Saturday, July 09, 2016

Last day in Africa. We need to be checked out of the house by 10 am, but our flight isn’t until almost 11 pm, so our plan is to get checked out, drop our luggage off in Bill Knipe’s garage, where it will be safe, and spend the day downtown. We’ll pick up our luggage around 7:30 pm and arrive at the airport about 8, which should be plenty of time to turn in the rental van, check in, get through security, and be there to board.

Most of the team got their packing done last night, except the morning essentials. I’ve decided to do all mine this morning. It doesn’t take long. I stop by the front desk and tell Linda that I’ll be doing room inspections, after which we should be ready to vacate easily by 10 am. She’s happy that we’ve had a good time and says that she’s looking forward to having us back. We stayed here every time we’ve had a team in Cape Town—this is the 5th time—and she’s always happy to see us. I imagine that having college kids—from America—who don’t trash the place and party all night (you can imagine what that would do to her relationship with her neighbors)—is probably a relatively rare thing. We go ahead and book a couple of weeks for next year. I tell her that it’s contingent on student interest and fundraising, but she’s happy with that; we can cancel anytime before March.

You people should go stay at her place. It’s great.

I inspect the house and the guys’ 3 rooms and 2 bathrooms, and it all looks good. There are some things we’ve left intentionally (I’ve mentioned the extra food for the cleaning lady), but the place is empty of the stuff we mean to take, and it’s clean, and nothing major is broken (I’ve reported 3 broken glasses and a serving tray damaged by heat). I always wish there were less breakage, but we are dealing with college students, over a 2-week period. And to their credit, they were washing the glasses when they broke them.

By 10:09 we’re all in the van and ready to drive. We drop by Bill’s place and stash all the luggage in his empty garage. We could carry it in the van, of course, but that’s just an invitation to thieves, and this is one less thing we’ll have to worry about. He performs a kind service.

It occurs to me later that I’ve forgotten to post yesterday’s blog entry. And now I’ve left my laptop, where the file is, in Bill’s garage for the day. Won’t be able to post it until tonight. I hope the readers will be patient.

Over to Limnos one last time. The place is full, but the waiter suggests a table outside, and the day is balmy enough to accommodate that. We sit in the sun, feeling its warmth, and order our hearts’ desires. And guess what? They have scones again. And … Black Forest cake! I get some, and I’m telling you, it’s amazing. Between the bottom 2 layers, there’s this thin layer of crisp chocolate, which crunches like the top of a crème brulee … should I stop now? I like to give details.

After a few minutes the guys from the church come by. They’ve been our regular companions here; they enjoy the fellowship, and it helps them to know that there are other kids their age who want to serve God. Sometimes here it’s difficult for them to get that impression.

While we’re all enjoying our time, Kevin Simpson drives by on his way to a building job and honks and waves. A few minutes later, Bill Knipe does the same thing. It’s like a parade out here.

Breakfast taken care of, it’s time to go downtown and see what we haven’t seen yet. My plan is to take them up to Table Mountain, weather permitting, and then down to the Waterfront, which is the City’s central tourist area. I’ve avoided it so far because of the terrorism warning—everybody agrees that the Waterfront would be the primary target—but Ramadan ended on Tuesday, and there hasn’t been a trickle of news of any threats.

So. First to Table Mountain. It was quite foggy when I got up this morning, but that’s all burned off, and the mountain is crisp and clear. The drive up to the cable-car station is scenic; you’re expelled right out of city center and up the side of the mountain for some great vistas. I notice that there’s a LOT of traffic; I’ve never seen it this crowded. You just park along the side of the road, and the parked cars appear much lower on the mountain than I’ve ever seen before. Well, it’s the first Saturday after Ramadan, and it’s a beautiful weekend day, so everybody wants to be out.

We arrive at the cable-car station and see a line snaking out of the building and down the sidewalk. Wow. It could be hours to get in, and once you’re up there, you’ll face the same situation coming back down—the cable car is the choke point, unless you want to hike, which takes 1.5 hours—and we have people whose foot problems simply won’t allow  them to hike.

And if we go through all that, we might not have time to see the Waterfront, which is the real prize here.

Maybe it’ll be less crowded later. I make the executive decision to can the plan, with the option to try again later in the day. Table Mountain is beautiful, and the cable-car ride is fun if you’ve never done it before, but they’ve already seen better vistas than they’ll see here.

So back down the mountain we go, to the Waterfront.

Many port cities—Boston, Seattle, and Baltimore come immediately to mind—have realized that their waterfront can be a major tourist attraction and revenue generator. Cape Town may have led the way in this idea. The Victoria & Alfred Waterfront sports malls, restaurants, shops, harbor tours, street performers, fancy hotels, and LOTS of parking. It’s a magnet for people. We park underground and walk up the spiral stairs right into the middle of it.

I start by showing them the Breakwater, a jetty area that’s one of my favorite places here. You’re overlooking the bay, which is calm today, and on a sunny day it’s one of those coastal places where the sea air and the calls of the gulls just regenerate you. We walk back into the center of the plaza and decide a harbour tour would be a good idea. The boat that’s leaving now is full, but we get seats on the 3:30. That’s an hour, so there’s time for lunch. There’s a food court just inside Victoria Mall; we find the place with the shortest lines—it’s roasted chicken—and get a round of meals. We eat them outside, where at first the hovering seagulls seem quaint but we soon realize that they’re eyeing our food. And hovering. Over our food. If you know what I mean. But we manage to finish with no foreign substances in our chicken.

Back to the dock for the harbor tour. The boat holds about 30 people, of which we’re a significant percentage. The skipper expertly maneuvers the vessel while narrating over the PA system, and his sense of humor is immediately apparent. He points out sites of interest on shore, as well as large ships docked here today. We stop by a couple of tires hanging down from docks. They’re there to protect the ships, of course, but the local seals have decided they’re great places to sun, and we watch them laze for a while. We feel a little bit like them today, with no work to do.

After half an hour we’re back at the dock. 4 pm. Is there time to get to Table Mountain? Yes, theoretically, but since the last cable car down is at 5:30 in winter, we’d be on the mountain for just a few minutes. We decide it’s not worth it.

A disappointment, but not a major one.

OK. We’d like to leave at 7, so we have 3 hours. I turn everybody loose. There’s a major mall, already mentioned, as well as smaller ones—the Alfred for hoity-toity stuff, an artisan food mall, and tons of places to just stroll through and enjoy.

They must want the free time; I no sooner finish my “be right here at 7, don’t be late” speech when they’ve all scattered. Evidently no one wants to hang out with me.

On my 5th trip, I’m not really interested in souvenirs. I poke around in corners of the place I haven’t seen before—can’t hurt, for future tour-guide purposes, to know what all’s here—and then stroll through the lobby of the Table Bay Hotel—cheapest rooms are $400 a night, which explains why President Obama stayed here when he was here on a state visit—out the back to the Breakwater to watch the sunset. I find a place on the promenade, above the rocks, with the soccer stadium, built for the 2010 World Cup held here, on my left, and Robben Island, where Nelson Mandela spent 18 years in prison before becoming the country’s president, straight ahead. The sun is setting just between the two. I enjoy the peace, with boats moving slowly and silently—from here—in and out of the harbor, seagulls soaring and calling, small wavelets lapping on the rocks, lovers passing in front of me on the promenade, and the sun itself personalizing the experience by laying a shining path directly toward me on the water.

Nothing to do but enjoy the sensory experience and its potent reminder that my Father made all this.

As the sun slips into the sea—I always wonder why it doesn’t boil when that happens—the lovers kiss and head for home. I think I’ll do the same, though not necessarily in that order.

I walk slowly back through the Table Bay, along the dockside, and up into the Victoria Mall. It’s only 6—the Crew has an hour yet—so maybe I’ll find a coffee shop and enjoy a nice decaf.

To my surprise I see Rachael, who tells me that most of the gang is at the vida e caffe shop nearby. (Yeah, they use lower case in their signage.) Everyone but Lora and Jojo. I get a mocha and settle in with them. About 6:50 we walk the 50 meters or so to the meeting spot by the elevator, and Jojo and Lora show up a minute or two early.

How about that. Punctual to the end.

We walk to the parking garage, where we find the van right where we left it. Back to Bill’s place in Kuilsrivier, where we load up our luggage and say our good-byes. I find that my laptop has failed to go into sleep mode, and now the battery’s dead. We may well not be in a place with both AC access and wifi to upload the blog entry.

Drat. Gonna be 3 days behind when I get home. The team may be faithful to the end, but their alleged leader is getting scatter-brained.

As we drive away from the Knipes’ house, the team notes that this is a good group of folks to work with. They’re unpretentious, godly, joyous, and completely human. We’ve spent most of our time with the Knipes, the Paynes, and the Simpsons, and we love them all.

Down the R-300 and toward town on the N-2, it’s just 20 minutes or so to the airport. I drop everybody off with the luggage and tell ‘em to wait for me inside while I turn in the van. That’s close enough that I can walk back to the terminal, and the transaction is routine. I’ve learned over time that turning in a rental vehicle is easier if you haven’t banged it up much.

Back in the terminal, the Crew has met up with the guys we’ve been hanging around with all day, and I’m delighted to see that both parents of one of the guys have also come to see us off. We find a place to sit for a few minutes of fellowship before we head to the KLM counter to check our bags. That goes routinely—we have no problem with overweight bags, since we’ve been dealing with much lower limits earlier in the trip—and by 9 we’re ready to go through security. Our Capetonian friends walk us as far as the entrance to the line, and we say our good-byes. I have to remember that the Crew isn’t going to be back next year, as I plan to be. The good-byes are more difficult for them.

These have been good friends. We’re grateful for social media, which will help us keep in touch.

Through security and out to the gate. We take our last team picture in Africa, fittingly, in front of the Out of Africa shop near the gate. They begin to board the wide-body, as is typical, a full hour before take-off. We find our seats about halfway back on the right, in a cluster of 3 rows.

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We take off near the scheduled time, about 11.

Dan Olinger

Dan Olinger

Chair, Division of Bible in the BJU School of Religion. Elder at Heritage Bible Church, Greer, SC.

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