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Trip Start Apr 27, 2006
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Trip End Apr 01, 2008


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Flag of South Africa  , Eastern Cape,
Thursday, April 12, 2012

The schedule of the Baz Bus meant that most of the leg from Knysna to Port Elizabeth was in the dark.  I always feel like I'm missing the best scenery, but who knows?  Getting in at 10:00 p.m. on a Monday night with it still raining meant I made no attempt whatsoever to go out. 

Many on the bus were just crashing for 8 hours, before getting back on the next morning to go more scenic places, because Port Elizabeth is not known to have much to do.  It is an industrial port city, and referred to by travel sites and guide books as "sleepy."  Specifically, two Aussie women in the infectious delease field, who were also staying at the Backpackers I stayed at, had been volunteering with the International Red Cross there in regards to AIDS and tubercluosis treatment and prevention.  Despite a couple weeks there, they could not suggest anything for me to do other than go to a casino/shopping waterfront mall complex.

But I wanted to at least see it for a day, knowing almost nothing about the city except that Stephen Biko, the black anti-apartheid activist, was interrogated and tortured by the security police here before being moved to Pretoria, where he died, and Peter Gabriel wrote a song about it. 

I probably should have done a township tour, but didn't.  "Townships" are underdeveloped living areas that, until the end of apartheid, were reserved for non-whites and where such non-whites (including Indians, for example) were forciably relocated.  However, the word "township" is not used pejoratively.  Parts of them are nice and increasingly developed.  People are proud to live there, have their own sports teams, B&Bs, restaurants, symphonies, etc.  But there are some real sketchy one s(or parts of one).  Those are derogatively called "slums."  The term "township" also has a distinct legal meaning in South Africa's property title system.  That said, some of the people in them are incredibly poor and a lot of violent drug and gang-related crime remains, although it is apapently not as bad as during the Apartheid era.  However, those two Aussie women said that they saw the worst poverty at the one here that they had seen anywhere in the world, and they had been to some shitty places in their ten months travelling.  After India, I opted out.

Instead, I wandered part of the town on Tuesday.  The storm had passed, and the weather was nice if a little windy (as is to be expected from a place nicknamed "the Windy City").  I walked through the historic area of town and downtown, where I was practically the only white person.  The further away from Cape Town one gets, the less developed the infrastructure gets, and the more predominantly "chocolate" (to use our driver's word) South Africa becomes.  I also had the first of what I am sure will be many of the cheap meat pies here (I am up to three as I write).

I then took a cab to the casino/mall complex.  Typical tourist waterfront crap.  But the casino was interesting.  First, they have phenomenal blackjack rules (double on any first two cards, dealer must stay on all 17s, surrender, and split as often as you like. Second, you can bet on other people's hands, up to three per hand. Thus, the table can get utterly littered with chips. Seven players with three bets on each hand makes twenty-one stacks. Then throw in a few doubles and splits (each doubled and split three times) and there can be more than thirty bets on the table. I won R600! Too bad that is only about $80. 

On the way back, I got my first taxicab ranter on the subject of beggars, wealth, the weakness of the Rand, and how, although Apartheid ended in 1994, the blacks are still impoverished because they started with nothing while the whites had everything.  No doubt this is abolutely true, but my experience with taxi drivers around the world is that they are not the best source of (non-crazy) information or opinion.

That night, I had the best sushi I have had here.  A place called Fushin with a Chinese sushi chef. Limited selection again, but he had some incredible knife skills so the presentations were brilliant, and the quality of the fish was superb. The place was on one of two bar/restaurant streets walking distance to where I was staying in the center of town.  The one with the sushi place was more upscale and white.  The other was more downmarket and primarily black.  After dinner I went to bars in both and didn't feel unsafe or unwelcome.  Maybe I should have (these three people at the whiter bar suggested I not go to the other bar street because "they" might take advantage of me), but I didn't, so there.

Next it was back on the bus to Hogsback.
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