01 October 2009

A Slice of Europe... at first glance, anyway

The southern tip of Africa is the merging of the Atlantic and Indian oceans, and thus the juncture of opposing waterfronts that create violent waves rocky enough to tilt the huge cruise ship in which I sleep. But not for long though; I’m abruptly awoken by a water glass siding across the counter and shattering in the sink in my cabin. I peer out the porthole to see only deep blue water and then only sky as the ship slants back and forth.

The orange ceramic mug that I bought in Namibia is still intact. I stumble between waves to snag it before it joins the glass shards in the sink, pull on my warmest wool cap and head outside into the chilly morning mist. I post up with my steaming coffee, eager to arrive in Cape Town. As we approach land, the port city emerges from the cloudy abyss. First I see the flat top of Table Mountain, and then crisp white and baby blue buildings appear in the horizon.

The sun rises as our ship slowly pulls into port. Baby seals, undisturbed by incoming vessels and people passing, bask in the first light on a wooden plank on the dock. We’ve arrived at the Victoria and Alfred Waterfront, a nautical metropolis that was once described to me as “a slice of Europe.”

I stand at the ship railing and gulp the now cold remains of my orange mug. The vision of a crisp, affluent Africa in front of me will soon be trampled by cultural stories, colorful people and distant neighborhoods that I visit in the following week.