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26 MAY - Cape Town, South Africa

Date received: Sat May 26 2001, 06:39 AM PDT

Cape Town seems to have a hold on me. As is usually the case when I stop moving, I don't seem to ever get going again.

I am currently stuck waiting for my new camera. After shopping around here in Cape Town, I realized that it would be a lot cheaper to buy a camera mail order from New York and have it sent here. Also, I really want a camera with a video output (so that I can do slide shows) but the video standard here isn't compatible with the US. So I placed my order, and after paying a fortune for FedEx Priority shipping, expected it to arrive last Wed. I got a call on Friday telling me that it was stuck in customs in Johannesburg. It seems that they want me to pay import duty and Value Added Tax on it! The person who knows what is going on at FedEx is out until Monday, so I am stuck here through at least Tuesday.

In the meantime, I have been having a fun time checking out the various facets of life in Cape Town. I spent the first week staying in a cheap hostel, which turned out to rather run down. While not exactly a pleasant place, it gave me a fascinating view into the dark side of Cape Town. I seemed to be the only resident who was actually not a local using it as cheap housing. My two roommates were both prostitutes and crack addicts, one of whom apparently was stealing from everyone in the hostel. The others guests and employees of the hostel were all very colorful personalities. I could write a book about my week there, but at the least, I'll write a travel story. After a week, I moved into a different hostel, the antithesis of the first. Big and popular, it is mostly a hotel for partying travelers. It is fun, but much less interesting. I've been checking out the local dance scene for the past few nights; Cape Town is a very active city.

It reminds me very much of San Francisco; Seapoint is the Marina, V&A Waterfront is Fisherman's Wharf, Robben Island is Alcatraz, and Long St. is a cross between Valencia and Folsom. As much as I like the city, it seems very out of place; it seems offensive for a rich, white, European city to be in the middle of Africa.

The weather has been horrible the past few days, but before the rain, I did manage to make it up Table Mountain, the imposing massif of rock surrounding the city.

I don't really know where I am going from here. I plan on going back to Zimbabwe in a bit to visit Victoria Falls, but after that, I'm not sure. I am debating whether or not to delay my Asia trip for another two weeks so that I can see the solar eclipse on the 21st of June. There is a big festival/dance party in Zambia which seems to be the social event of the year here.

I've been researching motorcycle information for my trip, and I have decided that Egypt is probably out as a starting point. It will be too expensive and difficult to arrange things from there. My current plan is to go to Jordan and look into bikes there. It looks like I will be able to arrange a carnet from Jordan, and it won't cost me a fortune (although it will cost more than I would like.)

If I ever manage to get my camera out of customs, I'll take some pictures of Cape Town and post them.


Copyright 2000 Peter Birch All Rights Reserved.