(Retro- blogging) (Cape Town Part 2 - see here for Part 1)
On our second morning of the Cape Town trip, we woke up to find the ocean still beating away at the rocks on the coastline there in Gansbaai. Ate a hurried breakfast of leftover pizza (we had, in our infinite wisdom, saw fit to order that in addition to dinner, the night before), and then hopped into our swim gear, warm clothes over that, and off for the boat.
(It should be noted that I didn't really take one good digital picture from the boat at all, because I was either a) in the water with the waterproof camera or b) capturing everything on video from the observation deck.)
After a brief morning briefing, we loaded our plump tourist torsos onto the ship of death, and off we chugged into the surf. 15 minutes later we were a few hundred yards off the coast, albeit on the far side of the sweeping bay. You could hear the surf crashing in the distance, and there were 2-3 other boats in view, all preparing to do what we were preparing to do. The water was green and inviting - didn't look very cold at all (it wasn't).
After they maneuvered the steel cage into the water and secured it next to the boat, the portly captain gave us his final warning speech on the particulars of getting in and out, and when he got to his question of who wanted to go first, Brian and I already had our hands in the air. So we wet-suited up, grabbed some goggles, strapped weights on, and hopped in the cage. They were chumming the water all the while, and once we were in a largish (say about the size of a nerf football) chunk of tuna was tossed out, on the end of a rope with a small bouy to keep it afloat. It hovered there just below the surface, maybe 15 feet in front of the cage with 4 sacks of human meat encased in neoprene in it.
About 1/4th of the cage is above water the whole time, and they tell you to keep your head above water so that you can hear them shout at you when to go down, if they see the shark coming. Screw that, I had my face under the water the second I was in there. I tried to keep one ear above water for the most part, to hear when they did shout, but for the first few minutes I was busy swimming around the bottom of the cage, trying to see something before anyone else.
Which I did, go me. An 20' long 2,000 lb. beast from the depths, swimming non- chalantly about 15 feet under the tuna, acting like it wasn't really interested. It just kind of faded into the green haze, and then, just as I was going up for air BAM, out of nowhere she comes flying up at a 45 degree angle, honed in on the tuna. Chomp. Gone.
That was the nature of our sightings for the next few hours. You'd see them poking around from time to time, checking out the boat, the cage, the tuna, but you'd rarely see them just before they went for it. Most times they'd just come straight up from the bottom, engulf the tuna in their massive jaws (most of which had roughly 16,000 massive razor teeth), and then they were gone, as quick as they came.
After seeing at least 2 or 3 of them take multiple tuna samplings, we got out so that the next group could go in, and went up to the observation deck to take pictures / video. We went in again later in the morning, and although we didn't see as much, we did get our closest exposure, when one kind of came at the cage as it struggled to get the tuna off the line. They thrash their massive tails around and it causes a lot of bubbles/foam, but 2000 lbs. of shark muscle is hard to miss when its right next to you. So I decided to give it a little love tap, and stuck my stupid hand outside the cage to touch it, on the top of the tail, just behind and down a little bit from the dorsal fin. I'm pretty sure it didn't notice. I still have my hand.
All in all we probably saw 12-15 different sharks, most of them multiple times. Its hard to tell exactly, they look a lot a like when all you see is a flash of grey and then enough teeth to tear a cow in two.
So then we packed it in and headed back for dry land, which is safe, and where you have much more chance of seeing death by massive creature coming for you, which is rather comforting. Like the penguins, for instance, which we stopped to see, and more unfortunately smell. Except they are not massive, and they do not want to eat you. Well, they might, but they're clearly not well organized enough to be much of a threat.
We drove off to Franshoeck, one of the 2 main wine countries outside of Cape Town, and found our B&B. After unloading, we sauntered around the town a bit and then found a nice bar/restaurant that opened onto a kind of enclosed square in the artsy little shopping area. They had a massive screen put up for the rugby qualifiers so we watched that, accompanied by many beers and plates of not-very-good-for-us food.
The next morning we hit a few of the wineries, the first of which, although it was signed like a winery, in the middle of a massive vineyard, and looked for all intents and purposes like a winery, was actually a private residence on the side of the valley with an incredible view from the portico between what apparently was the house and the big building that was certainly not a winery. Maybe it was a library. Who knows. Anyway the guy, looking like a guy our age who had just woken up on a Saturday morning, politely informed us we were mistaken, but let us take some pictures of his view.
Then we went to some real wineries, the best of which was Cabriere, which I hope to get back to. They have a Pinot Noir Blanc (not a red) that was incredible, but it may have just been because it was the last one I tasted. The old dude who showed us around was pretty funny and closed his act by inviting pretty girls on stage to help him open bubbly bottles with a sabre, the old fashioned way. Their reward for success (or failure, for that matter), was a kiss from Mr. Lech.
Back to Cape Town. Found our hotel downtown, checked in, took off for Table Mountain, climbed it - about a 3 hour climb but we were hoofing it a lot faster than that. Great views of the city from the top, then on the way down in the cable car I brilliantly recorded over some of my shark footage. Idiot.
That night we headed out to Long Street with Jenny, who was also in town. Billiards, Mexican dinner, more billiards, then copious amounts of late night dancing.
Sunday after packing everything up we hit the waterfront for some light shopping and lunch before heading back to the airport. Met some other US / UK consultants in the airport headed back to JNB as well, Brian and Jenny got to know them better over the next month or so, but I was a little busy for follow-up at the time.
The best part about Cape Town was the sharks, hands down. I won't say its the best part of my time in Africa so far, because there's been a lot of incredible things, but seeing those things up close vaulted right up there next to skydiving, for me. It made you feel your humanity, it reminded me that I am just food, albeit with a soul. But the shark neither knows nor cares about the second part.
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