Tag Archives: Driving

Capetonian Friendliness

We found ourselves defending Capetonians today. We were in Cederberg, an area three hours north of Cape Town known for its thousands year old bushmen rock art. While there, our guide said that she was happy she moved from Cape Town to this secluded area because she found Capetonians rude and always in a hurry. We were in vehement disagreement. We’re not just comparing Capetonian politeness to New York, we’re talking about politeness on a global scale. Capetonians are genuinely friendly and polite people.

We have dozens of examples of Capetonian friendliness, but let’s concentrate on the ones that involve cars. We’ll start with Capetonian driving manners. Once on highway road, drivers will move to the side to let speedier cars pass. The passing car will then flash its hazard lights in gratitude. Night driving around the city outskirts can be dark but every car we have passed turns off its high beams well in advance of our approach. A car horn is a surprise, even in the middle of the city.

A few days ago, a lady knocked on our door and asked for help to push her broken down car. We happily obliged (Sandeep with a little extra enthusiasm since he was about to get a work out) and moved her car off the road. The task took no more than a few minutes but, two days later, she came back to hand deliver a box of chocolates and a heartfelt thank you.

Not only are Capetonians friendly behind the wheel, they are as amiable when selling cars. We are in the market for cars so decided to visit two dealerships in the city. We let each one know that we would be buying our car in the U.S. but were interested in looking at the models. Any car dealer in the U.S. may have dismissed us. However, in Cape Town, the salesmen when out of their way not only to answer all our car questions but to give us lots of advice on what to do in their city. One had even taken a year off to travel in North America, so we instantly traded travel experiences.

Even the taxi drivers extend friendship. The norm here is to call a taxi company to arrange a pick-up. One particular driver now brings cookies when he knows he is about to collect Ava and Kayan from playschool. On the way home he entertains them with riddles.

The bottom line? Capetonians are friendly. Moreover, we’ve never been hurried through a conversation in Cape Town. We’re willing to bet that behind every burglar bar there is a friendly soul waiting to extend a Cape Town welcome.

Leave a Comment

Filed under Africa, South Africa

Signs We Love Cape Town

We have a fascination with odd road signs. In Namibia we snapped many picture of signs that we had never seen before, some of which we never deciphered. We rent a car each weekend in Cape Town and Sandeep drives us around the wineries, ocean routes and mountains. What makes Cape Town memorable for us is its natural beauty, so it’s no wonder than many of the road signs have something to do with nature.

Capetonians seems to defer a lot to nature. The joke about the weather is, “If you don’t like the weather in Cape Town, wait an hour.” The winds off Table Mountain are so strong that the trees surrender in odd angles. One day I literally thought the wind was going to swoop Kayan away. Signs everywhere tell us to take care of nature, be it in the form of penguins or baboons. We weren’t sure if this sign at a Stellenbosch winery was asking us to watch out for ducks or snails. Either way, all four of us obediently had our eyes peeled on the road, although I must say it seems futile to try and avoid snails when driving.

The day after we watched for snails we watched whales along the Whale Coast Route, a stretch east of Cape Town which claims to be the best spot in the world for land based whale watching. Around July, Southern Right Whales migrate  from Antarctica. They get very close to the shore, where they rub off their accumulated barnacles on the massive boulders that line the ocean floor. It is still early in the season, but we were lucky to see a few whales in the distance as we sat on shore and ate lunch. We never even knew that the concept of land based whale watching existed and it’s a memorizing experience to be on firm ground while watching these giant creatures out in the vast ocean. We’re planning another trip back in a couple of weeks when hopefully more whales will have migrated.

While there is some marine life we want to see, there is others that we’d rather avoid. The same coast that attracts whales, penguins and seals also has one of the highest concentration of Great White Sharks in the world. Kruger National Park and Great White Shark diving are often cited as the two most popular reasons that tourists come to South Africa. These blue boards educating surfers, swimmers and beach goers about sharks dot the coastline. The last fatal shark attack in these waters was in April 2012, although such attacks are rare. Many of Cape Town’s beaches have official shark spotters and signage that informs people about current shark conditions.

The shark smart board reminded us that we humans are more often encroaching on these animals’ habitats than the other way around. We are so fortunate to be able to enjoy all sorts of animals, from lions to whales, in their natural habitat while in Africa. These experiences have been opportunities for our entire family to really understand that we share this world with so many creatures and that their survival depends on our care and respect.


Filed under Africa, Animals, South Africa

Driving Tales and Pictures from Namibia

We rented a car to drive all over Namibia but had no idea what to expect. Would we be ambushed by lions? Would terrible roads cause us to change tires multiple times? It turns out that driving in Namibia is easy, even easier than driving in New York City. The roads are generally well maintained, and apart from a few potholes in the game reserves, or when off-roading, one can keep a speed of 120 km/h or 75 mph on the major roads.

Driving on the right side was the biggest adjustment Sandeep had to make, although he had some practice with that in India. Other than that, we had to be careful of all sorts of things we never had to worry about in other parts of the world, such as warthog, springbuck, and cow crossings.

The highways have rest stops, which are literally a picnic table and two garbage drums under a tree, as the picture indicates. These came in handy when Ava’s car sickness kicked in or Kayan needed a diaper change.

Despite spending about 25 hours driving through Namibia, there were some signs that we never figured out.

The claustrophobia of being in a car is balanced by Namibia’s scenery. The road from Windhoek to Etosha passes through winding hills before entering the grasslands.

Getting into Swakopmund takes you through the oldest desert in the world, the Namib, and mountains before seeing the blue Atlantic pressing against the red sand dunes. Even driving in the capital of Windhoek was entertaining.

After driving through India, Turkey, Greece and Namibia, Sandeep feels empowered to get behind the wheel anywhere in the world. In his opinion, a drive down New York City’s Canal Street or to JFK airport from Manhattan are the best training grounds for driving abroad. Both are great due to tight lanes, potholes, clueless tourists, quirky road designs, cars merging from all directions and heavy jams. The driving styles of people from all over the world, from suicidal cabbies to double parked trucks, are good tests. The training made him prepared for defensive driving in India, speed racing on tight roads in Greece and watching out for animals in Namibia. Next week we’ll rent a car in South Africa, where the worst danger is car jacking. That’s an experience we plan to avoid.

Leave a Comment

Filed under Africa, Namibia