Peter and Elizabeth - RTW 2009-11 travel blog

The courtyard in our hostel

Robben Island supports Bafana Bafana!

Leper graveyard

Lovely little church

Elizabeth on Robben Island with Table Mountain peaking through the clouds at...

And me, too

This was our guide, a former prisoner on Robben Island

Mandela's cell

This is the longest serving inmate at Robben Island - 26 years

The outside of the main prison complex

The outside of the main prison complex

The outside of the main prison complex

Picture of Mandela when he was younger

This is the large cell that our guide was kept in

The stadium in Cape Town from the water

Really cool looking stadium

Roadsigns at District Six museum showing the old road names around the...

Table Mountain from the entrance to the Castle of Good Hope

Rubbish marching

In time, chaps. In time.

Pathetic cannon

For scale, the soldiers loading the cannon

Statue of Mandela in Nobel Square, a square containing the four South...

As well as Mandela and FW de Clerk, Desmond Tutu was also...

Elizabeth and "Madibe"

Cable car up to the top of Table Mountain

The view down to the bottom of Table Mountain

Cape Town from above

A dassie

Posing at the top

More of the city

Me with the stadium behind me

Party on Long Street - keep your eye on the fire engine!

Now look at all the locals climbing all over the engine! They...

Uruguayans partying in the street!

Uruguayans partying in the street!

Crazy woman after the Bafana Bafana draw with Mexico

Us at the stadium before France v Uruguay

The teams line up

The stadium, lit up by the floodlights and looking amazing

Irish flags calling Henry a cheat. And he is.

At Deco Dance after the England v USA game. Elizabeth and my...

Mark and his wife, Bianca

Elizabeth and Mark's mate, Warren, having a good singsong!

John getting into the groove

Bianca's friend with Chris and Mark

I was a bit drunk by this point!

And so was the girl behind Elizabeth and Chris! WTF?!

June 6, 2010

After a quick and easy flight to Cairo, we had the pleasure of dealing with Egyptians again. We were grateful that we didn’t have to clear immigration as we were in transit but getting into the airline lounge was an event in itself. Firstly, they could not get their machine working to accept our cards so wanted to just copy one card and put two entries on it. This wasn’t acceptable to us as we are both fully paid on our own lounge cards but have to pay for guests. Using just one care would’ve cost us $35. After that, they started to argue that we could not use Elizabeth’s card. It was still actually June 5 when we were trying to enter the lounge but they claimed as our flight was at half past midnight we could not use Elizabeth’s card as it expired on June 6! After a slightly heated exchange between Elizabeth and the two idiots at reception they finally accepted both cards and got their machined working. I was just smiling throughout as it just bought back all the reasons why I disliked this country so much the last time around. It must’ve taken us nearly 20 minutes to get into the lounge but at least we had plenty of room to sit and grab a drink prior to boarding our long flight to Johannesburg.

The flight to Johannesburg had no individual TVs but this wasn’t a bad thing as both of us got a good 5 or so hours sleep. The flight left just before 1am local time and landed in Jo'burg around 8am there. After collecting our bags and clearing immigration and customs, we re-checked in for our flight to Cape Town. We had about 4 hours stopover in Jo’burg so we made final use of our lounge facilities and relaxed with some hot tea for my cold and some soggy sandwiches for my hunger!

After a short flight to Cape Town we got a load of information about the city at the airport and then jumped into a taxi into the centre to our hostel. We were staying at the Long Street Backpackers which is on Long Street, right in the centre of the city, surrounded by bars and restaurants. I wasn’t sure how much the hotel would cost as I had a load of emails going back and forth stating different rates, the last of which said 110 Rand per person per night for 4 nights and then 250 Rand per person per night for the final four nights once the World Cup had started. The guy who checked us in obviously wasn’t aware of this and only charged us the lower rate for all 8 nights. Fingers crossed that nobody spots the error!

We knew it was winter here but were surprised how cold it actually was. Given I still had a cold we just lazed around and slept for a couple of hours in the afternoon. The hostel did free food on Sunday nights so we tucked into a great veggie African stew. They had cooked a huge pot full of it and we helped ourselves, all the while trying to work out what was in it! It certainly had carrots, potato and sweet potato amongst other veggies as well as cloves and some other spices. It was really nice and a lovely hot supper on a cold night!

June 7, 2010

Today we got up without the aid of an alarm (i.e. late!) and just walked around the area close to our hostel. We have no Wi-Fi at the hostel so our first stop was at an internet café to check some things out, as well as check my email. We walked all the way along Long Street to the ticket office and picked up our WC tickets. I was so relieved as I had left the ticket confirmations at my brother’s house and was therefore glad I got the tickets using just my passport and the confirmation numbers.

I still felt crap so we stopped at a pharmacy and grabbed some throat lozenges before we headed to Greenmarket Square and wandered through the craft stalls there. We didn’t buy anything though as the thought of having to carry more stuff around was quite off-putting. We tried going to the small museum on the square but it was shut until later in the week for renovations.

When we had picked up our tickets for the football we had picked up some sandwiches from the nearby grocery store and after leaving the square we found a bench to park ourselves on and eat them. They were really tasty and quite cheap although probably not that cheap considering we’re in Africa now.

From there we headed down Shortmarket Street and went to a couple of small art galleries. One contained a photo exhibit by a local called Obie Oberholzer and was really interesting. The other was just a shop, really, but was still fun to look around. Everyone here is really friendly and chatty and it is so nice to be here. They have obviously picked up the football spirit and the town is starting to buzz a little with anticipation.

We walked onto Heritage Square and stopped in one of the cafés for a Red Rooibos tea. It was called Red Espresso and we weren’t really sure what to expect but it was really nice. After a bit more walking around we went to the supermarket to get some breakfast stuff and it was at this point that the rain started and it was soon coming down really heavily.

For dinner we tried to go to a bar for some food but they apparently weren’t serving food in the evenings so we went to a café nearby called Long Street Café and had a big, fat burger with fries. We both felt really bloated afterwards and vowed to lay off the fatty foods for a while! By the time we left the bar the rain had really picked up and we were glad we were close to the hostel and were soon back in the safety of our room listening to the torrential rain.

June 8, 2010

We had an early start today as we were booked to visit Robben Island and the tour left from the waterfront at 9am. We weren’t sure how long it would take us to walk there so we left just after 8am and that was probably about right as we arrived about 15 minutes beforehand and joined the queue to take the ferry to the island.

The ferry across was really rough as the weather was still not great but at least it was dry so far unlike the last two days! When we arrived at the island we boarded a bus which took us on a tour around the island itself. The guide we had on the bus was excellent and was really knowledgeable. Along the drive around I saw penguins and we also stopped to get a great view of Table Mountain. Our guide made a point of asking everyone where they were from and telling a story about that country in relation to the island and the impact just about every country has had on the current state of South Africa. I thought this was really good as it got everyone involved although as an Englishman I’m not sure “our” contribution was seen as so great by all parties but at least it was the Aussies and the Americans who were the butt of most of his jokes. Amongst the stops along the route was an area which contained just one cell and this was where one of the political prisoners deemed most dangerous was kept. I can’t remember his name, which is really annoying, but then our guide did say he was one of the forgotten soldiers of the fight for equality – I think it was Robert Sibukwe but don’t quote me on that. We also stopped at the Lime Quarry where the prisoners worked all day, every day. The sad part about this is that there was little need for limestone so the prisoners spent many days just moving piles of rocks from one end of the quarry to another. This practice was merely to keep them busy, and a form of punishment, rather than anything useful or profitable for the island or the government.

After the tour we took a walk through the prison itself and our guide was a former inmate. He told us the history of the prison and of some of the prisoners as well as his own story. You could tell he told the story a lot as he seemed really emotionally detached from what he was saying and when we walked around the prison it is now difficult to imagine the conditions the prisoners were kept in, the cells having been repainted fairly recently it would seem. We saw Mandela’s cell where he was kept in solitude as well as the large cell our guide was kept in with 60 other inmates, all of them political prisoners, many charged with crimes against the ruling government.

It was a really touching experience but given the upkeep of the prison and the perceived lack of emotion from our prison guide, it didn’t have the aura or air of pain that some of the other prisons we’ve visited like Alcatraz, even the jails in Perth and Melbourne and especially not the horrific scenes at Tuol Sleng.

The ferry back to city was every bit as rough as the journey out but we sat outside this time so that I could get some pictures of the brand spanking new, amazing Green Point Stadium, where we will be watching the football on Friday night.

In the afternoon we walked around the V&A Waterfront and around some of the shops. We went to a nice Italian restaurant for lunch and had some really tasty pasta and garlic bread. Elizabeth didn’t eat all of hers so we got it to go for tonight!

After an afternoon walking around and the long walk back, we both took a nap before deciding to have a quiet night at the hostel watching a film and eating leftover pasta. The great thing about travelling as we are is that we have no need to rush around everywhere, see everything all at once or even worry about having quiet nights “in”. If we were at home we would be doing the same so why should now be any different? Besides, our budget and my trouser waistline can’t stretch to drinking every night!

June 9, 2010

This morning we started our tour of the city museums. We have a few we want to visit and we started with the District Six museum. District Six is an area of the city which was designated as a “whites only” area in the 1960s and many of the black and coloured residents were forced out of the area into segregated areas. The museum here tells the story of many of the ex-residents and the timeline about the creation and ultimate destruction of District Six. The museum story was a little disjointed but it was really interesting to see the notice boards, canvasses and maps around the museum where former residents had signed their names, marked where their old houses were or just left a message of support for others in similar positions.

Next door to the District Six museum there was supposed to be a football museum but this was closed until next week. Given the World Cup starts on Friday you’d think they’d have had it ready for then!

As we walked away from this area there was a small protest against the World Cup, FIFA and the other organizing bodies basically stating how it was exploiting the country and not benefitting as many people as the government is claiming. I don’t have the facts, of course, and I can only go on what I see but each and every day we have been here the excitement has built and just about every person in the street has either a flag, a shirt, a hat or a vuvuzela (African horn) showing their allegiances and it is obvious that everyone is involved and wants this to be a success not so much for the team but for the country as a whole.

The next stop was the Castle of Good Hope which is a really cool building but was a bit of a letdown once inside. Many of the rooms were shut off and those which were open contained items which just weren’t that interesting! At midday we watched the changing of the guard which consisted of some very crap marching, a tiny cannon making a loud noise and very little else! Nevertheless, it was something different and fun to watch. The military museum in the Castle wasn’t as bad as the other exhibits. It contained a timeline of wars which South Africa had been involved in, including the Anglo-Boer war plus a complete history of the castle from the time when it was first built as a Dutch fort.

Right next to the Castle was the “Fan Fest”, an area designated for fans to watch the various matches on big screens. It was still under construction so we couldn’t walk around it but it looked pretty impressive so I hope it is ready to go on Friday!

We decided to head back to the waterfront and have a look around some of the areas we hadn’t seen the other day. We approached from a different direction and we ended up directly opposite the bar we couldn’t find the other day – Mitchell’s Scottish Ale House. Along with a basket of various local sausages and a large plate of nachos we had a couple of the locally brewed beers. I went for the red ale and Elizabeth had the lager, both of which were pretty good.

As we were back at the waterfront we went to the Mandela Museum which we had missed out yesterday. It was a good collection of stories from people involved and affected by the troubles which started in the 1960s and even had pictures of many who were brought to justice by the “Truth Commission”.

We had a nice slow walk back to hostel from there and had plenty of time to chill out and build up an appetite for dinner. Tonight we went to Dosa Masala and had their Thali curry. This is a mixture of small curry dishes all served together and mine consisted of curried lamb, cauliflower curry, a mixed bean curry, mint dip, two broths (one hot, one mild), popadum and a crap, fried naan bread. The food was great except for the naan bread and had a great flavor. Even the dessert which was a semolina/bread pudding type thing was good!

Back at the hostel we weren’t really tired so we watched Drag Me To Hell and had a beer… The beer was much better than the film!

June 10, 2010

We had a strange start to the day today. One of the people sharing our room was an Australian and when we had spoken to him yesterday he seemed pretty normal. He’d only just arrived in SA and was straight out drinking when he arrived. He had popped back yesterday afternoon some time whilst we were out and made his bed, complete with cuddly bunny. I didn’t hear him come back in last night but I did hear someone going into the adjoining double room so assumed we had other company. However, part way through the night there was some more noise and lights blazing in the bathroom which woke me up and it appeared the Aussie guy was having a shower. When we got up around 8am the Aussie was happily talking to himself in his sleep shouting things like “bastard” and “I love you”, all the while cuddling his bunny. When we went out of the dorm room I noticed there was a load of money and clothes all in the other room but no sign of anyone actually staying there. I then noticed a little “accident” had occurred in this room and it would appear the Aussie came in drunk, collapsed on another bed, pissed himself, got half undressed and showered and then came to his own bed to cuddle his bunny! I had to tell the guys at the hostel what had happened and although I thought it was funny I’m not sure the staff here felt the same way!

After that little episode, we headed to Table Mountain. We took the lazy option and got a taxi to the cable car and took that to the top. We could’ve probably walked up it but we couldn’t be bothered! Even though we’d set out early, there was quite a queue already for the cable car including a large group of Uruguayans who kept annoying Elizabeth by bumping into her. The cable car ride only took a couple of minutes but gave some great views of the city and, nearer the top, the brand new Green Point Stadium.

At the top we took a walk around and got some even more great views of the city plus views out to Cape Point as well, taking pictures along the way, of course! Along the way we were stopped by a local girl asking questions for a survey in relation to the WC, our visit to South Africa and the green initiatives apparently being pushed by the football governing bodies and the government. It was all a bit weird as even staying at a hostel we hadn’t heard anything about any country-wide initiatives and didn’t know what the hell this girl was talking about! During the walk we saw lots of small mammals called dassies which appear to live on Table Mountain and looked quite funky. They were quite cute though but thankfully Elizabeth didn’t want one as a pet!

The weather was lovely and clear today so we got some great views but it was quite cold up there with the breeze blowing. After a hot chocolate to warm us up a little bit, we took the cable car back down and then walked the 4 or 5km back to the city.

We didn’t quite make it all the way back though as we stopped at a restaurant called Arnold’s on Kloof Street for some lunch. The staff were amazingly friendly and chatty there, just like everyone else has been and we got a voucher for a free bottle of wine if we come back – we might have to use that for Sunday lunch! Anyway, I had the ostrich burger and Elizabeth had a massive toasted cheese and tomato sandwich on ciabatta and both were excellent so that’s another reason to go back, too!

After dumping my camera and some other stuff at the hostel, we headed to Greenmarket Square to go to Iziko Museum which was closed the other day. It was supposed to contain a load of works by famous artists but actually had a special exhibit focusing on the South African landscape, which was really interesting if not really my cup of tea!

We then headed to Heritage Square and a bar called &Union for beer. Elizabeth had the Steph Weiss and I had the Berne Amber. We originally thought it was a local brewery but we found out it is actually brewed in Germany. Still, the beer was really good although it was bloody expensive and quite annoying having them construct some sort of mini-stage for their TV to show the WC games!

Back at the hostel I spent some time doing my travel journal, drinking more beer and talking to Elizabeth about Aunt Judy and money (just kidding but Elizabeth did make a joke about how her Aunt Judy said I always commented on how much stuff cost and I’d just gone on about the expensive beers!).

In the evening we went to a Tapas bar called Fork and had some really excellent food. We picked four dishes and shared them, including an excellent dish containing kudu.

June 11, 2010

The World Cup finally started today but as the opening game was not until later this afternoon, we headed to the SA National Gallery in the morning to get at least some SA culture into us! The gallery was really good, containing mostly SA artists and many different depictions of the struggles this country has undergone. This wasn’t just focused on apartheid either, and included some works from the early 20th Century depicting some of the Anlgo-Boer War. The most significant though seemed to be those relating to the struggles for apartheid in the 1970s and 80s and were in a wide variety of mediums, not just paintings but also video, photography and sculpture. There were some really cool works featuring Steve Biko, one of the political prisoners who never made it as far as Robben Island, cruelly beaten and left to die during part of his interrogation.

After that, we headed back to the hostel and got ready for the football. We were heading to the Paulaner Brauhaus to have a late lunch and watch the first game before heading to the stadium for the opening match in Cape Town. The first match was South Africa and Mexico and it was really great being in a bar packed full of locals shouting and screaming for their local team, as well as blowing the annoying vuvuzelas. Until today they hadn’t really bothered me as I thought they were great for a street carnival type atmosphere but in an enclosed pub, and then later at the stadium, they just sounded annoying and ruined the atmosphere. It was great when SA scored the first goal and the whole bar went crazy although it didn’t last long as Mexico soon equalized and everyone was a little more deflated. The final result, a draw, was probably about fair and it was good that SA hadn’t lost as it kept all the locals in high spirits!

After another beer, we headed to the Green Point Stadium to watch France against Uruguay. Given the relative excitement of the first game we were hoping for another exciting match but what we got was a boring 0-0 draw with barely a chance for either side. The organisation outside the stadium wasn’t great – we queued for what seemed like forever to just get through security and half an hour before the game there were still thousands of people waiting to get even near the entrances. We eventually got through though and the stadium looked amazing lit up. There was still a bit of construction going on around the stadium though which is a shame and many of the paths and walkways still resembled mud tracks rather than the paved surfaces they should be. Inside the stadium, most seats were full and there was plenty of noise from the vuvuzelas despite being little action on the pitch worthy of a cheer. The vuvuzelas sound just like a load of bees buzzing and completely ruin the atmosphere, in my opinion, drowning out any efforts at singing and chanting that are synonymous with football and football fans. Whilst it was great being inside this amazing sports arena and being part of the WC, the match and atmosphere were much less of a spectacle, which was a shame. Hopefully we’ll have better luck at the matches in Durban!

On the way back to the hostel I started to get hungry so we stopped off for some food and I had shawarma whilst Elizabeth had falafel. I’d had a few beers by then so something containing bread, meat and chilli sauce was ideal before bedtime!

June 12, 2010

Despite a late-ish night, we were up fairly early and headed out to a market in a place called the Old Biscuit Mill. Here there were a load of cool little shops and a huge marquee full of food stalls selling everything from fresh fish, to wood-fired pizzas to freshly barbequed steaks and everything else you could imagine. After walking around, trying a few things, we finally succumbed to our hunger and both bought some massive steak sandwiches, which were absolutely delicious. We also got some freshly made fruit smoothies which were a nice change from beer! As we left, we also bought a couple of small quiches and a lemon tart for snacking on later! In fairness, we probably spent longer (and more money) on the taxi rides to and from the market than we actually spent there but it was a lovely place to get some late breakfast/early lunch!

We got back to the hostel and watched the first two of the three matches today at the hostel, watching Argentina beat Nigeria and South Korea comfortably beat a woeful Greek team. The games so far haven’t been very exciting or inspiring but after what seemed like an eternal wait, it is just good that the WC has actually started now!

In the evening, we took a taxi to Forrester’s Arms in Newlands to meet my friend Mark and some of his mates from London. I’ve known Mark quite a while and last year he married a girl from Cape Town so it was an ideal chance for us to meet up for a few beers and even better was that England were playing USA so it was a good chance for us all to get together and have some fun with Elizabeth!

Unfortunately, it didn’t all go to plan as despite England’s great start, America soon scored a lucky goal and the match settled into a draw. It was still a good, watchable match and a draw was probably fair on both teams and certainly halted any potential arguments in the Redman household!

We left there soon after the match and headed to a bar called Deco Dance, which was in fact in the Old Biscuit Mill where we’d been this morning. All six of us managed to pile into a taxi with five of us shoved in the back. We’d had to bribe the driver with a healthy tip to allow six of us in but it was all good fun, with Elizabeth laying along the laps of the guys at the back and having to absorb the smutty comments coming from all corners! At the club, we met Mark’s wife Bianca and some of her friends for some more drinks and some dancing until the early hours! Like most other days, it was raining when we finally left the club and jumped in a taxi back to the hostel, tucking into one of our quiches which contained some kind of game meat. I’d like to say it was great, or I’d at least like to ask Elizabeth if she enjoyed it, but whilst I do at least remember eating it, Elizabeth didn’t even recall that. So, no idea if it was good or not…!

June 13, 2010

Today was our last day in CT and given our late night we got up late and lazed around for much of the morning. When we finally emerged, we were both hungry so we went to Arnold’s for lunch to get our free bottle of wine and a burger to help our hangovers. We really didn’t need the wine but in some ways it helped us and the burgers certainly hit the spot!

After that, we just didn’t do anything. We came back to the hostel, lazed around, packed up and I watched the football during the afternoon, watching the end of Slovenia beating Algeria and then Ghana beating Serbia. Apart from the first half of the Slovenia match, I’ve seen just about all of the games so far although twice yesterday I tuned in about 10 minutes late and missed the opening goals!

In the evening, the hostel was doing the free stew again (which I think is called poijke or something) and this time it had loads of different things in it including sweet-corn and pineapple but it still tasted every bit as good! Elizabeth was still not feeling great after dinner so while she stayed in bed and watched Harry Potter, I was in the hostel bar watching Germany humiliate Australia while chatting to some of the guys working and staying at the hostel. It seemed everyone had a late one last night and although we had a few more beers it was certainly still civilized! I was however made to drink the hostel speciality. I didn’t have much choice and was given a shot of rum. It tasted OK to begin with but before long the burning in my chest started – this rum was 80% alcohol and is pretty much illegal in all except a handful of countries worldwide! That was the point I decided that bed might be a good option given we had to be up just before 6am tomorrow!

We’ve both had a great time in Cape Town and had we had our own transport we’d definitely have explored the surrounds of the city more. Even so, the stuff we’ve done in the city, combined with the buildup to the WC and meeting up with Mark and his mates for the England game, it’s been a great week. It really does make a difference having a hostel where the staff are great, too. It sound silly but we both still talk about how rude and crappy the hostel was in Sydney and it was all down to the rude staff. The hostel here wasn’t the cleanest or most modern and it didn’t have great facilities but along with an excellent location, it will always be one we’d happily return to!

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