a view into the sordid life i lead

Friday, February 25, 2005

elephants?! what elephants!!!

more beetle avoidance, peering thru thick foliage, and ultimately little success by way of large beasts in addo. we did catch a hyena as it crossed the road right behind us, a carcass picked clean, a caracal (which looks similar to a lynx) and a rotting dead rhino (or elephant - distance was too far to tell and our noses are not yet specialized to the scent).

the short discussion might give the impression that addo is mostly a yawn. most definitely not so. its just very hard to provide a view into the place without pics. so this will all get updated with pics when we get back. interestingly, addo turned out to lean more towards death and decay for us - the hyena, carcass, etc. there were plenty of warthog and ostrich, but we did not see any carcasses in kruger in 5 days!

SA has very little by way of a national transit system. the road system is as good as the US tho'. and the major expressways (motorways here) are tolled. most of the tolls are on the order of $5 - $10. so a total of about $50 in tolls thus far. insanely high when u consider that the average person here makes quite a bit less than that per day (most of the country lives on about $6-10/day). the average person (meaning the black south african) travels by way of hitch-hiking. distances are monumental. imagine that 60% of the US had no car, and that the infrastructure was exactly the same. and that u had to travel the 20-30 miles that most people commute in the US. thats the story here. combine taxis are the partial solution. these are minibuses (think old vw minibus size, or maruti minivan, ofr those familiar with that), which can be flagged down pretty much anywhere. they drive around and pick people up and drive (presumably) regular routes. schedule is pretty random tho since they travel where they can get cash. its about as little as can exist, but this is the only solution to the needs. jonii's take on it tis that these people won freedom from apartheid, but have still been kept out of progress due to the ifeasibility of travelling anywhere easily. and i tend to agree.

the drive from addo along the coast is called the garden route, and is famous. we appear to have hit it during a dry spell, sicne it was not clear to us what was so "garden" about it. lots of pine plantations and some amazing coastline, however. the water is really blue. and the rock formations look like petrified wood. its very prehistoric feeling, and really beautiful. the run along the garden route ends at capetown. but about half way between tsitsikama (on the eastern edge of the route) and capetown (on the western end), is a place called agulhas point, which is the southernmost tip of africa - where the indian ocean and the atlantic meet. we drove down there - an hour detour from the expressway - through farmland that looks like montana. hilly, dry, shrubland, with pockets of eucalyptus trees. and more ostrich farms. its a verey scenic drive especially with the brilliant blue skies that feel like they were painted on, and perfect clouds that make u feel like the intro to the simpson's.

need to step back for a sec here. addo is all dusry dirt roads. and our car - a white nissan almera - proved we had been there. the entire car, inside and out, was covered in fine red dust. filthy enough for us to scream. so the first stop when we arrived at l'agulhas was the car wash. agulhas is a tiny town, perhaps of about 500. 90% of the houses are mansions, and unoccupied, as is the case with much of the large houseso on the garden route. these are the vacation homes of people in joburg and capetown and durban. sort of like fairfield :)

once cleansed of our safari park past, we headed on to the southern end of africa. the view here is indescribable. the beaches are white sand. the water is glorious blue and green. the sky is brilliant. its all over the top! best of all theres almost nobody there! a perfect place to just chill. the only downside is the constant 20 mile/hr wind. no kidding. its REALLY windy here. could actually drive you batty with the vata derangement. but hey it's only virually paradise ;)

headed on to capetown after another lunch of chakalaka, bread and mango pickle. washed down with the obligatory litchi juice, which we have been consuming in vast quantities.

driving towards capetown is amazing. shanty town after shanty town. they're ramshackle corrugated metal shacks, with electricity. each group of 6-10 shacks is connected to a power pole - with wire running like an umbrella skeleton. and they stretch for about 50 km from capetown. getting closer to capetown, the most obvious sight is the twin towers of the nuclear reactor, which freaked jonii out, and which i thought was pretty cool :)

and as soon as u pass them u understand thwy people rave about capetown so much. table mountain fills the view, and the clouds over it start rolling in late in the afternoon. we were hitting 4pm, and the clouds look like a giant pipeline wave cresting over the mountain top. this was finally a spectacular sight - like nothing i've seen before, and probably unlike anything i'm going to encounter again! we've got pics so i'll leave my thousand words unwritten, and u can just wait for the pics.

capetown is a loose mix of san fransisco (the haight-ashbury district) and new orleans. u feel that as soon as u dirve into the downtown area, which resembles canal street in nawlins. the long street backpackers is on long street, which is the largest thoroughfare (like bourbon in nawlins). and it's right in the thick of things. the loudest clubs, restaurants, bars, etc, etc. excellent location to see the town. its a total bakcpakcer joint - unwashed masses abound. long street backpackers is where u want to be if ur idea of visiting capetown consists of hanging with other poor backpacking tourists, and dont want to sleep :) more on that later.


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