When I got to Joburg I heard from Kris that he had rounded the Cape of Good Hope by himself (and lit a candle to the gods of the seas in thanksgiving for his relatively trouble-free passage through this exhausting part of the world’s oceans) and was waiting for me at a friendly yacht club in Saldanha Bay, a 165km. drive from Cape Town. I hurriedly bought a ticket to Cape Town, then jumped into a dilapidated Mercedes taxi, with a wonderful driver called James. The drive was long and fairly monotonous, except for the parts where we passed Table Mountain, or some animals appeared in the scrubby distance (lots of springbok round these parts). It would have been boring, had James not been a great guy with a fantastic sense of humour. We roared with laughter through the entire trip, which took nearly three hours through flat scrubby land punctuated here and there by rocky outcrops. We talked about jealous women and relationships, raising kids these days, dishes made with pap and samp (a traditional porridge or polenta made with finely ground maize meal…the staple food of South Africa’s Bantu), corruption in government, the importance of helping your fellowmen out and treating strangers with the same respect you accord your friends and family, how many ways there really are to skin a cat, and why anyone would want to skin a cat, in the first place.
He consoled me for the endless, flat highways and hours in the car with the promise that once I reached my husband, I could look forward to “kisses for breakfast”. It made the drive extremely fun, and James exclaimed when we reached Saldanha that he was sad, because now he would have to drive back the way he came by himself.
Saldanha is a large industrial fishing port; it is also the site of a large steel and iron ore processing plant. The small township is dominated by a bare hill, with huge boulders poking out of it. Streets are very wide, clean, and the architecture is a strange hybrid of European A-frames, chimneys, and the worldwide vernacular style of cheaply built concrete cube housing. Nothing is over two storeys high. Sulfurous yellow street lights are everywhere, blazing up into the sky and lighting up the bare hill at night.
It’s bloody cold. At least to me…I am a child of the tropics, and I will never love the cold. A chilly gale blows in from the South, Southeast, all times of the day, and windchill on the boat can sometimes bring the temperature down to 8ºC at night. Hundreds of seagulls wheel and shriek overhead, cormorants swim, their snaky heads above the choppy, white-edged water, and sometimes we see fat, unconcerned seals near the rocks, or across the bay in the Langebaan wildlife park. I wear two jumpers, and sometimes a pashmina scarf around my neck, when the locals are out sailing their boats in shorts and T-shirts! I sleep inside a sleeping bag, under two heavy blankets. Even so, by Monday I had come down with a cold. What a wuss!