scenic Hemel-en-Aarde area, to Creation Winery and Restaurant. Shirley joined us there just after 1:30 and for the next two-and-a-half hours we were introduced to 8 different Creation wines, each one paired with a beautiful plate of delicious tapas.

After a great afternoon, we said goodbye to Shirley — she was also heading into Cape Town for a weekend with friends — and got into the car and headed west along the N2 highway. We were finally home after 7pm — the traffic into Cape Town was quite busy. We unpacked and unwound, sitting around. Since we’d been eating all afternoon, none of us was very hungry, so we stayed home and had a light snack and watched TV. Jessica recommended the documentary “Somm” which follows four wine stewards as they prepare to take the Master Sommelier Exam; very appropriate after our wine tasting experience. While the girls went to bed at around midnight, I ended up working on my computer for a couple more hours.

Trouble in Paradise

The day started off so well. Sue and Jessica went out to buy eggs and bread so we could have bacon and eggs for breakfast. We sat around for a part of the morning and enjoyed the warm sunshine. We considered options for how to spend the day. Jessica was happy to go out and do some sightseeing on her own. So we sent her off to visit the District Six museum in the city center.

When she was finished there, Jessica sent us a text — and we arranged to meet at the ‘Bacon’ restaurant on Bree Street for lunch. Sue has swollen and sore ankles — she’s not sure what brought that on; either jumping to forcefully on the cliff walk yesterday, or putting her feet in the cold Hermanus ocean — so we actually took the bus for part of the trip. Jessica was already there — had saved us a table. After lunch (bacon, what else?) Jessica set off to see if she could find a particular clothing shop while Sue and I walked back home to the apartment.

Just after 5 there’s a knock on the door and Jessica comes in. How was your afternoon? Well, you won’t believe this, but I was just robbed! I’m not joking!

What a disappointment. Jessica had been walking back to our place, in broad daylight on a fairly busy street not far from here, when two guys come up behind her and demand her purse. They have a knife! Jessica gave them her purse but asked to please be able to keep her ID. The muggers run off, rifle through the purse and take her wallet (cash and credit cards and driver’s license) and her cell phone, then drop the purse on the sidewalk. A passerby stops who saw the whole thing comes to Jessica’s aid — tells her she shouldn’t be walking in that area! But he calls an Uber cab for her and pays her taxi ride back to our place.

Oh no! What do we do now? So we cancelled the credit cards, and I tried calling the police — but ended up completely frustrated with them when the Green Point police referred me to the city center police, and the city center police sounded like they were having a very loud party in their office and were hard for me to understand. Ultimately I decided that calling the police and filing a case might be a good thing to do, but wasn’t going to happen today.

Jessica called her parents back home. It was an upsetting event, but somehow Jessica (and her parents) managed to laugh and make some jokes about it too. After the call Sue started supper and I barbecued lamb and chicken skewers on the barbecue. Supper was good. We visited a bit and then had a Skype call from Ed & Val in Phoenix. We watched a few short shows on TV. After watching last night’s CBC The National we all went to bed.

A bit of a downer here in Cape Town! I guess it could have been worse, so that’s some consolation — but I feel very sorry for Jessica: two months in Africa, two robberies! Let’s hope that’s the end of that for her and the rest of her time in Malawi turns out to be a rewarding  and way less ‘exciting’ experience.

Reset, and Au Revoir

Sunday morning. Breakfast was fruit and toast and coffee. The plan for the day? Walk the promenade, get a replacement for Jessica’s stolen phone, go out for one last supper with Jessica. (Spoiler alert: Mission accomplished.)

Sunny and a wee bit on the cool side this morning as we headed out for a long walk along Sea Point. But we soon warmed up, along with hundreds of other walkers, joggers, cyclists, families, and a surprising number of unleashed dogs. We walked from our house, through Green Point park, to the lighthouse and down all the way to the big public pool. Then we turned around and walked back all the way to the V&A shopping centre. We went to about half a dozen phone stores, comparing prices and checking out what was available. Jessica’s stolen phone was an older Samsung S3 — her next phone could be a cheaper (but newer) phone that is supposed to last her for the next 4 months, until she gets back to Canada. She ultimately decided on a Huawei basic smartphone for around a hundred bucks. The salesman did his best to try to get her settings and apps set up like they were on the old phone, and mostly succeeded. It was after one o’clock by the time that was done, and we headed back to the apartment for lunch.

We were home until around 6:30, Jessica exploring her new phone (and having a short nap), Sue reading and scrabbling on her iPad, and I worked on a website. After a quick happy hour we went back out to the mall — this time to see if the CellC cell service people could replace Jessica’s SIM card and get her ‘WhatsApp’ to work on her old (Canadian) phone number. He tried, but no success there. So we walked back to our part of town and looked for a restaurant. We ended up at Cafe Extrablatt, about a block and a half from our corner. Seafood platter for Jessica, chicken fingers for me, pizza for Sue. All we needed was a ice cream for dessert — and we found that at a little gelato shop on our way home.

Back at the apartment we sat down and started watching one of my movie downloads, “Straight Outta Compton”.  But we were too tired to finish it; Jessica had to pack — she needs to be up and ready to head to the airport by shortly after 4am tomorrow morning. She’ll try to get an Uber taxi — and if that doesn’t work, I’ll take her to the airport myself.

And so ends our time with Jessica. It’s too bad her time in Cape Town was spoiled by that mugging yesterday; the fright, the expense, and the inconvenience! (We spent much of today shopping for a new phone and getting it set up.) But she’s handled it all so well, and that’s been very impressive. It’s been great getting to know Jessica a bit better. I think she has the best qualities of both Paul and Kathy, and that’s saying a lot! Farewell, and SAFE travels!

Monday is Human Rights Day

Today is a national holiday in South Africa. My alarm went off at 4:00am. Jessica was already up — at least we know the alarm in her new phone works! When I got up she’d already packed and checked her Uber app to make sure there were cabs in the area at this time of the morning — there were. So she ordered one and 5 minutes later it was at our door. We loaded her suitcase in the trunk and said goodbye. And she was gone. She messaged me about half an hour later — she was safely at the airport, and the cab fare was less than 100 Rand so it was a free ride for her! Great. I went back to bed.

At 6:30 Sue woke me up again. Time to get ready for our morning golf game. I made coffee, Sue cut up a mango. We were at the Metropolitan course for our LAST game there for this trip! We were paired up with Bennie and his son-in-law Lawrence, both from Bloemfontein, a city between here and Johannesburg. Lawrence is here to run his fifth ultra-marathon (56km around the Cape Peninsula, including some SERIOUS hills) this weekend, along with 11,000 other ultra-marathoners!

Rudy & Sue at the Metropolitan Golf Course

We had a great round of golf, not because our scores were so good (although they were better than they’d been for a few rounds here), but because the company was. We stopped at the clubhouse after the first 9 holes and enjoyed a quick bacon and egg breakfast before finishing the back nine. We’ve learned that a quick stop at the cafe after the first nine holes is customary here in South Africa.

We stopped to fill up gas on our way back home. Then Sue made sandwiches and did two loads of laundry. She even had a little nap this afternoon while I worked on a website. By early afternoon we’d heard from Jessica: she is safely back in Lilongwe, Malawi.

By suppertime it was getting a bit cooler and windier outside. That too is something we’re noticing — other years, when we were in the southern states, the temperatures got warmer as our time to go home got closer. Here it is now autumn and the temperatures are starting to fall a bit. Sue didn’t really want to go out for supper so I went down to the Rocomama hamburger joint to pick up a couple of burgers. On the way home I met Mike down on our street — he too has had a turn of bad luck; his backpack and all his clothes were stolen and because today is a holiday there weren’t a lot of cars parking on our street, so not too many ‘tips’ for him today. I gave him 50 Rand and wished him well. He was very grateful.

We ate supper and then set up the TV so we could watch another of my downloaded movies. Our internet stopped working just before supper and I really wanted to watch the ‘live’ Apple event at 7pm. Luckily my phone still had data so I could watch it — well, for about 10 minutes it did, and then it too was done when I’d used up the remaining data time! Now what? We decided to watch ‘Meru’, a documentary about mountain climbers trying to climb one of the toughest peaks in the world (Meru is a ‘shark fin’ mountain in India). I believe it was a good movie — at least that’s what Sue said when I woke up from a little nap of my own!

It was ten o’clock. We had some dried fruit and chocolate and decided to call it a night.

Down the homestretch

And so begins our last week in Cape Town. Even before our 6 o’clock alarm was set to go off, Sue was in the kitchen cutting up a mango. It was still dark outside! What are we doing getting up before the sun? This is so ‘not right’!

We are going golfing. Again. Much to Sue’s chagrin. I’d booked this over a week ago and that’s the first mistake right there — ‘I’ booked it. Better to make decisions TOGETHER (i.e. let Sue make them!) than to go down the wrong road like this. Sue was not happy even before we left home.

First of all, we had no cash. And we had no data on our phone. I corrected the cash problem first by making a pitstop at the Woolworths ATM before heading out to the Rondebosch Golf Club. And low and behold, my phone’s google maps GPS brought us safely to the golf course, even without data!

Fritz watches as Sue takes aim at the green.
Fritz watches as Sue takes aim at the green.

Our old friend Fritz (the 70-year-old German guy, whose girlfriend Susanne has gone back to Germany for a couple of weeks) was waiting for us at the clubhouse. We checked in and paid in the pro shop and then headed for the tee boxes at the eleventh hole. That’s how they do it here — the first hole was all booked so we started at hole 11 and finished the back nine before having our ‘coffee break’ and continuing with the front 10 holes.

I was shooting great at the start but then things fell apart. It got so bad I shot ‘double-digits’ on our 4th hole (yes, I said double digits — not double bogey, not double par, double DIGITS!). Still, I was optimistic that things would turn around on the next hole. Sue, on the other hand, was playing great golf, in spite of the fact that her one un-gloved hand was getting frozen.

Table mountain looked glorious with the morning sun illuminating it. We could see the congestion of cars on the freeway just beyond the trees that lined our fairways — hey, it could be worse — some people have to go to work today!

IMG_2475

And after a few really bad holes my game got back on track (sort of). It seems that once I make a bad shot I am determined to get that yardage back on the next shot — and the harder I flail, the more likely I am to repeat my mistake. I KNOW that’s not good golf, but I guess I am a slow learner. Still, I was enjoying my day.

We finished our game at around 11:30, said ‘Auf Wiedersehen’ to Fritz, and wished him well. He is staying here for most of the ‘winter’, golfing three times a week, and looking forward to his ‘caddy’ Susanne coming back to join him in a couple of weeks.

The data-less phone failed us on the drive back to our apartment. But by now I really didn’t need the GPS to find my way. And thanks to Sue, who has nearly pushed through the floorboards of our Volvo whenever she notices a car ahead of us, and who has kept us accident-free by gripping her armrest and shouting at me when she thinks I don’t see what she sees, we made it home in no time at all and without incident. Sue headed upstairs to make sandwiches while I went to the corner pharmacy to buy more data for my phone.

After lunch I continued working on my computer (and watching the Apple Event on TV, now that our internet was working — well, not so well that I could stream it without long rotating ‘beachball’ pauses, but I could get the drift of it. And Sue updated our home budget accounts in her little notebook. And that’s how we spent the afternoon!

At around suppertime we Skyped my parents — all is well, snow has nearly melted, temperatures could warm up a bit. And not soon after, at around 7:30, we went out for supper. We went to one of Sue’s favorites, Manos, and it did not disappoint.We shared an excellent grilled calamari dish for an appetizer. Sue had pasta and liver (so good she ate half of it and boxed up the rest for tomorrow’s lunch) and I had a breaded chicken with salad dish (I ate half the chicken and gave the rest to Mike, the parking attendant down on our street). A guy at the next table bought us each a couple of shooters to celebrate various events — possibly the birthday of the lady sitting at another nearby table (friendly South Africans!) And the best part of dinner was watching our waitress, Fran, literally ‘skipping’ from table to table to kitchen and back, working feverishly to keep the full restaurant (and those waiting to get a table) entertained and happy. As Sue likes to say (and said again tonight), it would be her dream job to work in a restaurant like this.

When we got home we started up our devices and checked various insignificant things: Facebook and Twitter and emails and news feeds etc. We were both tired from quite a few early mornings in a row — tomorrow we’ll sleep in for the first time in over a week — and went to bed before eleven.

 

The Other Side of the Mountain

After a bit of a lazy morning, the highlight of which was scrambled eggs for breakfast (What? But it’s not Saturday! This IS a good day!), we decided to have an early lunch (we’d had a VERY early morning — all that talk about how we were tired of having to get up so early to go golfing? well, “early to bed, early to rise” proved to be true this morning at 4:45am!) and take a drive out to Kirstenbosch National Botanical Gardens, a UNESCO World Heritage Site located at the eastern foot of Table Mountain. (Whew! I bet you thought that sentence would never end.) We got there just before 2pm, which turned out to be just in time to join a free walking tour, led by a volunteer septuagenarian botanist who shared his love and enthusiasm for everything about the garden for the next 3 hours!

Cycad in Kirstenbosch
Considered “living fossils”, cycads are the oldest living seed plants and have survived three mass extinction events in the earth’s history.

I am not a “plant” guy, but there is something about listening to someone who is PASSIONATE about his or her field of interest, no matter how narrow that field might be (and there was NOTHING narrow about the fields at Kirstenbosch! the gardens take up 52,800-sq-kms!) that is contagious. And so we spent the afternoon with a group of 15, following old Mr Finkelstein around the park. I’ll leave the particulars of the various latin names and special attributes of the genus and species and pollinators and reproductive parts and sex habits (seriously!) concerning plants to Wikipedia. Suffice it to say the flowers were interesting and beautiful. Although the garden is huge, and the South African winters are mild and rainy so there is always SOMETHING in bloom, old Mr Finkelstein could walk up to a patch of brown and dying ‘schtruk‘ and turn around and wave his arms and excitedly describe in great detail and delight, in the most eloquent and rich vocabulary, how ‘absolutely STUNNING’ this patch looked about two months ago when it was FILLED with tiny flowers of every shade and hue. And then we’d march off to the next patch and I’d think to myself now he’ll tell us something about that big bushy orange plant with the interesting leaves, but no, he stops and bends down and points to a tiny little ‘weed’ that has a one-centimetre white 5-petalled flower peeking out from one of its branches and old Mr Finkelstein nearly has an orgasm! Yeah, okay, that’s special.

dinosaur
Dinosaur sculptures, in tin, are life-sized and anatomically correct and are placed in amongst the cycads in Kirstenbosch.

And lest I make this sound like it was NOT fun, I KNOW that if Sue and I had visited the gardens without a guide we’d have done it the “American” way (Finkelstein’s words) and marched once around, snapped a photo of those extremely rare and endangered cycads, two photos of those tin dinosaur statues (which Mr Finkelstein detested — what have THEY got to do with botany?), and been back at the souvenir and snack shop in 20 minutes, ready to get back on the bus and head to the next tourist stop — now THAT’S how we usually visit places like this. But that old saying, “You’ve got to stop and smell the roses…” applied to our walking tour with Mr Finkelstein, who invited us to rub a leaf and smell the mint, snap a twig and smell the camphor, sniff these flowers and smell the lemon, etc. Okay, I think you get the picture. Chasing my lawnmower around the backyard will never be the same again!

We drove back home. Sue made supper. We caught up on the news. Sue watched the latest episode of “Canada Reads” on CBC. Ice cream and a small glass of port for ‘night snack’. Went to bed a little after ten.

Against the Wind

Windy day at Moulle PointIt was windy when we woke up. The forecast for today was about 26 degrees and very windy. The forecast was right. We went for a walk late in the morning — the usual walk along the promenade — but there were times when the wind literally stopped us in our tracks!

Sue stopped at the Spar (grocery store) on the way back and picked up lunch fixings. After lunch I worked on Sue’s bookclub website — it stopped working about a month ago because it was running on an old version of PHP. It took me a couple of hours to update the code. Sue read her Canada Reads book, The Illegal. The kids Facetimed for a bit. We decided to watch another of my downloaded TV series and watched 3 episodes before supper and another in the evening.

We went to the ‘Simply Asia’ place a couple of blocks from our place and both ordered Thai dishes “extra spicy”. That was fun. When we got home we tried watching the last Canada Reads episode (streaming on CBC.ca) but our internet was flaky again and the show ‘stuttered’ so bad we finally gave up on that and just read the results online. Sue played bridge on her iPad while I fiddled with a website project for a bit before going to bed at around midnight.

Great Friday

Good Friday today. We’re not sure what’s open and what’s not — we know it’s a holiday. In fact, for the working people it’s been a very short week: Monday was Human Rights Day, today’s Good Friday, and Monday is Family Day, another national holiday.

It may be a holiday for most South Africans, but there was no ‘special’ breakfast at our place! Fruit and toast and coffee. We had a lazy morning, and then had an early lunch so we could get to Milnerton, an 11km drive up the coast from here, in time for our 12:45 tee time. Although the morning started off sunny and warm and calm, by noon it was clouding over. We’d heard that this “links-style” golf course right along the coast was not fun to golf when it was windy, so we’d booked our game for today with that in mind. Sue’s iPad said no rain today (it’s coming tomorrow, though) so we were a little concerned when we saw the clouds.

We parked our car and registered at the pro shop. We were half an hour early, so we decided to go putt a bit. Well, it wasn’t long and Sue was back in the pro shop trying to warm up her frozen fingers. The wind was howling! And the air was cool and getting colder. I wasn’t sure if it was a ocean mist or if it was actually starting to rain! And we’d left our (new) rain jackets back at the apartment.

We were scheduled to tee off as a ‘two-ball’, but were joined at the last minute by another ‘couple’. Gunnar, a 55-ish magazine publisher, and Rosita, a 65-ish English teacher, both from the island of Gotland in Sweden, were here for a 2-week holiday together with a group of about 18 fellow Swedes. They do this every year. We very much enjoyed meeting them and spending the next 5 hours on the golf course with them.

Not long after our first tee shot the wind and a thin rain started. This was NOT going to be fun. My tee shots, which have been getting progressively more erratic and unpredictable, continued to let me down. I lost a few balls right off the bat — over the sand dunes, into the scrub bushes that lined the fairways, into the water on either side of the fairways. If the Swedes hadn’t raced ahead in their golf cart and found my ball for me, I’d have been out of ammo by the fifth hole, heading back to our nice warm and dry apartment! But we persevered. And it was worth it.

Halfway through the front nine the clouds moved out to sea and the sun came out. (The course layout is a long narrow walk out to the ninth where there is a small cafe, and then comes back the same way to the clubhouse for the back nine.) Sue was playing very well, every tee shot straight down the middle. And Gunnar and Rosita were playing a friendly competition and were having a great time. By the time we were sitting down in the halfway cafe and watching Gunnar wash down a massive chicken burger and fries with two Black Label beers, we were SO glad we hadn’t aborted after 2 holes.

Milnerton_golfMilnerton_view_of_Table_MtnBut we were not home yet! The back nine started off a bit cooler — maybe it was the rest stop or maybe it was the wind picking up or maybe it was the beers — but while the others had their scores go up a bit, MY game got back on track. While Gunnar lost 3 new ProV1s on one hole, I managed to play with the same ball until the final hole! By the time we were on the 15th hole the weather was changing again — now the fog was rolling in. It got progressively thicker with each hole — first we had trouble seeing the coastal highway which ran alongside the course, then the beautiful new homes that lined the some of the fairways disappeared, and then we couldn’t see the flag on the green until we were less than a fifty yards out. By the last two holes the Swedes would drive their cart out onto the fairway, to the green and back, before we teed off, just so we’d know what direction to hit the ball (and where the hazards were). It was crazy! and it was fun. By now the Swede’s competition was getting serious — Gunnar was playing for beers, Rosie for champagne, and they were tied going into the last green. Rosita was the last one to putt; we all circled around the hole (by now the fog was so thick we could barely see across the green) and watched as she THREE-putted from 10-feet out, and lost to Gunnar. He was relieved and happy. They hugged. Sue thinks they had more than just a friendly side bet going. We said goodbye.

As soon as we were back on the road the fog was a non-issue. The road was just inland enough, I guess. We stopped at our local Metropolitan golf course and I dropped off my pull cart (I bought it used from Basil, one of the caddies there, and now he could sell it to someone else). We parked the car and hauled our clubs up to the apartment — that’ll be it for our golfing here. We FaceTimed with the kids — they have a string of family gatherings spoiling their long weekend but seemed happy to be back in their house; Alex looking forward to a week off ahead, Tim busy building Lego cars with Max, and Max proudly showing off the ‘Paw Patrol’ tattoo he got from ‘Auntie Melissa’.

I went to Big Route to pick up a pizza (it’s Friday, afterall). On my return I met Mike — he was having another ‘slow night’ parking cars (not much action out here on this Good Friday night) and was worried about a cold (and wet) night ahead. I gave him the change from the pizza, to which he said, “I have never experienced a father’s love, but YOU are so good to me, you always take care of me.” I’m hoping to go out for coffee with him before we leave here — and hear some of his story.

After supper we watched some TV. By now that is the cue for me to get comfortable on the couch, close my eyes just for a minute, and unwind from a long hard day. It seems to me that at some point during the evening I had a bowl of ice cream for a night snack. It’s a good thing that Peter Mansbridge always starts off The National by listing the top 3 or 4 news stories so I at least FEEL like I know what’s going on in the world. I feel sorry for all those people who lie in bed and can’t fall asleep — GET A TV IN THE BEDROOM!

Today it rained on our parade

Today was the big marathon run in Cape Town — 11,000 runners ran the 56km Ultra Marathon and another 16,000 ran the half marathon. What a day for it! We woke up and it was cool and wet outside — it had rained at night, and it would rain more later in the day.

We stayed inside for the day. Had two coffees each to go with our bacon and eggs. Sat on the couch and read and computed and played games and watched TV. Sue actually left the building at one point to go buy a bottle of wine, but I stayed in the apartment all day.

In the evening it started raining harder. Wind blowing. Not a lot of traffic outside our window. Sue and I sat and watched TV — lots of Bill Maher clips on YouTube. Ice cream and a chocolate bar for snack. To bed by 11:30.

Easter Sunday Dinner

Sue and I sat inside all morning reading. Sue did a load of laundry and hung it out on our balcony for a while. It had rained all night and the air was still cold. Eventually she moved the rack inside and of course that’s when the sun came out. At a little after 12:00 it was time for us to head out to Mouille Point for our 12:30 lunch date. I wore jeans, socks, shoes, and a sweater! That’s a first since our arrival here in Cape Town.

We got a table for 6 in a nook surrounded by shelves of books at the Hussar Grille Restaurant. We were just seated when our guests arrived. Marina and her 8-year-old daughter Emma, Marina’s partner Lukas, and Emma’s friend Nina. Easter dinner, and also a farewell dinner with our old friend Marina. We had a great couple of hours. The Hussar Grille specializes in steak and ribs, so that’s what we had. The girls ate their calamari and then brought out sketching books and playing cards and kept themselves busy at the table while the adults visited. Marina is in the middle of a very busy month at work. Lukas’s leg, which had developed a serious achilles infection that kept him tied to an IV and more-or-less immobile for the past 3 months, was finally healing and he now wore a removable cast. He is off to Ghana in a couple of weeks to speak at an anti-torture prison reform symposium. When we finally got up from the table it was time to say goodbye. Marina has been more than hospitable  — she’s organized ‘reunions’ with our old ‘sailing team’, met us for breakfast, and had us over to her place for dinner twice. We’d love to return the favour someday and welcome her to our home — and we hope it won’t be another 14 years until we meet again.

Our walk back to our apartment through Green Point Park was interrupted by a FaceTime call from Alex and Max. Happy Easter at their house too. Max was quite excited about all the Easter treats he’d collected so far, and was still looking forward to one more Easter gathering later this afternoon. It will be good to see him in a couple of days.

jazz-at-big-routeBack at the house we watched a bit of TV and ate the last of our cheese and crackers for happy hour. At around 7 we went out again, this time back to the Big Route pizza joint just around the corner. I’d seen a poster advertising Sunday night live jazz there. We weren’t really hungry for pizza but once we sat down at the bar and heard the band playing we decided we might as well order something and enjoy the music. Good decision. The music was great, the place was packed, and the pizza we shared was pretty good!

We got back home at around 10 o’clock. We watched the CBC National and went to bed. Our last overnight in Cape Town.

Blue Monday: Going Home

It’s our last day in Cape Town. Our flight leaves tonight at 10:30. It’s time to pack, to clean up the apartment and the car, to empty the fridge, carry out the garbage, and say goodbye.

Sue’s worked it out so that we’ve eaten almost all our groceries. Scrambled eggs for breakfast, a few crackers and some cheese (we’ll have that for happy hour with the remaining gin and tonic), and my little bag of biltong (I’ll take that with me on the plane for snacking.

After breakfast the clean up started in earnest. Out came the suitcases. As soon as the ‘white’ load of laundry was finished washing it was hung out on the rack on the balcony to dry. I packed the golf clubs and a few pairs of shoes into the big travel case. Then we headed down to the garage to clean and park the car. We washed it and backed it right tight against the back wall so there’d be room for a second car to park in front of it. I did my best to disconnect the battery and lock up the car the way it was when we first arrived — I’m not sure I got it back to the way it was though. The first time I disconnected the cable the remote door locks still worked! So I tried disconnecting a second cable that was still attached to the positive battery post — and then the car’s alarm went off. Full blast! Pretty loud down there in the garage! Okay, that can’t be right. So I reconnected the second cable, locked the car, and we put the big car cover over it. Done.

Back upstairs it was time to vacuum. The sheets were now dry so Sue could make the bed. I gathered up all my computer and TV cabling and paraphernalia and packed it away. We moved most of the furniture and kitchen things back to where they were when we got here. Showered. Now the towels could go into the washer.

I’d seen my buddy Mike down below and arranged that we would go out for lunch today. By 11:30 I was ready to eat something. I went downstairs and there on the sidewalk beside our building were Mike and another ‘car guard’ trying on and dividing up some used clothing they’d just received from a tenant in the building across the street. After 2 cool and rainy days, they both needed some ‘new’ clothes, and today was their lucky day! I went back upstairs and looked through the pile of now clean and folded clothes we were taking home — and dug out a few shirts and a red blanket we’d brought from home. The boys were happy to receive.

I took Mike to Rocomama’s, the hamburger place just down the street. He was extremely grateful. No one, not even his father or mother, had ever taken him out to a restaurant and bought him a meal. We ordered two big fancy burgers and a couple of small Castle lagers. And then Mike began to share a bit of his life’s story. What a sorry tale!

A blurry photo of Mike and me taken by the waiter at Rocomamas.
A blurry photo of Mike and me taken by the waiter at Rocomamas.

Born in South Africa, his mother soon took him back to her native Congo. He first met his father when he was 8 years old. That’s when his father showed up and took Mike back to Johannesburg, South Africa and ‘gave’ him to another family there. Many years later Mike learned that his mother had died shortly after he was taken away. He went to school but never really fit in with the new family. He showed me the scars on his hands, where, after getting caught stealing food, his new ‘mother’ dripped a burning plastic bag to teach him a lesson. He next moved in with his father, who now had a new wife. The father never said a kind word to Mike, and the step-mother was an alcoholic who conveniently blamed Mike for everything that was wrong in her life. So when items in the home ‘disappeared’, it was Mike who got the beatings. Finally, at the age of 12, Mike was kicked out of the house and began living on the street. His father told him that he never wanted to hear from him again. Mike eventually ended up in a “refugee camp” in Johannesburg. Nothing good came of that either — especially since Mike has no official documentation. In fact, according to Mike, the South Africans mistreated the refugees something terrible! He is an illegal, even though he was born in South Africa. He has no birth certificate. He can’t prove anything. He can’t afford a lawyer to help him either. He finally came to Cape Town early this year, hoping to find work, and he’s actually had a couple of jobs. But as soon as the South African workers find out he’s an illegal the union steps in and the company has to let him go. He’s taking away jobs from the South Africans.

So I asked Mike what he hoped for. Where would he be a month, a year, 10 years from now? He said he was determined to NOT be a beggar on the street — that as long as he was able he wanted to EARN his keep. And he believed in miracles. In fact, every morning when he opened his eyes he thanked God for that small miracle. Every day you can watch the news and hear about people who have died, who will not open their eyes again. So he was full of gratitude and full of hope. And what did he need most right now? He needed a roof over his head. He believes that if he could just scrape together one month’s rent he can manage to ‘earn’ enough parking cars to pay the next month’s rent — and that will give him security and the chance to put his resume together and hopefully land a job. Right now he needs to bring his backpack with him wherever he goes, even to a job interview, because he has no save place. And the security guard at the apartment across the street from ours has offered him a small 1-room ‘apartment’ for 400 Rand a month — that’s less then $40 Canadian.

I paid for the meal, asked the waiter to take a photo of the two of us, and we headed back. I gave Mike the 250 Rand I had in my wallet and told him we’d see him tonight when we go out for supper. He was overwhelmed.

Back in the apartment Sue was all finished packing. I carried another big garbage bag downstairs to the bins. The towels were nearly dry out on the balcony. The fridge was all cleaned out.

We had our last gin and tonic and some crackers and cheese and watched a bit of TV. We listened to the outdoor music concert that was happening all afternoon in the park across the road. The sun was shining and the temperature was 22 degrees. Not hot, but not cold either.

We went out for supper at around 6:30. We weren’t really hungry but figured we had to eat on our street one last time. Sue had a bowl of soup, I had calamari. On our way back to the apartment we stopped to say goodbye to Mike and to give him another 200 Rand. He was ecstatic.

Up in the room we did one last check and then hauled our bags, including a big heavy golf bag, down the stairs. I had to lock one set of keys into the mailbox which proved to be a bit tricky. Then I contacted Uber for a taxi which showed up at our door 3 minutes later. Mike was there to load our luggage into the Toyota. He says, “I miss you guys already.” And off we were.

We got to the airport plenty early, but Sue was determined to collect back our VAT tax and we’d read online that if we presented our receipts and showed what we’d bought to the desk at the airport we could get some credit. I was expecting the worst — a long line up and lots of hassles, but no, it really went very smoothly. There were several German tourists in the line ahead of us — they travel to South Africa more frequently and know their way around. In the end we got $31 US dollars credit on a credit card. I’m not sure it was worth the half hour we spent there, but Sue was pleased.

We boarded our plane at 10:30. It left at eleven. Right after take-off the KLM crew served us chicken wraps and quinoa. And by midnight we were snoozing peacefully on a completely packed Boeing 777 (in fact, they were looking for five volunteers to postpone their trip out of Cape Town by one day — but we declined: too many connections, too many obligations waiting at home, etc).

 

Homeward Bound

Tuesday morning we arrived in Amsterdam. Just about 12 hours sitting in an airplane seat without getting up even once! It’s raining in Amsterdam. We’re sitting in the departure lounge, waiting for our Delta flight to Minneapolis. We’ve spent our 10 Euro coupon on a muffin and coffee. Now we’ve logged onto the free airport wifi — and I check my email. DiedHere’s one from my mom to her children:
Subject: Died
What? Should I be alarmed? The internet is a bit slow here, but it doesn’t take me long to read the content: "I just read on Steinbach news. Vic Peters died yesterday 60 years old, the curler?" And then she adds, "Who will be the next . .? Mom . Have a good evening ."

Whew! That’s a relief! Had me a little “up-jeraicht” there for a minute!  And then I had to laugh. Sitting there in the airport, getting a bit of a shock from my mother. And SHE is the one who always taught us to “never cry wolf”! There’s probably little point in wagering WHO will be the next because, as my sister Linda said in her reply, probably someone already was, but we don’t know him or her!

And with that our plane is boarding. Another 9 and a half hours sitting in an airplane seat. Even a guy with a great attitude can only take so much. This is not very much fun. I’m tired of turning up the volume on my earphones so I can watch the free movies. I’m tired of choosing chicken or beef every couple of hours. I’m tired of listening to that crying baby behind us. And that ‘live map’ showing the plane’s progress is boring.

We arrive in Minneapolis 15 minutes early. I guess that’s a blessing. We have to clear through customs and pick up our luggage, which means I need to drag that big golf bag around again. But that turns out to be a good thing! We decide to check with ‘Special Services’ to see if they can move us to an earlier flight home, so that we’ll arrive in Winnipeg at 7pm instead of 11:30pm. And the nice lady at the desk changes our tickets for no charge. And I check-in our luggage so that (hopefully) it will be at the airport the same time we arrive.

And so, instead of sitting at this airport for 4 or 5 hours we barely have time to take a short walk to get our legs moving. We send Alex a text and get one right back — says Max is excited to see us at the airport, too. Bonus!

The last leg of this odyssey is only an hour. The flight is not full. I see the gray grid of farmland below as we descend into Winnipeg. There’s spots where the fields are flooded. But at least most of the snow is gone — for now.

We land, deplane, wait for our luggage. The clubs are the first thing to arrive. Then the rest. A text from Alex — they are just arriving at the airport. We roll our bags out the exit and there they are, parked out front. Little Max is peering through the car window at us — a big smile on his face. Big hugs. And we’re off.

ice_creams
Who knew that Elvis (or is that Lyle Lovett?) hangs out at McDonalds on Fermor?

Max suggests we stop for an ice cream on the way home. He keeps looking over at me sitting beside him, a big smile, and then he can’t help but kick his legs a bit — he’s so excited! Tim pulls in at the McDonalds on Fermor. We get our ice cream.

Then we head for Steinbach and home. It’s 8:30. Sue is too tired to unpack and by 9:30 she’s in bed. I’m there a few minutes later — can’t keep my eyes open long enough to finish writing my last journal entry.

So that’s it! Again. I’m off this thing at least until the next journey. If you want to know what I had for breakfast you’ll have to ask me. Or better yet, ask Sue. She’d love to hear from you.