I love Cape Town but not the traffic. The solution is the hop-on, hop-off, City Sightseeing Red Bus, and we've got tickets for the family to explore for the day. “Welcome on board,” beams Eric the bus driver as we step on board. We've boarded the bus at Sea Point, close to where we are staying.
The bus makes its way along the Sea Point promenade. The sun is poking out after an evening of cold rain. It's fortunate, because this experience is best seated on the top level of the bus in the open air section. “Hey Josh,” says Hannah leaning over, “there's a kids' channel.” I plug my headphones in and see they have, besides English and a whole lot of languages, a dedicated kids' channel. It's actually very vibey and I'm listening to it enjoying the banjo and “Daar kom did Alibama oor die see”. I'm feeling young...I'm looking forward to this adventure.
We arrive at the Waterfront which is where all the adventures begin and end, although you can leap on and off at will. We've decided to do the blue Peninsula tour but with a stop to do the yellow downtown tour. We love inner city experiences especially in vibey Cape Town.
The kids have their headsets plugged in, tuned to the kid channel awaiting our departure. Maybe I should “grow up” and hear what the adult channel has to say.
We've driven thousands of kilometers on our travels this year around South Africa, so there is something particularly relaxing to just sit on an open air bus while around us cars hoot and jostle for position.
As we sit atop the bus I'm grateful for my warm jacket as the winter air is fresh but invigorating. As we weave through the city we are fed a constant stream of fascinating information from the audio feed. "Look up," the commentary says, "at about the same height as the bus you will see a balcony." Like obedient robots everyone turns and looks up. "It was from this balcony that Nelson Mandela first addressed the nation of South Africa after his release." Wow, it's so cool to drive past places which were momentous occasions in the birth of our new country.
“District 6 was the birth place of Cape Town's colorful carnival,” says the dude in my ear as once again the strains of “Daar kom die Alibama” play to make the point. There is no carnival on at the moment, but a colorful array of people, from tourists to locals, fill the streets around here. It's testimony to transformation where tourist and locals mingle together in the streets.
“This wine farm has the best views and the most modern wine tasting area,” says one of the bus operators as we arrive at the wine loop. Of course you have to do the wine loop - it's Cape Town. And so we hop off at Beau Constantia. It's a short stroll from the bus stop and soon we are seated in a glass enclosed tasting room perched high above the beautiful vineyards. The sun streams into our glass sanctuary warming us as we soak it and the ambiance in.
“This sushi is delicious!” Nicky exclaims. And it is delicious. We love sushi but this warm crispy sushi on a cold day blended with a glass of award-winning wine is just what we need to satiate our lunch needs. The only issue is that we won't be buying any because the prices seem to match the area...fancy!
After Beau Constantia we continue on to Hout Bay and decide to get off here for the requisite dose of fish smell and real harbor experience. Some locals have charmed a large seal out onto the pier with fish snacks. For a few rands tourists get to take photos and have a chat with the seal. Net in Suid Afrika (only in South Africa) #ilovesouthafrica
After strolling around for a while and eating some fish-tasting “slap tjips” the bus arrives, always like clockwork, on time. It's the homeward journey now and the bus turns around at Snoekies factory...there's no doubt what they sell here as all the kids - land lubbers they all are - cover their noses to mask the smell. It's our trip back now along the beautiful Atlantic seaboard towards our end point, Sea Point.
The sun is rapidly heading towards its seaward destination and is bathing the mountain in a warm light as we travel along the bottom of the magnificent Twelve Apostles range. It's truly beautiful, and I'm almost dizzy from deciding whether to look right at the majestic mountains or left at the sun-tinted sea.
Finally with the song, from the kids audio channel, “the tourists on the bus go click, click, click...” playing over and over in my head, we get off the bus. We certainly have gone “click, click, click” as we tried to capture some of the stunning and different scenes we saw on our trip. We're just in time to watch the majestic sunset back at our apartment, with a glass of wine in hand and some more...click, click, click.
Everyone is on the move. There is the scent of water in the air and so before I know it we are up and flying. We rise quickly and before long are heading towards the rising sun. The smell of water is thick in the air as the rising sun lifts it from the dew-laden grass. We bank sharply to one side and the entire swarm, as though controlled by a single mind, follows. Suddenly something large is right before me, slicing through the swarm just meters before me, and then its gone. I tumble downwards for a moment before I regain control and catch up with the rapidly vanishing swarm.
It's farewell to the Western Cape as we begin the trek back, marking the end of Part 1 of our adventure that has spanned the entire coast from Port Edward, through the Eastern Cape, into the Western Cape and up to Langebaan. One of the key principles of our trip is “going nowhere slowly”. We are about to break this principle. The girls have a One Direction concert on the weekend and the rendezvous requires us to get to the Berg in one day. It's going to be a loooooong drive of about 1600km.
The alarm awakes me from a blissful sleep at 4am. Eish! We do the final car pack and are in the car, in the dark at 5am. And thus begins the long drive from Franschhoek to Eagles Lodge in the Central Drakensberg. It should be a relatively easy drive as the roads are good...except for our headlight issue. For some reason our lowbeam lights are set too high so every car we pass at night flashes us. I do not have many options. I can ignore them, which typically causes them to turn their bright lights on in revenge - a stupid response I don't quite get, as now you have both drivers who can't see - or I can flash back at them to show them I'm on lowbeam. This also elicits one of two responses. One they ignore me. Two they give me the same stupid response of revenge.
So the first part of the journey, of about 2 hours, is in the dark and I'm rewarded with every oncoming car flashing their lights at us because they think I have brights on. I try and assume they are saying a friendly "Good Morning Mate" and smile ingratiatingly back at them.
Once the sun rises at least this trouble will go with it. However driving in an easterly direction into the oncoming sun brings with it its own issues. I suppose being blinded by the sun now is revenge for my headlights. As I'm heading towards the light, thankfully not metaphorically, a swarm of crazed bees, or other bug things, flies across the road. I slice through them and end up with a nice buttery spread on my windscreen, where the oily film, combined with refracted light creates rainbows in my eyes....which would be fine if I didn't need to drive. Poor bees!
The journey continues and is fairly uneventful except for Pajey's insatiable thirst for fuel. We can only get about 450km on a tank at 15l/100km so we have to plan our fuel stops to satiate his need. Our first stop is some random petrol station for trucks with Nicky getting to enjoy a truck stop toilet. Our second stop is an Ultra City where we grab a small burger on the run. Our third stop is a close affair. We nearly run out and end up rolling in. We full up and the pump reads 79.8 liters in my 80l tank! That was close. There is one time when Pajey flashes some random light on his console at me, but in true Pajey style it vanishes again so I ignore it.
As it gets dark again we turn onto the ugly N5 which is filled with roadworks. This causes more stoppages and difficult driving, made even more fun as trucks turn their bright lights on in response to poor Pajey! Now I'm driving on really narrow roads, with no shoulder because of the roadworks, with huge trucks giving me their brights. I knew there was a good reason we had the philosophy of “going nowhere slowly”. I'm not enjoying this.
The journey down Van Reenen's Pass takes concentration as the hours take their toll and the irritation of the bright lights continues. Finally we turn off onto the peace of the road heading towards Winterton. I can truly sense the end of this long journey as we pass Thokasiza and enter the final stretch. The roads here are quiet and empty as we make the final dash towards the Berg and its tranquility. However, even in this final stretch I'm driving cautiously as I've often seen buck jump out of the long grass on the roadside.
With only a few kilometers to go we suddenly see flashing blue lights ahead. I slow down. We come upon a horrible accident. A small car has driven into a cow. We're unsure what happened to the driver but the warning of being careful is reinforced even so close to the end. Later we find out the driver survived, which is a miracle considering how demolished the car was. Yet what is even more powerfully reinforced is how God has cared of us on this journey. We've prayed for his care and by his grace he has give us a safe journey.
Finally we arrive at Eagles Lodge after 16 hours of traveling. A long journey but the lessons are “keep on keeping on” but do all in God's strength and safe keeping. It's the only way! It's certainly going to have to be our motto if we run the crazy 90km Comrades marathon in a few months time. It's the only way I can finish it.
We've arrived. Those girls had better enjoy that No Direction concert thing they are headed to. Hopefully we wont have to do any more of these long crazy drives in the future. Think of all the coffee shops I missed. Oh well, when we travel back this way in a few months time we will do it properly.