Our stay in Cape Town was elongated because severe storms outside the harbour – and fairly severe storms within – encouraged the Captain to wait for a change in the weather. That change came at 5 in the morning when the wind dropped and we pulled away from Cape Town at 6am. It was a beautiful morning and Table Mountain looked beautiful as we pulled away.
But our late departure meant that we had to make speed to reach Port Elizabeth to allow a number of early morning excursions – including ours – to begin on time. But during the afternoon, and to use the Captain’s words, a fuse blew in the engine room, and we lost speed meaning a late arrival was inevitable.
There was a lot of queuing for the laundries during the morning as those boarding at Cape Town and fresh from Safari, had a washing backlog. But Jan managed to find empty machines again by visiting the self-service just as first seating for dinner was starting. The ship felt a little different with 1700 passengers having disembarked at Cape Town and been replaced by 1700 others. There are now more Australians and South Africans on-board, which we welcome, and we had a pleasant chat with two of the new Aussies in the Chart Room before dinner. They were already appalled by the extent to which ‘Whinging Poms’ were complaining about trivialities. There are a lot that do so, and sometimes there’s a determination to find fault: it can make eavesdropping entertaining.
We weren’t docked and cleared to leave the ship until nine: frustrating when our excursion to Addo Elephant Park had been due to leave at 7.30. We were a little worried that by the time we got to Addo there’d be fewer elephants on show. The late start apart however, the excursion was excellent with a knowledgeable and enthusiastic ranger as our guide and we saw lots of elephants including herds of them patiently sharing the main watering hole in the park. We saw many antelope and zebra too but the thirteen lions in the park were well hidden.
We returned to the ship for about two and had a quick turnaround before taking the Cunard shuttle to a new shopping centre in the town. Shuttle provision was – once again – excellent with droves of them waiting both at the ship and for the return journey. But we might have been better walking into the centre of town – nondescript as it might be – because the new shopping centre was pretty much devoid of shops. Its location across the road from the ocean and one of Port Elizabeth’s main beaches was ideal and the architecture – Grand Floridian – was spectacular. But most of the units were empty and those occupied were largely cafes and restaurants. There was pleasant craft market, where we bought another gift for one of our grandchildren, but there was nothing to keep us there. We had coffee and coke at a burger restaurant and used the free Wi Fi, which was useful, before returning to the ship by about five. It was very blustery by this time and again; our departure was delayed by winds. We crept out of harbour just as we were going to sleep at about 11.
So it’s goodbye to South Africa, which we’ve enjoyed very much. It’s dangerous to draw any conclusions from just three days in the country, but things appear hopeful. When I first visited the country, shortly after democracy, economic apartheid had replaced political apartheid with the only black faces visible in restaurants and decent hotels being those belonging to the staff. This time there was more evidence of a Black middle class, particularly in Cape Town. And significantly two of our guides, at the vineyard and at Stellenbosch, both Black, talked so positively and optimistically about where they lived and worked (while being very critical of the outgoing President).