Cape Town, South Africa
Kruger Park was great, but it was hot and dry. Cape Town, on the other hand, was cool and wet. Normally, those things are not positive characteristics (unless you’re Scottish), but after so many weeks suffering under oppressive heat, cool rains were a welcome change.
When I arrived there, I was pretty surprised to find that there were few good options for getting from the airport into the city. Taxis and shuttles seemed to be the popular choice, but there was no evidence of a bus. Frankly, I have a hard time believing that there is no bus, but I was not really in the mood to engage in a lengthy conversation, so I hopped in a shared taxi that had been booked by two women from the US, who were in Cape Town to tour vineyards and visit spas.
Since I had no hostel reservations, I asked the driver to drop me off on Long Street and figured that since it wasn’t exactly peak season, I would have no trouble finding something. I was right. Steps away from where I was deposited, I found Carnival Court Backpackers. It was a great place, though with the dorms directly above the hostels popular and lively bar, if you’re planning to bed down earlier than 2 AM, you should bring ear plugs.
Since the weather was dreary, I didn’t get to see as much as I hoped (the view from Table Mountain was obscured by thick clouds, for example), but I was able to walk around the city, circle Lion’s Head and look out over the lovely Camps Bay. Since Cape Town is pretty far into the Southern Hemisphere, spring is just unfolding there. Consequently, their daily sunlight doesn’t last long; I’d schedule future trips further into November, so I might see the city for longer each day.
One evening, while sitting at the bar having a glass of milk, I met a PhD student (they’re everywhere!) who is doing research related to sea larvae. Before getting started on her university, she spent several years travelling and I enjoyed listening to her stories of adventure. It would have been nice to stick around Cape Town for a couple of extra days, because I think I might have cajoled her into some hiking (since the weather was looking up). However, my ticket for Bangkok was booked and in spite of leaving behind an opportunity, I was excited to get to Asia to see Nina and Fred again.
With some reluctance, then, I made my way back to the Cape Town airport, picked up a cheap flight to Johannesburg and ended up there in plenty of time to catch the next flight. Since I spent most of the evening at the Johannesburg airport, however, I was pretty tired by the time the Thai Airways check-in counter opened. What!??! No automated kiosks? Not for that flight. Le sigh. Eventually, I got checked in, received my exit stamp from immigration and made my way into the South African Airways business-class lounge to have a drink, shower and shave. By the time my flight boarded, I felt rejuvenated and happily settled in to my seat, where a lovely air hostess served me champagne and orange juice before take off. Excellent. 11 hours and a couple of movies (Kung Fu Panda and My Blueberry Nights) later, I was in Bangkok.