It’s really been a great few days in Cape Town. The fantastic warm weather has made it easy to relax and really just enjoy it.
While taking a quick tour of Cape Quarters, I was told that a cannon is fired (with a loud boom) everyday at noon called the Noon Day Gun. Cape Town’s oldest living tradition, its a true relic of colonialism. And yes, everyday at noon, I hear the loud bang and most often jump out of my seat! According the attraction’s website:
Up on Signal Hill at 12:00 exactly every day, a cannon is fired. Accurate to the nearest millisecond, it booms over the Mother City, Table Mountain in the background, yet never ceases to surprise even long-term Capetonians, and certainly has visitors looking anxious.
The daily noon gun (cannon) is not only Cape Town’s oldest living tradition, but the guns used (there are two of them, just in case one of them fails) are two of the oldest in the world still in daily use. This tradition has managed, somehow, to survive a Dutch then a British colony; a resurgence of Dutch control, British expansion, the Anglo-Boer War, the rise and fall of apartheid and the subsequent new democracy, and is still used by which to set one’s watch. Today it is fired electronically from The South African Astronomical Observatory, in Observatory and its accuracy comes from an atomic clock.
As I did in Sydney with the Sydney Tower Eye, Beijing’s Great Wall of China and the Peak in Hong Kong, today I climbed Cape Town’s highest point, Table Mountain (I also have a view of it from my apartment window #amazing). But, simply getting there was quite the experience itself. I was told to take a cab to the bottom of the mountain where I could catch the cableway to the top. When I asked a local security guard where to catch a cab, he instructed me to stand on the side of the street and one will be by shortly. Easy enough. Right? Well, all of a sudden, a van pulled up, a young child in the front seat told me to hop in. Thinking nothing of it at first, I opened the doors to the van and saw it full of people starring at me. I got in and took a seat at the back. The van sped away with dance music blarring and me thinking, “what is going on?” I finally asked someone to tell the driver to take me to the cableway stop at Table Mountain; the driver’s response: “You’re on the route.” While the van raced up and down the streets towards the beach picking up random people and them departing at different points, I was finally in the van alone where the driver said, “up the Hill and you will be there.” Normally I would have been freaking out (well maybe I was a little), but, as I have done at many points on this trip, I just rolled with the punches. When in Rome…
Once I made it to the Table Mountain Aerial Cableway station, I started to fear the steep cable car ride to the top of the mountain. [tip: purchase your ticket to the top of the mountain in advance online and print it at home to avoid the long queue at the ticket counter]. However, this wasn’t your typical 2-3 person cable car. It held probably 20-25 people, had open windows and circular rotating floors. Let’s just say I was a little scared of the ride up! Once you reach the top, you could spend hours walking the various trails around the mountain top taking in the pristine views of Cape Town, its beautiful beaches, Robben Island, the World Cup Soccer Stadium and the pure blue ocean. Truly amazing. Even though it was a little cool at the top on this sunny warm day, it certainly was worth the unconventional taxi ride there and the nervous cable car up!
While I was at the top, tours are even offered to repel down the side of the mountain. Strapped on by hopefully strong cables, you can dance down the side of the mountain. A few of us onlookers watched and talked to the guide who suggested we sign up for it; I looked at the woman next to me and said: “Are they crazy? They want me to pay them to do this — they couldn’t pay me to do it. I am lucky I made it up here on the cable car!” #lol #NoThanks!
Throughout the trip, I have had the most interesting coversations with random strangers. The most popular conversation revolves around my “holiday” that transforms into a discussion about my trip around the world. And the taxi ride back – a normal one I am more used to — was no different. But it had an local spin to it. After the taxi cab driver realized I was from Washington, DC, he said: “Oh! So great. The other year I had the opportunity to meet your great Mayor, Anthony Willians, and the DC City Council, who were taking a tour I was giving.” After explaining to him that Mr. Williams has been superseded by several other mayors since his time, he reacted to my plans traveling around the world like everyone else: “Wow. That is so great – tell me all the places you are going to … and don’t you get lonely? I can’t imagine you are doing this all by yourself.” Me either..still!
Finally, I have posted before about how I purchased my around the trip ticket from United’s Star Alliance network of worldwide airlines. I just discovered that they have an airport challenge that is supported by an app, Picture Your Upgrade, where you are given different picture taking tasks at each airport to complete within a certain amount of time. For instance, the current challenges are to take pictures of 3 priority luggage tags or 3 different member planes in the Star Alliance program. The challenge centers around its loyalty program status, Star Alliance Gold, to celebrate its Gold status across all airlines (note: I have Premiere Platinum status with United giving me Star Alliance Gold status on its member airlines; some of the benefits I receive include access to all of the airport lounges internationally, free extra and excess baggage allowances, and priority boarding and check-in).
When you complete the challenges, you are entered into a drawing for a prize. The grand prize: an around the world business class ticket. Sign me up – again! I wish I would have known about this sooner given all the recent time I’ve spent in some of the world’s airports – but rest assured, I will be playing the rest of my trip!
Now back to my beer and great weather!