Out to the hinterlands: Swellendam

1 Mar

The road trip portion of my vacation has now begun. As I write this, I’m four hours east of Cape Town, in Swellendam – which I shall now rechristen Swelteringham.

That nice weather I’ve been crowing about is now a full-on heat wave. Be careful what you wish for, I guess. A newspaper I saw hinted at rain in a couple of days. I’ll believe it when I see it.

The bus ride here on Intercape was, um, interesting. Anybody out there know what the deal is with all the Christian messages? It’s a private bus company, so I wonder if the owner has a higher calling beyond long-distance transportation. I guess it’s comforting that the hostess says a prayer for us as we’re pulling out of the station.

And given the horrendous rate of roadway fatalities in South Africa, I’ll take all the help I can get. Actually a huge chunk of the carnage comes in the way of pedestrians getting run over. After about five days here now, I would have to say I’m terrified with every street crossing by foot, whether at a crosswalk or not. My continued difficulty with the whole drive-on-the-left thing and the drivers’ blatant unconcern for pedestrians adds up to sheer paranoia on my part.

But on the brighter side …

My days in Cape Town also resulted in some serendipitous moments, the kind that make travel so interesting:

1) While waiting for the tourist bus one morning, a fellow solo traveler from Brazil asked me a question about the bus and we ended up sharing travel experiences for half an hour. It was his first day in Cape Town and he was nervous about safety, but I think that by the end of the conversation I calmed his nerves – I’d survived it, after all.

2) On the train Monday, shortly after we’d left the station, I was surprised by a beautiful gospel duet. A man was leading a blind woman down the aisle. People kind of looked around at each other with expressions that said: “Dang, that was really good!”

3) Just outside the botanical garden was a Sunday open market, with lots of interesting stuff ranging from local preserves to original art. But one of my rules of travel is not to buy anything until the end or you’ll have to carry it around everywhere.

Meantime, back to Swelteringham … It’s claim to fame is that it’s the country’s third oldest white settlement. It was founded back in 1745 by the Dutch East India Co. The Dutch got put down by the Brits eventually. Oh and I guess the Khoikhoi Indians were the first ones to get the boot.

For now, there are a good number of old buildings, including the original governor’s house (picture at top of post). And there’s a really huge church, Dutch Reformed, of course (see picture near end of post).

Up tomorrow: to Knysna and some more waterfront fun. Meantime, may God bless tomorrow’s bus trip as well.


Above: My saving grace today – that pool felt great. My room is at top right of this picture, behind the two chairs. Hmm … My sixth straight night without a TV. I don’t miss it at all.

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7 Responses to “Out to the hinterlands: Swellendam”

  1. tedpets March 1, 2011 at 8:41 AM #

    That antipodal heat is, for whatever reason, brutal. Keep on truckin…..

  2. Maryke March 1, 2011 at 12:40 PM #

    I completely agree with you as far as pedestrians and driving in South Africa. Jaywalking just seemed to be part of the culture and it became the norm to see people crossing an 8-lane freeway or getting in and out of a minibus taxi in the middle of a busy intersection. Especially being from Seattle where nobody jaywalks, it was quite a transition. But the more we drove, the more we got used it and we learned to keep our eyes peeled for people no matter where we were.

    Can’t wait for the next chapter!

    • Kevin March 1, 2011 at 9:04 PM #

      Make sure to have some Knysna oysters. YUM!

      • Bob Payne March 2, 2011 at 7:03 AM #

        I’m not a fan of oyster 😦 But I will find a way to enjoy the local cuisine — I’ve already disc

  3. D Bremner March 3, 2011 at 1:04 AM #

    Bob…beers, beaches and penquins. Table Mountain. Have you met any South Africans? Do you have any observations about what the post-apartheid society feels like, how it looks? Do you have a plan to get into the township? Can we see some pics of people you meet? I think South Africa is all about the people, the social and political history, the relatively peaceful but profound social structural change. Please get to Soweto and drink some traditional Zulu beer in a shebeen.

    • Bob Payne March 3, 2011 at 5:24 AM #

      As a matter of fact, I booked a six-hour walking tour of Soweto before I left Seattle. It’s guided by a resident of the township. That comes up next Tuesday. And this Monday and Tuesday I’ll be hosted by a resident of East London, where the focus will be less on drinking beer and more on getting a sense of this culture. And along the way I’ve met a few South Africans – albeit white ones – who’ve given me their take on things.

      But this is a vacation away from the winter chill and rain of Seattle, so I’m entitled to enjoy the scenic wonders S. Africa offers, I think. A good trip is a mix of things. And truth is I’ll have likely achieved a greater mix than most visitors from the States.

  4. Ann Martin March 3, 2011 at 10:41 AM #

    Following your blog with interest as we are leaving for South Africa on Sunday, March 6. We arrive in Johannesburg on the 8th in the early morning. Cape Town and the areas you’ve visited so far are at the end of our journey, but we’re glad to see you used some public transportation. Although we will be driving much of the trip, we want to make use of public transport in the cities and have been having a hard time figuring it out. If you have any suggestions they are much appreciated.

    The walking tour of Soweto sounds good, although our energy may be low upon arrival… You’ve made Seattle seem even further from South Africa than I was feeling it was! Maybe we will cross paths, but, if not, thanks for the valuable information. Keep on posting!!

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