This blog is a chance to relive what I was up to 6 months ago this week during the Encircle Africa expedition. My joy of having reached Cape Town – the halfway point on the exact half-year anniversary of leaving London – was tempered by the knowledge I had to travel the same distance again to reach my end point (and start point) of Tangier, Morocco.
In memory of Dias; a mosaic in Dookin reserve, Port Elizabeth, South Africa
I discover Mossel Bay was reached by the Portuguese explorer Bartholemeu Dias in 1488. The Dias Museum houses a replica of his caravel (ship), but somewhere in removing all the money from tourists’ wallets the town has lost its soul.
Options for moving on are limited once more, and its getting tiresome. I head straight for Port Elizabeth by coach, the route following the coast. I thought there might be some sort of waiting room, perhaps with a clock and a TV of departing coaches. A waiting room there is: four walls, floor of two different types of tiles, nine plastic chairs, two empty plastic crates and an old traffic cone. Its like being back in an embassy. I’m kept entertained for a while by a beetle the size of my finger-nail. It would fly to the fluorescent tube lighting, stun itself, plummet to the tiles, spend a little time wriggling its legs to right itself and then start the whole process again. And again and again.
Port Elizabeth has clearly had some renovation, but other areas create a certain wariness in me. There is lots of 1970s concrete, lots of bargain stores.
But its difficult not to show amazement when a pool of 20 or more dolphins swim within metres of your pizza. The clouds had cleared to give a pink backlight to the cranes and metalwork of the commercial port. Glancing up, I see the dolphins swimming in line to the shore, almost too close to it. A fantastic sight.
To move ever onward, I catch a local minibus taxi to the terminus beneath a flyover, climbing aboard a 3/4 full seven seater for East London. The sea is like glass, the cargo vessels on it like models. The road then moves inland, through rolling hills and lots of private game lodges with promises of lion and antelope I cannot investigate.
East London is a black city. The most “African” city I’ve been in for some time, certainly in South Africa. Unfortunately, this means dilapidation, rubbish strewn streets, and the dripping of air conditioning pipes on the sides of buildings. I feel like I stick out. I feel very rich, and very much a target.