Cable up the Table

We were woken this morning by Captain Tkachuk’s voice booming over the tannoy to say that the Voyager would be moored up in a temporary berth until the MSC Opera left at 5.00pm, in which case we would move into that berth and remain there overnight.  Apparently it was due to a cargo ship which was having difficulties and was late into port, creating a ‘queue’ of ships behind it waiting to get in.

We had our breakfast in the Discovery Restaurant then went into the Darwin Lounge to await the call for our excursion, which would take us on a city tour as well as a visit to the top of that most famous of Cape Town landmarks, Table Mountain.

We disembarked the ship at 8.30am and made our way to the waiting bus.  The weather was pleasant, about 23°C and there wasn’t too much cloud.  Now that we are well out of the tropics at 33° south, the weather is not as hot and sultry as it was in say, Madagascar.

We set off along the fabulous waterfront with the flat-topped summit of Table Mountain forming the backdrop.  Table Mountain is about 3,300 feet and is flanked at each end by with Devil’s Peak and Lion’s Head on either side.  A thin strip of cloud, known colloquially as the “tablecloth”, sometimes forms on top of the mountain, but today it looked fairly clear, which is just what we needed as we didn’t want to miss the view from the top.

Cape Town looked to be a bustling, exciting modern city.  As of 2014 it is the 10th most populous city in Africa and home to 64% of the Western Cape’s population. It is one of the most multicultural cities in the world, reflecting its role as a major destination for immigrants and expatriates to South Africa. The city was named the World Design Capital for 2014 by the International Council of Societies of Industrial Design. In 2014, Cape Town was named the best place in the world to visit by both The New York Times and The Telegraph.

As we drove through the busy Friday morning streets we passed the Town Hall with its amazingly-intricate Edwardian architecture (built in 1905) as well as more modern high-rise buildings.  One of them, the Civic Centre, had an interesting external effect – as you approached the building and moved round it the vertical slats decorating the outside slowly came into focus as Nelson Mandela’s face.

Our coach ride took us along the coastline and we passed many colourful wooden dwellings which housed the Indian Quarter.  Some of the houses were up for short-term rental if someone wanted to spend a holiday here.  We also saw the distinctive football stadium which was opened in December 2009 in time for the 2010 World Cup.

Presently the bus started to wend its way up the gently zig-zagging road leading to Table Mountain.  This afforded us fantastic views over the whole of the city and the sparkling Atlantic fringed by golden beaches.  We could see the Voyager moored up in the distance, her white paintwork gleaming in the sun.

Eventually the bus parked up and we were all given our tickets for the cable car.  We walked a short way to join the queue and put on our jackets, as the temperature was noticeably cooler up here.  We had to get into a lift to go up to the next stage, where the Aerial Cableway started.  The cableway is one of Cape Town’s most popular tourist features and receives around 800,000 visitors a year.  The queue, however, was not too long and it was only a matter of minutes before we boarded the car, which is designed to hold 65 passengers, standing room only.

As the cable car slowly started to ascend, we were surprised and delighted by the fact that the floor started to revolve. This allowed everyone, no matter where they were standing, to have a 360° view, from the mountain face to the bay and everything in between.  It was great!   🙂

Once we got to the top we wandered around admiring the spectacular views.  There was a group of intrepid people getting a briefing before deciding to abseil down the mountain!  I think I’ll stick to the cable car.  🙂

There was quite a cold wind blowing and, after using the toilet facilities, Trevor and I decided to go into the café and have a hot cup of coffee and a snack.  When we paid for the coffee at the counter, we were given a plastic disc and told to take it to our table; when the disc started flashing with green lights it meant your coffee was ready and you went to the counter to collect it.  Unusual I suppose, but effective.

After we’d had our coffee we went into the “Shop at the Top” and browsed the various over-priced holiday souvenirs, such as t-shirts, mugs, soft toys and various other tat.  Then we had another wander round before deciding to make our way back to the cable car; we had to be back at the bus for 12.30pm and we didn’t know how big a queue there was going to be.

We boarded the cable car straight away and had another brilliant revolving ride back down.  Then we walked back to the bus and took our seats for the return journey back to the Voyager.

Back on board we enjoyed our lunch on the open rear decks, which were understandably fairly empty.  We then had to go back to cabin 4130 and do the majority of our packing, until it was time to go to the afternoon trivia at 4.45pm.  We were on our own this time, however, as Beryl and Sue were on a trip somewhere.  There weren’t many people doing the quiz, but we only got 14/20 and didn’t win.  We saw Roger the friendly barman, and gave him an envelope containing a generous tip because he’d been so good to us.   😉

At 5.00pm we felt the increased vibrations of the Voyager’s engines as she was due to move across to the berth recently vacated by the MSC Opera.  We went up to the topmost deck to watch as she made her way slowly across the bay, turning around as she did so.  The guys ashore deftly caught the ropes that were thrown across and made them fast, as the guys on board got the gangplank ready.

Once Voyager was settled, we’d decided we’d go back ashore again, have a look around, spend our remaining rands as we were due to fly home tomorrow.  😦    We’d already been told it was about a mile to walk into the town but we felt we could do with the exercise.

Disembarking the Voyager, we set off into the main town, where there were lots of lively bars and restaurants along the waterfront.  We hoped we’d be able to find a place like Jack’s Bar, that we’d enjoyed in Richards Bay.  But as I was walking along, I stumbled slightly on the pavement and this was enough to break the thong part of my wedge flip-flop on my right foot.  There was no way I could repair it, but there was equally no way I could walk around Cape Town with only one shoe!  So there was nothing else for it – we had to find somewhere selling cheapy flip-flops or other light shoes/sandals.

Because Cape Town is more of a fashionable, affluent area however, frequented by cruise ship passengers, we noticed that the prices were quite a lot higher than those we’d seen elsewhere in South Africa.  After looking at various items of footwear I settled on a pair of red patterned canvas pumps that cost 300 rands, or £16.67.  I then dumped my broken sandals into a nearby bin.

We then went into an indoor market that had all sorts of hot and cold food stalls, fruit, vegetables, meats and fish as well as clothing and household items. On the mezzanine floor upstairs we noticed a sign saying “Bar” so up we went for a beer.  There were a few wooden tables and benches around, and one or two customers.  We went to the bar and asked to try the beer sampler, which consisted of four different 250ml glasses of beer for 30 rands.  We ordered one between us and enjoyed the beers, but it looked as if the market was emptying out and getting ready to close, so we decided to go and try elsewhere.

We’d already noticed a big ferris wheel lighting up the sky, and our meanderings took us right up to it.  On impulse I said to Trevor, “Let’s have a go on it.”  It cost 100 rands per person (just under six quid) but there was a sign up that said “Cruise Passengers Half Price” on production of your cruise card.  Even better, as Trevor is over 60, he got half the “seniors” price.  So I got it for 50 rands and Trevor for 30.  For that you got 12 minutes or four revolutions.

We had a car all to ourselves and it was like being a little kid again; it’s decades since I’ve been on a “big wheel”.  It was really great slowly ascending in the gathering dusk, looking at the city lights spread out below us.  After five revolutions there was still no sign of us stopping, and we’d just started our sixth time round when the guy controlling the wheel put it into reverse, allowing us to get slowly back to the exiting point.  A nice little interlude that we really enjoyed.  🙂

We were ready to have a drink now.  We had a look around the fashionable eateries and bars and eventually settled on a large “fish market” that was both a restaurant and cocktail bar.  We opted to sit outside and Trevor enjoyed a beer while I tried a very pleasant South African white wine.  Time was getting on now, and we knew if we didn’t get back to the Voyager before 9.30pm, we’d miss our dinner.

We took a stroll back to the ship and arrived back at 8.45pm.  We decided we’d better go straight to the Veranda Café to have our meal, then we’d manage to get into the Darwin Lounge in time for the show at half-nine.  Tonight was a Variety Show, performing the most popular pieces that we’d seen in the cruise so far.

As we entered the Darwin Lounge and made our way to our ‘usual’ seats, we were met by Roger, our favourite barman, who advised Trevor he’d been looking for us.  Apparently we were conspicuous by our absence for the evening quiz and the reason was because…  we’d won the charity raffle!  Yes!  That fabulous hand-painted ship’s navigational chart was ours!  I couldn’t believe it.  It’s an amazing and unique work of art, a proper collector’s item… and it was ours!   🙂

Apparently Gerry Atkins, the cruise director, had brought the chart up to the Sunset Club earlier on, knowing we were always up there for the quiz.  She’d intended making a formal presentation to us.  But we weren’t there!  Trevor went off, with Roger, to the purser’s desk where the chart was carefully rolled up and put into a robust cardboard tube, so we’d be able to get it home safely.  How totally brilliant – I was dead excited.

Tonight’s show was the best it had been all cruise, the highlight being the Voyager Duo (the classical guys) giving a fantastic performance.  Then we took the tube containing the fabulous chart back to our cabin, and only just got it to fit in the largest case, packing our clothing and other stuff around it.  I was trying not to get too despondent at the fact that our holiday was just about over, and tomorrow we’d be flying home.   😦

We finished the evening off by going up to the Sunset Club. where we enjoyed a few more drinks and a bit of a sing and a dance. There weren’t many people up there (no doubt they were all packing) but we didn’t want to go back as it would mean the official end of our cruise.  So we stayed until midnight, when we were the last to leave.

Back in our cabin we put the cases outside for collection and retired for the night.  We had to be up at 7.00am and out of our cabins by half-past, so we wanted to get a good night’s sleep.

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