Price Hike

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This blog entry about the events of Thursday, March 04, 2004 was originally posted on March 06, 2004.

DAY 138:  Cape Town is flanked to the north by the geological marvel known as Table Mountain, a massive rock formation with a flat top like, well, a table — but one that was sculpted by a blind man.  It was my intention of the day to go on a hike to the top of Table Mountain, but due to high winds, the trail was too dangerous to do, and so the Blog entry will concern a different type of hike: a price hike.  (Hey, it was the only unifying thing of the day I could come up with for the angle of this story.)

As soon as I arrived in Cape Town, I immediately saw the inflation in costs from what I had been accustomed to paying in South America.  For example, four nights accommodation in my Cape Town hostel runs about $60 (US), whereas in places like Bolivia, $60 could get you five nights accommodation and food, water and transportation around the famous salt flats and deserts of the southwest.  You Americans may be thinking, “Fifteen measly bucks?  Per night?  That’s cheaper than a Motel 6!  Does the hostel even have lights for them to leave the light on for you?”

When I talk about South America being cheaper than Cape Town, I am of course excluding Brazil, which was a total budget breaker with an apartment sublet, costumes and entry into Carnaval in the Sambadrome — I have no regrets because you only live once.  But with my budget blown from partying in Sambaland, I needed to balance it out in Cape Town — but that didn’t look like it was going to happen without a little effort on my part.


LOOKING FOR CHEAP AND FREE THINGS TO DO IN TOWN, I consulted Mary, one of the “oracles” in the hostel’s informative in-house tour office.  Since it was such a blustery day — so blustery that the wind knocked over a heavy sugar dispenser off a table and sent some pamphlets up on the roof from the courtyard — she suggested staying indoors with visits to the Parliament building and some museums.  She drew a little walking tour on a map of the city, and using it I walked down to the pedestrian walkway known as Government Avenue, which led me passed the National Gallery and to Iziko: The South African Museum.  Admission was only about $1.50 (US), cheap enough for my tight budget of the day. 

Founded in 1987, the modern museum had exhibits on tribal African rock art and tribal life in general with displays of the tools and warrior outfits used by one of the tribes — how anyone could actually see their enemy through that straw helmet I don’t know.  Although there were other African cultural exhibits, such as a wall of childrens’ art, most of the museum was dedicated to the natural history of South Africa, from fossils, astronomy, geology and animal life — a preview of safaris to come.  Like the American Museum of Natural History, which I visited before leaving New York City, Iziko had big whales hanging from the ceiling of a grand hall

Passing through the botanical gardens, I made my way towards another cheap thrill:  the Parliament House.  Mary told me that if I just showed my passport I could sit in on a Parliament session from the stands.  Unfortunately when I got there, the guard told me there was no session in progress, and thus my plan blew away with the high winds:  to sit in the back and shout out lines from the South African diplomats in Lethal Weapon 2.

From Parliament, I walked passed another present day building of government, City Hall, proudly displaying banners celebrating “10 Years of Democracy.”  Democracy in South Africa is a fairly new idea, established for the first time only in 1994 — coincidentally the year Quentin Tarantino’s Pulp Fiction came out.  Whether or not the two things were related I don’t know, although Samuel L. Jackson’s forceful monologue of Ezekiel 25:17 was a pretty cold-blooded thing to say before free elections


FROM THE GOVERNMENT BUILDINGS OF TODAY, I went to one of the past, the Castle of Good Hope (picture above), where the first governor lived in the Dutch colonial days.  The castle was surrounded by five walls in the shape of a pentagon, like The Pentagon defense department in Washington, D.C. — but without wars or Iraq or Donald Rumsfeld’s cheesy grins. 

The oldest building in Cape Town, the Castle of Good Hope was also used as a military training base when the British sieged Cape Town from the Dutch in the 18th century.  In fact, the swimming pool once used by the Dutch governor’s family was filled up with sand to provide room so that more British could do jumping jacks.  It was only until recently that the pool had been restored to its original splendor, so that more British could now take pictures of it.

The admission fee into the Castle of Good Hope was about $3 (US), which included a free walking tour.  The guide Viwe led the 2:00 p.m. group around the castle grounds, now just a museum for tourism.  She led us around on the still windy day, with updrafts that made some woman’s moo-moo flap up like Marilyn Monroe’s dress in The Seven Year Itch.  Unfortunately, the woman wasn’t as shapely as Marilyn Monroe; her shape was more like, well, the shape that required the wearing of a moo-moo in the first place.

Other than the cannons pointed out from the top of the fortification walls, the most interesting part of the tour was the old dungeon, formally used by the Dutch government to get medieval on their prisoners asses.  While one waited for his torture, he was forced to stay in a damp, dark room so pitch-black that there was no difference if you opened or closed your eyes.  If only I had access to a room like this as a kid when glow-in-the-dark stickers were all the rave, then I might not have locked myself in the closet just to see them glow.


HUNGRY, I ABANDONED MY BUDGET OF THE DAY for a short moment and ate at the museum’s cafe which served entrées and snacks traditional to South Africa.  I had the delicacy known as the vetkoek, which is this fried dough pastry thing usually filled with sweet or fruity fillings.  Vetkoeks can also be filled with curried meat fillings, which was how I had it — although the cafe prepared it less like a fried dough pastry and more like a fried dough sandwich.  It was essentially, just a fried dough sloppy joe, just with lots of curry in it.


BACK IN MY BUDGET CONSCIOUSNESS, I ignored the touristy prices of the vending stalls in the Greenmarket and bought a new fleece at the discount clothing store appropriately named “Mr. Price” for just $14.  (I had a fleece originally but had foolishly passed it onto my brother in Rio to bring back to New York, thinking “Africa?  I won’t need it there” — only to be in Cape Town on a cold, windy day.)  Walking down the touristy Long Street, I stopped in at the Virtual Turtle, an internet cafe where I posted the last entry.  In the two hours I spent typing, downloading drivers and sorting through photos, I spent a whopping $15 (US) — the most I’ve ever spent on a single session in cyberspace.  Shocked by the expensive cost of my duties as The Blogwriter for the day, I went to the supermarket and spent the $2 (US) on five packs of ramen noodles. 

Later I found a cheaper internet place at about half the cost of the Virtual Turtle and realized that turtles are not only slow, they can also rip you off.


FROM THE DELICIOUS CURRY SPICES OF LUNCH to the delicious powdered flavor packed labeled “Oriental” of dinner, I sat in the dining room with my cheap noodles, reading a Dave Barry book.  Luckily for me, a guy who was packing up to leave the next day was donating his extra groceries to whoever wanted them, and I got a free loaf of bread and four eggs.  (Score!)  An egg was perfect to add to my “Oriental” feast and the bread was perfect for spreading the hostel’s free supply of Marmite onto the next morning. 

While eating an apple I had bought at the grocery for some sort of nutritional value (flavor pack not included), I watched L.A. Confidential on Channel 3 with two American guys who offered me a lift the next day in their rental car since we were all headed to Table Mountain.  Perhaps they felt charitable to me, seeing me eating the noodles like a poor college student.


AS I LAY IN MY BED THAT NIGHT in my dorm room, I heard the orgasmic moans of a girl coming from one of the top bunks.  Peeking through the sheer fabric of my sleep sheet, I noticed that in that top bunk a couple was attempting to have some sort of hand sex in the cheaper 10-person dorm instead of in a more private double room.

Get a room you two, I thought, but perhaps they were trying to cut corners in Cape Town like I was.






Next entry: American Vacation

Previous entry: Go Directly To Jail




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Comments for “Price Hike”

  • So I’ll send you money for the fleece….it did help me when i got back to cold NYC….

    vetKEK….

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  03/06  at  08:53 AM


  • Yeah the strong rand has made things much more expensive in SA.  18 months ago the rate was 11 ZAR/1$.

    You should check out Nando’s chicken—they’re all over the place in SA and South/East Africa.  Great food, and pretty cheap.

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  03/06  at  02:14 PM


  • Hey Erik,

    If you are looking for something to do, there is a whole crew of RTW’s down at the harbor.  The tallship Picton Castle is in port and they are 20,000 miles into their trip. They left the martimes of Canada in June 2003 and made port in Capetown a short time ago after stops in Panama, The Galapogoes, Fiji, Vanautu, and a few othes.  I am sure they would love a visitor or to show off their ship.  That should give you something cheap to do one day.

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  03/06  at  02:19 PM


  • ROB:  Thanks for the tip… I’ll check them out soon…

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  03/06  at  02:59 PM


  • AFREEKACHIK:  Yes, Nandos IS everywhere… I’ll be sure to make them my next meal out…

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  03/06  at  03:00 PM


  • hey…look at that. Its March Sweeps!!!
                     
    Time to donate to the global trip funds.  wink

    hmm…sloppy joe. Yumm.

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  03/07  at  10:57 AM


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This blog post is one of over 500 travel dispatches from the trip blog, "The Global Trip 2004: Sixteen Months Around The World (Or Until Money Runs Out, Whichever Comes First)," originally hosted by BootsnAll.com. It chronicled a trip around the world from October 2003 to March 2005, which encompassed travel through thirty-seven countries in North America, South America, Africa, Europe, and Asia. It was this blog that "started it all," where Erik evolved and honed his style of travel blogging — it starts to come into focus around the time he arrives in Africa.

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American Vacation

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Go Directly To Jail




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