Sunday, January 20, 2008

Transportation in South Africa

I took the train to Stellenbosch on Friday. I arrived at the station in time to board the 1st class car to the winelands. Everyone who told me to take the train advised strongly that I purchase a 1st class ticket. Outside of that, they said as long as I didn't travel at night, I would be fine. I got on the train and realized that they didn't call out the stations/stops. I decided that I would pay attention and after an hour of waiting, I would arrive in Stellenbosch. Thankfully, there was a guy on the train, who was also traveling to Stellenbosch and he told me that he would alert me when we arrived.
I arrived and headed into the 2nd oldest town in South AFrica. It has a college there that doesn't resume until February and so the town is quiet right now. I went to the Information Center for information about hostels/wine routes/what not. They recommended that I stay at the Ikaya Hostel which is centrally located in the town square and since I was tired from walking with my pack, I agreed. They also provided literature on a hop-on/hop-off wine service. I was planning on doing this on Saturday, but my plans changed. Anyways, I asked them about a wine bar as well which they had a flier on a place called Wine Concepts near the town square. I checked into Ikaya and since I was solo, they made revisions and I stayed in an apartment next door. I had a kitchen, bath and bed all in one place for about $14 a night. I felt like I was in heaven.
I departed for the wine store and interrupted a wine tasting. I tried Nordhoeck wines and met the young wine maker. His name was Arnoff and I was having some difficulty understanding his English. I am still trying to pick up the south african accent fully. Anyways, I ended up staying with this group of people until 10:30 pm. It was great. I ended up talking with Adolf and Terrine from here. Adolf is a surfer and student. He met his girlfriend after they were ice skating and he fell and she broke her arm. They were funny and entertaining. I met a couple from Belguim that went to Cape Peninsula and had a baboon enter their car and steal their food while they were sitting in the front seat.
As you can see, I was comfortable and not too concerned with my whereabouts. I walked back to the hostel and thankfully, they made me a sandwich since everything was closed. I woke up on Saturday and had little desire to go on the wine bus. Instead, I read and enjoyed the fact that I was alone in my little apartment. I went out for coffee and sat there for 3 hours while I wrote in my journal and people watched. I reflected on my prevoious night and how foolish I had been. When I told Terrine and ADolf about my train ride to Stellenbosch, they were shocked. They said, no, hire a car. DOn't take the train, it isn't safe. I was surprised and I guess that living here would be much like the south in the States. Only, here there is so much resentment and hostility from Apartheid. Nobody trusts anybody and so public transport is not taken by white south africans.
I rode the train back to Cape Town today, believing that I would be fine and that it was safe. What I didn't factor in was that I would get on the wrong car of the train. I bought a 1st class ticket, but rode on the 3rd class trains. I was the only white person on the train and really, the blacks were curious about me, but didn't approach me. I sat by a few different women who didn't want to acknowledge that I was sitting by them. It was during the day and I knew that I was safe, but it was fun as hell considering how terrified people make it seem.
I am back now at the Long Street Backpackers and tomorrow I will tour Stellenbosch with Bruce on a wine tour. TUesday, I will mail postcards and get ready for my trip to Buenos Aires. I am ready for a change of scenery, but frightened due to my spotty spanish. It will work out how it does.
Take care and talk to you before I head west....

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