Category Archives: Cape Town

Reflections on Africa

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Well, the dream is over and the adventure is nothing but a memory. I’m back home in Australia, it’s about nine degrees, and I can’t help wishing that I was still exploring strange lands on the other side of the world. My two months travelling through the Dark Continent have come and gone, and the astonishing landscapes and beautiful people of Africa are now thousands of kilometres away, but the things I experienced and the people I met will always be a part of me.

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Africa was never a place I really wanted to visit, largely because the Australian perception of the continent is one of death and violence and chaos. Even leading up to my trip, I kind of felt like it was a place I should visit, rather than one I was actually passionate about seeing. That changed the moment I stepped foot in Africa. For that reason alone, it was the most surprising place I’ve ever been to – and my journey through Africa turned out to be the most enjoyable overseas trip I’ve ever had. If you’re tossing off up about going, just book a flight over there and go for it. Where else can you climb a mountain, dodge a carjacker, get chased by a lion and get smashed on great beer in the same afternoon?

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I was very aprehensive about what would welcome me in Cape Town, and was worried about even making it from the airport to my hotel. The slums that slid past the bus window as I stared out in wide-eyed wonder did nothing to ease my apprehension, but it didn’t take me long to fall in love with the city. It’s certainly troubled, but it’s also overflowing with incredible hiking trails, lovely beaches, top restaurants and pubs, and some truly special women.

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They call Cape Town the gateway to Africa, and it was the perfet entryway to the place. After renting a shitty Hyundai that even a sex offender would be embarrassed to drive, I found the rest of SA to be even more incredible. The rugged coastline, the misty mountains, the freaky animals, the beer, the dried meats, the gigantic fruit – dude, the place rocks. And despite having a reputation for being knob-jockeys, I found the Saffas to be the kindest, most helpful people I’ve ever met. Of course, I’m not black, which might have something to do with it.

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Through the remote mountains of Lesotho, across the rolling hills of Swaziland, past the wild waters of Zimbabwe and shambling dead of Zambia, the beating heart of Africa entranced me and caused me to fall madly in love with the place. It’s no wonder that people have been travelling around the world to explore the wilds of Africa for so many years. It’s the sort of place that draws in the adventurous, the open-minded, and the lost.

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In Malawi I found a special place surrounded by mountains, where the water is crystal clear and full of neon fish and lethal parasites. On the beaches of Cape Maclear I found peace and happiness in a place where few people have ever been. I visited so many memorable places in Africa, but the Cape tops them all, and the memories of the week I spent there will always bring a smile to my face.

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After living amongst poverty and desolation, it was strange to end my journey on the tropical beaches of Zanzibar and Mauritius, where most people are most definitely tourists and not travellers. It would be wrong to call these places let-downs – they’re incredibly beautiful and I highly recommend both destinations – but it was disappointing to be back in civilisation, having given left the remote backwaters and interesting people that are inevitably drawn to them.

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It was a privilege to cross paths with people having their own adventures in strange lands, and I cherish the friendships I made with people I’ll probably never meet again. It’s surprising how strong the bonds between travellers can be – when you’ve got nothing and no one to tie you to your normal life, that dude or dudette you bumped into at the hostel can feel like a lifelong friend. And that’s what travelling is really about – meeting people from different backgrounds and becoming a part of their life for a day or two.

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Oh, and what happened to Prince Imotep, the Nigerian royal who sent me an email asking me to help him move his millions, thus kicking off this who adventure (before promptly being forgotten)? I dunno, let’s just say he came through, sent me the money, and I’m now so rich that I own a helicopter and one of those fancy Japanese sex robots. How that for an awesome through-story with a satisfying and believable conclusion? I really should be a Hollywood screenwriter or something.

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I wandered through Africa for two months, but it’s only since returning home that I’ve truly felt lost. There’s a line in the Third Eye Blind song Deep Inside of You that goes, ‘I’d walk with my people if I could find them’, and I think that for a while I was in-step with people I have something in common with.

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Oh well, there’s no time to wistfully ponder my time in Africa – I’m heading to Bali in a few days for a month of paragliding, drinking, and being awesome. What can I say, it beats sitting in the office.

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An absolute Paarl-er


I had such a grouse time in the mountains surrounding Stellenbosch yesterday that I decided to spend an extra day here rather than heading to South Africa’s south coast. Stella is the second-oldest settlement in the country and is famous for its French-style streets and buildings, so I cruised my crappy rental Hyundai into the centre of the city for a croissant, cheese platter and bottle of champagne to start the day. Alright, it was a KFC Bargain Box and a box of goon, but you get the idea.

It’s easy to see why this place is so well regarded by Saffas and normal people alike, because it’s absolutely delightful. The streets are full of extravagant wooden mansions and lined with lush trees. There’s heaps of restaurants, cafes and kooky shops, so it’s a beacon for golden oldies and bearded hipsters alike. It feels like a step back in time, and I was half expecting to see sheilas walking around with those big, floaty dresses that long-dead spunks once dolled up in. I’ve never been to New Orleans, but I’ve seen it on TV, and Stella really reminds me of it. Without all the horrible hurricanes and mass deaths, of course.

With a swagger around Stellenbosch’s old-fashioned streets crossed off the list, I jumped back in my Crapmobile and slogged over to the nearby town of Paarl. I didn’t actually head into the town centre, turning off and heading up to the Afrikaans Language Monument. Yeah, I know what you’re thinking; that sounds as interesting as listening to Kevin Rudd discuss pubic hair maintenance, but it proved to be an incredibly beautiful and peaceful place. I recommend it. If a monument was ever built to the Aussie language, it would just be some derro saying, “Get a dog up ya, cunt!”.

Just up the road from the monument is the Paarl Mountain Nature Reserve, and this place is awesome. It offers brilliant views out over the city and valley, and houses all sorts of interesting wildlife and rock formations. The beauty of this place is overwhelming, and there’s no way I can put into words the feeling of sitting at the top of the world, looking down on the world as the colours bleed away at the end of the day. I can see why Africa has entranced so many people, because it really is special.

A note on the opening photo for this story: I have a number of regular and passionate readers, and I really appreciate the love and support they all provide for me and my stories. None of my followers are more passionate than Mark, a fellow paraglider who lives his life vicariously through my stories of the road. Mark, an openly gay man, has a particular fondness for the stories where I get my gear off, and has recently been pestering me to de-frock while I’m in Africa.
“If I wanted to read a blog without any photos that I find sexually appetising, I’d log onto clementineford.com,” he whinged to me in a rambling email that had probably been typed with one hand.
Not wanting to upset Mark, who refreshes my website up to 20 times a day in the hope of seeing a new photo of me sans trousers, and thus keeps me rolling in Google Adsense profits, I took the opportunity to throw off my shorts and bask in the African sunshine. Anyone with shares in Kleenex should be very, very happy right now.

Stellenbosch? More like stellar-bosch, yeah!

It was time to bid bon appetit to Cape Town, and my plan was to grab a rental car and cruise over to Mossel Bay to explore the world famous Garden Route. But after spending three hours desperately trying to organise wheels, and eventually ending up with something you’d expet a sex offender to cruise around in, the 380km journey was out of the question. That left just one place to spend the day and night – Stellenbosch!

This wonderfully-named town is just an hour’s drive from Cape Town, and is known for its extensive vinyards and jaw-dropping scenery. I decided to make the most of both, and grabbed the cheapest cask of goon I could find at the local bottle-o and headed into the mountains for a cross country strut. My destination was the Assegaaibosch Nature Reserve, which is just a few kilometres out of town. Of course, that took around five hours in my paedo-mobile, but the scenery made the time fly by.

I was immediately grateful for the fact I was forced to spend the night in Stella (as the locals probably don’t call it), because the place really is something special. The mountains are highly unusual and look like they belong on another planet with bizarre, chattering aliens crawling all over them. The scenery truly is as beautiful as a supermodel handing out free beer, and I was lucky to be able to explore it on such a lovely day.

Of course, such a wonderful afternoon wouldn’t be complete without some drama, and that came when I returned to my newly-acquired car. The unlocked gate I’d driven through to park in was no longer unlocked and, on closer inspection, what I’d thought was a car park was in fact the front yard of a house. That house now had a massive dog out the front, and a number of very large black men hanging around outside, looking from the car to me and back at the car. I could tell they weren’t admiring my choice in wheels.

Now, parking your car well inside someone’s heavily-gated property would be a bad move at the best of times, but you can multiply it tenfold in a country like South Africa, where tresspassing is the ultimate sin. I was getting ready to dump the car and walk back into town when one of the men stood up and called out to me. He was only slightly smaller than the mountains surrounding him, and I almost wet myself.
“Hey, white man,” he boomed. “Is that your car on my property?” I meakly told him it was, and a huge smile spread across his face.
“Come in and have some supper, then you’d better take the car and leave. If the neighbours see it outside my house they’ll think I’ve become one of the gays.” A free meal andnot being shot for tresspassing? I’ll take it!

Robben/Hood

After climbing up Table Mountain yesterday, and waking up this morning feeling like I’d gone the distance with a kickboxer, I was determined to take it easy on my last day in Cape Town. A cruise, a few beers, that sort of thing. I wasn’t expecting to have one of the most interesting experiences of my life, but that’s exactly what happened when I took a walk through the past and present of racial segregation in South Africa.

My morning was spent at Robben Island, where Nelson ‘The Man’ Mandela was locked up between 1964 and 1982. The only way to get out to the island is with a tour group, which is a bummer because I usually prefer to explore places at my own pace and without a million Ameircans saying ‘Like, OMG, literally!’ next to me the whole time. Anyway, for $30 the tour is great value; the spectacular views from the ferry on the way out are worth the price of admission alone.

The island tours are conducted by former prisoners, and it was immediately obvious that Robben Island wasn’t a great place to be locked up. Sure, the conditions weren’t nearly as bad as those faced by prisoners in Tallinn’s Patarei Sea Fortress, but staying there wouldn’t have been a barrel of monkeys. The tour was interesting, but felt a bit like a school excusion, with no time to soak in the atmosphere of such a sombre place. The guides were fantastic, and had deep knowledge of the island and its history, as well as obvious passion for the battles of their people, but it would have been nice to spend time just getting a feel for the place.

My next destination was anything but a run-of-the-mill tourist destination, as I took a trip out to Imizamo Yethu, an informal settlement (or shanty town) in Hout Bay, that is home to some of the poorest people on the planet. I must admit that I’d already made up my mind about Imizamo Yethu (translation: “Our Efforts”) long before I ever stepped foot in the place. The town holds 35,000 in just 18 hectares, and is wedged between a number of exclusive housing developments and wineries in one of the most picturesque areas in South Africa. I thought I’d be heading into a nightmare.

I caught the hop-on-hop-off bus out there, and was surprised when I was the only person to hop off outside IY. To me, it was by far the most fascinating destination on the bus route, but it turns out I was the only person to get off there all day. I was met by a local guide, who led me into one of the strangest places I’ve ever visited – but also, in many ways, one of the most wonderful. The relentless poverty of the place was immediately evident. The residents mostly live in shacks made of corrugated iron and bits of wood. There are burnt-out cars all over the place. There’s no running water or sewerage. But the people were laughing and calling out to each other in a way most people don’t in Australia. At least to an outsider, there’s an overwhelming sense of community and friendship.

Two months ago a fire tore through the settlement, killing three people, destroying 3,500 houses and leaving 15,000 people homeless. They now live in tents and other temporary accommodation on the flatlands below the village. It’s no surprise that something like that could happen, because the shacks are so close together and the roads are non-existent in certain places, leaving no way to battle disaster. Surprisingly, the Cape Town community rallied around the victims, and they’ll all be rehoused in the next six weeks. In IY, life goes on because life always has gone on.

I was taken to an after-school care centre where most of the children either have AIDS, or have been affected by the disease, and was struck by just how similar they were to kids I see back in Australia. These kids are living with death sentences and usually don’t have a meal to eat when they get home, but they were still so happy. I danced with them and gave in to every request for a cuddle – and there were a lot of them. The volunteers out there are doing such a good job, because the centre really is an oasis of hope in such a desperately poor part of the world.

A trip to IY – or any of the poverty-stricken townships in South Africa – comes highly recommended by me, and is genuinely one of the highlights of all time travelling overseas. Many people would call it dark tourism, as if the poverty of these people is an exhibit rather than a daily reality. But I think a trip there is so much more than that. I was able to see that IY isn’t a crime-infested hell-hole, but a place where people try to get by the best way they can, while fighting disease and starvation. They’re working together to hopefully build a better future, and that’s worth everybody acknowledging.

Lion’s Head and Table Mountain in one day? Madness!

Most hikers prepare for a massive day of climbing by getting a good night’s sleep and waking up fresh ready to go. I prepared to ascend two of South Africa’s most famous peaks by drinking 12 beers and waking up in bed with some girl I barely recognised. Still, it was a perfect day to climb Cape Town’s Lion’s Head and Table Mountain, so I dropped a few headache tablets and off I went.

Both climbs are bloody beautiful, and provide glorious views over the city and the ocean. The rock formations and vegetation on display are wonderful and the trails are well maintained and clearly signposted. Whilst the walks are difficult in places – there’s a bit of climbing involved – they’re both worth the effort. If you’re in Cape Town and you’re not in a wheelchair or so fat you sweat donuts, go on these hikes.

To be honest, squeezing both hikes into one day was pushing it a bit, and I was really stuffed by the end. From my hotel in Green Point I headed straight up the 669m Lion’s Head, then crossed over to the 1085m Table Mountain and trekked up the Platteklip Gorge trail beneath the Cable Car, and I really had to push myself to get up there before nightfall. All up, the walk was a touch over 20km, with more ups and downs than xxxxxx’s marriage.

Cape Fantasies

Cape Town has a bad reputation for extreme violence, which is understandable when there have been 2,451 reported homicides here in the past year – a world class rate of 65.53 per 100,000. For comparison, Sydney had 38 in the same time period. With statistics like that, I was nervous as my plane touched down in South Africa, despite the eight beers I’d smashed on the flight from Dubai. I thought I’d be walking into anarchy, and wondered whether I’d even make it to my hotel without having my achilles tendons slashed and my Nike Air Jordans stolen.

While statistics don’t lie, Cape Town has completely surprised me and subverted all my expectations. I’ve only witnessed three shootings in the past 24 hours, with only one of them fatal. Nah, that’s bullshit. I haven’t seen a hint of trouble since arriving, and Cape Town has shown itself to be a vibrant, exciting, lively city that has astonished and impressed me. Sure, I’ve stuck to the more affluent areas, but I’ve liked what I’ve seen so far. Where Dubai was exactly what I expected it to be, this place has offered an adventure that I wasn’t expecting at all.

The scenery is stunning, with Table Mountain and Lion’s Head standing guard behind the city. They’re very impressive, and my first site of them was made even better by the dozen or so paragliders that were slowly snaking their way from the very high launch towards the waterfront. I don’t have my paragliding gear with me, but I’d definitely like to come back here and launch off Lion’s Head. You wouldn’t wanna fuck up, though, because there are a lot of houses wrapped in barbed wire and electrified fences between launch and landing – and I have a history of combining paragliders and fences.

My first port of call was the marina (how was that for wordplay? You’re missing out on a literary genius, Bauer!), and it’s a top place to spend time. The V&A Waterfront boasts restaurants, bars, boats, bands, museums, shops and lots of happy people. It’s about as far removed from Cape Town’s crime-filled ghettos as possible, and is fun for the whole family. I even found an amphitheatre where a bunch of birds and lions were dancing around for a crowd of enthusiastic children. If I’d had a six-pack of beer I would’ve sat back and tried to make sense of it, but I didn’t so I got outta there.

I still haven’t gotten over Percy the Penguin, my feathered lover from Abu Dhabi, but I did have a brief fling with a cannon that I saw. It was brief, aggressive and emotionless, and I left without even asking his name. It might be time for me to give up cannon-ymous sex.

The walk from the marina along Cape Town’s western coast is spectacular, taking in a number of beautiful beaches, marvellous multi-million-dollar houses, and plenty of parks. The ocean was roaring in as I strutted along, but the sun decided to poke his head out, and it was just gorgeous. There’s a hop-on-hop-off bus that covers this route, but you’re doing yourself a disservice if you don’t walk it. Here are some wonderful photos I took during my stroll.

My final destination was Clifton Beach, which is where many of Cape Town’s richest people live. I was immediately out-of-place amongst the mansions and Maseratis, and I was expecting some bloke with a freshly-pressed shirt and crap haircut to spit on me at any moment. Like much of Cape Town, it reminded me of Sydney. The landscape is certainly different, but Clifton is a lot like Sydney’s most exclusive beaches. It’s really pretty, but it was also strange to see some of the darker-tanned locals passed out on the rocks beneath unbelievably expensive houses.

It was a big first day in South Africa, with 21.91 kilometres of walking (bringing the total for this trip to 81.75km over just four days, which is quite a lot. I might be able to go to the next Olympics, as long as the officlas don’t realise racewalking isn’t  proper sport, and throw it out). That number’s going to grow a bit tomorrow, because I’m going to climb up Table Mountain. Yeah, there’s a cable car (or a Table Car, as I hope it’s called), but that’s for fat cunts and dickheads. I’m going to have an early night so I can get up early to go hiking… haha, just joking. Right now I’m smashing Windhoek and biltong in a park, and then I’m going to head over to the pub in an effort to convince a hot South African sheila that, whilst apartheid is long gone, the separation of her legs is still very much on the cards. Bye bye.