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January 16, 2001

Tomorrow morning Nina & I

Tomorrow morning Nina & I are leaving Bristol to catch a flight to Johannesburg via Vienna. We just booked the flights yesterday, so it's very unplanned and neither of us have been there before. Unfortunately we're off down the pub now instead of packing.

January 17, 2001

Just a quick note from

Just a quick note from heathrow airport... we're waiting for the flight after spending a sunny but cold day in London.

January 22, 2001

Cape Town

We're down in Cape Town today, and the weather is beautiful. The flight down from London was pretty long at 13 hours, and it left from terminal 2 in Heathrow, which must be a sad sight for anyone arriving in Britain. It was fairly uneventful, but I guess that's how you want flights to be! In the morning we arrived in Johannesburg, and took the shuttle bus straight to Pretoria as we'd been warned that central Jo'burg is a very dangerous place to go into. We spent the first night there, and had a lovely cheap meal with some South African wine in a good restaurant.

The next day we packed up and took the 20 hour coach trip down to Cape Town. Neither of us have really been in Africa before, apart from a day or two I spent in Tunisia once, and we were both hypnotised by what was outside the window. The landscapes are huge and the horizon seems so far away that it's surreal. Exactly how you expect it to look really, with a land that goes on forever. At one point I looked away for a second and Nina quickly nudged me to point out a field full of ostriches. When I woke in the morning, the sun was rising over the Karoo (the South African desert), and then suddenly it changed into lush, green vineyards.

Yesterday we took a trip over to Robbin Island, and saw the prison where Nelson Mandela was imprisoned which lies about 11km south of Cape Town, and today we hope to take a trip up to the top of Table Mountain.

January 24, 2001

Around Cape Town

On Monday we took the cable car to the top of Table Mountain after having another truly wonderful meal, this time in an Italian restaurant. The cable car was technically the best I'd been on, with a revolving floor so that no-one could hog the best view. The view from the top was incredible, and we walked around some of the trails before retiring to the summit bar and watching the sunset. After our trip back down, the taxis at the bottom tried to rip us off, but Nina expertly got us a lift back into town from a couple from Edinburgh who were on a 6 week round the world trip.

Yesterday we rented a car, and drove out to exclusive Camps Bay for breakfast by the sea. We then continued south until I realised that I had lost my phone. So we rallied along the cliff-side road back to Cape Town, but couldn't find it in our room or anywhere. Expensively, we called the mobile network in Denmark, and closed the account. At least no-one else could use it now. We got back into the car to continue our day trip, and of course I found it wedged under my seat belt fixing!

Once we finally, got back to where we'd been before that episode, and after lots of laughing from Nina, we continued to Boulders Beach, where there is a growing colony of threatened African Penguins. It's a truly fantastic experience to watch them, and a trip there is essential if in the area. Next we moved onto the Cape Peninsula National Park which stretches down to and includes the Cape of Good Hope. It and the penguin reserve are at cpnp.co.za

After two minutes in the park, we stopped to watch wild baboons by the side of the road. Then as we continued down to the cape, we passed ostriches, bontebok, and made lots of stops for crossing tortoises! The Cape itself was truly impressive, towering up above the sea lanes. Not something you want to try sailing around with the wind against you!

Stellenbosch

We're in an internet cafe in Stellenboch right now after being to two vineyards for extensive winetasting this afternoon, so forgive the spelling mistakes. Boschendal Vineyards Neethlingshof Vineyards We're just waiting for happy hour to begin in the bar upstairs where drinks are 5 Rand (approx 45pence) & we're meeting one of the guys from the vineyard. We spent this morning in Kirstenbosch Botanical Gardens, which are allegedly the most impressive botanical gardens in Africa. We were impressed. We do like South Africa so far, especially with the price of the drinks! How will we get home to Cape Town tonight though?

January 26, 2001

Cape Agulhas

Well I was going to tell you how safe and crime free South Africa is today, but we got up this morning to find that someone had broken into our rental car overnight! I'm sure that it was because it was parked right in front of the hostel and it's obviously a rental car. They didn't even bother stealing the stereo, they just smashed the window and looked in the boot to see if we had any luggage worth stealing. It doesn't really matter to us as we were returning it this morning anyway, and we had nothing at all in it.

On Wednesday night, we ended up coming baack to Cape Town with our new found chums, and going to a bar here. I was really beginning to wonder why there were only men in the bar, when I realised that it was a gay bar. Yes, the two guys we had met were a couple! We moved onto a club, and passed a very empty gay bar, which we were told had been bombed the previous month, and hence no-one really wanted to go to it anymore. The club we went to turned out to be very like the 'Blue Oyster Bar', with lots of people who looked like they were in Village People, but sadly the club didn't play any of their songs. I was very glad that Nina was with me!

Yesterday, Nina was quite hungover for most of the day, but she had been seriously partying! We drove along cliffside coastal roads past beautiful white sand beaches with waves crashing onto them to a town called Hermanus. It's main claim to fame is that Southern Right Whales come into it's bay to calve between June and September, so of course none were there now. The town's new claim is that Nina finally managed to find herself a new bikini there after searching for one on three continents! Needless to say, our next stop was the beach, and we went for a swim in the Indian Ocean. It was seriously windy though, and sand was flying as we made our way out into the green, crashing waves.

We continued driving down the coast to make a stop at the lighthouse at Cape Agulhas, the most southern point of Africa. It's quite a windbeaten, barren place; a bit like parts of Scotland, but it also seems to be attracting a new fashionable crowd. The coast road was lined with lots of new, trendily designed houses which seemed to be springing up everywhere.

Today, we're spending the day in Cape Town, and taking in some of the sights as well as hoping to organise our trip back up to Johannesburg this weekend.

January 27, 2001

Yesterday Nina & I took

Yesterday Nina & I took a trip to a diamond cutting factory, and were given a beginner's intoduction to DIY diamond cutting. Jewelafrica.com
It was very interesting, and really one of the things we wanted to see while we were down here. We had brunch in a cafe close to the hostel we're staying in, and it reminded me of the worst things about staying in youth hostels - other backpackers. Maybe it was just that this particular cafe had more than it's fair share of the Bill and Ted stereotype, or maybe I need to start working again and staying in proper hotels.

It's quite interesting sometimes in South Africa. The other day we walked into a restaurant, and as in many of them, you have to undergo a bodysearch with a metal detector. As I stepped in, the security guard politely asked me if I had my gun with me today. Also, when we took a boat trip out to Robben Island, a sign asked passengers to leave their handguns in the company's safe as they were not allowed on board the ferry.

Today we've just come from having lunch in a cafe in town. I had ostrich, but surprisingly it's a dark meat, not like chicken at all! They're farmed here so I don't mind eating it, but I've avoided having shark and crocodile as I think they should be left to roam the wild in peace. We sat inside as we were well aware that street kids might come over and beg from us if we sat at the tables out front, but it isn't too bad as the cafes have security guards to keep any undesirables away from the patrons. Even still, we sat and watched as a drunk repeatedly tried to beg from the tables at a cafe across the street and the guard had to chase him off each time. Of course all of the cafes in Cape Town aren't like this, but obviously the one's where tourists eat get plenty of attention.

January 28, 2001

Today, Nina and I are

Today, Nina and I are catching the coach back up to Pretoria at 1700. Although there are train services in South Africa, everyone travels by coach, and they are very pleasant, with videos, and refreshments on board to help alleviate the 20 hour trip across the country. We've been down in Cape Town for a week now, and it's been a great place to use as a base for travelling around the area. It's the middle of summer down here, and it's been fantastic weather.

January 30, 2001

Pretoria

I'm writing this from North South Backpackers in Pretoria after arriving here yesterday from Cape Town. As usual these weblogs are fairly rushed as I'm paying for the internet connection, and it's one thing that isn't cheaper down here! Youth hostels in South Africa aren't quite the same as in Europe though, and this has to be one of the nicest that we've stayed in so far. We had a lovely double room, and right now Nina is sitting relaxing by the pool.

We leave for the airport in half an hour, and then fly back to Heathrow via Vienna. We should arrive around 0800 tomorrow morning.