Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Take that, Jamie Oliver!

When you tell people that you're making biltong, the responses are a fairly even mix of, "Oh, CHRIST, you wouldn't!" and "Mmmm - wouldn't mind a bit of that!"

Most of the "eeeeuuwwww!!!" noises have come from my mum and my sister. They're terrified we're going to poison someone. The Saffies have been drying meat for about 300 years now and they haven't died. Why d'you think the Boer soldiers were so damned good? Biltong, obviously. And maybe rusks. But no-one over the age of one likes rusks these days, so it must have been the biltong.

(Oh, speaking of the Boer War, one little hint for travellers - please, please don't go to South Africa and say the words "Breaker Morant". Just trust me on this one.)

So, Jack Thompson aside, we cut our first piece of biltong tonight. It was made using Oom Jaco's Secret Recipe, except the meat was kangaroo instead of beef or kudu.We call it "rootong". Heh.

There was, of course, one other small consideration. Bloke had to build what was essentially a 1930s' meatsafe (minus the legs and the leadlight doors and shit). In South Africa, when they make biltong, they just hang it in the shed or under the stoop and that's all fine. There aren't that many flies there because they have dung beetles. Australia doesn't have dung beetles. But then, we also don't have elephants, so you'd think that'd would balance itself the hell out, wouldn't you? Nooo, it doesn't.

It's not for nothing that waving your hand in front of your face is called "the Aussie salute". We have a bloody arseload of flies here. Blowies, bluebottles, plain old houseflies, little shit with wings that no-one really has a name for. Flies. At the delightful beach Bloke and I call home, if you're still sitting outside at dawn, the flies descend by the bucketload.

There seems to be a golden hour or three between about 3am and dawn when there are no mosquitoes and no flies. It's the three hours of power, ja? But once it gets to be bloody light, yer screwed, maaaayte.

So the biltong box came into being. For three weekends, the lawnmowing was ignored. In fact, the lawn is pretty much out of control. There are buffalo runners trying to smother the agapanthus and having a go at the paving. There was hammering and glueing and nailing in of cat-proof mesh. But finally it was ready to roll. We hit the Adelaide Central Market kangaroo butcher on Saturday morning and I mixed up a big whack of Oom Jacko's spice mix.

"I dunno, doesn't taste quite right. Whaddyathink?" I asked Bloke.

"Hmmdunnotastesallrightame," he said.

"Fooyyynne, then," I said.

So away I went, packing layers of meat and spice and marinade. And all was well.

The next day, I hung it on little hooks (made from recycled wire coathangers) in the biltong box and the biltong box was hung from a sturdy length of string suspended from the rafters of the back verandah.

Naturally, Mr Furpants and every fly in the area took a great interest in the box, but thankfully, such was Bloke's overengineering that none of them got in and the biltong remained free of maggots and kitty lick. And so, here we are, three days after hanging, sampling our first rootong.

And it's good! Even Mr F, who is notoriously fussy about what he eats, was begging for bits. Now we just have to wait for 24 hours to see if we die before we can let anyone else try it.

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Sunday, March 25, 2007

Oops, broke my welcome mat

Oh, bugger. Ashleigh just pointed out that only team members could comment on my blog. Sorry 'bout that, chief! It's not because I don't loveyouseall. I guess I cocked up the settings without realising it. Anyway, all fixed now and everyone is welcome once more.

Except those stoners who keep trying to hijack my blog to advertise their dope pipes. They can fuck off and die.


Friday, March 23, 2007

Welcome to Oddelaide

Ah, Adelaide, my Adelaide.

I've been suffering from bloggers' block since I finished writing about Africa. I thought about deleting my blog and never logging in again because, after all, how could anything be worth writing about after that? But then The Weird came crashing in again.

Ah, The Weird. Where else but Oddelaide could one see, in the space of an hour:

  • a line of girls waiting for the doors to their strip club to open so they could get painted up and start work;
  • a little guy who looked like a dirtier version of Stig of the Dump baring his scrawny arse on stage; and
  • a pale and podgy man wearing nothing but white Y-fronts standing in the gutter talking to the cops?

Oddelaide is weird at the best of times, but right now it’s Fringe time and there are all sorts of comedy, theatre, music, circus and burlesque acts in town. Add to that the World Police and Fire Games, a car race, WOMAD, the Adelaide Cup and various food and wine festivals and March has been one crowded hour. We’ve had really buff filth and firies lugging bags of volleyballs and sweat socks about town, hippy world music lovers, bogan revheads, arty types and pissed racing princesses on top of all the usual suspects.

Of course, once March is over, that’s it. We go back to sleep until it’s time for the Christmas piss-ups.

Bloke and I have seen some really good shows this Fringe, like the Soweto Gospel Choir (which really just made me lonelier for Africa), but we also saw Rubeville. Well, some of Rubeville, anyway. The theatre group was from Melbourne and they called themselves The Black Lung (which appealed because of Zoolander. "~Cough~ I thnk I've got the... ~hack~ black... lung... pop!")

They’d taken over an empty Hindley St shop next to a strip club, brought in a bath to ice the beer at the bar and scattered about a lot of weird objects. There was a Cabbage Patch doll on a lamp table that looked as though it had been napalmed and a collection of mismatched chairs and couches that I suspect had been rescued from hard rubbish piles.

It was hot in the bar area and I couldn't seem to get served anyway, so we stood out the front waiting to be let in to the theatre space. One of the actors was prowling the footpath, smoking with a ferocious intensity. He was built like a skinny chimp and covered in smears of camouflage paint that made him look as though he’d slept in a food court dumpster. As he smoked and paced, he eyed the group of exotic dancers waiting by nextdoor's street door.

The girls carried cantilevered make-up boxes and wore sky-high white stilettos, but the real giveaway was that they were lining up at the front door of a strip club. Hard to hide that, really. But you’d think the owners would let them use the back door instead of making them stand on the street. It's not nice, yeah? I suppose they were called Mystique and Safyre and Rayne and had a level of flexibility of which I can only dream.

Seeing the actors before a show usually bodes ill. Just looking at Smoker Boy gave the show the stink of death. It was those fake shit smears, I think. We debated leaving then and there, but decided to give it a go. After all, we'd just eaten the worst hamburgers in the world at a dodgy Aussie-themed pub (at least the flies were authentic), so the night couldn't get that much worse. Once we'd shuffled into the theatre space, squeezing past a bed and a stack of signs that all read “'KISSY”, I thought perhaps I’d been wrong because there was an absolutely cranking band playing. The music was something between ska and zydeco and all the musos were wearing nightmare make-up and funky hats. One guy played the saw while another in fedora and waistcoat thumped on a double bass.

But then the lights went down and Smeary Smoker Lad appeared. He stalked up and down the stage, trying to cadge change from the audience and abusing people with a filthy schoolyard tongue. Eventually, he decided that someone sitting a few rows back from the front looked like a dirty bastard who might well be interested in giving it to him, so he climbed on a hard rubbish armchair and dropped his shorts, exposing a skinny and luminous arse. He started to sing, “Don’t you want me baby?” in a pathetic monotone and segued into an impression of a sobbing and abused child.

By then, my mouth was hanging open and my eyebrows had vanished into my hair.

We lasted another 10 minutes, through some pretentious wank about consumerism by a second, smearless boy and an attempt by a French-junkie-prostitute in a fluffy jacket to have sex with him.

There was no backstage area and as we slipped out, the arse-barer was standing at the back of the room, tying a bandage around his head. He bowed us out the door.

Yes, I was offended, but this show didn’t even have the distinction of being the most offensive thing I’ve ever seen. After all, I lasted through I bought a spade at Ikea to dig my own grave. Anything less than that is just kiddy stuff. Three years later, I'm still having trouble looking at hotdogs and cooked spaghetti the same way, having seen people trying to shove both of them up their bums. I still can’t eat lasagne, let alone smell it. But I survived, yeah?

Rubeville, on the other hand, was just pretentious twaddle, playing for cheap shocks. The thing that really left me wondering was the fantastic reviews it got from local “critics”. Doesn't the word "critic" imply that they are actually critical? I'm sorry - I thought that was part of our job description. They were just falling over themselves to say how daring and raw and so veryveryvery it was.

I think I’m getting old. But if life’s too short to stuff a mushroom, it’s far short to sit through shite theatre. After all, stuffed mushrooms at least taste good.

Oh and Mr Y-Fronts? Tss - Ford knows what the story was there. We drove past a police car with all lights flashing and saw him standing on the kerb, covering his man boobs with jubbly paws, just as a woman might if she were caught half-naked. But we’ll never know where his trousers were. Sorry, guys.

Edit: Ha, that's all I know! Rubeville won Best Theatre as voted by The Traumatiser's "critics".


Friday, March 09, 2007

And here we are with another elephant...

On the off-chance that anyone is still interested, I've put some photos from Africa on a Flickr. They're in roughly reverse chronological order, I'm afraid, because I wasn't smart enough to get them the other way around the first time and now I don't have the energy to fix it. Half-hearted? Ja ja.

So, fill yer collective boots.

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Thursday, March 08, 2007

The depression of the penguins

I'm sorry it's taken me so long to post, but I think I broke my liver in Africa. It's been in a sling since I got home. On top of the jetlag, the after-effects of the No Jetlag pills (bloody herbal crap - don't go near it!), sleeplessness and the chesty bug I caught from our tour guide, I've been largely useless for the past week. Well, more useless than usual, anyway. Half-hearted hacks are never much use at the best of times. Nevertheless it might be a good idea to get a cup of tea, or possibly even a packed lunch. It's another long 'un.

The finale to the trip was five nights in Cape Town:

Everything else aside, the people we met there were just outstanding. We stayed with a lovely couple named Felicity and Anton. They were friends of Oom Jaco’s, but when they offered to let us stay in the cottage on their farm, they didn’t know us from a bar of soap. They made us feel very welcome, putting on dinner for us when we were tired from traveling, a braai (barbecue) during the week and even filling the cottage fridge so we could make breakfast and sandwiches. I’ve never met such welcoming, generous and friendly people as I have on this holiday.

Cape Town must be the original city of contrasts. A bit of a cliché, I know, but it is difficult to reconcile for an Australian. The city is home to some of the most wretched shanty towns I’ve seen anywhere in the country: scraps of rusted tin, splinters of warped timber and torn plastic sheeting are woven into huts no bigger than my potting shed. They are crowded together by the hundred in townships on main roads. In some of the luckier ones, there are blue-for-boys-pink-for-girls amenities blocks. I couldn’t bring myself to photograph them in case the inhabitants saw me and thought I was treating them like zoo exhibits. And to tell the truth, I didn’t want to because they were so sad looking. Supposedly, the government promised to give everyone a proper house within something like five years, but it’s been 15 years and they’ve only built about 10 or 20 percent of what they promised.

Less than half an hour’s drive away, there are huge houses on manicured blocks that are sheltered from the road by tall electrified fences. One house was supposed to be a replica of Gatsby’s mansion in the film – just the same, ja, but bigger. If you could still buy such things, I’m sure the books in that library would have had uncut pages, just like Gatsby’s.

It's just one of those things. The Gatsby people will never understand why everyone hates them and and the others will never understand why the Gatsby people don't understand. Anton told us an awful story about Cape Town crime. An Indian guy he met tells this story to anyone who will listen. Once upon a time, an Indian man wanted to buy his daughter a nice sports car for her birthday. One day, he lost his mind and asked a gangster type to find one for him. A red MX-6, please, he said. No problem, said Mr Gangster. Mr Indian Guy didn't hear from Mr Gangster again for some time and might even have forgotten about the deal. A red MX-6 came up through legitimate means, so be bought it for his daughter, who was in her early 20s. Shortly afterwards, Mr Gangster called. "I've got that red MX-6 for you," he said. And he had. Mr Indian Guy's daughter was dead in a gutter - shot in the head by carjackers because one of Mr Gangster's people had killed her for her car. Mr Indian Guy is still in counselling. As one would be.

A lot of people in Cape Town have servants, but that’s the same all over South Africa. Someone asked me whether Australians had servants. When I said that some people might have a cleaner for a few hours a fortnight, or a man who mowed the lawn, but that was about as far as it went, she said, “Ohhh. South Africans would never survive in Australia.”

Cape Town’s Victoria and Albert Waterfront is also a sharp contrast to the shacks of the poor. It’s a working harbour and very picturesque, but they’ve taken advantage of that to fill it with restaurants and sniffy, expensive shops. It looks a bit like Circular Quay in Sydney and it feels like a tourist trap, despite the pretty buildings.

A swingbridge connects the wharfs and opens for boats.

The restuarants are excellent and travellers and locals alike throng there. But the only black faces seemed to belong to the staff in the restaurants and shops and the buskers who played jazz and Afropop to add authentic African atmosphere.

I think my guilt gland must be overactive. It certainly got a workout on the V&A Waterfront.

It is also the place to get the ferry to Robben Island. Robben Island is the ultimate in guilt travel, possibly even more so than Auschwitz. No-one expects you to come back from Poland with a T-shirt that says, “My mate went to Auschwitz and all she bought me was this crappy T-shirt”, but you can’t go to Cape Town without people saying, “Did you see Mandela’s cell?” I don’t think anyone really wants to go to Robben Island. You just have to go, to prove that you don’t agree with apartheid and you aren’t a nasty, evil racist. Instead, I’m a nasty, evil cynic.

So here’s Mandela’s cell.

But truly, even the penguins on Robben Island look depressed. There weren’t any fricken happy feet there.

See? Sad feet.

We had two guides during our guilt trip. The bus guide was a young man who said he was doing the job to pay for his university education and because he was a proud South African (in that order). He gave us a very stern and rambling lecture on politics as we were whisked past anything interesting (a shipwreck, the lepers’ cemetery) and left for an age to contemplate the dull bits (the limestone quarry, a random bit of road near the gaol). We weren’t allowed out of the bus, either, except to go into the gaol and follow a boardwalk to the colony of emo penguins.

The gaol guide was a former political prisoner. For some reason, this man and a number of other ex-political prisoners returned after apartheid finished and they now live on the island and work as guides in the gaol. He said it was an act of reconciliation, but I don’t buy it. If it were me, I’d want to get the hell out of the place. I pondered it long and hard and came to the uncharitable conclusion that they stayed on to be martyrs. Plus, where else could they talk three times a day about having been heroes of democracy? (See previous comment re unflattering cynicism.) Robben Island gets more visitors every year than Kruger, so the guilt trip must be working well. (Ditto.)

Guilt trips and townships aside, Cape Town is a very beautiful place. It’s all cloud-shrouded mountains and steep cliffs staggering down to the sea. Table Mountain rears over the city, pinning it to the waterline.

Next to Table Mountain is Lion’s Head, a tall, pointed mountain that (allegedly) looks like a crouching lion with a full mane if you see it from the right angle.

This isn't the right angle. But that's a nice cloud.

Instead of hiring a car, we had a tour guide named Carl to show us around town. This was both a boon and an annoyance. He took us to places that, on our own, we would either have missed or got lost trying to find. On the down side, he was an ex-pat German, so we were running on Germanic time. He also had a thing about control. He always had to be in it. I kept expecting him to click his heels and yell, “Raus! Raus! Schnell! Schnell!” to get us back in the car when we were dawdling. He packed in so many things in our four days that by the time we left, I was exhausted. He also drove like a madman. Indicators? Double no overtaking lines? They're for sissies! Then there was the small matter of him wearing a cravat to dinner one night. I didn’t think men still wore cravats, but Carl had one stashed in the car, I suppose for when he couldn’t change for dinner. We’d been hiking up rather steep steps in the heat all afternoon and we were looking a little wilted, so he managed to look far more dapper than we did. Carl one, Redcap and Bloke zero.

We got our guilt trip out of the way on the first day and then wandered about the waterfront. I was pleased to see a Zulu basket similar to one I bought in Polokwane in one of the sniffy shops for more than double the price I’d paid. (Bargain Zulu baskets are like free booze – they’re just sweeter.) After lunch, we did the sight-seeing thing, with Carl driving us up to Signal Hill to look out over the town and see a suburb where the houses were built below road level, into the cliffs.

In the early evening, we went sea kayaking. For some reason, Carl couldn’t pronounce “kayaking” and said “carjacking” instead. We thought he was joking when he said, “And this evening you are going carjacking.” Huh? Isn’t that illegal?

We both like kayaking and we’ve been out a few times at home. Garden Island, in Adelaide’s Port River, has a 10,000-year-old mangrove forest, a ships’ graveyard and a resident pod of dolphins that makes it a terrific spot for paddling. Yes, this is same the same loser who made whimpery please-don’t-drown-me noises in the mokoro on the delta. A sea kayak is much more stable than a mokoro and I’m in control, so oddly enough, the water phobia doesn’t take hold.

We struck out from the beach, paddling hard through the surf, until we were a few hundred metres off shore. The view of Table Bay from just above the waterline was incredible, especially as the sun went down and set fire to the peak of Lion’s Head.

Seals swam between us and our guide, flipping their tails at us. Something bobbed up about 30m away that could have been seal, dolphin or sunfish, but I only saw it out of the corner of my eye. Sunfish are bizarre creatures. They’re round and up to a metre across, but instead of swimming upright, they bask on their sides close to the surface with a single thick fin breaking the waterline. That fin looks like the dorsal fin of a shark or a dolphin and it scares six months’ growth out of some people. The guide told us that later in the year, they often get southern wright whales in the bay as well as the usual inhabitants. This, apparently, also scares the living whatsits out of less intrepid paddlers.

I don’t have any photos of the kayaking trip, I’m afraid. I took the camera with me, but didn’t bother to take it out of the waterproof bag on the prow. It just seemed too hard and my hands were salty anyway.

The next day, Wednesday, we were back on the water again, this time in False Bay off Simon’s Town, about 45 minutes from Cape Town. The boat was a bit bigger this time and we were hunting great whites. Big 'uns.

False Bay is the only place in the world where great whites do this:

I stole this photo from the Air Jaws people. Sorry.

At certain times of the year, they fly out of the water and snatch seals in mid-air. No-one knows exactly why they do it there and nowhere else, but they think it has something to do with the way the sea floor drops off sharply from Seal Island.

When we climbed into the boat, a misty sea fog was hanging over the mountains. False Bay was chill and ominous. They could have filmed The Shipping News there. The skipper was a tall, good-looking Afrikaaner with curly, dark hair. His first mate was handsome too, with skin the colour of milky coffee. His top four teeth had been knocked out, giving him a larrikin grin. They both wore knee-high rubber boots, but I couldn't quite work out why since there seemed to be no need to get wet.

The boat cut through choppy waves, heading for the island. We passed fishing boats, a naval base and a monochrome lighthouse on a rock in the sea. You wouldn’t have guessed, but Seal Island was pretty much covered in seals.

Oh, and a fair stack of seal shite, too.

Brown shearwaters and gulls wheeled overhead. We circled the island, peering at the seals and waiting for the smell to hit us. The skipper pointed out the bodies of a couple of seal pups floating limply in the water. They had been washed off the rocks at high tide, he explained.

I didn’t think this boded well for our expedition, if there were perfectly good floating corpses that weren’t being eaten. After all, all we had was a fake seal made from what looked like carpet underlay to attract the big boys.

Hmm, not that convincing...

We pulled up and dropped anchor and the mate threw the fake seal overboard. A tuna head on a rope bobbed near the fake seal. I worked out why they were wearing the boots when the skipper dropped some chunks of fish into a large plastic tub, added seawater and jumped in. Instant chum. The mate sat on one of the engines, smoking through the gap in his teeth and tipping buckets of bloody water into the sea.

We waited, watching as fishing parties of seals set out from the island. They would leave in gangs of eight or 10, usually three groups at a time. They would zig-zag in and out of the water, diving under and leaping over each other, to throw off the sharks, A group of a few dozen seals bobbed in the water just off the island, plunging under the waves as they broke. They didn’t seem to be doing anything in particular, just playing. I mean, really, what if you were a seal who couldn't swim? I guess you'd be one of those sad, cracked little corpses that had washed off the rocks.

Anyway, I’m sure you can guess where this story is going. We sat there all morning, but nothing the least bit toothy-vicious leapt out of the water. We were there too early in the year, curse it. The sharks only breach between April and November, when there aren’t so many fish around and they become more interested in seal sushi. Ford knows why, when there's no wasabi and soy.

The longer we sat there, the more frustrated the skipper became. I don’t think he’d ever failed to produce sharks before. If they didn’t jump, at least they swam around the boat and looked vicious. As he chummed blood, I could hear him muttering, “Come on, sharky, give us a show!”

At one stage he got very excited and shouted, “Shark! SharksharksharkSHARK!” A pale mirage surfaced near the boat, but it was only a little one – not more than a couple of metres long – and it vanished under the keel a few seconds later.

We motored back into shore, grouchy and squinting from the glare off the water. We climbed off the boat and ate deplorable fish and chips at a waterfront restaurant with Carl and his partner and then drove back to Cape Town via another penguin colony at Boulders Beach. Much happier feet there.

Next stop after the happy penguins was the Cape of Good Hope. I had wanted to stand on the cape itself and do a bit of a "I'm the farking queen of the world" routine, but Carl had other ideas. The Cape is the southern-most point of Africa and it’s in its own national park. As we drove into the park, Bloke said, “Look - zebras!” Sure enough, two zebras were grazing near the road. Even though I practically plastered myself to the window, we didn’t stop.

And rather than going to the Cape itself, we went to Cape Point, a mountain that was topped by a lighthouse overlooking the Cape. It was rather warm and there were a lot of steps, but the view from the top was spectacular. A rainstorm was blowing in as we gave ourselves vertigo by leaning over to look down the cliffs. But I still would rather have walked down to the real Cape, damnit.

That's it. Cape of Good Hope. Schnell!

There was also a lot of graffiti on Cape Point. Generations of people have scratched, painted and written their names on the lighthouse, the rocks and the signpost that points to everywhere from Rio de Janeiro to the North Pole. I even caught some Japanese tourists with an indelible marker, adding to the damage. They just giggled when I gave them a look that would usually strip paint. I know Japanese giggle when they're uncomfortable, but to tell the truth, I don't give a rat's arse. (And if you don't have a rat's arse to give, e-mail me. I'll send you one. You never know when you might need one.) Perhaps they just don’t have Hard Stares in Japan.

The next morning (Thursday) we went to a wine region outside Cape Town called Stellenbosch. The old section of the town of Stellenbosch was very pretty, with whitewashed, thatch-roofed buildings dating back to the 1700s.

One of the shops we visited was called Oom Samie se Winkel, which I think translates as Oom Samie’s Shop. (A “drankwinkel” is a boozer, which is rather apt, I think. It sounds like it should be a word for drunk. I also like the Afrikaans word for hungover – “babalas”. Not quite onamatoepic, but it does sound like what it means.) Oom Samie’s had everything in it. It was half shop and half museum, so there was dried fish, dry wors and biltong jostling for space with Nazi election posters, mounted leopard skins and vintage clothes.

For some reason, South Africans call vineyards and wineries “wine farms”. It conjures up images of picking bottles of sauvignon blanc from trees, or digging merlot out of a nice wet clay soil. We visited Boschendal, a winery that Carl referred to as “a noble old wine farm”.

Blue mountains towered over the old whitewashed buildings and there were stretches of blue hydrangeas interspersed with fields of grapes. The tasting area, the Taphuis, was a cluster of white cast iron tables and chairs under oak trees. For R15 a head, a waiter would line up five quarter glasses of wine of your choice. The good ones were very, very good and the others were, well...

On our last day, we were supposed to take the cable car up to Table Mountain. Most of the week had been windy, but now the wind had died down, it was perfect weather for cable car-ing. Things didn’t look good from half-way up the road to the cable car station, though. There were cars parked a long way down. As a tour guide, Carl could use reserved parking at the top, but when we finally got there, it was to see a crocodile of hot, red, sweaty, grumpy, frustrated-looking tourists standing in the sun. There must have been at least a couple of hundred of them. We weren’t particularly keen to join them, especially when a carpark attendant told Carl that the wait would be at least an hour and a half. Both ways.

After some gentle prodding, we talked Carl into abandoning his plans and taking us to Kalk Bay instead. It's a gorgeous little seaside town with a small fishing fleet, arty shops and fantastic restaurants. One bar in particular would have been great in the evening: it had a Cuban theme and looked like it had a brilliant atmosphere. We walked up and down the esplanade, had a lazy lunch of kudu steak and Cajun yellowtail and wandered about the fish market, the breakwater and the wharfs.

The whole place had a distinctly Mediterranean feel. Everything was bright: the fishing boats were painted in reds, blues and greens. Tiny alleyways burst with colour. Men lounged around the bases of the lighthouses and children perched on the edges of the wharf, dangling skinny legs and fishing lines.

A couple of seals swam near the fish market wharf, waiting for the filleters to toss fish scraps to them.

The shops were full of the must eclectic collection of stuff I've ever seen. Vintage china jostled for space with crumbling books and carvings with curtains made from plastic bottle caps. And then there was this 1950s train sign:

That evening, Oom Jaco’s brother and sister-in-law, Boesman and Madeleine, took us out for pizza at a friend’s restaurant. Like Felicity and Anton, we had never met before, but they made it their business to show us the best of Cape Town hospitality. Boesman looked and sounded a little like Jaco and had the same wonderful, generous nature and wicked grin. He packed the boot of his car with beer, ice and red and white wine from the Swartland region where he and his family lived. I expressed some doubt that we’d need all of it, but I don’t think there was much of it left by the end of the evening. Actually, I think I was the chief offender...

White wine is often served with ice in South Africa because otherwise it just doesn’t stay cold enough. It makes it rather pleasant, actually, and tragically easy to drink. Red wine drinkers may want to close their ears and sing a little tune for a minute, but quite a lot of people also drink their red wine with ice because room temperature is lukewarm. I don’t like the taste of red, so I can’t see how adding ice could make it any worse.

The restaurant where we ate was run by an ex-pat Italian named Donato. It was only open on Tuesdays and Fridays and only to friends and friends of friends. I suspect it used to be his garage, but it had been fitted out with a bar and a big wood-fired oven. There were communal tables and dozens of baseball caps hanging from the ceiling. You could have anything you wanted so long as you happened to feel like the best pizza in the world. I’ve never had anything like it. No, Audrey, not even at Scoozi. It had chilli and hard-boiled egg and two types of sausage and mushroom and capsicum and tomato and olives and the base was thin and light and crisp. It was the best pizza in the world and I’m probably never going to get another one. Sob.

We left Africa the next day, with me nursing a hangover and garlic breath that could have felled an ox at 40 paces. Ah, the price for a really good night.

When Bloke first asked me if I wanted to go to South Africa, I said, “Oh God. I’d rather set my hair on fire.” I had always imagined a dry, open country full of bitey things, deprivation, misery and crime. Don’t I feel silly now? It was the most incredible place I’ve ever been and I’m already trying to work out how to get back again.

So, here endeth the final instalment of the African adventure. Back to my ordinary, dull old life. Damn it.

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