Thursday, October 25, 2007

Gorgeous Cape Town

At Cape Town, a crowd of girls is waiting for me.

I reckon that’s the cup in that box on his right

I ignore them, collect my bags, and head out to my pickup. As we drive into Cape Town, past the famous Table Mountain which is covered in cloud at the moment (they call it the Table Cloth!), you can immediately feel the difference in atmosphere between here and Jo’berg.

The mountain shrouded in cloud

There aren’t crazy 15 ft high electric fences, no armed security guards everywhere. The driver explains it saying that Cape Towners are just more laid back, and there’s not so much wealth envy here. There are still big slums though, so I’m not going to immediately drop my guard.

The hostel is nice, and there are plenty of people about too. I’m staying at the Zebra Crossing. My room is nice, but still shared bathroom. I head out down Long Street for a wander.

Long Street
Long Street appears to be one of the more trendy parts of town, full of bars, cafes and restaurants all full of character (compared with the malls that tend to be full of chains).

Long Street Baths

Wrought iron buildings

Lewis’ recommended Mama Africa

Long Street

One of several mosques in the city


Art deco and crazy colours

Very Barbican

The Victoria and Albert Waterfront is a recent development facing the Atlantic, around a harbour which still operates out of the Alfred and Victoria Basins (1860). Apparently you can see seals splashing around too, though I wasn’t lucky in this respect.

Looking back from Waterfront to the city

Boats being maintained

Expensive flats going up around the still active harbour

The clocktower

Gorgeous colours as the sun gets low

Waterside snacks

The clock

Ah ha!

The Paulaner Brewhouse



Cranes as the sun sets

Walking back in the dark

In general, Cape Town feels safe. I’m still not completely relaxed, there are a fair few people about who ask for money as you walk past, sometimes following you along the street. There are lots of people in fluorescent jackets on street corners, I can’t quite work out whether they are security people, parking attendants, or a mix of both. Either way, it’s good to have them about.

Passport Shocker
I wake up to a nice view from my room in the Zebra Crossing hostel:

So today I need to renew my passport. The SA visa takes up half a page, so I now have a page and a half free. Mozambique is a full page. I need a new passport! No problem, there’s a consulate here in Cape Town, I’ve checked it out, so this morning after a cup of tea I walk down there, pausing on the way to get some passport photos. The embassy is on the 15th floor of an office building in downtown. Once there, there’s no queue, but the woman tells me firstly that my photo is not acceptable as a lock of hair is curling round on my forehead, apparently “obscuring” my face?! And more importantly, she tells me the lead time is 8-10 weeks. WEEKS?! The lead time quoted on the Foreign office website is 10 days. WEEKS? Are you sure? Yes.

I can’t believe it. I ask her if they are sending them to another country to process? No, only to Pretoria. Why so long? I asked the British Embassy in Burma, and they told me because of the delay of sending the applications to Bangkok it would take 10 days. Here they’re processing them locally and it takes 10 weeks. How preposterous – the Foreign Office should be ashamed that they have such an appalling turnaround time for what is essentially just printing out a page with a couple of lines of information, laminating it, and sewing it into a small burgundy book. I’m not even applying for a first passport, there’s no information to be verified. It’s pathetic really, and throws my travel plans somewhat.

The library

A bit of research on the internet and an email later, I find that Botswana are doing them in 10 days. That’s the answer, rather than the flights back to Asia which I’ve been looking at (300 quid from Cathay). At a bookshop, I pick up the recently published Africa LP book (rather than the Shoestring guide). This will help me work out what I’m doing for the next few months. My vague plan is something like SA to Botswana to Mozambique to Malawi to Namibia to Tanzania. Something like that. Watch this space, I will only be able to plan more once I’ve spent half a week in the net café getting my China blog finished, groan!

In the evening I stay in, blogging still as Cape Town gets absolutely battered by gale force winds. Don’t think the Cable Car will be in operation up to the top of Table Mountain now!

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