Cape Town

The overnight train from Johannesburg was pretty nice. We had our own compartment. It had two bunks, a small table and a sink with running water; hot and cold. It had an electrical outlet but it didn’t work. I became suspicious of the electricity when I went to the dining car to have a look around. Inside the dining car signs were posted; WE DON’T CHARGE CELL PHONES. WE DON’T CHARGED LAPTOPS.

The air conditioning was something of suspect too. In the dining car there are two home style, single room, air conditioning units above the doorway at each end of the car. They worked fine. But my questions was… why would they need those types of air conditioners if all the cars were air conditioned? My question was never answered. I do know that we had no air conditioning: by afternoon it was 31.5 Celsius in our car.

It cooled at night and about 2.30 am I was chilly so I dug out my sleeping bag and got tucked in.

The surprising, and new feature that I had never seen on a train before, was the hot shower. It really was a hot shower on the train. As good as any KOA campground shower. Boy it felt good.

Saturday our train got in only 30 minutes late. We found our contact, Edwin who was a friend of our couchsurfing host in Johannesburg. We were taken back to a fabulous house on a steep hill that had 4 levels with the entire front done in glass. Of course that was the side that faced the ocean.

Sunday we were shuffled off to a friend of Edwin’s because some relatives were arriving for a couple of days. The guest room we occupied was needed.

Monday we spent all morning dealing with a travel agent as part of getting my visa to India. In the afternoon we went to a agency that specialized in obtaining visas for travelers.

There are some things that India has done regarding their visas and the process of getting them, that are just stupid.

* On the visa application, it very clearly says, do not get your flight tickets or make travel arrangements to India until you have received a visa. Then near the bottom of the application, it says you must include a copy of your flight ticket and travel itinerary. ???

* The time period that the visa is good for starts the day it was issued, not the day you enter the country.

* India recently stopped giving 6 months visas. They generally only give 3 month visas to tourists now. Together, this and the above mentioned item means travelers must NOT plan early. Waiting until the last minute for booking flights and making travel arrangements will give you the most time on your visa.

* Visa processing is no longer done by the India embassy or consulate. It is all out-sourced to a private company. Thus, the visa costs more because the company needs to make a profit. However, eventually your passport will end up at the Indian embassy to get the final visa and needed signatures. Perhaps India added the company because there was not enough bureaucracy.

In my case, we have a plan to be in India for 2 months. BUT I cannot get my visa more than a month prior to my arrival in India because the 3 month visa starts the day it is issued. !!!

Just getting my passport submitted along with all the proper documents for a visa to India was MUCH more complicated than this. It took us all afternoon to get it properly submitted. And we paid lot of money along the way.

Tuesday: a trip out of Cape Town to a farm in the mountains. Edwin has a friend and business partner that owns a fruit farm: apples and pears. Last year there was a 50% drop in fruit prices. I don’t know why. He employs South African workers but pays them the lowest legal wage because he gives them free housing and electricity. (1300Rand/mo)

If the South African workers just get lazy and stops working, or does an unacceptable amount of work, the farmer cannot get rid of them because he is not allowed to make the employees homeless. The farmer told us that it took him over a year of legal proceedings to get one of his “workers” and family, evicted out of the housing he was providing. All the while the South African worker was living for free but had obtained a higher paying job elsewhere.

Wednesday

We took a drive around the area. Edwin showed us the Rhodes Memorial and the Cape Town University. In the evening Soon Jeong made a Korean dinner for everyone. It was fantastic: Plugogi, Pajon, cucumber salad, bibmbab, and real Kimchi that we picked up at the Korean market. Everyone was quite impressed and happy.

Thursday

First downtown, then headed out to Cape of good hope. Rain… turned around went to Stellenbosh and Franschhoek. These are two towns that are at the heart of South Africa’s wine producing region. We drank some wine and visited two estates. VERY NICE. Incredibly beautiful valley.

Friday: Went out past False Bay on our way to the Cape of Good Hope. We stopped and saw the penguins. Several of them were mating. As a photographer I tell Soon Jeong that animal photos are much better when you can get pictures of the animals doing something. Some action is always better than an animal just standing there. And obviously if you have video…action is absolutely required. I now have a few minutes of X-rated penguin video. Penguin porn!

At the Cape of Good Hope we looked out over the two oceans and saw the exact point where the Atlantic and the Indian Ocean meet together. It was an auspicious place and moment for us.

Soon Jeong and I wrote something on the cement wall in front of the lighthouse.

Soon Jeong to her cousin who recently passed away; Please live your dreams in heaven. Me. RTW trip More than anything yobo.

We returned via the West coast of the peninsula reached Hout Bay about 6:30 pm FANTASTIC sunset.

Back at Edwin’s house I called Bank of America on their home telephone. The bank had NOT sent a new debit card to me like I had asked them to do so when I talked to them on Nov. 5th. I was so furious. We were stuck without a working debit card to get money.

The bank failing to do their job is just a tip of the iceberg. All around the world business are failing to provide service. They just don’t GET IT RIGHT, they get it wrong. Bank of America,. Or any bank for that matter fail to give good service. They just give the least service they can get by with.. I do not need to go into the many examples of how banks have failed to do the basics of customer service. I am sure everyone has many stories to tell of banks messing up their affairs.

Certainly everyone has called the banks only to be talking to someone who just barely speaks English that you can understand. Those people in the call centers are NOT in America and they do not understand the culture and most important, they do not understand what Customer Service is. They simply go through a list of useless procedures that offer no help to the customer at all.

Nowadays you cannot trust businesses to do their job. You must constantly call them and get on them to do their job. This is world-wide. Soon Jeong found this out in Korea when she sent her passport to the travel agent or business that handled visas to India. She sent her passport via express mail. Four days later she called the company about her visa to see how it was progressing. They said they had not received it. Soon Jeong then called the express delivery and they had just forgotten about her passport. In the next 24 hours she was on the phone no less than 10 times to make sure the express delivery service did its job and got the passport to the right destination in Seoul. Then she made several calls to the people processing the visa to make sure they did it as soon as it arrived. AND… she kept on the phone to make sure it was being put on the bullet train to get back to Busan. She kept calling to make sure it was picked up by the express delivery service when it arrived in Busan and immediately delivered to her at her home. She got her passport at 10:00 pm only 6 hours before we left to get our flight to London.

The failure of businesses to do their job correctly and on time is becoming the norm and not the exception.

I got nowhere with Bank of America. They only told me they could do the standard procedure of issuing a new card in 7 to 10 business days. FUCK YOU bank of America. I called my sister and got her to send my debit card by FedEx. It cost over 100 dollars to send it and the person at FedEx said the address I gave them did not exist. BULLSHIT FedEX… I am sitting in South Africa at that EXACT address. I don’t care if Google Maps can’t find the address. It does exist. Don’t tell me it doesn’t.!!

I did not sleep well Friday night. The pathetic, sorry state of the businesses around the globe is most irritating.

SATURDAY.

Up and packed. Off to try and get a car from the rental agency we booked on line; Aroundaboutcars. We could not find the address; 88 Belvader road. We went into action on plan B and that was to just stop in to any car rental agency we passed. Budget had no cars available. Eurocar had no cars available. By this time I was getting irritated at us for not being able to get on with our plans. I am sure Edwin we irritated as well. Plan C… we had Edwin drive us to the Korean travel agent. We dumped our bags on the sidewalk and said goodbye to Edwin. At that point my priority was only to relieve Edwin of the burden of us.

Once our luggage was piled in the living room of the Korean travel agent, we discussed our options. There were few left that could be done on that day. One thing for sure was that we needed to get connected on the internet to arrange anything. So we set off on foot looking for an intenet café. By then hunger was calling us so we switched our priority and walked along the street foraging for food. Not just any food, we wanted food with WiFi connection. We walked maybe 6 or 7 blocks in Sea Point (a neighborhood in Cape Town) and were approaching the restaurant that we had lunch with Michael a week before. (The friend of Edwin’s that we stayed with on the previous Monday.) I remembered that he said he liked to go there on a Saturday and sit and read the paper while having a nice mean. He was there.

We joined him. Not only did he buy us lunch, he offered to put us up for the night. Actually two nights. We told him that we needed to make some calls and to check the internet to get some things arranged but, we would give him a call if we decided to take him up on his offer.

We walked back and ducked into an internet café. We called directly to car rental agency that we tried to book online Friday night. Roundaboutcars said they could not book us a car because it was past hours (1:30 pm) and their computer system was shut off for the day. We would have to call them the next day to book a car.

South African businesses have some operating hours that we are not accustom to. “Not accustom to” means its irritating when we THINK things should be open and available but, they are not. Beer and wine in the supermarkets for example, can only be sold Monday thru Friday until 7:00 pm. On Saturday its only to 5:00 pm. If you go to the supermarket on Saturday at 6:00 pm to get a bottle of wine for the weekend, like we did, you’re out of luck until Monday morning.

Other businesses like travel agents are closed on Saturday. Car rental agencies close at noon on Saturdays we discovered. In our minds, Saturday should be a busy day for businesses but in South Africa…. they are closed. Not accustom to that.

We decided to take Michael up on his offer and so we moved our luggage into his place.

Saturday night the three of us went to the Ocean Basket restaurant and had good seafood. Lots of it.

Sunday.

We first went to an internet café to check on important things and to try to get car.

First business to attend to was, I had the tracking number from Fed Ex on the debit card being sent to me. I noticed that they had the city name wrong. I called Fed Ex and in the course of the conversation I learned that they had the city name was not really wrong they had just added in an extra name. Why, I don’t know. I assumed that if it had all the correct stuff in it the local delivery person would just ignore what was extra and unnecessary. However, they did have the house number wrong. They had NA Fishermans Bend. The correct one was 4A fishermans bend. So I asked them to change it. NO can’t do that. The request for a change must come from the sender at the origin.

I sent my sister and e mail explaining that she would have to call Fed Ex and correct their mistake. This is infuriating to me; the constant and ever decreasing amount of quality in businesses. They just don’t GET IT RIGHT.

I moved on… went to Expedia.com and booked a flight from Johannesburg to Dehli. Then just to make sure the Visa people did it right, I called them. I told them that I did just make a purchase with Expedia.com and that they should not block the purchase. Good thing I called because they had not approved the purchase. EVEN though, I had called the visa people and Bank of America and told them, in 4 different phone calls, that I was in South Africa and I would be making purchases like flight tickets. Somebody please tell me why Visa is so lame and pathetic that I must call them each time I make a purchase in someplace other than the town of my billing address.

Next, tired to get a car reserved with a recommended car rental agency. I could not. They were not answering their phones and the number that was given on their web page for phone calls after hours… was the same… no answer. I guess they don’t want to do business on Sundays.

It took Soon Jeong and I both using a computer over 2 hrs to get things straightened out as best as we could.

After that we walked (about 5 km) to the waterfront area of Cape Town. There is a very nice shopping area and tourist type of atmosphere there.

We took some photos and then waited for about an hour for the local city bus to come and take us back to our stop in Sea Point .

Monday.

The night before Soon Jeong “Found” some Euros money that she had “Forgotten” about. Sure honey. 😉

It was a sizable sum: 205 Euros. We exchanged it at the bank first thing in the morning. It gave us some operating cash. Together with the other Rand we had left it was about enough for us to go on the trip to the Garden Route. The Garden Route is a route that follows the coast along the bottom of Africa stretching East to West.

We also we able to contact Roundaboutcars on the reservation we had mad on Friday. They had a car for us and we could pick it up at noon.

About 9:30 am Michael took us to the Waterfront as he had an appointment. This gave us the opportunity to get the malaria pills at the travel Clinic by the Clock Tower. We were told that an appointment was not necessary and we could just buy the pills. This was half true. We did walk in without an appointment. However, we did need to sit with a RN and talk about our trip. This cost 195.00 Ran each. I asked her whey she had to charge us for two consultations when both Soon Jeong and I were sitting right there. She only had to talk once. Why charge twice? The RN offered to repeat everything she just said so we would truly have two consultations. Then she charged us 45 rand for writing up the prescription. Which she did not do because she was the one giving the meds. All she did was open a drawer and give us the pills. It was a total rip off. Just bullshit.

We got our malaria pills and then took a taxi up to the car rental agancy. Finally they had a car and we got on our way. The car was much smaller that we expected. More like a aluminum beer can on wheels. But we were happy to be moving on our own and not a burden to others.

Off and gone. We drove across the N2 Highway. It was fantastic. Never have I seen such vast areas blocked in like bookends with mountains that remind me of the Grand Tetons.

We drove til 8 PM and pulled into Sleeping Beauty Guest House in Riversdale. 350R for a nice cozy room in an old house.

In a town some kilometers prior we stopped and got food and wine. Dinner in the room was a can of tomato soup for me. Fruit and yogurt for Soon Jeong. And a bottle of wine with some nice cheese . Wine: Pinotage. It was okay. There is better Pinotage but I guess we need to spend more that 63 Rand for the good stuff. Pinotage is good. I like it

Both of us felt relieved that we were finally on our own. Most of our problems had been worked out. The last thing that was needed was for the Debit card to arrive. As far as I knew, that was still not correct. But, for the moment, I was not thinking about it. It was out of my hands and control.

Being relieved from all the concerns of how to get things in order, how to get money, how to get malaria pills, and how to get a car, my mind was at ease. As soon as I mentally let go of all this I felt really tired. But I still needed to do 3-4 hrs of driving. The drive was beautiful

TUESDAY

We drove on following route N2 to Moussel Bay and beyond to Tksitsikamma National park. Not long before that we came across the worlds highest bunggy jump; 216 meters off a bridge. It was from the national highway that crosses a very deep gorge. The bridge was completed in 1989? I am guessing that they built a catwalk that goes under the bridge for reasons relating to maintenance and to inspect for structural integrity. The catwalk was now used by the company selling the bunggy jump. We stood on the viewpoint and watched 4 people jump. It was quite thrilling just to watch. I expect that feeling would escalate to something near terrifying if you were the person standing on the platform in the middle of the bridge looking down. It was 680 rand to jump. Very cheap.

We wanted to stay in the NP of Tsitsikamma but the cabins were too expensive. We stayed at the little town just outside of the park called Stone River. The town’s existence is attributed to it geographical nearness to the park. There is nothing in the town but lodging, tour operators and one bar and tiny grocery store. The grocery store looked barren and like a seasonal business in the off season. Whole shelves with only 5 or 6 items on them.

Wednesday we went into Tsitsikamma and had a look at it. It was beautiful. A lot smaller than I expected. It is a narrow strip of land along the coast. It also covers an inlet where there is a suspension bridge. Good photos. We saw an animal that looked like a Marmot called a Dassess.

After that we drove back to try to get to Cape Agulas where you will find the southern most point in Africa. There is an old lighthouse there. We checked a backpackers lodging in the nearby town. Okay but we (Soon Jeong) wanted to check more. We drove along the road that winds along the seashore and came to a place called Ocean Art. A small guest house that doubles as an art gallery. Four rooms there were very nice. Luxurious for us. The owner,Grant, wanted 390 pp but Soon Jeong asked for a discount. Grant replied, “What do you want to pay?” I told Soon Jeong to offer 600 for the room. She offered and he immediately said yes. Soon Jeong was disappointed that he answered so quickly. She thought that maybe she could have gotten a better price.

There was only one other couple there. A gay couple who quietly drank wine in the living room. Soon Jeong made a very nice dinner because Grant said use anything you want in the kitchen just be sure to clean up. Breakfast the next morning was deluxe.

In the morning we drove to the most southern point and got pictures and video.

We drove back and stopped at Hermanus Bay. This place is famous for whales. It was 3:45 pm and the whale watching boats were finished for the day. We watched two whales from the shore.

From there we drove on to Betty’s Bay. Betty’s Bay is famous for a Penguin colony. There were hundreds of them. They were cute and funny to watch but they did stink. With hundreds of Penguins you also have hundreds and hundreds of piles of Penguin poop.

When we got to the Penguin colony it was past operating hours. There is a nicely built board walk and a ticket booth at the entrance. One small drooping chain across the entrance way said, ‘Do not enter’ We just did what the 10 other people ahead of us did; walked under the chain.

When we left we should have stayed in Betty’s Bay. We did check the backpackers lodge and it was fine. Except the room had not been cleaned for the day. And the toilet location was someplace that was not suitable for Soon Jeong. Despite that being a nice place and they certainly would have cleaned the room, the toilet was not up to Soon Jeong’s standards. We drove on.

We drove to the next town and checked for lodging. Nothing. Everything was too expensive. Then we drove on to Gordon’s Bay to look. By this time it was dark. We searched and searched for a backpacker’s lodge that was listed in a book but never found it. We drove in a circle for almost an hour looking for it.

Finally about 9:00 pm we found a different place. A backpackers lodge that was a total shit hole. Old, dirty and the owners just laid around smoking. We took it even though it was very over priced. Did I say it was a total shit hole? It was. I was pissed off at Soon Jeong because she was SO picky about a toilet that we were forced to stay in a much much less desirable place. (The shit hole) There are many places we can’t stay at because she can’t use the toilet.

Friday we drove into Stellenbosch. Wine country again. We got settled in a very nice backpacker’s lodge by noon. It had a swimming pool and a pretty good location.

We drove up in the hills and visited some wineries. Did some video and some tasting.

South Africa is the 9th largest wine producing country in the world. Yet because of marketing reasons there are not many South African wines in the US at this time. It’s a pity, there are some really good wines. Pinotage is a grape that originates else where but it is successfully being grown in SA. It’s a good wine something a bit similar to Pino Nior but a little heartier.

Saturday.

Up and drive into Cape Town early. This was a day of business and logistics. All under a very tight schedule. We had to return the rental car by noon. There was very little flexibility in this deadline because it was Saturday and Aroundaboutcars closed at 1:00pm.

Stop one: Edwin’s house to pick up my debit card that had arrived.

Stop two: The Harley Davidson shop in Cape Town. Gift for Jack. No T shirts in M, L, and Xl sizes . They were all on back order. The guy made it sound like delivery of the back order was a fickle thing that one never new when it would happen. I guess Cape Town South Africa is not high on Harley Davidson’s list.

Stop Three: Drop off our luggage at the back packer’s lodge that the Korean travel agent had booked us into. Found it and dropped luggage.

Last stop was to drop off the car. I did and it was 11:30 when it was all done.

We got some cash at an ATM and then had lunch.

That night we were excited about the overland safari trip we were starting in the morning. For me I was really excited because it meant that I was able to let someone else do the driving, navigating and all the decision making. All I needed to do was just listen, follow and take photos for 20 days.

Oh Yea.

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