We're going to Africa!
South Africa, specifically! Landing gear is down as we start our descent over the beaches of Cape Town
The Immigration & Passport Control officials at the airport gave us a three month tourist visa. O RLY...? Here's a not-so bold prediction - I bet you anything, we will still be in South Africa 90 days from now! LOL!
We leave the airport terminal, our suitcases stuffed with motorcycle gear in tow. The minute the sliding doors open, we walk face-first into a wall of scorching Southern Hemisphere summer heat.
OMG. What a change from chilly Croatia!
Purple Jacaranda trees lining our neighbourhood in Cape Town, Table Mountain behind
Our nomadic friends, Yaw and Hélène, have just wrapped up their 2.5+ years of world travel. During that time, they spent a couple of months in Cape Town, so we picked their brains about where to stay. So on their recommendation, we rented a place in a nice neighbourhood right underneath the iconic Table Mountain, called Tamboerskloof.
Our AirBnB place welcomed us with some local wine. We're going to have to switch from our beer swilling habits,
I've heard South Africa is famous for its wines!
We have arrived in Cape Town during its worse drought in over a century
The last rainy season here was too dry to replenish the dam supplying water to Cape Town. So now there are signs and notices all over town reminding residents to conserve and ration: which means no watering lawns, no car washes, let the yellow mellow and limiting shower time to 90-seconds.
I feel like we're not wasteful people ordinarily, but its eye-opening just how much water you can save by implementing some of these measures. During each of our 90-second showers, we place a large pail underneath us to catch grey water, which we use to flush our toilets at the end of the day.
All the newspapers and TV programmes are counting down to Day Zero - that date in the calendar that if there is no additional rainfall to refill the dam, the city will run out of water and the taps will be turned off. Day Zero is less than four months away.
Without a garden to tend, Neda goes back to planning her next cross-stitch project
When South African Immigration gave us a three month visa, we automatically went into Vacation Mode. Three months! Well then, we have *all the time in the world* to figure out what we're going to do about procuring motorcycles, mapping out a route, etc. So the immediate plan is just to chill and enjoy Cape Town and the sunny weather for a little while.
We're very excited about being back in Africa. We spent a few weeks riding around Morocco back in 2015, but everyone told us that that country was considered "Africa-Lite", very unlike the rest of Sub-Saharan Africa. Fair enough. Well, we're here now and we want to experience The Real Africa™.
Bring it on!
Not knowing where to start, we go online and Google "Things to see in Cape Town". This was one of them: The Old Biscuit Mill.
Ummmm... This is Africa?
We had lunch here. Skipped the vegan brownies and had fusion sushi wraps. So *this* is the The Real Africa™, eh?
Okay, I may have had some pre-conceived notions about what we were going to see here. I know Cape Town is a modern city, but I thought there would be some vestiges of tribal culture in South Africa.
And to be honest, I may have had daydreams of mud huts and grass skirts everywhere the minute our rickety single-prop aeroplane touched down on some dusty, unnamed airstrip in The Real Africa™. And then porters in Dr. Livingstone hats and khakis would greet us in a well worn and beat-up 4x4 Land Rover to drive us hours through thick, bumpy jungleland, past throngs of elephants, lions and zebras to wearily arrive at our tented accommodations.
We left The Old Biscuit Mill a bit disappointed and hit Google up again to find more "cultural" things to see.
Okay, so *this* is interesting, and a bit personal as well. The Bo-Kaap neighbourhood is also called the Cape Malay Quarter
(Also, there is a Land Rover Defender parked on the street. We are getting closer...)
Malay, like from Malaysia! Like, where I grew up! Cool!
Bo-Kaap is literally a 15-minute walk away from where we are staying. It's a tiny community, of about three or four streets of brightly coloured buildings. This area was settled in the late 1700s by former slaves from SE Asia, who were originally brought over by the Dutch East India Company. When they were freed, they all collected in this neighbourhood, which helped to preserve their identity and cultural heritage over the past few centuries.
Cape Malay is kind of a misnomer, because only some of the former slaves were brought from Malaysia. Most of them were from Indonesia, Sri-Lanka, India and other African countries like Madagascar. The one commonality of all these cultures which congregated in the Malay Quarter, was their Muslim religion. In fact, the buildings in the Malay Qaurter were originally all white, like most of the buildings in Cape Town, but the residents painted them in bright colours to celebrate Eid, the Islamic holiday, after the end of Apartheid, in 1994.
Having survived Apartheid, these days the Cape Malay Quarter is shrinking, under siege now from gentrification and price hikes
We walked up one of the Cape Malay Quarter streets, uphill towards Signal Hill
From where we're staying in Tamboerskloof, we're right underneath Table Mountain, so we're too close to really get a nice view of the mountains. From here, you can see the entirety of Table Mountain and Lions Head on the right.
On our walk up, we passed a couple of mosques and saw many women in headscarves taking their kids to the playground nearby.
Our destination: a Cape Malay restaurant! I'm really curious to see how similar it is to Malaysian food.
Ordered some curry and roti, as well as a Cape Malay specialty, Bobotie
So... the curry was waaay watered down. Not spicy and flavourful like back in Malaysia. Like a gringo version of Malay curry. The roti was spot on. We ordered samosas, which is Indian, not Malay. They called them Samoosas (doouble O) in South Africa. Okay.
What we really enjoyed was the Bobotie. It is a uniquely Cape Malay dish, not found anywhere else. It's like a casserole with a base layer of curried minced meat, covered with a creamy top layer made of savoury egg custard. It's delicious!
We walk back into town. This is our dessert. This doggy-day-care that we passed by let us in to play with the dogs inside
On another day, we walk down to a known tourist trap: The V&A Waterfront Centre
It's named after Queen Victoria and Prince Alfred, so automatically you know it's going to be a gringo place. We're actually here to see the new Thor movie. Because that's what you do when you're in The Real Africa™. Catch the latest Marvel superhero movie...
Table Bay Harbour at the V&A Waterfront Centre
After the movie, I got what I came to see. Grass skirts and tribal dancing!
It was a city dance troupe in costume. I don't think they really lived in mud huts. After the show, they collected their tips, changed back into civvies and drove away in their Toyota minivan.
The search for The Real Africa™ continues.
On another day, Neda convinced me to go hiking at the top of Table Mountain
We take the cable car up. I'll hike around the top of Table Mountain, but no way I'm climbing up it! Who even does that? Neda tells me lots of people hike up Table Mountain. I tell her that they're crazy.
You get some really nice 360° views of Cape Town from the top
We saw the city centre as well as the different beaches around the area. Gave us some great ideas of where to go during our down-time in Cape Town.
When looking through the pictures we took of this day, one of them sparked a memory. I've seen this view before...
I've been to Cape Town before. Top is a picture we just took.
Bottom is me and my dad, *cough* many many decades ago
My mom was born and raised in South Africa. She moved away to escape Apartheid, but when her father passed away, his dying wish was to be buried back in the country that he loved - South Africa. So we came back for the funeral, and the whole family took a trip to Cape Town while we were in the country.
When that picture was taken, I couldn't even walk yet. My dad had to carry me around with him everywhere.
And now, several decades later, here I am in the same spot. I still don't like to walk. I also beg Neda to carry me around everywhere.
It's nice to know some things never change.
A little diorama of Table Mountain and Lions Head. Nice Marmot!
Taking in the views of Lions Head and the city of Cape Town
Cape Town is not what I thought The Real Africa™ would be. And I know exactly where I went wrong in my thinking.
Same thing happened when we showed up in Alaska. I asked our AirBnB hosts to show us typical Alaskan food. I thought they would take us out to eat whale blubber or something. Instead, they introduced us to "the best pizza place in Anchorage". Of course, they would. What was I thinking...?
It's obvious my expectations need to change. To drop this The Real Africa™ BS and open our eyes to really examine where we are. What is this country all about?
This country is about meat. #1 data point: South Africans love biltong!
Biltong is a dried, cured meat, cut into strips or tiny bite-sized chunks. You can get all different kinds of biltong: beef, chicken, pork, lamb, even ostrich and kudu. To say that South Africans love biltong is a huge understatement. There are many, many standalone shops and stores dedicated to selling just biltong. There is no analogue in North America. Sure, you may get the odd specialty/novelty store that just sells hot dogs. Or another that sells nothing but potato chips.
But in South Africa, there is a biltong store in every shopping centre. In every strip mall, there will be a standalone biltong store. South Africa has an over-abundance of biltong stores like Japan has an over-abundance of vending machines. There might possibly be more biltong stores in South Africa than there are 7-11s in Thailand. If biltong could run for office, it would be President of South Africa. Biltong could commit murder and South Africans would still welcome it into their homes with open arms. You get the idea.
It's quite insane how much South Africans love biltong.
We quite like biltong as well. You can get them spiced with cloves, ginger - we especially love the curried biltong!
In the same vein, South Africans also love boerewors
Maybe not at the same stratospheric level of popularity as biltong, boerewors is basically a spiced sausage. Normally sold in long coils, we are having it in a hot dog bun in the pic above, which is not typically how it's eaten here. The secret to boerewors' popularity are the spices inside - coriander seed, nutmeg, black pepper, cloves, the list goes on. It's delicious.
I haven't really seen a boerewors-only store though, it's normally sold at the butcher's or at the grocery store with all the other meats. But South Africans really like boerewors. If boerewors committed murder, there might still be a public inquiry. But definitely no jail-time for boerewors, even if found guilty.
South Africans just love meat generally. There are other alternatives, if you look hard enough.
We found an Ethiopian place (left) and a seafood place (right) as well. You'd think Cape Town would be wall-to-wall seafood restaurants being right on the coast, but that's not the case at all.
South Africans love meat.
Although food is pretty cheap here, sometimes we need to replenish the cash supplies.
Good thing Neda owns a bank down here