Wild at heart
Deciding that he needed a radical change of scenery, Neil Ratley travelled to Africa in search of adventure - and he sure found it. Here’s a snapshot of his escapes
Sitting in a rubber tube and bouncing down a fast flowing river, flying like a fruit bat through the dense African forest canopy, mountain biking through jagged landscapes and pony trekking along barren roads; I’ve done all of these and now there is almost more of a thrill in the everyday mundane - like bumbling along in a battered old car.
This is where I am in my journey of Africa. I have been here for just over three months and having crammed so many thrills into that time, I decide to mount a more basic mode of transport to continue my adventure. This phase begins with hunting down cars for sale within my price range, i.e. not much. I find a few specimens within my means, but decide to embark on a tour of some of the more salubrious 'off the tourist map' car lots. Here I find things that claim to be cars, things that resemble cars and finally a little red baby: a Volkswagen Golf that I christen ‘Rufus’. Africa by rickety red VW... sounds brilliant... or daft?
Cape Town is my destination; a city of bright lights, busy streets, majestic scenery and beaches that are beautiful on the eye but too cold to swim in. The initial part of my stay is what you would call an ‘adjustment phase’. I had previously been traversing the rustic coastal route, so the only natural way to ease into big city life was to spend the weekend kicking back with a few cold beers on the comfort of my hostel balcony, watching people go by beneath me on Long Street.
But with a mode of transport now procured for the immediate future, the business of exploring some more of Cape Town becomes an exciting priority - after first making sure I catch the opening days play in the cricket test between Australia and South Africa (where Australia beats South Africa’s ass).
Relaxed and adjusted to my new transport, I take a quick run up Table Mountain - well truthfully a hot sluggish crawl up the gorge to the top of the city's most famous landmark, with Rufus grumbling all the way. It is draining but well worth the effort. The view from the top of the mountain down onto the city and bay is postcard perfect (if you like postcards of cities seen from high above).
Next on the list is Cape Malay cuisine in Bo Kaap. This is a colourful suburb (with houses painted like a packet of Liquorice Allsorts) and home to many of the city's Indian community. It is also where I enjoy some of the tastiest Indian food imaginable. Unfortunately Rufus’s only fuel is petrol, so I can’t share these curried delights with him (secretly I’m glad, because it means all the more for me).
Later in the evening, I take Rufus for a spin down to Cape Point, where we enjoy beaches, penguins and baboons. All that remains is to experience some of Cape Town's nightlife. This means a few drinks at the hostel, followed by a few more drinks and some tunes at Mama Africa's and then a tasty treat cooked by an ‘Ahmed’ (entrepreneurial fellow who loiters around, cooking up meaty treats for drunks leaving the club). He makes me a boerewors (sausage) roll with all the trimmings and I end the night with some friendly chit-chat and banter with one of the friendliest drug dealers a drunk can find. We just chat, I hasten to add.
The time has come to bid farewell to old lady Cape Town. I roll out on a warm sunny morning, wave goodbye to my new found friends and share parting words with the car guards, the bloke selling his sunglasses on the corner of Long and Shortmarket street, the security guy by the bank, the street cleaner ladies and the friendly drug dealers gathered near the Laundromat. Oh and I flash a smug grin to a few glum South African cricket fans who still can’t come to terms with the Australian victory.
Onwards I head. Oh Cape Town how I’ll miss thee but the road looms north and north I must go. All aboard the Rufus Express. Honk honk.
For more details of Neil’s journey and a special video of his adventures in his Volkswagen, Rufus, visit www.themidgie.com