Thursday & Friday
Thursday and Friday we spent too much time with our electronic toys, domestic fluff (the attempt the reverse the accidental pink load of laundry was nearly successful) and ridiculous errands (yeah, I do need coral nail polish for the Serengeti, okay?). Of course to reward ourselves for all of of our hard work we made one last trip to Clifton, final appearance at the worlds most ridiculous people watching arena (Cafe Caprice) and even managed to get James one last Cajun chicken wrap and jalapeño poppers at Mitchell’s at the V&A Waterfront. Phew.
Saturday morning we arrived smelling good and unnoticeably late with bags packed ready to embark on this overland thing. The morning was spent doing a township tour. James and I were thrilled as a few days prior we had excitedly discussed how incredible it would be to be invisible and cruise through the slums. Yeah sure it’s still a “tour” but it’s only fair as a guest in this country (well any) that we dive into the dirty slums as welcoming as we do the turquoise crisp Atlantic. So this is the most respectable (and safe) way for us to do just that.
Our guide first took us to Langa, one of Cape Town’s largest townships.
Approximately 1.5 million Capetonians call townships home. This township parallels the N2 freeway and provides a distracting view for drivers for over 15km. What you can’t see and wouldn’t know from the comfort of your car is that it sprawls 10km deep.
The townships have clean water and electricity thanks to the South African government. Access to health clinics and schools also is provided. Chemical toilets emptied twice weekly, lined neatly side-by-side form rough borders of the townships. Residents must purchase their food and clothing. While we are visiting in their summer, they currently have a heightened risk of fires that spread quickly thanks to the high winds, use of coil stoves which sit atop dry dirt, and the fact these homes are constructed of cardboard, wood scraps, and light aluminum. Unfortunately winter is no better. Most of the land these townships occupy are former wetlands, and the winter rain brings heavy floods.
As we strolled between narrow streets we encountered many sweet smiling kids, playing, laughing and curious what the visitors are up to. They had built a train with milk crates and used torn sheets weaved between the crates as a rope for the conductor to pull.
None of the boys were camera shy, and easily stole our attention long enough for us to completely abandon the tour group. Thankfully, James stalled the tour by inquiring about the South Africa football game that evening.
Besides the beautiful children, we noticed lots of adults meandering around the township, and although it was Saturday and you might erroneously assume they just had the weekend off work, but in the townships the unemployment is nearly 70 percent. The national unemployment rate in South Africa is 23-25 percent. The 30 something percent of adults in the townships that are working are mostly employed as factory and domestic workers. Although there are some professionals and government employees with the means to live in proper houses that have elected to remain a part of the township.
Acacia’s first offered introduction to Cape Town was honest, raw and much appreciated. After one last stop at the waterfront, we boarded the truck and headed north 260km.
By 6 p.m. we arrived at Highlanders Winery where we pitched our tents and enjoyed wine while waiting for the South Africa vs Mali football game and some awesome chicken stew (yep, you heard it from the glulactard). Geez rough camping trip right?
Besides the stars knocking you off your feet, the best part of this evening was the conversation we had with the owner of the winery. Now in his early forties, he grew up in the white suburbs of Cape Town gently shaded by Table Mountain. He had purchased 15 acres of land 9 years ago and since has been working hard building a beautiful winery.
He disclosed he could’ve made much more money in Cape Town, but made the move because, “That’s no place to raise kids. This place is a lifestyle.” We learned he has a hardworking wife and two young sons.
Such a vivid storyteller, he was one of the best documentaries I’ve ever watched/heard. He talked to us about how being a middle aged white male in with Africa today, puts you at the greatest disadvantage for jobs. That the SA government is trying, and has been trying, to give more jobs to colored people to “even out” the numbers, and rightfully so.
He shared with us his experience of “when the wheels first started turning for him that black people are, well people.” In the very early 90’s, he became good friends with two black men. When his 21st birthday approached, his family and (white) friends were hesitant about him inviting “colored people” to his birthday party. At this time he was just two years ahead of the rest of the nation catching on.
He then shared his detailed memories of the Election Day in 1994 when Nelson Mandela was elected president, and when Mandela shook the hand of the national rugby team’s captain at the final of the 1995 Rugby World Cup.
To be the listener in a conversation with a gentleman living half his life in Apartheid and half out was incredible.
We went to bed with the game tied heading into extra time, only to discover in the morning that South Africa lost on penalties.
On Sunday we were up at 6 a.m. with an hour (African Time = two hours) before departing to begin the 400km drive from the Highlander Winery to our next campsite near the Namibian border.
We had a quick stop in Springbok and were ridiculously excited to dig up an American football at the 5 Rand store. Of course the football actually cost R50…go figure.
After the quick shopping stop we hit the road again continuing north toward the Namibian boarder. About 45 minutes later we pulled over to the side of the road and set up shop for lunch in a small dusty clearing. Obviously we took this time to test out our newly acquired American football. We even taught an Aussie and an Austrian how to throw the ball and the basics of the game.
With our throwing arms stretched out and our bellies full we hit the road once again toward our new digs for the night, Growcery Campsite.
We arrived at the campsite shortly before 4:30 p.m. The site is fully self sustaining and although in a very barren, dry region it’s on the bank of the Orange River, which fortunately (given the heat) is crocodile free and safe for swimming.
We spent the evening splashing around in the river, playing with the resident litter of puppies and drinking beers by the fire. We were also treated to an extremely good sausage and rib dinner with a side of Tarynne compatible veggies and potatoes.
Our group has been divided up into four teams to help split up the chores each day. Tarynne who is on “Team C” was on dish duty on Sunday, while I and the rest of Team D had the day off. So I was able to lounge around and relax by the fire while Tarynne did the dishes. Ideal.
After dinner the group hung out by the bar and did more formal introductions, telling everyone where we are from and why we are on the trip. Once everyone introduced themselves we hung out for about an hour longer before heading back to the campsite and going to sleep.
On Monday we woke up and went straight down to the river for an early morning swim. The water was extremely still and perfect for swimming. Unfortunately I had to cut our swimming session short because it was “Team D’s” day to cook.
Of course the rest of “Team D” never showed up and I cooked the bacon, eggs and toast breakfast alone with our tour guide Prosper. Before the 40 days is up James’ Gourmet Toast will be the group’s favorite dish, I guarantee it.
After breakfast we returned to our tent to pack up, but found it floating in about two inches of water. Awesome.
Thankfully everything inside was dry except we now had a red ant infestation, because when the ground flooded the ants headed for high ground a.k.a. our tent. With all of our belongings cleared out and our tent moved to dry ground we were able to track down a killing bug spray and we promptly executed every single ant who dared to enter our humble abode.
Even though this ant fiasco set us back considerably, Tarynne and I are seasoned Northwest campers and the fastest in the group at erecting (laugh it up) and dismantling a tent. So with our speedy quick tent pitching and tent flattening skills we caught back up with everyone else and boarded the truck right on time.
Twenty minutes after we left the campsite we pulled up to the South African immigration post on the Namibian boarder. Of course some people In our group didn’t have their shit together and overstayed their welcome in South Africa, so we had to wait while they were fined by the government.
After about a two hour ordeal the group finally made it through South African and Namibian immigration and we were on the road again toward Fish River Canyon.
At approximately 4:30 p.m. we arrived at the Canyon Road House, the lodge and campsite we are staying at tonight.
The lodge is about a 20 minute drive from Fish River Canyon and once we had all set up camp we hit the road again to get to the canyon before sunset.
We arrived at Fish River Canyon, the second largest canyon in the world, with plenty of time to catch the dramatic sunset.
Tomorrow we have a full day of driving more than 600 kilometers through Namibia.