I know I said that my plan was to sabotage Mark’s elaborate planning for our trip here, but circumstance has done it for us. Just before we arrived, Cape Town had some of its worst rain in years, and there was even snow on top of Table Mountain. Seventeen thousand people became homeless in the flooding, and at least three people have died. So, our plans are in shreds because we have to see what each day brings in the form of weather.
The worst affected areas are what the staff here at the hotel call ‘informal settlements’. Most towns around the world would call these areas shanty-towns. It’s the areas with hovels, corrugated metal walls, sack-cloth for windows, and endemic poverty. The weather is all that most Capetonians we’ve met speak about, so it has hindered our adventure-lust because there’s talk that the bad weather will return this week.
So here I sit in a luxurious hotel room that is warm and safe and secure. We’ll be fine here, because this area is apparently a bit like Cape Town’s Soho or Greenwich Village. We didn’t know that when we arrived, although dad said he knew when he booked the hotel.
There’s a bit of guilt when we cart around the town frolicking in the delights. Today, we went out from the town Gaansbai on a boat to a place near Dyer Island to lure Great White Sharks to the boat. The island has a large penguin population which would make it a good place to see Great White Sharks. There’s another island nearby with many seals. That’s why this place is called “Shark alley”. There’s good eating here, if you’re a shark.
The threat of the weather kept the participants to a comfortably low number so that even Mark had little reason to complain. There were only a few passengers, but the boat did leave with a warning that if the weather got worse we would abandon the trip and head back to the harbour.
We saw not just one, but two, great white sharks. First in the water around the boat, and then we got some diving suits and submerged into a cage they attached to the side of the boat. I was about one metre away from a fish that was ten times my size. I bet that if it gaped, I could fit into its mouth. Let me tell you that with four people in the very flimsy looking cage, I understand fully how a sardine feel in its can.
When we came home the hotel here arranged a braai, which is South African for barbecue, and we got to meet some of the other guests as well as eat lots of food and drink some of the local wine. I’m now so stuffed that I can barely move, and decided to keep my wits sharp by writing this update to tell you what we’ve done so far.
And to contemplate the gap between the ‘informal settlements’ that suffer greatly now, and all the homeless people in shelters and camps around the town, while I sit here swelling from rich food and good wine. The inequality almost makes me feel a bit ashamed. Back home that inequality is hidden so that I can pretend that I’m a left-wing, aware geek that fret about the state of the world over a cuppa at Costa’s. Here? It seems that this gap is a yawning gulf that I need to stare into.
Of course, the purpose of our trip here is to celebrate us, and the idea that I could go out and help and record what is going on is ridiculous. But I still want to do it. I still think I should do it.
The blog is still officially on hiatus, apart from this update. 🙂