I awoke around 5am on my first morning in camp (the 10th) at the Mountain Breeze Campground outside Cape Town. It wasn’t the famous ‘dawn chorus’ that I’d heard so much about that awoke me. It was a very deep, richly accented, South African male voice, very close to our tent, saying “Yes my lovey, that’s right my darling” and other such endearments. I eventually realized he was on a cell phone and was making absolutely no effort to lower his voice at that early hour. Around 7am, after again fitfully napping, I awoke again to movement in the camp (Bruce was still sending up zzzzzzzzzzzzs), so I decided to get up. I knew I’d be meeting the people Bruce was traveling with and – there was no way around it – my first impression (that I gave) was not the best I’ve ever presented as I found I had to back out of the tent to exit it. The first person I met was the fellow with the deep voice who had been bellowing sweet nothings into the phone at 5am, Lieb. (As it turned out Lieb was leaving the group at 10am that morning so I had no further opportunities to observe him, but heard many tales about him in the coming days. I then met Andre, then his wife Lucia emerged from their tent, and Anschu (Charles’s wife) - all before my first morning coffee and a hairbrush. How to make a good first impression!
After a light breakfast of coffee and rusks (a South African staple) we jumped in the van and headed out exploring the region. First stop was at a nearby winery (Mooieberge) that also did the most amazing dried fruit – packages in all sizes, shapes, flavours – at an incredibly reasonable price. I bought a large bag of mixed dried fruits for only 32 Rand (about Cdn $4) and we oohed and aahed at the vast selection of South African wines available at such cheap prices.
Then it was on to Cape Town’s beautiful waterfront, where we had a lovely lunch (the remaining six of us) and strolled amongst the tourists, listening to South African marimba bands and groups that looked and sounded very much like Ladysmith Black Mambazo. Following this, we again jumped back in the van and drove off along the route that the guys would be taking the following day (but in the opposite direction) on the Cape Argus Tour (110Km bike ride). Table Mountain was actually in quite a bit of cloud at this time, so we weren’t getting a full view of it, but we drove around the Peninsula and it was lovely.
That night we had a wonderful braai (BBQ) back at the campground and consumed some of our wine purchases. Anschu and Lucia are incredibly well-organized people who run a tight ship in camp, and everything was really good.
Up early again – seems to be a filthy habit with this bunch of camper/cyclists! – and Bruce and I went off with Charles and Anschu to pick up their son and daughter in law at the airport who were also coming in to do the one-day Cape Argus Tour with their bicycles. (Bruce knew Charles and Tanya from his last Himalayan ride.) I have no idea how many of the 40,000 riders participating in the Cape Argus ride are flying in with their bikes, but they have an amazing set-up organized at the airport for the riders’ bikes. People were encouraged to ship their bikes early so that they wouldn’t all be coming in together and there was an entire secured lot in the Parkade set aside for the thousands of bikes that were there.
It was a bright, sunny day with vivid blue skies and Table Mountain was absolutely clear, so Charles, Anschu, Charles Jr. and Tanya dropped Bruce and I off at the entrance to go up in the cable car to the top of the Mountain. We were in the lineup for almost an hour and a half, but the ride up to the top was spectacular – the car rotates so that everyone gets a view. It was fabulous on top with incredible views over Cape Town and the surrounding shoreline out to Robben Island (where Nelson Mandela was imprisoned for so many years). A Rock Hyrax (also called a dassie) came out on the wall and posed beautifully for photos. It looks like a huge rabbit without the floppy ears – but is in need of some good dental work for its serious overbite. We stayed up on the Mountain for a pretty decent lunch which meant we were a bit too late to get out to Robben Island that day (where Nelson Mandela was imprisoned for so many years), but some tourists in line with us said they had been out there a few years ago and had gone again in the last few days and were disappointed as the whole place has been white-washed with all the prisoners’ writings on walls now obliterated. Didn’t sound as though we needed to go to extreme measures to get out there, so we just hung out again on the lovely waterfront (at the Belgian Restaurant), chatting with a couple of Belgian tourists who had been on the Mountain with us, and who gave us a crash course in pouring Belgian beer (don’t tip the bottle up more than once – it stirs it up) and leaving some beer at the bottom of the bottle so that you don’t get any sediment in your glass. It was really potent – about 12%. Charles and Anschu came and met us there and had a drink themselves).
Andre and Lucia had remained in camp having a quiet day to themselves so it was lovely, on our return, to find dinner was almost ready. Anschu and Lucia are formidably organized cooks, getting everything ready so quickly and Andre appears to be the braii master – he has a very simple and delicious way of cooking meat – it’s set on a very simple but efficient rack/basket on a pole (a unit we’d like to obtain to bring home with us if we can) then the meat is simply sprinkled with lemon juice, Worcestershire sauce, coarse salt and pepper and the entire unit is rotated periodically.
Not sleeping well although I am now the inheritor of Lieb’s camp mattress (the man who left the very first morning I came). Must be some jet lag mixed in with the camping/sleeping bag routine I guess.