Saturday, July 02, 2016

We gather at the house at 8 to leave at 8:30 for the Cape of Good Hope. I’ve told the crew that it’s my favorite place in the world, and now it’s time to deliver.

The weather is perfect: cloudless with the promise of 60+ degrees by afternoon. We head south through Philippi to the R-310 westward along the Strand. In places we’re driving right alongside the beach, reminiscent to me of the Outer Banks of North Carolina. Soon enough we hit the cluster of towns right at the west end of the Strand: Muizenberg, Fish Hoek, and then Simon’s Town. I don’t plan to retire—what’s up with that?—but if I ever did, I’d think seriously about Simon’s Town. It’s a little harbor town with houses nestled up the face of the hill and lots of little shops along the main drag. We stop for coffee and then drive to Boulders Beach to see the African penguins, the only penguins indigenous to anyplace outside of Antarctica. Because they bray like a donkey, they used to be called Jackass penguins, but the naming folks decided a new name would be a good PR move. We stand on boardwalks overlooking the little beach and watch the penguins in their natural habitat, which appears to be watching people on boardwalks watch them.

Curiosity satisfied, we drive south to the Cape, which officially is part of Table Mountain National Park. There’s a reasonable entrance fee and then a drive of several kilometers through rugged sagebrush country, windswept and desolate except for the road itself. We park first at Cape Point, which is the eastern fork of the peninsula and is also much higher than the Cape itself. There are souvenir shops and a funicular railroad that takes you about halfway from the parking lot up to the lighthouse on the summit. Reserving my knee for the hike later in the day, I sit by the railroad top terminus as the rest of the crew hikes up to the lighthouse, from which the view is spectacular.

Then it’s a 20-minute hike to the stairs that go down to Dias Beach, a crescent nestled between Cape Point and the Cape itself. I give them the lecture about staying out of the water: it’s cold, of course, but more importantly, there are very dangerous rip currents here. Down 209 steps to a steeply inclined beach; it’s difficult not to run. I stop 30 feet or so from the water, and the rest of the Crew goes a little closer. I’m taking a photo of them from behind when a rogue wave jumps up and knocks them all down. And gets them all wet.

Well, that was entertaining. For me. But now they’re all wet.

We work our way over to the east end of the beach for the traditional groovy photo, and then I suggest we go further east to the rocks at that end of the beach. But for the first time on my visits here, we’re at high tide, and the waves are making transit a little tricky. I get across, with Bethany not far behind, and Jonathan and Lora soon after. But the others opt not to risk their lives.

With the high tide, the waves are crashing on the rocks with a force I’ve never seen before; the spray is high and violent; and the whitecaps extend almost without a break 100 meters or so out from the sand. It’s a brutally beautiful scene.

Back up the 209 steps. To my delight, my knee is handling the stress pretty well. I give the crew directions for hiking the rest of the way to the Cape itself; I have to walk back to the van and drive it around to pick them up. Jojo’s having a problem with his foot, so he decides to come with me. I tell Jonathan that he’s responsible to protect all these women. He takes the responsibility cheerily, with hand motions (that’s a team inside joke).

Jojo and I arrive at the Cape with the van while the rest are still up on the promontory. The Cape itself is really relatively unimpressive; as I’ve noted, Cape Point is much higher and larger. But you can stand atop the rocks, about 100 feet above the sea, and see clearly how the west coast of Africa comes straight down from the north and then turns abruptly east toward India. Bartholomeu Dias certainly had reason to be hopeful with that change.

Soon the crew arrives, and we get the requisite photo at the Big Ol’ Sign. Then north out of the park and back to Simon’s Town.

I’ve organized the whole day’s schedule around a single goal: being on Chapman’s Peak Drive just south of Hout Bay at sunset, which today is at 5:49 pm. We stop at Simon’s Town so some of the wettest personnel can buy some dry clothes—that wasn’t part of my plan—and while I’m waiting I decide to get a few days’ cash from the ATM next to where we’re parked.

I make the withdrawal and start to leave when the two men behind me in line point urgently to the machine and tell me it’s still logged in to my account. The software has been changed, you see, and I missed a step. I need to reinsert my card and re-enter my PIN to end the transaction properly.

That’s how scammers work. They have it all choreographed—they do it for a living—and they’re just 3/10 of a second ahead of your thinking. In seconds one of them has palmed my card while the other hits some random keystrokes that fill the input field, effectively driving my PIN to the screen where they can read it. A split second later I see clearly every step in the dance, but they’re gone.

I hate getting played. Like a violin.

How quickly can they empty the account?

I’m going to get a little vague here, to protect privacy, but just one team member has a phone that hasn’t gotten wet and consequently still works. And that team member, as providence has dictated, has a family member in the banking industry. We call the States, and the family member contacts TD Bank and freezes the account. The creeps get a few bucks, but that’s all.

How about that.

Well, now I’m really ticked off, but it could have been a lot worse, and believe it or not, we’re still on schedule for sunset.

Chapman’s Peak Drive is one of the world’s top scenic drives (go ahead, look it up). It’s carved into the western side of the Cape Peninsula, with high, steep drops to the ocean. I’ve learned that you need to drive really slowly so that you don’t freak out the passengers. But it’s really beautiful.

We arrive at the pull-out at the highest point around 5:30 and get out to watch the sunset, with a panorama of the ocean that stretches well more than 180 degrees. It’s a cloudless day, so the sunset is less spectacular than it would be with bands of clouds getting involved, but it’s still remarkable.

Then down into Hout Bay and dinner at Mariner’s Wharf, a very good—and very successful—seafood restaurant. We get what amounts to a private room and order seafood galore. I get kingklip, perhaps the tastiest of the South African whitefish, in a butter and lemon sauce the taste of which will bring me hunger pangs for decades to come. Everybody else gets something equally delicious, and most get dessert. And because this is South Africa, the price of it all is well within budget.

I love this country.

Home by around 9, where we work on drying out the electronics, communicating with banks, and otherwise cleaning up the debris of the day.

Yeah, a couple of negatives, but also a day to celebrate the beauty and power of God’s creative work and the grace of His providence. He is good, and He is great, even when the bad stuff happens. It’s a pleasure to serve Him, even when it’s not always a pleasure.

If you know what I mean.

Dan Olinger

Chair, Division of Bible in the BJU School of Religion.

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