Cape Town Dispatch, Vol. 1

First, we could not ask for better weather. The unseasonably warm, sunny weather has surprised the locals and has delighted your intrepid travelers. We have enjoyed blue, cloudless skies and daytime temperatures in the 70s, with beautifully mild evenings.

The 24 hours of flight time (15 hours SFO to DBX, one overnight in Dubai, then 9 hours to CPT) took their toll on us. But we tried to use the time and a few doses of melatonin to get us on local time. I was, for the most part, successful of being on local time when we arrived. G had a harder time.

Our success was derailed early this morning by a bunch of drunken English fans, apparently over-confident that their team would be in the semi final and now with time on their hands. They made an almost constant racket (laughing, talking, doors slamming and what sounded like cleats stomping) starting at 3:30 a.m. and going on until morning light. Even earplugs and muffling by the pillows did not help. How appropriate that today we should celebrate our independence from these people.

A few observations from our first 72 hours.


South Africa has been named the murder capital of the world, and most Web sites refer to crime rates here. Early news stories from the World Cup focused on journalists being attacked and robbed in their hotel rooms, etc. I was a bit anxious about getting around, particularly at night.

What I have seen, however, is a strong police and security presence. There seems to be a yellow-vested security person lurking in every dark corner and the police are everywhere. While it is still important to stay aware of our surroundings and take local advice on areas to avoid, I think I’ll be fine.

World Cup

This has been a fabulous experience. Our first night here we found ourselves at Marco’s African Restaurant to watch the Ghana vs. Uruguay game. Clearly everyone was cheering for Ghana and it was an exciting, albeit disappointing, game. The crowd was energetic and passionate.

We sat at the bar and had dinner—a delicious braised lamb and some roasted chicken with butternut squash and “pap” (think polenta) and Castle beer. It’s not often that I find myself a minority among blacks; we were only two among a small handful of white faces in this crowd. I’ll admit that at first it felt uncomfortable, but that was quickly set aside by the friendly patrons there. One group was sharing a feast and one of the men tried to gross me out by telling me that one dish was sheep’s head—brains, eyes, etc. I was not fazed, of course, and chatted him up on how it’s prepared and whether it was good.

The semi-final game is on Tuesday (we have tickets) and crowds of tourists are coming into town for that. It seems everyone is wearing a national team shirt or scarf or bag, even if their team is no longer in the match. People are self-identifying with their countries and it feels like an international event the likes of which I have never experienced. You hear all languages, and people are friendly and interested in where you come from.

And only here would I hear Brazilian Portuguese with a Chinese accent!


We have stayed relatively low-key with restaurants, etc. But we have sampled local fare. Last night Greg had an ostrich dish—shredded ostrich topped with a custard and baked. It was served with chutney, chopped bananas, coconut and a sort of salsa (tomatoes, onions, cilantro). It sounds completely bizarre but was quite tasty.

I have found the chicken here to be quite chicken-ey and a little drier and tougher than home. I believe that is because the local chickens are not bred for high fat and pumped-up breasts like the U.S. chickens—or for American-style “soft food” that is easy to swallow with minimum chewing (read “The End of Overeating” to understand).

The restaurants all have large screen TVs to watch the game and they seem to be mostly packed. In fact, you can watch the game virtually anywhere—from the established “Fan Fest” in the park with massive screens, to every bar and restaurant. Last night we saw the game being projected on the side of a building.

Sight-seeing: Table Mountain

With such a gorgeous day we decided we would visit Table Mountain. We waited an hour in the hot sun (yes, it’s winter here!) for tickets to the cable car. But it was SO worth it. Absolutely gorgeous vistas and flora and fauna.

I do plan to hike to the top at some point during our visit. Some brave souls were actually rock-climbing up the sheer face. I have no rock-climbing experience so I’ll stick to the hike. There are various trails and different levels of difficulty. I’ll take either the medium or difficult hike—good practice for Pico in September. Apparently the weather can change dramatically pretty fast, and they recommend you use a guide, which I plan to do.

That’s all to report for now. More soon.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *