Well, it was longer than a week, but I will get back to that later.
During our stay at Patsy’s Gavin had another look at our leaking NEW fuel tank. Not really a minor job. It involved removing the drinking water tank, the step, the fuel tank guard, the exhaust and finally the fuel tank. This time the fault was with a dodgy NEW part attached to the fuel tank. In no time at all (many hours later) Gavin had used some magic silicone stuff and the leak was no more. We also made use of Patsy’s washing machine, for the first time since leaving the UK. I was a bit surprised to note that pretty much all of our clothes fitted into one wash.
We took the scenic route back to Cape Town via Stellenbosch and enjoyed a delicious lunch at a vineyard to celebrate my birthday and even bought a few of their wines to take home to New Zealand. I think Gavin was a little surprised at the excellent value the wines and dining in South Africa are. Also the vineyards are in such delightful locations, it really was a treat.
Having decided to have the work to our gearbox completed, we emptied out the car back at Charles and Vals and first thing Monday morning drove it round to the gearbox exchange. Gavin coped very well with the emotional wrench of being separated from the car and handing it over for someone else to work on. It was rather odd not having the car. The next day we trundled back to the workshop to find out what the problem had been and how much it was going to cost us- so I spent my birthday hanging around a workshop looking at our gearbox in pieces. The quote was very reasonable so not such a bad birthday gift. That evening the Kadalies (always keen for cake) took us for cake all the way over to Camps Bay (on the other side of Cape Town). Another lovely treat.
The next morning we were up bright and early to get a lift into Cape Town with Charles and to join him and his colleagues for breakfast. South Africa is in the midst of an energy crisis. Charles works for the Cape Town energy board which is having to load shed daily (cut off power to different areas). Charles has the unenviable role of communicating most of the changes and load shedding to the public. So Charles and his team are under a considerable amount of pressure at the moment but they never seem to let it get them down and it was certainly a fun breakfast.
We had hoped to visit Robben Island the same day but they were booked up for nearly a week, so we went to the cinema instead. “No Country for Old Men” is a very well acted film but as the first film we have been to see since “James Bond” early last year I think that maybe we could have chosen a more gentle film.
Back at the ranch we continued with our ongoing pursuit of affordable shipping and a freighter ship for us to travel on as well as other interesting admin which we can complete having electricity available to us (when they are not load shedding) to power our computer as the battery is now dead.
Another day we took a stroll up to Table Mountain. We had deferred the expedition a couple of times after looking out the kitchen window which affords a wonderful view across the city to the mountain which is often covered with cloud. We chose a steep route, but then they all are, which started in the gloriously sunny Kirstenbosch Botanical Gardens and proceeded up the aptly named Skeleton Gorge. Once we were on the top we could have been anywhere, the Table Cloth (cloud) had descended. There was no one else around and there was a wonderfully eerie atmosphere. But, boy was it fresh. The wind was coming straight off the Antarctic and felt as if it had icicles in it. Standing right on the edge the cloud periodically lifted affording a fleetingly tantalising glimpse of the city and Table Bay a kilometre below. We knew that the cable car was not running, due to high winds, and so made a steep descent down Platteklip gorge. Aagh, going downhill can be so much more difficult than going up hill. However, before long we were below the cloud and the views were stunning. At the bottom we refreshed ourselves with a beer. I was stiff for a couple of days afterwards; going downstairs was not the easiest task.
One evening we joined Val and Charles on their Missionary work in one of the many squatter camps in Cape Town. It is amazing how some of the people they have been working with have made such changes to their lives and have created well functioning communities, despite still living in poverty. There are many services for the residents. Most of the children go to school and receive childhood vaccinations. One lady, a resident, manages to feed most of the 350 children in the camp daily from a donated old container. I don’t think she even knows where the food comes from most of the time. On the camp perimeter the local authorities have provided facilities such as composting toilets, installed floodlights and standpipes with drinking water and collect rubbish but are powerless to provide anything more without permission from the landowner, which has been refused.
Another day Gavin and I visited the City Mission’s Rehabilitation Centre and Sheltered accommodation units that Val spent so many years planning and finally oversaw the construction of. When I was last here they had not started digging the foundations yet. It really is an impressive centre providing for stroke rehabilitation and dementia respite and day care.
We eventually made the trip to Robben Island on a beautifully calm day. The views from the island looking back to Cape Town were lovely and we saw a lot of wildlife including a colony of penguins. We were guided through the prison which housed political prisoners including Nelson Mandela until the 1990’s, by a former prisoner. His stories made the place come alive and the overwhelming sense of looking forward rather than harbouring resentment was inspirational.
Sadly it is time to wave goodbye to Charles’ and Val’s household. We initially came for dinner and have ended up staying for over a week. We still have some decisions about shipping and transport to make which we will deliberate over as we catch up with the Bowleys and the Rowleys.