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Sj visit 2017    Arrival in South Africa

   Sunday July 9

An entire day spend traveling. 24 hours door to door. Js had arranged a ride to the airport and our driver turned out to be the same woman who had been our tour guide the day before. Both a lot more talkative today.

Checked our bags, checked in, cleared security and immigration and waited at the gate, no bus to the plane this time. Js bought a painted egg for his mother as a present and I wrapped it in my water bottle to keep it safe.

7 hour layover in Frankfurt, wandered around a bit, rode the monorail but eventually just headed to the gate. Had hoped for a real restaurant but other than million dollar airport sushi which seemed like a bad idea, no real options so sausages and pretzels,

It's a long way.

Js had done his research on the flight and booked us into a row with an amazing amount of leg room, couldn't even touch the chair in front of me, it should have been a bulk head but it had been moved, more foot room than the people in economy plus had, not as much shoulder room however so very cramped as we were in the center. I slept better than I ever have on a plane, Jason slept badly.

Couldn't even touch the chair in front of me.

Arrived Capetown, three major European flights London Frankfurt and Amsterdam all arrived at the same time so a line in the immigration hall. Claimed luggage but was then pulled over in customs and questioned. What did we think of trump, our looks of disgust said it all. "There are two types of Americans" said js, "those who support trump and those who travel".

Apparently this was the correct answer so after asking us if we were carrying any reptiles "augh, why would we do that?!?!?" They let us go without actually opening our bags.

   Monday July 10

Tw was waiting when we emerged, off to the car and back to his place. Said our hellos to Tanya then the two of them were off to work leaving us to have a very low key day.

Showers and then the first of several loads of laundry. Hung our clothes to dry in the courtyard and then spent the majority of the afternoon napping. The ts had just moved into a new place and in anticipation of foreign visitors had had to go and buy furniture, guest beds, towels, sheets and the like. Sj Very pleased to discover that they'd opted for a dragon douvet for the guest room. (Ok technically speaking they might be dinosaurs, but easy enough to fix if we just sowed some wings on). Out for dinner when the ts got home, a pizza restaurant just down the road. Sat by the fire chatting for a bit, sj sharing her box of Jaffa cakes that she had acquired in the U.K. Then off to bed.

Ok technically speaking they might be dinosaurs.

   Tuesday July 11

As we had been an hour ahead in Romania it was no hardship at all to get up early. Left Jason to eat breakfast and sj and the ts into the car and off to the airport to pick up cj, apparently when sj had told him her dates he'd confused her arrival day with her European departure date so his flight arrived exactly 24 hours later.

As tw explained it the airport parking was free for the first half hour, inexpensive for the second half hour, and after that the price increased exponentially. As such all alarmed to see a car (covered in dustwhich a number of people had written comments such as "wash me" on). It had been parked in the same spot the day before and seemed likely it had been there for awhile. All in agreement that at this point it was probably cheaper to buy a new car than to pay the parking fee.

Based on s/j's experience the prior day, cj quite content to have a low key day of his own. Sj js electing to keep him company, so a low key day for all while the ts went to work. The main activity a walk to the spar (the local grocery store) where all sorts of lunch items were purchased. Surprised to find Jaffa cakes amongst the items on offer, but apparently they were far too expensive to purchase, much easier to have visitors import them from the U.K. - well of course they're cheaper when other people buy them for you!

Well of course they're cheaper when other people buy them for you!

Interesting to see the pricing structure of the various items. Cheese pretty expensive (if one were being paid in rand), so bought a bunch of it to replace all of it that we'd eaten for lunch the previous day, avocados were amazingly cheap (so we bought a bag) but other vegetables were fairly expensive, this was a result of the scarcity of water. Apparently, as the year progressed and turned to summer they would get to be more and more expensive until they were too expensive for a large portion of the population.

Worryingly despite it being winter and the middle of the rainy seasons,South Africa in the middle of a horrific drought. People were being asked to keep their water usage to 87 liters a day. As a result asked to keep our water usage to a minimum, only flush when necessary, and save gray water from the shower for when we need to. Tw announced proudly that he was down to only 2 showers a week. The rest of us not willing to go that far, instead opting for an economical compromise where the water was turned off while soap was applied and then turned on only to rinse.

Had a nice lunch in the courtyard when we got back to the house then cj off to take a nap and s/j finishing up a few things. Which is to say that sj finished writing up her travelogue from Romania and js dealt with one final work thing.

Tanya made ostrich stew for dinner and we sat around the fire planning out the next few days. Conveniently the ts had brainstormed a list of activities for us.

Conveniently the ts had brainstormed a list of activities for us.

   Wednesday July 12

Dropped Tanya off at work then the plan for the day called for tw to take cj around to see science things while sj/js partook of some touristy activities. Apparently the hop-on hop-off tourist bus was a reasonable way to see the city so after a short detour that took us up to Lions Head to look out over the city and then through the pass and down through Camps Bay.

Only a short detour, Lion's Head as seen from their house.







The kramat on Lion's Head.


Dropped sj/js at the waterfront by the ticket office for the tour bus and the rest of the party continued up to UCT, for th to give her tutorial, then over to Stellenbosch and the iThemba LABS and tw's 'commercial' lab and the PET cameras there. We were also able to have a look in the main cyclotron building, simply too big to photograph.

iThemba LABS, Laboratory for Accelerator Based Sciences.

The cyclotron, too big to photograph.

The grass on the iThemba estate was kept well grazed, not by sheep as it would have been in the UK, but by springbok and quagga. Very pleased to see the latter as no trip to the Natural History museum in Tring is ever complete without looking sadly at the case containing the stuffed remains of one of the last ones, albeit only on three legs.

Lunch in the warm winter sunshine outside at the Spiers wine estate. Cj enjoying the glimpses of wildlife found all around but frustrated that he can name so few species.. [Now at home, using on-line links for birds: Wikipedia good habitat and species description and Warwick Tarboton excellent photographs.] Tw not much help here either as he can't name them either but convincingly pronounces his own made up names. So the small green and yellow bird with white rings round its eyes that was hopping on our lunch table, and stealing the sugar from the bowls, was a 'sugar bird' according to tw. This seemed plausible to cj but he was suspicious enough to buy a South African bird book at his first opportunity where its true identity was revealed as a Cape white eye. Later on, we will meet the Hadada Ibis - or Hadeda Ibis, tw's 'honker'.

Meanwhile, sj/js had been dropped off at the waterfront.

Dropped off at the waterfront

Their first task was to get some rand, so an ATM quickly was located and a huge stack of bills acquired. Hard to wrap their heads around the fact that 100 rand was only $7.70

Neither had had much in the way of breakfast so stopped at the Albert and Victoria waterfront food court where js acquired a croissant and sj a prawn spring roll which turned out to be just about the most delicious thing ever.

Neither quite sure what to do about the bus. It had a number of different lines that toured various parts of the city and while they'd planned to take the red line, it essentially did the same drive as they'd just done with tw. As such the yellow line seemed like the better option as it went around the city itself but the stop we were currently at was for the red line. The ticket office we needed was only a couple of miles away so decided to walk in that direction.

Ts had been very emphatic that we not flash around money or electronics as there was a lot of petty crime and they'd been mugged a number of times so both absolutely paranoid. Apparently someone had tried to mug tw when he was on the way to a government office with all his paperwork to sort out his work visa. So caught up was he with the necessity of getting all of that sorted that he replied "not today thank you," and continued on his way.

Arrived at the downtown ticket office and bought tickets only to discover that they were good on any of the lines and you could move between the different lines at will. No matter, we'd enjoyed the walk.

Given headphones when we bought our tickets so hopped on the yellow line and dutifully plugged them in so we could listen (at least half heartedly) to the commentary.

Decided that the tourist bus would be a safe place to use a phone so sj used the opportunity to hack ingress portals as we drove through the city. As our main plan had been to use the bus to get the lay of the land in preparation for further exploration, decided to start by doing the full loop of the city. Disembarked once we'd completed the loop and headed off to find something for lunch. We'd passed a small bakery that seemed to serve lunch when we were walking to the ticket office so backtracked there.

Back to the bus when we were done eating, this time we hopped off at the District 6 museum, a small museum about a multicultural neighborhood that had been raised to the ground under apartheid as the government didn't approve of the mixture of people living side by side. While interesting it was more focused on one particular injustice rather that apartheid as a whole so possibly too narrow a focus for people who really only knew the basics of apartheid so we might have done better to get a more general overview first.

Done at the museum we decided to walk a few blocks to the "castle" (more of a fort but capetown era insist on referring to it as a castle. Our plan was to pick up the bus there but jettisoned when js found himself being harassed by a beggar. The man didn't quite come out and say that he was going to do to js but he hinted broadly. Attempts to duck into the forest to ditch him fruitless so ended up heading off towards the market square where there was a visible police presence. Both shaken by that encounter so less willing to engage with the locals or look at anything in the market after this encounter.

Had arranged to meet everyone else back where they'd dropped us off so decided we might as well take advantage of our bus tickets and ride the the rest of the way back. Majority of the course a retracing of our footsteps from the morning but fun to see it from the top of an open double decker bus, certainly it allowed us a better view of the swanky houses that clung to the cliff.

Met up with everyone at a bar in the food court then back into Cape Town proper so we could go to an Ethiopian restaurant for dinner. Each got a 2 dish combo meal for a total of 10 different dishes and the result was excellent.

Cj hassled on the way to the car by another man using the same technique as the one who had hassled js earlier in the day. Apparently the key to dealing with them, is to ignore them completely and not engage, it is a horrible way to have to behave but apparently otherwise they will follow you for blocks, attempting to block your path and getting increasingly threatening. Cj not actually in procession of any rand passed a 10 pence coin off as a pound. As said coin quite useless to him, beggar not at all pleased.

Home to bed.


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