October 24, 2010 GMT
Cape Town

Took a little ride round the town the other day, while it was dry. The next day the rain was pretty torrential but my sheepskin seat cover, I noticed, dried out very quickly. More of that later.

A few visitor photos:

Table Mountain from Signal Hill, with some local bike company.

That football, errrrrrm...... thingy. South African newspapers are already reporting it will be demolished as there's no use for it now, so people are arguing angrily, from both sides, in the letters pages.

That mountain again.

The 'Lion's Head', up on Signal Hill.

And lastly, the highlight of Cape Town if you're of a certain age and profession, otherwise it's for my GPO workmate Pete (who provided the photos of our reunions in a previous posting). He always insists, whenever it's mentioned, "There's no such thing as the GPO anymore."
Well, there is here, right outside my B&B. Here are two of their joints. Buried in concrete:

I hope they don't need to get to it quickly for repairs in an emergency.

The two of them, and near-vertical hill in the distance.

Reminds me of an incident long ago (while on the subject) - a fault on a cable carrying BBC TV pictures from Broadcasting House to the TV Centre in White City. The fault was in a pavement manhole near the top of Sloane Street and was a bit of an emergency, as the customer wanted to get (a very young) Michael Fish's weather forecast on to our screens in good time.
But alas! When the repair gang arrived at the spot, they found a 200-foot high vertical scaffold pole standing right on top of the manhole cover. The Bowater building was being renovated, with scaffolding ranged all the way up its outside, the manhole lid providing part of the foundations. That caused quite a fuss as I recall, so I hope the scaffolders up at Hillside Road aren't placing their poles where they shouldn't.
Mr. Fish's weather forecast, as always, got to our TV screens on time by some other route that didn't involve (younger readers may gasp in awe at this.....) satellites! As they weren't invented yet (not for TV weather forecasts anyway).

Moving on..... as this journey is drawing to an end, and it was rainy yesterday morning, I spent a while on the internet trying to nail down something that I've been looking for off and on since my posting of July 10th. Or even before, going back to the end of May in Kericho (Kenya) where I first heard this memorable piece of local music.
Elephants, and those with good memories, will remember that in Kahoma, Tanzania, I met some locals in a hotel restaurant, Christopher, Anthony and Charles. The Kenyan song started playing, so Anthony wrote down the title and singer for me.
Well, since then I've asked in many music shops in Tanzania, Mozambique, Zimbabwe and so on, and looked high and low on the internet, fast and slow, and drawn a complete blank.
So I searched again while it rained. Still nothing. Not even on Google Kenya.
As a last resort I searched simply for 'Kenya popular music', and of course I got a googol of results, or whatever it is.
(For anyone interested, the name 'google' is derived from the word for the number ten followed by a few hundred zeros. I forget the actual number of zeros and the actual word - it's not really the sort of thing anyone needs to know. Except it would have been something interesting to have remembered when riding the most boring road in Botswana).
But there, at about number eight in this endless list of results, was a heading, 'Trends in Kenyan Popular Music', shining like the Agulhas lighthouse. That looked like it might lead to some scholarly content rather than all the advertising and junk material under the other 999,999 headings. Sure enough, it was a scholarly article by Douglas B. Paterson, Ph.D. (So a word of encouragement to Beau, embarking on his Ph.D, - get it done and you'll have the world beating a path to your websites).
But no. Not a word about the artist I'm looking for, Tonny Myadundo.
Right down at the end of the piece there was a page of all the artists mentioned, plus some more, all in neat alphabetical order. Staring right out of the list was Tony Nyadundo.

A few megabytes of keyboard work later I found he has two CDs, with samples on various websites, and the song I'm looking for is 'Isanda Gi Hera' from the CD of the same name.
Some progress at last! But where will it lead to??
Well, I'll tell you. It led, by a road just twisty enough to be interesting, to Warren Street in Central London, right round the corner from the office that I used to work in.

It's getting like that here. Small World Syndrome. While spending time at scenic viewpoints and such like, I've lost count of the number of times I've heard, "Oh yes, we lived in Biggin Hill/Caterham/Oxted/Streatham for ...... years (insert your own number) before moving down here." I've yet to meet anyone who lived in Whyteleafe, but a campsite I stayed on in Tanzania was managed by a chap who was the Station Manager at Euston Station, when I was working in a large office above the forecourt. So we reminisced a little about the pubs surrounding it.
Then there was the South African I met in Namibia: "You worked for who? - I installed the electrical switchgear in that GPO Tower when it was being built, before I returned here."

So, moving on again, with the name of CD and singer spelt correctly, it was straightforward to find that none of the big music stores in Cape Town have ever had it on their lists. Nor Amazon in the UK or the US.
But nil desperandum - there's the rest of the world to check yet. And the good old internet revealed that there is only one solitary shop (amongst all those having a presence on the internet) with the CD in stock - Sterns Music in Warren Street.
And just to complete the circle, Warren Street is but a short walk from Euston Station in addition to being round the corner from the other office I worked in....... Will be home any day now!

Anyone wanting to know what all the fuss is about, there's a video here:
(Anyone who's got this far may notice this video is entitled 'Kidi Oba Etoke', but the piece being played is definitely 'Isanda Gi Hera'. Don't forget, 'This Is Africa')

The internet here was only good enough to play a couple of minutes of it, but it's about ten minutes long. And you probably don't remember, but I mentioned that back in those Kenyan bars it was played two or three times in a row!
This clip on the internet certainly conjures up vibrant memories of those little streets back in Kericho.
Just to end this bit of ramble, for anyone interested in this detail (well, maybe Beau is reading this), Tony Nyadundo is Kenya's leading exponent of Ohangla music, the music of the lakes in western Kenya. He's from the same Luo tribe as Barack Obama and his second CD is called 'Obama'. Ohangla music was originally the music of funerals before being brought into mainstream popularity (funerals being joyous occasions in much of Africa).
There's no end to what you can learn on a journey like this.

So what else about Cape Town? Well, I'm only here for two days really, but it's the sort of place that, if you spend at least a week here, you'll certainly find it very entertaining. In addition, wherever you are, the massive Table Mountain with its swirling clouds looms over everything, making for spectacular scenery everywhere. Yesterday evening I was in a nearby pavement restaurant (without camera). Swivelling around to look behind me I could see a rainbow stretching right over the far end of the mountain, high up above the street. (It had rained on and off). When I turned back again, my first instinct was: the other end's on fire! A huge ball of ragged cloud above the other end of the mountain was being illuminated for a few minutes by the red setting sun (out of sight), turning it into a real volcano.

I rode around the town a little, stopping here and there. But two thoughts occurred to me. The roads are very steep, the little engine has to work hard to get up them all. And, H.M. The Bike and I have an unmissable appointment at the cargo depot Tuesday morning to drop the bike off. So I have to minimise all possibilities of anything getting in the way of that. Thus, I've kept the riding around to a minimum.
Now, I'm off to the hotel at the airport, to unload all the luggage, lay it all out in the hotel car park, and sort out everything that will fly with the bike, making sure it includes everything needed to remove the front wheel and screen, lower the handlebars, and anything else that might need doing. Also, to make sure all of that stuff can be strapped up next to the bike once it's on its pallet. And there's one thing that I have to make a real effort to remember. Unlike riding out of every other town and city on this journey, I really must remember NOT to fill up with petrol on the way out to the airport. No senior moments, please!

Tomorrow morning I ride the half mile to the cargo area, have the bike strapped onto the air pallet, luggage and front wheel distributed around it, all weighed and measured for the fare calculation, take the customs carnet and air waybill to customs to be stamped out of South Africa, return to the cargo depot, fill the pilot's pockets and walk back to the hotel, bikeless....... Memories of the Aswan to Wadi Halfa ferry.
I hope what they say, about B.A. now being as bad as the ferry, is an exaggeration.
I've been a fan of theirs for more years than I can remember. Since turning up at Gatwick one afternoon for a flight to the US, about twenty minutes before takeoff. Well, in those days, that sort of thing was OK, even flying to the US. Although I suppose I had cut it a bit fine. But I was lucky enough to be flying business class (for work) and I could see there was no queue at the check-in as I approached it. But then one of the two attendants walked up to me, extended his hand, and said, "Good afternoon Mr. Thomas. We'd like to welcome you aboard our flight to Dallas this afternoon. But time is moving on so my colleague here will look after your bags and I'll nip over to passport control with you so we can get you straight to the gate where they're just boarding now."
"Phew!" I thought. "What's all that about? There's twenty minutes yet."
As we headed to the passport desk, I thought there was something strange happening here.
"Wait a minute, how did you know my name? I haven't even had time to get my ticket or passport out yet."
"Well, sir. You see, there was only one passenger remaining on our list, so I took a chance that you were that passenger."
Bet that's never happened on the Wadi Halfa ferry.

But a reader has summed it up for me, I think.
Probably the most stressful part of the whole Whyteleafe to L'Agulhas trip will be the check-in and security at the airport.
Oh dear......

Posted by Ken Thomas at October 24, 2010 10:04 PM GMT

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