Africa Week 1: Better Luck Next Time

Better Luck Next Time

After waiting for seven hours in the Heathrow London Airport where Jody and I started our journey together, we flew 11 hours to Johannesburg, South Africa, and immediately boarded a train to Cape Town. The countryside looked like New Mexico – literally – I could have been traveling between Farmington and Albuquerque, until we almost reached Cape Town. Towards Cape Town, we started seeing fields and vinyards and people, who waved to the train with smiling faces as it passed. One of our train car neighbors was a small family from Johanesburg with two adorable little boys, who we got to help intertain. After trying everything on the train’s menu, sleeping for who knows how many hours, and taking pictures of the sunset and sunrise, we finally arrived in Cape Town on Thursday, 30 hours after leaving Johanesburg and 42 hours after leaving London.

We rode from the train station with a guy who posed as our Uber car (yikes!), still making it safely to Camps Bay, where we stayed at an AirBnB with Vaughn, a lawyer for a grocery chain in the area.  Vaughn talked a little about what he did, saying that they had begun putting stores in Zimbabwe but that the government required 51% ownership and profits. Because fresh produce is very difficult to get there, the store is still wildly profitable. Whoa, politics.

Jody and I planned to go the next day for a cage dive with the great white sharks a couple hours from Cape Town, but our reservation was cancelled due to weather. Better luck next time, said the guy on the phone. Jody did not give up, though.  He called several more companies who said the same thing but also received a suggestion to go to Mossel Bay – four hours away instead of two.  So, we made a reservation for Saturday and spent the day riding the red bus around Cape Town. We saw a few sites, ate a good breakfast, and did a little (three rushed) wine tastings before we missed the tram up Table Mountain by 10 minutes. Better luck next time. We rented a car, and Jody took the first turn at driving on the left side of the road. We promised to help each other remember where to go and which side to drive on.

Early the next morning, we drove across South Africa to visit Mossel Bay. Agriculture surrounded us on our drive east until we reached the bay and went immediately to our shark dive.  This shop, White Shark Africa, was the only shop going out to see great whites that day, and they happened to be a conservation and education center.  So, we learned that males and females are not of reproductive age until 28 and 32 years respectively, that great whites are over fished for their fins for shark fin soup, and that sharks biting humans usually comes from sharks misinterpreting humans in murky water or misinterpreting their electrical signal when they’re hunting waves on surf boards. After being educated, we got on the boat and went to Seal Island, a small island of rock where the seals lived and the sharks hunted. We put on wetsuits and jumped into a rickety cage in the water. We did not wear regulators. It was actually easier to see above the water, but still really incredible when the sharks swam only a foot away or accidentally ran into the cage under water. We saw seven different great whites, the largest measuring about 15 feet. They were all young because the older sharks don’t get tricked by the chum in the water. Black Gill, a feisty male they often see in the bay, made an appearance and jumped out of the water to get the tuna heads used for bait. It was an incredible experience. Before we left Mossel Bay to make the long drive back, we mailed a few post cards from the oldest post office in South Africa.

As we headed back to Cape Town, we decided to stop and taste gin from a distillery Vaughn recommended, Inverroche. Though the sign said they closed at 4p, the lady inside insisted that tastings were over and would not allow us to taste. It was 3:30p. Better luck next time. We went to a small farm café down the road where they had the gin (to taste but not to buy) and received tasting guidance from a group of five guys who had just purchased six bottles a piece. The gin was incredibly delicious, but none of those guys offered to sell a bottle. Better luck next time. We made it back to Cape Town just in time to eat for a second time at the incredibly delicious Cod Father restaurant and then went to bed. The next day we woke early and drove ourselves to the airport to fly to Victoria Falls to begin our safari and rafting journey.

Aside from the time and money to fly to Cape Town, it was an incredibly affordable place to vacation. Our meal at the Cod Father, where you chose your own fish, lobster, and prawns from a case of fresh seafood, cost $40 the first night we ate there, including a bottle of wine, and $55 the second time. The beaches were beautiful, and I would have loved to do more wine tasting and see more of Cape Town itself. I will definitely try to go back. Better luck next time.


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