Grant and Susan in South Africa

October 14, 1997 - Cape Town

We're in Cape Town tonight, finally! From Luderitz we drove to within 120 km of the border with South Africa, ending up at a place called Grunau, where we met the first motorcycle tourers since Zimbabwe. Steve and Lynette live in Cape Town and were heading north to Swakopmund for a week, so we traded information on road conditions and weather that evening, and generally got to know them. We've got their phone number to get in touch with them when they get back to Cape Town on Sunday the 19th. Steve is an independent computer consultant and president of a local motorcycle club, so lots of topics of conversation still to cover.

Grant and Susan in front of sign at L'Agulhas, southenmost town in Africa

Grant, Susan and bike at Cape Agulhas, southernmost point in Africa

Sunday morning we headed down from Namibia. No problems at all crossing into South Africa over a bridge on the Oranje River. The border officials said "what do you think of South Africa?" and I responded "I knew we were out of Namibia when I saw a river which actually had water in it", which they thoroughly appreciated. The Namibian joke is that the fish swim upstream and leave a dust trail! We continued south on roads which actually curved (Grant was in heaven!) and got to within 65 km of Cape Town that night.

Yesterday we bypassed Cape Town and headed southeast to Cape Agulhas, which is officially the southernmost point in Africa. Everybody, including us, thinks it's the Cape of Good Hope, but it's not! We both had to dip our boots in the ocean (forget swimming, it's freezing cold!), then took pictures of us and the bike and got a GPS reading (only 34 degrees, Africa doesn't go nearly as far south as Europe goes north - 71 degrees at North Cape, Norway). So we've come 30,000 km on the bike's odometer since North Cape, and were feeling a bit pleased with ourselves, even if we did have to fly it from Cairo to Nairobi.

We stayed last night in Hermanus, which is on the coast between Cape Agulhas and Cape Town, and famous here for whale watching. We did see whales today, but quite a long way out to sea. Then we drove around the coast to Cape Town, which is a fabulously scenic drive but windy! The wind is very strong here, even in town.

Cape Town at night

Cape Town at night

November 29, 1997 - Cape Town

We've had a bit of rest in Cape Town, along with a fair amount of work getting the bike and us ready for another continent. We're both fine health wise, all medical checkups okay. We've enjoyed Cape Town and met a few nice people here. It is a seriously gorgeous city, as long as you stay away from the enormous squatter camps to the southeast of the city and just focus on the city center, the harbour and mountains. Lots of restaurants of all kinds and shops. The low value of the Rand means that most things are a bargain if you have US$.

Real estate prices are incredibly low (you could have an apartment on the waterfront for US$70,000), but it's not a risk-free investment, obviously. Heard on the radio a couple of weeks ago: An ANC member of parliament was arrested for driving the wrong way on a divided highway, drunk driving & assaulting police. He told the police "Wait until Mandela dies, then we'll kill all you whites like flies". He later characterized his remarks as "regrettable". As in, "I regret voicing the thought", not necessarily "I don't mean it". There has been no further media coverage nor any news that Mandela threw him out of the party for the comments. But the white emigration rate probably just jumped several points!

It's hard not to sympathize with the blacks' frustration at this point. It's not just the past abuse they have a grievance about, though some of what's coming out of the Truth & Reconciliation Commission hearings is pretty shocking - police admitting to torture, etc. But even after 4 years of black rule, in my opinion the status of blacks here is about what it was 30 years ago in the deep South of the USA. (Susan - lived in the deep south 30 years ago!) The whites still own most of all businesses and land, and basically the blacks are servants.

Of course, South Africa was a democracy for whites all along, meaning the whites had a vote. If they had wanted to end apartheid they could have done it. So the whites who stayed here were pretty happy with the system as it was, (other than their status as an international pariah). Many of the whites here have had little contact with blacks except as servants. As one of the white people we met said in reference to blacks, "I really don't know these people at all". And now "they" are in charge. The whites can only hope that the blacks will be more wise, generous and forgiving than the whites were when they were in charge. Pretty scary.

A harbinger of possible future events is Zimbabwe, where Robert Mugabe has announced the government is going to be expropriating farmland owned by whites, without compensation. Nonetheless, foreign buyers, especially Europeans, are making up a very large proportion of the house buyers in Cape Town, so obviously some people consider it a good investment.

If all South Africans can learn Mandela's tolerance, there is hope for a great country.

As for us, we're ready for our next continent! After a hard couple of days work, the bike is in its crate at the airport already, and tomorrow morning we get on a flight from Cape Town to Buenos Aires. Grant built most of the crate on Thursday, then the owner of the bike shop where he'd been doing the work drove the crate pieces in his trailer to the airport, and we followed him on the bike. At the cargo area, Grant finished putting the crate together and the bike in it, while I did the paperwork. Unlike Cairo, here women are allowed to deal with government authorities! The customs official was amazingly casual about it all, strolled over and looked at the bike before the box was finished, then stamped the carnet. In Egypt, they didn't want to stamp the carnet even after the box was closed up and in the cargo area, just in case it didn't actually get loaded on the plane!

Afterwards, we walked over to the passenger terminal to get a taxi home, then decided it made more sense to rent a car for a couple of days. So, there we are, in our shorts with just a backpack between us, and Grant is carrying a saw (which he was using to cut the wood for the box). The car rental people thought we had just gotten off a plane, but we didn't have any luggage - except for the saw! We told them we had just come for the weekend, so we didn't have any luggage. "Long way from Canada for a weekend", they probably thought. "And what was the saw for, anyway?" However, if you have an American Express gold card people overlook idiosyncracies. The car did help for running around today getting parcels organized to send to Canada.

Current plan is to drive from Buenos Aires south to Ushuaia in Tierra del Fuego, then up through Chile, Peru, Ecuador and possibly Colombia. This will give us a sense of completion, as we will have done a full circle from north to south and back, and completed the continent which we were aiming for when we drove from Vancouver down to Panama in 1987.


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