Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Sun in Soweto and Giraffes in Groenkloof

I'm finally coming out of my sun and wine induced stupor. I am no longer suffering from headache, but still sporting a pair of practically burnt-raw shoulders. And that's after applying the spf 100 sun block both Saturday and Sunday mornings. Hmm, perhaps my skin color is not genetically suited for this part of the world. Hmm, perhaps there is another skin color that is more suited for this environment. Hmm, I must ponder this question further at some point... 

Yesterday, we shipped our visitor to the wonderful Cape Town, where she is happily convening with the cape penguins after our jam packed weekend. And what a weekend it was!

Since she only arrived on Friday, late morning, we decided to take it easy that day. She had, after all, spent the previous 30 hours traveling a distance that should not take more than 20 hours, all in exchange for some seriously cheap flights. For a moment there, especially since she did not emerge from the plane รก la moi with puffy eyes, perma-slobber on the chin, a spotted menu on the front of the shirt, and severely swollen extremities, I truly envied her flight-travel stamina, as well as her more airplane-suitable size (both in my case to be found in the 'remembrances of things past' file) but then I remembered my philosophy is not about wanting to be more patient or smaller but wanting to travel in first class instead. Take that you envy monster! 

Anyhow, on Friday we lunched in one of my favorite restaurants, Cape Town Fish Market, before touring the local sights per her request - Woolworths food market and Pick n Pay. I always thought I was alone in my wish to soak up the local 'atmosphere' in the form of visiting grocery stores, post offices, train stations, doctor's practices, or the dentist's for that matter. I have an aversion to visiting any kind of doctor's if the visit entails more than just your general ogling and pointing (by me), but one of my coolest experiences from Mexico is my trip to a Mexican dentist who told me to ignore the burning smell as it was only the generator for the drill. That's hardcore, and the tooth still holds! I also now have breast-ultrasound experiences from three different continents and have to admit, also based on my talks with other women here and abroad, that in such issues Mexico (and paid for health insurance) rocks. Still, I much prefer visiting grocery stores. 

After getting completely sidetracked there, a couple of words on the night's entertainment: Braai and wine. Good, solid, thoroughly South African choices and fun had by all (we hope) combined with a new taste experience for our visitor - pork rashers on the braai. Didn't go down as well as the wine, but I still feel that scorched fat is an under-appreciated pleasure. However, that could just be me.

Early Saturday morning (far too early was the guest's opinion) we headed out towards Soweto and one very cool backpacker lodge and one even cooler shebeen (this link explains so much better than I ever could). Lebo's Soweto backpacker lodge is always our starting point in Soweto and if I was a tourist in Jozi Lebo's is definitely where I would stay. As on our previous visit we got to meet some cool Sowetans, discuss the upcoming election and the quite frightening possibility of the Zuma presidency, drink the local brew, sorghum beer (turns out we Finns have something similar explaining my not minding this stuff perhaps) from a shared mug, eat burn-your-finger hot vetkoeks, and walk the busy streets of a couple of Soweto neighborhoods while listening to kwaito blaring from all directions, and just enjoy and soak up the atmosphere. Cool stuff and severely burnt shoulders! 

As a fitting contrast to Soweto's wonders we headed out to lunch to Montecasino. After cringing at the fake sunset meets sunrise that is the ceiling of Montecasino, the fake pigeons and cats on the as fake windowsills, the suspicious looking 'laundry' hanging over the wannabe alleys, the painted cracks and ware on the walls, the plastic ducks in the moat/stream, and taking our visitor's or our photo with said details, we decided to lunch outside, in the actual real sunshine, in a place called Metropolis. The food wasn't anything special and some of our guest's health chicken (whatever that is) was actually undercooked, to which the waiter responded with a shrug and weird gestures that could have either meant 'we can cook it more for you' or 'up yours stupid tourist'. We'll never know for sure. However, we tried a wine I'd never had before - chosen purely on being not too cheap and not too expensive - Rijk's Sauvignon Blanc. A lovely new acquaintance. Almost sweet with a pleasant acidic aftertaste (how snooty do I sound). I'll definitely be having more of it in the near future. 

After a much needed nap for our guest, four cups of coffee for the hostess (how old are we), and no rest for the chauffeur a.k.a. the hubby, we headed out to dinner at tried and tested excellent Karoo Cattle and Land. Food was excellent, regardless of some of it being pap, which should not be classified as food but rather as edible wall paper glue. Excellent red was also had from the excellence that is the excellent Karoo wine list. The name of this particular excellence escapes me though, but I can tell you it was excellent. Excellent. And in case you were wondering the experience was excellent. However, before I had a chance to devour half of our guest's excellent malva pudding (thus hopping on the sugar train headed for crazy), the hubby steered us into the direction of Fashion Cafe, as we had promised this type of distraction to our single friend. Not so excellent. This bar is somehow in cahoots with Fashion tv channel, but since the music on their website annoys me too much to look further into this connection, I'll just give you my personal impression of the place. I don't think I'll ever be going back to this particular bar, seeing as I'm at least 10 years too old, don't like my drinks all fruity and pink, my shoes are far too flat and last year, my hair is too short, my hubby too bearded, and my ears too sensitive. Either I'm old and boring, or Fashion Cafe sucks. No need to comment on this specific point, especially if you know me. Excellent, thanks. 

On Sunday morning it was time for some wildlife. We headed out to Groenkloof Nature Reserve, a favorite destination, and this time around I was not left behind, but got within 15 meters of a real live giraffe. A giraffe is a beautiful being, and I only wish my eyelashes came anywhere close to the ones on these creatures. For almost half an hour we hung out with our new friend and his/her spouse or partner, who refused to face us but kept glancing at us over his/her shoulder very nonchalantly. To top off the experience, right before taking our leave we were introduced to a baby giraffe hiding behind a bush. Cool as ever. We also saw quite a few wildebeest and some zebras. The wildebeest were kind of aloof, but the zebras actually posed for us, making all the sweat and sunburns worthwhile. And I'm talking serious burns here. Permanent sun damage. Damn. Still points to SA.

After our hike and hangout with the local inhabitants we were ready for a braai. Many of our friends were there and as usual, whenever wine is drunk, the discussion turned to politics, race, and other such harmless small talk topics. I appreciate people's willingness to discuss, even if I cannot for the life of me understand where they are coming from or ever give any credit to some things they have said. I must admit some of it is taking quite a toll on me and on my love affair with this country. Perhaps I should just stick to easier topics for a while, and give my moral compass a break. Still, I could not have asked for a better immersion for our guest into the institution of the braai, or into the South African tradition of hospitality. Opinions aside, people are just really welcoming, friendly, and nice!     

Our visitor is due back on Thursday night and on Friday we are off to see some more wildlife, have awesome, non-draining discussions over good food and wine, lie by the pool but in the shade and hopefully not burn any more. This time around we are hoping to spot elephants, lions, rhinos, and cheetahs. And as I now sit around recharging my mental as well as physical batteries the snap-happy hubby is acquiring a lens the size of my thigh for his camera. Should make for better photo content on this blog. We'll see.

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