| FEBRUARY 2000
Okay, I owe you an apology. I should have updated my site earlier but a combination of circumstances stopped me from doing that. First of all I was having such a fantastic (if frightening) time in South Africa, that computers and websites became a distant thought.
And then I had the nightmare three day flight home to Canada -- stuck in snowbound airports in New York, battling to find hotel accommodation, fighting with booking agents, lugging two very heavy bags around and suffering from the most goddamn awful jet lag. To crown it all, when I eventually arrived home I found that my computer system was on the fritz. It had gone through a major meltdown and took more than a week to get it up and running to my satisfaction.
But you want to know about South Africa and not my troubles. It still remains God's little corner of the universe, beautiful beyond words, a paradise for the tourist --- if it were not for the disturbing crime rate. Needless to say, Cape Town is the jewel in the crown. But, it is becoming seedy in places and nature does not hesitate to point out who is boss. The recent raging mountain fires are proof of that. They were spectacular in their devastation. Totally awesome. It was like some gigantic fireworks display. (See picture left.)
The beaches are still the best in the world -- pure white sand and cascading blue water. I dipped my tootsies in once or twice but enjoyed myself riding the dunes on one of those super fast four wheel quads (sandblasters). It was a lot of fun.
The city centre is out of bounds at night unless you are in a group or extremely brave. Gangs of street kids are the big danger. They prey on the unwary tourist. During the day you have to be careful as well. Those kids are everywhere -- waiting for the opportunity to grab a purse or necklace or gold chain. They're professionals.
Driving at night is another hazard. You're a sitting duck for hijackers who hide at intersections.
Driving during the day can be as hazardous -- only this time you have to watch out for low flying taxis.
My visit to Robben Island was memorable. The view of Table Mountain from the ferry is the best I have ever seen. Absolutely wonderful. Robben Island itself is what I expected. The prison where Mandela was held for the better part of his life is bleak and intimidating -- not the kind of place I would like to spend for more than an hour.
One of the highlights of my visit was a trip to Spier, a beautiful estate set in the Stellenbosch valley. The food still has me licking my chops but it was the setting that most impressed me. It is beyond words. And it's cheap by our standards.
I turned down a trip to the top of Table Mountain on the cable car. My stomach couldn't handle that height. But it doesn't stop thousands of visitors each day. The highest point I reached was Signal Hill where the view is mind-blowing. I even got into the picture. That's me, my eldest son Gary and my grandson Craig with the majestic mountain in the background.
Meeting with old friends and family meant the most to me. They are the most loving lot in the whole world. I ate crayfish and traditional dishes till it came out of my ears. In fact, I never want to see another kreef in my life!
There were some great reunions. I met with Chris Walton, who was on holiday from England and Hilton Kolbe, who was visiting from Australia. We had worked together for many years on a newspaper in Cape Town. I also bumped into expat Owen Klein and Gisele Marshall who were visiting from Vancouver and we compared notes. It was great seeing them again.
The weather was gorgeous (need I even say that?) In the two months I was there, it rained once while temperatures hovered between 36C and a sweltering 41C. Heart your heart out Canadians! I get back home and guess what? It's the coldest day recorded this year. Right now there's 10 centimeters of snow out there, the ploughs are working over time and they predict more of the white stuff this evening. I can cry!
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