Cape Town

November 3, 2011 6:45am

Cape Town

November 3, 2011

Los Angeles to Cape Town is a marathon. After 11 hours and a brief layover in Amsterdam where I meet Eric, another 12 hours gets us to the southernmost tip of Africa. My name is called over the loud speaker in the baggage collection area of Cape Town International airport, and soon find out that seven out of ten pieces have not made it on the plane from Amsterdam. “Tomorrow night, no problem!”, shoots the attendant to quell my concern.

Cape Town is a stunning city. Its arresting topography and curvy shorelines make it an international stand out. The quality of life here can be exceptional. But the barb-wired homes and sprawling townships that line the highway out of the airport stand as a stark reminder of the economic disparity that defines South Africa.  It is difficult not to be affected by the juxtaposition of such utter poverty against a backdrop of luxurious oceanfront properties and predominantly white ownership. That said, today’s socio-cultural context has been vastly improved from its checkered past, and the racial co-habitation is mostly tension-free. The city holds a particular sentimental value to me as I was engaged here.

After a long and needed sleep, we meet Victor Serov of ALCI/TAC who coordinates logistics for us on the first leg of the trip, up to the South Pole.  There will only be one day to pack our sledges as the cargo will be loaded into the Ilyushin two days before departure. In the afternoon we drive to Camps Bay to lay out our kites, affix the new lines and test a custom tool that I designed for faster winding of our extended lines. Ozone, our kite sponsor, was gracious to make me seventy-five meter lines for the big Yakuza kites. But winding such length around the handles would take forever, as well as instigating more twisting of the line—which can lead to a knotted mess. Never pleasant to undo with mitts on in forty below! The airline calls that evening to inform that luggage has arrived and they will deliver in the morning. Good thing as time will be short to organize, customize and otherwise pack all the food and prepare the sledges.

In the morning, however, only one piece shows. It turns out, the six barrels with all the food, have once again not been loaded onto the airplane.

By the following evening,  KLM says that they still have not made it to Cape Town. I raise hell with the airline. Departure is in two days, and by now, all cargo should have been locked for loading onto the plane. But our Ilyushin plane is delayed by a day. This buys us time. In the morning, however, I find out that the barrels had, in fact, arrived! We rush to organize the sledges, customize last details and get our houses in order. By the end of the day, we are told that the weather in Antarctica will delay departure by twenty-four hours! Eric and I spend the morning shopping for last minute items and a full afternoon in the cargo warehouse, organizing ninety days’ worth of food. By the time we finish, I learned from Victor that we will be delayed another twenty four hours! Departure is now set for tomorrow night—Friday, November 4th. Two days lost.

I spent the last two days climbing the surrounding mountains of Cape Town: table mountain which is up for voting as one of the seven natural wonders of the world, and today, Lion’s Head, my favorite. The weather is warm and the visibility exceptional. The sun sets over Cape Town and this waiting period should soon come to a close.

Waiting wreaks havoc to the mind. The hands of the clock seem wantonly to spin in all directions, both speeding and stretching time. The adrenalin of the last days from LA dissipate, and the lull gives the mind too much room to think. Doubts creep in; longing; and anxiety. Nothing unusual about set backs when dealing with traveling in polar regions. Weather always delays. But the knot also always creeps in with nervous energy. It is time to get this party started. By tomorrow at this time, we will be up in the air, crossing the Antarctic convergence, and entering the polar world. Tic, toc, tic toc…

3 Responses to “Cape Town”

  1. Marieke says:

    You know, a lot of those Camps Bay houses are owned by foreigners…

    Anyways, I’m sorry I missed you while you were here in Cape Town. Would have been cool to meet you after interviewing you earlier this year.

    Enjoy Antarctica and take cool pics!!

  2. BASILE says:

    Today is the big day…

  3. Andrew Macpherson says:

    Good luck, keep warm!! 🙂

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