Thursday, December 22, 2005

Hop On Hop Off

December 22, 2005 We were awakened at 2:45 am with a group of people sitting outside our room drinking, smoking pot, arguing, and laughing. One was identifiable as a Brit through their comments, one an American, one woman from Israel, and the other woman was unidentified. They carried on until 4:30 am. So much for the rule about no noise after midnight. Ron got up and switched the lights on and off, thinking they would take a hint, but they did not seem to notice or care. The funniest comment was when the Brit said to the American “You are boring. I bet you are boring in every country you go to.” The American denied the claim and stated he was only boring here. Then he asked if anyone has ever cycled around the world? The hostility was mounting, so that by 4:3o, the American threw in the towel and went to bed. We were able to get back to sleep, but the alarm went off at 8:00, so we did not have any temptation to waste the day. After our Checkers supermarket breakfast, we readied ourselves. I have not shaven since we left home. In Paris, I could not find an outlet in the bathroom and here, the adapter I brought does not fit. This also is a problem for recharging my phone, and my batteries for the camera. The weather forecast was cold and chance of rain, but we walked downtown ready to hop on and off of the Red Line bus. An all day ticket was only 180 Rand for both of us and was good until 5:45 pm. We decided to do a complete circuit to see the sights and then the second time around, we could decide where we wanted to stay longer. One stop was the cable car station at the base of Table Mountain. The view of the “Bowl” the city below was fantastic, though a bit overcast. It was freezing up there and clouds were starting to cover the mountain, so the cable car was not running. Other stops were some of the beaches, which are pristine, but the water stays cold throughout the year. Recently, they have had a number of white shark warnings, so where you swim is closely guarded. For us, it was definitely too cold for swimming and the surfers are wearing skins all year long. It gave me goose bumps just watching people in their swim suits. Our first stop off of the bus was the Catwalk Internet Café. Our bus ticket included coupons and one of them was for a free hour of Internet service each. The Catwalk has 85 computers linked to high speed Internet and is the cheapest place around at 10 Rand an hour without a coupon. It is open 24 hours a day as well as a little café that also serves snacks. If you are a smoker, the upstairs is set aside for smokers. You can drink your coffee, smoke, and surf the Internet all at once. We walked around the block and down the street to yet another Red bus stop and picked up the bus again. We had a different guide on this bus; the guide is live and in English only. We went back up to Table Mountain cable car station and it was even colder than before. Our second stop off was at the beach where we had lunch at Theo’s Restaurant, another coupon from the bus ticket. Our coupon was for 20 Rand off of a bill totaling 50 Rand. I had the most wonderful steak fillet covered with blue cheese sauce and chunks of blue cheese with small baked potatoes. Ron had King Klip fish, which he had never had before and really enjoyed it. We each had a beer, but the bill with the 20% tip that I added came to 121 Rand or about $20.00. Food is so much cheaper here than in Budapest for eating out and for grocery shopping. After lunch, we walked along the beach front to the Red bus stop. We took the bus to the waterfront, which is a huge complex of boat docks, a large mall, dozens of restaurants, a slew of stores independent of the mall, two cinema complexes, and the Two Oceans Aquarium. There are also separate African craft stores with some interesting things, but we did not buy anything on that trip. We learned on the bus, amongst other things that the population of the country is 40 million with 4.5 million living in Cape Town and the suburbs. The country is so large, you can fit in Germany, France, and still have room left over for part of Spain. The bus had finished for the day, so we were on our own for a way back to the hostel. We started to walk, but realized it was too far. We wanted to get back to the Company Gardens to find Gilbert the beaded animal head maker. We broke down and took a taxi with Eric, the black driver from the Eastern Cape. When we reached the Company Gardens, we missed Gilbert by 10 minutes. We learned this from the two guys who were selling drinks across from where Gilbert’s stand was. We asked them to be sure to tell him that we returned and would yet again return tomorrow after our tour. They said they would. From there it was an easy walk to Ashanti where we rested for 15 minutes before trekking off to Checkers for groceries. Ron decided to make the sausage that we had our first day in the downtown restaurant with sweet potatoes, onions, and tomatoes. I was out speaking with an American who wanted to teach abroad. There were a bunch of people sitting in the kitchen talking very loudly. One woman who I think was the Israeli was extraordinarily loud and animated. It was 9:00, so it was not too late for noise. However, this young German guy comes out of his room and walks to the kitchen and closed the kitchen door without saying a word to anyone. The woman took great offense to this and the Swiss guy in the kitchen started cursing and went to open the door again. The German returned from his room and repeated his actions. This time the Swiss guy got furious and confronted him. The German said that some people come there to sleep and the noise was bothering him. The Swiss guy said that he was an employee of Ashanti and if he did not like it, he could leave right then and there. I am not sure what the management would have thought about that comment, but I found it obnoxious.

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