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Mon Jan 15 2018: This Is Africa

Wow. It rained all of last night and well into this morning!

While I'm glad the region got some much-needed precipitation, it's delayed our departure-time by a couple of hours. We sit patiently inside our tent, listening intently for the steady pitter-patter on the fabric above our heads to taper off to a slow drip.


It's finally dry enough to climb out to survey the remnants of the waterworks

Confident that the rainclouds have moved on and that there were no further chance of showers, we proceed to dismantle our soaking wet tent and stuff the sopping mess into its carry-bag. Ugh.

Packing away a wet tent is like putting on wet underwear. So gross...

But it's good to know the RideDOT.com rain curse has helped the Western Cape out a bit.

An interesting thing happened on our ride out of Stellenbosch. Neda radios me from up ahead to tell me, "The dog in the back of that truck is staring at us pretty intently..."


And then as we get closer: "OMG, it's not a dog. It's a cheetah!"

LOL! This Is Africa!

When I first read that cheetahs are capable of achieving speeds of up to 120 km/h, I was a bit skeptical. But now I've seen it with my own eyes!


We are passing through the town of Franschhoek, and I point out to Neda "Hey, it's your bank!"

Nedbank is a pretty large financial institution in South Africa and there are branches everywhere. Each time we pass by one of them, I say the same thing to Neda, "Hey look, it's your bank!"

Apparently from her reaction, I'm the only one who finds it amusing.


Some nice examples of Cape Dutch architecture in Franschhoek

Why are we doubling back through Franschhoek, you may ask? Because we're returning to Franschhoek Pass!!!

We loved it so much yesterday. It's become our favorite road in the area, so we're riding it again. I swear we're like little kids at the playground after going down the slide: "Again, mommy! Again!"

This time, I put the camera away and we attack Franschhoek Pass with vigour, having done our sighting lap the day before. I'm still not gelling with the F700GS, but it seems to turn much better when I have two hands on the handlebars... Wassupwithat?


After Franschhoek Pass, we ride past Theewaterskloof Dam again

This time, we stop at the bridge to survey the dismally low water levels

Theewaterskloof Dam supplies over 40% of Cape Town's water. I found a picture online which shows what the water levels normally looks like:


Above picture taken July 2014, the bottom picture is taken from the same spot this month

That's friggin' crazy.

A single night of rain is not going to make any noticeable difference. Cape Town will need many *weeks* of rain to replenish its reserves.

We've been living with the drought for nearly two months now. Every day we do our part to help conserve the city's dwindling water supply: We take 90-second showers. We collect grey water beneath the shower and re-use it to flush our toilets. We let the yellow mellow and only flush the brown down.

But around town, we observe many, many people who don't do their part. They water their lawns, wash their cars, don't call in broken water mains, etc, etc, etc.

On social media, I read about conspiracy theorists who justify their behavior by claiming that the low water supply is just a hoax. That the pictures of the water levels in the dam are photoshopped. There are always people who will deny, deny, deny despite all evidence to the contrary. Some people just filter what they want to hear. Pictures of the low water levels are branded, "Fake News!"

Theewaterskloof Dam is only an hour and half outside of Cape Town. It doesn't take much effort to drive out there and see for yourself:


The water levels in the dam are at 16% capacity. And the last 10% is difficult to reach

Sorry conspiracy theorists... #nofilter #notphotoshopped

Day Zero, the day the city will run out of water and shuts off the taps, is 62 days away.


We continue south till we hit the coast

I've read that there's another scenic route around this area called Clarence Drive. It hugs the coast around the south-eastern part of False Bay and continues east, through a series of smaller bays: Gordon's Bay, Pringle Bay, Betty's Bay...

All these small inlets of blue water with the whitecaps rolling in make for a beautiful ride.


We stop at one of the viewpoints at Betty's Bay

Expensive ocean-side villas loom over our shoulders as we take a water and peri-peri-peanuts :) break.


This is exactly the kind of behaviour I was talking about earlier. The rich people here are watering their lawns during the worse drought in a century...

It's ironic that there would be a water shortage right beside the Atlantic Ocean

I've been following a lot of the conversations about setting up desalination plants in Cape Town.

It seems like an obvious solution given the proximity to so much water. But delving deeper into it, the costs are too prohibitive - billions of dollars to build, and expensive to operate. The national power grid suffers from constant load-shedding; rolling blackouts to cope with the demand that it already can't meet, much less trying to add the energy-intensive requirements of desalination.

A desalination plant would take years to complete. By that time, the current drought may be over. Although Cape Town's drought problem is cyclical, by the time the next drought arrives, desalination might already be an outdated technology.

Also, what to do with all the salt that has been taken out of the water? The ecological damage from salt disposal to wildlife and the surrounding area may be more devastating than the drought itself.

I don't know why I've become so passionate and invested in this. I think it's a side-effect of Slow Travel. When you just pass through places in a few days, local problems and issues become academic. But when you live through Cape Town's drought for months, or through burning season in Northern Thailand for two years in a row, these events affect your life in a much more profound way.


Okay, enough pontificating. Back on the road!

Continuing further east along the winding coastal road, taking in the magnificent ocean views!

We stop for the day in the sea-side town of Hermanus, where we score a great loft apartment on AirBnB!


Neda rides off in search of groceries for the next couple of days

Yes, we're staying here for two days, not because we're already tired, but because:


Our seven-day supply of clothes has run out and we need to do laundry

Our accommodations are run by a really nice elderly Afrikaans couple who live downstairs from the loft. Our place doesn't have a washing machine, so we asked the lady if there was a laundromat nearby? She looked at us funny like she didn't know what a laundromat was. When we explained, she exclaimed, "Oh the Wishy Washy! It's just down the road!"

I guess Wishy Washy is what they called laundromats in South Africa.... What a funny name!


I remember that we need to dry out our wet tent... and Neda makes good use of the kitchen

We're also staying here for a couple of days because we want to be pro-active in staving off travel-fatigue. Plus it's a really nice place and it's cheap. The apartment is huge! It's got three bedrooms and a roof-top patio.

The scorching hot sun dries our tent in record time. Fortunately, Neda has this anti-odor spray called Mirazyme, it gets rid of the wet-tent mildew smell.


Neda turned one of the rooms into her cross-stitching studio

Our laundry is done! I'm in the other room which is now a Blogging Studio

*sigh* The blog is so far behind. To give you an idea of the lag-time, in the picture above, I've just finished typing up the entry for Cambodia...

It's difficult finding time to write while traveling full-time...

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