I had a wonderful dinner with my new Cape Town best friends, Johann and Eddie from La Petite Tarte coffee shop. They wouldn't hear of me paying for anything, so I gave the staff a big tip, which seemed to please all concerned. It turned out that, apart from being gay, Johann and I had a huge amount in common from our mothers to our last partners, so we had lots to talk about. Sadly Johann was off to hospital on the Monday, but I promised I'd take Tracy for coffee and cake before I left Cape Town and wished him safely over his op.
Day 4: Sunday all is pretty much closed in Cape Town apart from tourist things, so I headed out to Camps Bay for lunch and ate in the sunshine before it was time for me to go back to the Guest House to wait for Tracy. It was lovely to see her in person again. We skype a lot, but it's not quite the same and it's been 4 years since we were last together. We had loads to catch up on as we found our accommodation (Tracy had booked us into a self contained, 2 bedroom apartment overlooking Green Bay), which was fab. We went down to the Victoria and Alfred dock to have our dinner chatting away until time to go and get back to go to bed and dream of skydiving.
|Me on the deck of 11 Chepstow Road with Green Bay stadium in the background and you can see I used my phone and not my camera so, for once, I actually have photos!|
|Tracy on the deck|
Day 5: We were up early and ready for the off. Tracy turned 40 this year and wanted to skydive as her birthday present, so I decided (after quite a bit of saying 'no' to be honest) to join her. It took us a while to get to our jumping point and then there was a bit of sitting about, deciding we would have photos, deciding we wouldn't have a video and then it was time to get kitted up. The only problem was that they take 3 people up at one go and we were split up. I was paired with a lovely young French couple (who didn't speak much English) and was due to go first, so Tracy took pics. Of course I didn't have my phone, just my camera, so all the pics I took of her will have to wait til I get back to the UK.
|Me getting kitted up|
We went 9000 feet up in the air in a teeny, tiny plane - all 6 jumpers and the pilot. It was pretty cramped and freezing cold and with only a fold down plastic door between me and the great blue yonder (pics when I get home). Rob, the guy I was to be attached to, was taking photos all the time (I ended up with about 150!) and then I had to scoot round on my hands and knees, sit in his lap while he attached me to him and then he opened the plastic fold down door and we shuffled over and then out we went.
It's hard to describe, but the sound was incredible. We free fell for about 25 seconds before he pulled the parachute open and then there was this almighty jolt and the harness was pretty uncomfortable around my boobs (they don't tell you this bit!) and we then wheeled around in the very quiet, fresh air while Rob showed me the sights of Cape Town from on high. It was pretty amazing. Tracy took a few pics of me coming down, but then had to shoot off herself for her turn.
Rob did a slight miscalculation on our landing and the guy that was supposed to be catching us was running backwards and missed us. I landed on my arse, which I thought was pretty funny. Poor Rob was a bit embarrassed, but hey, we landed and all in one piece.
The photos Rob took are on a CD and I don't have a drive with me to be able to upload them, so I'm afraid you'll have to wait to see them. Don't worry I won't put all of them up, just one or two choice ones to give you a glimpse of how it was.
After that experience Tracy and I drove off to Saldahna for lunch on the quay, listening to the creaking of the jetty and watching the boats while trying to make sense of our skydive experience and from there we went to Tracy's friend Debbie's house in Blauberg Bay. The house is ultra modern and incredible - e.g. the lights even came on in the loo when you open the door - and has fab views over the bay to Table Mountain. We had a lovely afternoon and then walked along the beach with Debbie's dogs and then out for dinner before driving back to Cape Town and bed.
It was funny really as during the skydive I was fine - not anxious or scared at all - but that night all I could do was think of freefalling as I was trying to get to sleep and it didn't make for a restful night!
Day 6: We got up early to get our boat to Robben Island. Our guide was Nthando (I didn't get his surname) a guy who'd spent quite a number of years as a prisoner. It was quite something listening to him, but both Tracy and I commented on how regimented the tour is. No time to wander or see things for ourselves. For me, I thought it was a shame that the focus is so much on Nelson Mandela (tho not surprising) and I wanted to hear more of Nthando's personal experience, but no time as we were whisked back onto the boat. We were lucky enough to see a whale on our return journey.
|Me listening to Nthando on Robben Island|
Once back in Cape Town we booked ourselves on the sunset ride up Table Mountain, which wasn't til after 6, so we set off down to Cape of Good Hope. It was pretty incredible, with all that oceanic crashing and bashing on the rocks, but loads of tourists were there so no time to sit and soak up the ambiance.
|Me at Cape of Good Hope - what you can't see is the bucket load of tourists waiting to have their pic taken!|
Then it was time to get ourselves back to Cape Town and Table Mountain. Our trip back was via the 'scenic route' and we didn't think we were going to make it, but we did... in time to realise that it was shut for the day as it was too windy to go up, so we decided to go to Signal Hill instead and watch the sunset from there. It was pretty cold while we were waiting (along with every other tourist in Cape Town it seemed!) and eventually we did get some spectacular sky photos (you'll have to wait for those) and then back to our digs for a sleep after an exhausting day.
|Tracy and me waiting for sunset at Signal Hill|
|Signal Hill, overlooking the ocean as the sun is just beginning to go down|
|Tracy's carrot cake and cappuccino and my espresso at La Petite Tarte|
We got the cable car at the bottom in lovely warm sunshine and reached the top, shrouded in cloud and bloody cold. The thing that really got me was the silence. It was as though the cloud completely swallowed any sound. Some lovely birds and a rock dassie or two and then, unbelievably, I got a tap on my shoulder and there was the French couple I'd skydived with! It was such a delightful surprise, but what are the odds of that happening? We had another group hug and a photo opportunity (yup, you guessed it, you'll have to wait for that one too) and then went our separate ways, them to walk down the mountain (they were pretty fit as well as being young), while Tracy and I did the lazy person's route on the cable car.
From Table Mountain we drove out to Constantia to another friend of Tracy's, Sarah and her lovely old house (3 generations of her family have lived there) complete with dogs, horse, pot-bellied pig and 2 delightful children (Max, who's 12 and Chloe, 15) and then sat around on her porch eating strawberries and biscuits and dip before it was time to leave and go to the outdoor cinema at Kirstenbosch Gardens.
Tracy had booked this a while ago and it was a delight. We met up with Tracy's friend's daughter, Kelly and the 3 of us sat in the VIP area, which meant camping stools, a warm blanket and popcorn and cider while watching Breakfast At Tiffany's in the freezing cold. Another great Cape Town experience. Then back to our apartment for our last sleep before we hit the road to Port Elizabeth.
Day 8: After saying goodbye to our lovely landlady, Jenny and her dogs, we got into Tracy's car with all our bags and headed off to Hermanus, where we stopped for lunch. As we were eating our sushi we were aware that people were gathering on the foreshore and staring out into the bay and there, as we were eating, were a couple of whales. What a lovely moment. We finished our lunch and went to watch for a while, but our car meter was running out so decided to go on our way.
We passed Stanford and on to De Kelvers to see if we could see any more whales, but no luck. Another stop at Pearly Bay, but still no sightings, so we headed inland along some incredible dirt roads until we got to Cape Agulhas, which is the southernmost tip of Africa. We put our bags in our accommodation and then went down to watch the lighthouse as the sun went down. It was incredibly windy and cold so it was nice to get back to our digs and settle in, cooking our food and with a glass of vino and crisps and chat to finish our day.
Day 9: We got up, packed the car and drove straight down past the lighthouse to the point to spend some time actually at the tip of Africa. We made it before all the other tourists and it was lovely to be there, with the wind whipping our hair and the waves while we soaked up the drama of being at Cape Agulhas. As we were walking the 850 metres or so back to the car we saw lots of cars heading our way, so we were relieved to get out of there before the moment was spoiled.
From Agulhas we drove to Mossel Bay, stopping at Riviersonderend, which had the most amazing shop with all kinds of things from furniture to cheese. If you ever get to this part of South Africa I recommend a stop there. We had lunch in Mossel Bay in a tiny shack out on the harbour front and then drove to George for a cuppa with Tracy's friend Lydia and from there to Knysna where we'd booked our accommodation at the Wayside Inn. It cost us just under £15 per night per person and was pretty good. This was the first Inn/Hotel type rooms we'd had all trip, but we decided to go to the beach front at Knysna, where I'd eaten the last time I'd been there 4 years ago, for dinner rather than stay put. We had a lovely meal then back to the Inn for our final sleep before Port Elizabeth.
Day 10: After a lovely breakfast that was cooked for us and a real treat after the rest of our trip of 'do-it-ourselves' we hit the road one last time and drove the 3 hours to Tracy's house in Port Elizabeth. We got an almighty greeting from her Lhasa Apso pup, Senge, who's a real cutie. He's about a month older than Vespa and as far removed in dog term's as it gets. He's a ball of fluff but with real attitude!
|Senge giving me a cuddle|
Tracy was so pleased to see him. She'd left him with a dog sitter while she did her Cape Town bit so knew he was in good hands, but she'd missed him. It made me think of Vespa and wondering how he was getting on, but my motto is 'no news is good news' so haven't made any effort to find out.
Tracy bought this house at the beginning of the year and it's her first ever home of her own. It was when she told me she'd got it that we made plans for me to come out and see her in her new place. It's certainly lovely and even has a pool and it was great to sit on the porch eating crisps and drinking wine and having a dog to play with.
Day 11: We got up early to get to the beach for a walk with Tracy's landlady from when I last stayed. If you were reading my blog all those years ago, you'll know that Tracy used to live in the granny flat at one of South Africa's foremost ceramicists, Lynley Watson and she and I hit it off a treat, so she wanted to see me while I was here. We had a lovely time along Port Elizabeth's very windy shore with Senge and Lynley's dog, Honey, a yellow, not terribly obedient lab. After that it was time to go and get Tracy's gardener and then get home for breakfast. I was starving!
We then spent a pleasant morning weeding Tracy's back garden while the gardener sorted the plants, then lunch and unfortunately it started to rain so Tracy gave the gardener a lift back and now it's easy osy time til we start thinking about dinner. The joys of being on holiday.
Tomorrow, Tracy goes back to work and I dog sit for the next few days. The weather is supposed to improve so I'm hoping to lounge about, read some books, swim in the pool and play with the pup. A complete opposite to the frenetic first part of my South African trip!