January 2, Day 520
HOLY SMOKES, I feel SO much better. It’s a miracle! I’m not a huge fan of taking pills, but sometimes, modern medicine is necessary. I feel like a million buckaroonies today.
Today is the first day I don’t feel like I’m going to puke my guts out, so I’m determined to make my last day in Cape Town count! I decide to visit the famous Table Mountain and then join my scheduled food tour later in the afternoon, now that it seems I can hold down food.
My Airbnb is located at the base of Table Mountain, and all week I have been watching the cars sitting in traffic on the side of the road trying to get to the park. So, I know that I need to get there early in the morning to miss the crowds.
I quickly make some Kenya roasted coffee in my French press and enjoy it with Almond milk for the last time and whip up some eggs for breakfast. I stop to buy my ticket to Table Mountain online before leaving, because I’ve never seen a case when it wasn’t prudent to buy a ticket to something online ahead of time.
Eat breakfast, shower, and get dressed. I really don’t care what I look like today. I don’t know anyone here, so I put on a comfy pair of jeans, loose fitting blouse and a hooded sweatshirt because I know it gets windy and cold at the top of the mountain.
Walk down all five flights of stairs down to the car and drive over to Table Mountain National Park. Approximately 30 seconds later, I arrive. Wow, I was a lot closer than I thought I was!
I drive up and down a narrow road on the edge of the mountain and realize I must park on the edge of the mountain. A nice parking attendant waves me into a spot.
I feel the car sink into a spot that is much lower than the paved road. The parking attendant put a tree branch between the road and the dirt to make the decline better, but I’m not sure it helped.
I thank him and walk up to the entrance of Table Mountain. I can see a very large crowd formed at the ticket booth. There are hundreds of people waiting to buy a ticket. Thank goodness I bought mine online!
I find the queue of people waiting to get on the gondola that goes to the top of the mountain.
THAT IS A LINE??? It looks miles long.
There is a woman walking in front of me in short workout shorts and a hoodie. She is walking fast and digging through the people to get to the end of the line fast. She is loudly asking people where to go. Between her aggressiveness and how loud she is speaking, I assume she’s American (perhaps from New York or New Jersey) and follow behind her to the end of the line.
This line is about 2 kilometers long. And this is the early part of the day! I arrived just as the park opened at 8 am, and my food tour isn’t until 2:30 pm. So, I figure I’m happy to wait as long as I get back down the mountain by 2 pm.
I wait. Roast in the sun. Wait.
About an hour passes and I determine that the woman in front of me talking to everyone is indeed from the US, and must have been raised in the North East. Her friends from South Africa have gone to purchase tickets while she waits in line.
We start to chat and she is very nice.
“Oh my, are you here alone?” she asks.
“Yes! I am a Peace Corps volunteer living in Botswana. I am here on holiday,” I tell her.
“Why alone?” she asks again.
“Well, I don’t have a lot of volunteer friends and I’m happy to travel alone. I think it’s better to do things alone than to miss out on opportunities in life just because you don’t have someone to travel with,” I explain.
She seems to understand and nods her head. We continue talking and I learn that her name is Angela. She grew up in Pennsylvania (that’s right next to New York and New Jersey) and now lives in Atlanta, Georgia. She met a South African man on a blind date a few years ago, and now she is in Cape Town spending the holidays with his friends. How adorable!
I tell her my love story of how I met Colden in the Peace Corps and we agree it is much better to fall in love later in life.
The line moves slowly, and finally we walk our way to the gondola entrance.
We climb on the gondola and I lose my friends and get pushed into the center away from the open walls of the car. That’s probably a good thing since I’m afraid of heights.
The gondola moves up the side of the mountain to reveal a breathtaking view.
I have heard stories of the gondola closing during the day because it’s too windy or too cloudy. Today is one of those rare days when it is completely calm and there is no clouds or rain.
I climb off the little car of death on to the top of the mountain. It is a flat, rocky terrain that has no fence. It’s a simple message of “Don’t fall off the side of the mountain and you won’t die”.
Walk around and take pictures and take in the view. This is one of the most beautiful places on Earth. I am sure of it. This view is something I will remember forever.
As I’m walking around I watch men climb to the edge of rocks to take their token “I’m pensive staring over the rocks” Instagram picture and help an older couple trying to climb the rocks up the steps and take a picture of them with their camera for them.
I realize it’s getting late, so I take the gondola back down and walk to my car. My parking attendant guy is still there and remembers me and helps me back my car out of the weird tree branch parking spot. I give him a few rand as a tip and thank him.
Quickly rush back to my apartment and call an Uber. I plan to have a drink or two on the food tour and don’t want to drive there.
I wait, and wait, and wait.
The Uber never shows up.
Crap. It’s getting late. I will never make it on time!
Finally, I throw in the towel and decide my only option is to drive downtown where the beginning of the food tour is.
Quickly drive over and find a parking spot for the car. I’m so late, this is embarrassing!
I rush over to the meeting point, coincidentally a restaurant called “The Meeting Point” and realize it’s a Tanzanian restaurant.
“Welcome! Are you Abigail? We were getting worried about you!” the young man inside says to me as I arrive.
“I’m SO SO sorry, I had some Uber troubles, but I made it!” I reply.
I see that I am doing the food tour with another couple from England. They are a white couple in their 50s who like to travel. I can tell from the way they describe their travels that they tend to go on well-organized trips by a travel agent that include eating and restaurants, but aren’t the type to go off the beaten path.
Our food guide is a young white guy who is from South Africa and in his mid-twenties. He helps to run the company and is extremely knowledgeable about food in the Sub-Saharan region and I can tell he customizes each tour based on what his customers prefer.
“Hey you’re a Peace Corps volunteer in Botswana, right?” the tour guide says. “Then you might know the food we are about to eat.”
Just then, a man arrives carrying a plate of phaleche, and bowls of morogo and butternut and a few glasses of Black Label.
My head explodes.
“This is the EXACT food I was trying to get away from in Botswana, and now I just paid money to eat it?” I think to myself in my head.
Don’t get me wrong, I LOVE LOVE LOVE a good plate of phaleche, morogo and butternut. But we tend to eat the same foods over and over again in Botswana. Part of the reason for coming to Cape Town was to get a variety of foods and get away from eating the same things.
Yet, I suppose all food roads in Sub-Saharan Africa are paved in phaleche.
I take my fingers and grab some phaleche and morogo. It’s completely normal in this region of the world to eat with your hands. In fact, you’re supposed to.
The other couple stares at me, amazed.
“Wow! You’re like, an expert! You’ve had this before?! That’s amazing!” the guy says.
“Oh! Yeah, we eat this a lot in Botswana,” I reply.
They ask me a lot of questions about service in Botswana and I share with them some experiences. How do you even describe what it’s like, though? I always have a hard-time sharing such a big experience.
I notice that the wife goes in for the phaleche and morogo and chicken while the husband eats the chicken only.
The tour guide signals to us that it’s time to walk and we start walking downtown. This appears to be a seedy area of town and we enter what appears to be a tattoo parlor.
When we walk inside it turns out to be the most beautiful Ethiopian restaurant I have ever seen. There are plants surrounding the entire restaurant and African art of wooden statues, rugs and decorations cover the place. There is a second floor balcony hidden within the trees that overlooks the restaurant.
I LOVE LOVE LOVE Ethiopian food. It tickles my soul that we are here.
The guide and I walk directly to the back of the restaurant and find the sink to wash our hands before sitting down. In Sub-Saharan Africa, eating with your hands is completely acceptable. Therefore, most restaurants have sinks and soap where you are expected to wash your hands before eating. The English couple follows us and also washes their hands while the guide explains why we are washing them.
We sit down at a little table surrounded by couches and the server brings out a big, round plate with mounds of flavored vegetables, beans and meat. I grab a piece of Ethiopian bread, called injera, and start eating with my hands.
The English couple stares at me again…
“You’ve actually had Ethiopian food before?” the husband asks me.
“Yes, it’s one of my favorites! I used to live in New York City and there were some great Ethiopian restaurants in Brooklyn where I lived,” I explain.
The guide tells us all about Ethiopia and the history of its food. It didn’t occur to me that perhaps everyone in the world has not had Ethiopian food. I suppose New York City can be hipster like that and expose people to food from unique corners of the world.
I stuff my face more than I should.
Next up, we walk around the corner and into a hidden entrance on the side of what appears to be an old office building. At the top of the stairs there is a closed in porch overlooking the street with a coffee shop inside.
The owner, Khadim, greets us. We sit down and he tells us his story of how he grew up in Senegal drinking Touba, the style of coffee in Senegal. Touba is coffee that is flavored with grains of selim, or Guinea pepper, or sometimes cloves. It has a deep spicy taste and he loads it up with sugar and pours it from a distance into a glass to make the coffee foam.
I LOVE LOVE LOVE Touba. How freaking delicious!
Khadim tells us his story of growing up in Senegal and deciding to leave and find a better life for himself. He stayed in the Democratic Republic of Congo for a bit and did not like it, and moved south through several countries in Africa before landing in Cape Town and starting his own coffee shop.
It’s hotter than a whore in church in here, I’m not gonna lie. I’m used to the heat and can feel the sweat dripping down my back as Khadim speaks. I can also see the English couple have placed themselves in front of the fan and are red with the heat.
We leave the coffee shop and walk over to what appears to be a halal cafeteria. The guide orders something called a Gatsby.
This thing is HUGE.
The guide brings us a foot-long sandwich stuffed to the brim with French fries, halal chicken, gravy and lettuce.
Jesus, my stomach is ready to explode.
I eat as much as I can, regretting that I stuffed my face so much back at that Ethiopian restaurant.
We finish up and now walk back towards the area where we started and stop at a wine bar. We taste a few small glasses of wine and the guide brings out dessert, which is some sort of fried dough balls that we’d probably call a zeppole in the US.
I taste the wine and hope my stomach doesn’t overload and explode into a million pieces.
Ummm… maybe it wasn’t a good idea to stuff myself into oblivion with food the day after recovering from salmonella poisoning?
I decide to take my chances. This is my last freaking day in Cape Town and I’m gonna live it up!
We finish up the tour and I try to walk around and find Wi-Fi so I can text Linda about meeting up today. We kept having to cancel our plans because I was sick all week, but promised to meet up tonight. The Wi-Fi in the wine shop wasn’t working, so I walk around looking for Wi-Fi.
We tentatively had plans to meet by the waterfront, so I decide to drive down to the waterfront where I know there will be Wi-Fi. I park the car and walk down and find Wi-Fi and text Linda.
Shucks, she came and went already and was probably waiting on me. I feel so bad!
I decide to walk around the waterfront and enjoy the view for the last time while talking to Colden.
Walk back to the car, drive back to my place.
Pack my bags, listen to music.
Watch some Grey’s Anatomy and set the alarm for a 3 am wakeup call.
Go to bed, full and happy.