(Retro- blogging) (Cape Town Part 1)

The weekend after Madikwe, Brian and I took off for Cape Town. I mis-booked my flight originally for a day later, so I had a minor fiasco at the airport securing a flight on another airline (SAA was less-than-not-very-helpful, thank you less-than-not-very-much). Then that other airline did something I was simply shocked by. I was near the front of the queue to board, since I was very early for that flight, seeing as I had arrived thinking I would be on another flight. So I was one of the lucky 30 people they asked to switch to another airplane (as this one was overbooked), "departing Joburg and arriving Cape Town" at the exact same time (right, like they have parallel runways here like its O'hare or something, I later realized). So I say "sure, why not" and they move 30 of us to the gate right next door. And then they board the other flight, the one I was originally on. And they don't board us. And they don't tell us anything. And our departure time comes and goes, and still they tell us nothing. A couple hours later they finally board us and fly us to CT, without so much as an apology from anyone. They lied to my face. Worst customer service experience ever.

But, the trip was not to be darkened by that nightmare. We got into Cape Town and drove to our first hotel on the waterfront in Simon's Town, near where we would go on a shark-breach viewing cruise early the next morning. Except the next morning I couldn't drag Brian out of his bed, even after pouring water on him (that pissed him right off!). So I drove to the docks alone, in the dark. Met up with the other folk there for the cruise and then met our boat operators, and then we were off. It was about a 20 minute ride out to Seal Island.

Seal Island is pretty much the only place in the entire world that you can go and watch the great whites actually breach (read: jump fully out of the water). Its due to the nature of the shallow waters around the island, the color on the bottom of the sea floor and the color of the sharks themselves, and the sheer numbers of endless seals that like to use this island when they're not off swimming around the world. There's anywhere from a few hundred to a few thousand seals coming in from or going back out to sea from the island on a given day.

The way the sharks work is that they come straight from underneath their prey, and when they hit it (usually swimming along the surface), they are propelled by their momentum into the air, where they hang for a brief second before disappearing to the deep again, hopefully with a blubbery little snack in their maw.

I didn't really get many pictures of this trip because I was working the video camera more than anything, as there's a much better chance of catching a breaching on video than on the digital cam. I did get one breaching on tape, albeit far off, but it was truly awesome to see, as you can hear in the video when I start freaking out about it (when I get some time off at home this month, I'll try to get clips up on youtube).

We did a little trolling around the island with our fake carpet seal behind us but didn't get much response there, nor to the chum in the water later - had a couple big ones come by briefly but none that stayed around, so no one bothered going in the cage. After that we poked around the bay and saw some whales, and then back to port. Brian had woken up and did a later-departing whale-watching cruise, so I waited for him to get back and then we kind of off-handedly decided to drive down and see Cape Point.

The park was pretty interesting, I'd like to go back and spend a little more time at the beaches there some time. The point itself is actually pretty hilly, so once you leave your car in the parking lot and dodge a few baboons there, you start either the hike up or can take a tram half the way. We opted for the tram, for time's sake, which was a good idea - there's still a pretty significant hike out towards the point from the top of the tram. So yeah - this is me, at the end of the earth.

We hiked back down (all the way), saw some more baboons, and then drove out of the park, stopping for Mr. Turtle, who was leisurely crossing the street. It was cool to see so many cars casually stopped for him, like this was what you did here, I wish I could have gotten a shot of the scene.

Upon picking up our gear back at the hotel, we were off to Gansbaai - it was a beautiful couple of hours drive down there, mostly along the the water, although not with a clear view of it the whole time. Coming through one mountain pass, I was zipping along at probably 140kms and BAM there goes a baboon shooting across the road like a bullet. We missed him by no more than a meter. It was just like in the states where you almost hit a deer, except it was a freakin baboon - yep, you're in Africa.

We arrived late afternoon in Gansbaai, to another hotel on the waterfront, dropped off our stuff and headed into town to get some internet, so I could send off my status report for work, and then find dinner at a local bar/restaurant joint where we were clearly the only sore thumbs in the place. The food was terrible and we were smart enough to get a pizza to help tide us over back at the hotel. When we got back we decided to trek down onto the rocks by the water in the dark, and no sooner had we got out there than we saw a couple of sets of headlights careening around the bay towards us. Turned out to be local cops trying to catch poachers (of what we didn't find out), but they looked pretty relieved to see two stupid tourists with a small flashlight, and we were relieved to see them relieved. Hung out on the rocks a little after that, then back to the hotel, for night 2 of going to sleep to the sound of waves crashing, which is pretty much the second best thing ever.

The first best thing ever would happen the next morning, and that will be Cape Town, part deux.

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