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Cape Town Departure

SOUTH AFRICA | Sunday, 21 April 2013 | Views [593]

The smell of jet fuel invariably brings with it the stirrings of adventure that start somewhere in the midrift region. Rather like the rich aroma of a freshly cooked meal being served to an empty stomach.

I have always loved airports, aeroplanes and the promise of anticipation that they bring. I couldn’t begin to enumerate all the flights I have taken over the years, but it is with certainty that the figure runs into the hundreds. Local airline Kulula Airlines, however, is a first and promises to be a very pleasant experience so far. We begin to taxi out and, as always, I look at the tail fins of the planes out on the apron addressing a mental checklist that goes something like: Been There; Want To Go; No Thanks. It’s always most satisfying when the first category is the predominant answer, followed by the second. There are few places I would choose not to go as I firmly believe that everywhere has the potential to open your eyes to something new, but short of dedicating a lifetime to travelling to all the far flung corners of the world, it comes down to priorities and opportunity I suppose.

I had hoped to take the train back to Johannesburg but left it a little late to book and it was full as a result. However, today the sun is out again and the sky is only partially cloudy. The views promise to be spectacular.

Cape Town is a city of bays and beaches, mountains and flat lands, a cold Atlantic Ocean and a warmer Indian one, commerce and nature reserves, the wealthy and the poor, shopping malls and vineyards, a weather system that is not quite African and stops only just short of seeming English at times. Perhaps this is what differentiates Cape Town from any other African city that I have visited and why people arriving here do not experience the same level of culture shock that they might arriving anywhere else in Africa for the first time.

Personally, it has also been a blend of old friends and new and therefore of family life and tourism. I have enjoyed the freedom of having a car and the heavily relied upon Sat Nav (nicknamed Moaning Myrtle). Despite our occasional disagreement, she usually came up trumps! The roads are well maintained, sign posted and safe and I have not felt any fear driving around day or night on my own. Obviously it should go without saying that one uses a certain amount of common sense, there is no heroism driving into a township area and then complaining if it all goes wrong. I have been struck by how courteous road users are for the most part. Slower vehicles using the hard shoulder to allow others to pass a generally accepted practice throughout South Africa and, given the mountainous terrain in places, appreciated.

There is a tendency to hopelessly underestimate the size of this country and therefore the diversity of all it has to offer. Heading North to Lansaria Aiport (a smaller airport to the North East of Jo’burg) the great Karoo desert stretches below for as far as I can see. Largely devoid of settlements other than a few that are dotted along a large river winding its way into the distance. The few roads that scar the land seemingly join nowhere with nowhere until finally edging towards cultivatable land where signs of life begin to emerge. Strange circles of different colours appear not unlike crop circles but with a geometric accuracy & bizzare colouring that piques my curiosity. Roads leading to small settlements from this height resemble a stone chip in a pane of glass – a tiny nucleus with network of cracks emanating from its centre.

The flight between these two airports takes just under 2 hours and long enough to allow me to put down my thoughts and observations after taking some time out from writing. The weather has suddenly taken on a chilly edge and Autumn is now well underway. With just under one week left before heading out to Australia, it is time to assimilate all my experiences here and bundle them into some sort of overview.

Tags: atlantic, bays, cape town, driving, flying, indian ocean, karoo desert, south africa, table mountain

 

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