Dyed Gayle Dewi Sant. Happy St David’s Day. Or, more correctly, after a prolonged tussle with my thinks-it-knows-it-all computer, Dydd Gwyl Dewi Sant. Also, to a friend who is Irish but is deemed Welsh by insertion, being married to a man from some valley or other: Penblywydd Hapus. Happy Birthday.
Someone suggested I should dedicate this blog to golf for a change but that’s a bit tricky because there hasn’t been any golf on my South African agenda this past week and the dodgy internet connection here in Franschhoek has served to confirm that there’s nothing remotely Zen-like about my tolerance levels. The odd headline about the Open being endangered by Brexit or players being cleared of wrongdoing titillates but when the body of the story still hasn’t downloaded after 20 minutes…..Polite words fail me.
In my defence, a saint’s tolerance would be strained by having to live with a Liverpool fanatic and a Manchester United diehard after Wednesday night’s results. Smug, patronising, condescending, I got the lot – and it wasn’t my imagination. “Don’t worry. You’ll still finish third,” one of them said, unkindly. Now, I don’t really, really care about football that much these days but as Spurs, who have had us fans daring to dream for a season or two, start to falter once again at the wrong time, I admit it, I cracked. I threw a terrible twos type Totspurs Temper Tantrum. It was unedifying but strangely satisfying and, fortunately, there was nothing to kick. The resident squirrel was too fast and the nearest congress of baboons too far up the mountain – and far too dangerous to consider debating with.
Anyway, football bloody hell paled into insignificance in the face of yet more stunning South African experiences. Even being stuck in roadworks on the way in to Cape Town is not so bad when you’ve got a great view of Table Mountain; and there’s no complaint about the traffic when you can park next to an uncrowded beach with views of Lion’s Head and the little dot that is the cable car carrying people to the top of the mountain.
Every time you turn a corner there’s another glorious view and endless, endless mountains. One of our Uber drivers, a Zimbabwean, was less enraptured than we were: “Too many mountains here,” he said and I suspect he hadn’t seen the half of it. This is the country that put the gorge into gorgeous and it must be a geologist’s paradise.
We drove two hours east of here, into the beginnings of the Karoo, to spend a couple of nights at Aquila, a private game reserve, a safari light if you will, a good place for beginners, geared up to introduce us to a bit of wild Africa. There was a bit of the conveyor belt about it but while the patter was much the same each time, every drive was different.
First time out we got so close to an elephant that you could see every fold, every wrinkle in its skin. The rhino, even the ones with babies, seemed supremely indifferent to us, so there was no need for a super long lens to get your happy snaps. The hippo, who do most things under water, generally kept a low profile, apart from one male who put on a performance that had the parents with children on board grateful that his partner remained totally submerged. They can hold their breath for six minutes apparently and that was more than long enough.
We saw zebra – a group is called a dazzle and they did; giraffe, the Southern version with shortish necks because they have to work with bushes rather than trees; lion, who lolled about for photos on the first afternoon, then were nowhere to be seen the next morning; several sorts of antelope, including the delicate, beautifully marked springbok; and ostriches. Oh, and Georgie the crocodile, who was hand-reared and is being prepared for her introduction into the wild.
We saw no snakes but today we’re going to watch the WSB Cape Cobras take on the Multiply Titans in a day/night match at Newlands Cricket Ground. It’s not far from the Kirstenbosch National Botanical Garden, where the Cape Town Philharmonic perform on Sunday evenings during the summer and we listened to Mozart and Beethoven with Table Mountain towering over us. Magical.
What about the golf? Ah yes. Well, there was mini golf at Aquila, geared towards the minis because it was in the children’s play area but the balls, though not entirely round, were hard and I had to sign them out and then back in.
Dydd Gwyl Dewi Sant.