Arrival in Cape Town

Friday, September 12, 2014
Cape Town, Western Cape, South Africa
Stalybridge was basking in late summer sunshine as I locked up the house and embarked upon my trip to South Africa. I was in no particular hurry and so took the train to the airport for the 2.00pm Emirates flight to Cape Town, via Dubai. The airport was surprisingly busy, the majority of travellers apearing to fall into the more mature category, eagerly anticipating their holidays which they had delayed until after the start of the new school term.
 
For the first leg of the journey I should be travelling on the huge A380 and so boarding started early to get all 500 or so passengers into their seats . Once again I missed out on an upgrade to Business Class. Indeed the nearest I got to going upstairs was climbing the four steps up to the economy class toilets! The flight went well however. I had a spare seat next to me and so could spread out a bit and the meal was particularly tasty - Welsh lamb stew followed by sticky toffee pudding.
 
I had three hours to kill in Dubai. I didn't really want anything to eat or drink and so passed the time battling with the "free" wifi, to get online and catch up with the latest on the Oscar Pistorius trial.
 
On the next leg of the journey I was not impressed to find myself seated amongst a large and rather boisterous group of Standard Chartered male employees from Dubai. They had clearly all been drinking and were fooling around, blocking the aisles and being very rude to the cabin crew who were trying to establish some decorum. A few passengers nearby asked to change seats but I stuck where I was and in due course they all quietened down a bit and weren't too much trouble. It was a night flight of nearly 9 hours and most people slept for a few hours before awakening to watch the dry landscape of Africa slide slowly past beneath us.
 
It was sunny and 16 degrees when we landed in Cape Town at 11.30am. The queue for immigration moved very slowly but that meant that the luggage was ready and waiting for us when we finally got through. A driver was there to meet me and I was soon deposited at the Lady Hamilton Hotel in central Cape Town .
 
Before I could even check in I was ushered into the hotel lounge where the "Explore" introductory meeting had just started. I joined three oldish couples who were listening to our guide, Blessed, as he ran through the itinerary for the trip. By the time he had finished some more of the group had arrived from the airport and eventually we were 15 in total. I was pleased to note that most of the later arrivals were solo travellers and so I would not after all, be the only one on my own.  
 
After checking in and freshening up we "solos" decided to go up Table Mountain. The hotel receptionist organised a taxi for us and we soon found ourselves boarding the cable car for the summit. This was rather unusual in that it revolved slowly as it climbed and so everyone had a chance to see the best of the views. It was a gorgeous day with not a cloud in the sky and the views from the top were wonderful. The breeze was quite chilly though. There was a network of paths criss-crossing the mountain and we spent a most enjoyable hour or so wandering around admiring the views and the lovely landscape .
 
For dinner the same group strolled down one of Cape Town's main streets until we reached Ocean Basket, a fish restaurant that had been recommended to us. It was a lively place and the food was pretty good, and very good value for money. Everyone was tired and so there were no dissenters when it came to turning in early.
 
On Saturday we were going to spend the day visiting the Cape Peninsula. We were to leave at 7.45 and so we had an early breakfast and then emerged from the hotel to see for the first time the transport that we would be using for the next three weeks. This was a huge, large wheeled truck entered by climbing a folding set of steps. Inside there was plenty of seating and a lot of storage space. We made ourselves comfortable and drove out of the city towards the Cape.
 
Again the weather was perfect and at the first stop near Camps Bay we were able to take some lovely photos of the Twelve Apostles set against a brilliant blue sky.We then moved on to Hout Bay for more photos and the chance to see some seals . They were playing in the water and some even mounted the quayside and posed for photos! The coastal scenery just got better and better. As we continued along the beautiful winding Chapmans Drive we could see dolphins playing in the water far below us and as we entered the Cape of Good Hope National Park we saw ostriches, antelopes and a small group of bontebok, the last of which was quite a rare sight according to our guide. Some of us climbed up to the lighthouse at the Cape and from there were lucky enough to spot four humpback whales. September is the tail end of the whale watching season apparently and so there was no guarantee that there would still be any about.
 
After a welcome break for some lunch in the Cape cafe we next drove to the actual Cape of Good Hope. There, by the sign, I posed for another photograph which would match the one taken in exactly the same spot 22 years ago! At Boulders Beach we joined the crowds of tourists and strolled along the boardwalks through the sand dunes to see the penguins. They were African penguins, formerly known as Jackass penguins on account of the braying noise they make, and there were large numbers of them, some at a distance on the sand and others quite close to us, waddling comically around the sand dunes . Eventually we tore ourselves away and set off back to Cape Town, passing through the historic naval town of Simonstown and then following the coast (and the local railway). 
 
We were again being left to our own devices to dine tonight. Some enquiries had led us to believe that they did very good steaks at a nearby restaurant called Nelson's Eye and so that was where Dave, Ian, Geraldine, Alison and I headed on Saturday night. The menu was quite extensive and we kept changing our minds about the order but in the end most of us were tempted to try either the ostrich or the springbok. Both were very good but the portions of meat were large, something I think we are probably going to have to get used to. We nevertheless all managed a dessert too and had a most enjoyable evening. It was much more expensive than our meal on the previous evening but as we were from then on, going to have dinner included almost each evening whilst on the road we felt justified in pushing the boat out.
 
We availed ourselves of the complimentary tea and coffee in our hotel, watched a bit of Match of the Day and then retired. Tomorrow the adventure would really start as we headed north on the first leg of our long, long, journey to Victoria Falls.  

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