Meet P. He too lived through Apartheid (he was classified as coloured, which was worse than white, but better than black) and today is a sort of Del Boy figure, wheeling and dealing in property, operating a tour company, keeping an eye on his daughter and trying to keep a hand-in with football coaching. Lovely jubbly.
He’s taking us down to the wonderfully-named Cape of Good Hope, the very mention of which immediately makes me think of pirates and adventure and discovery and the world being flat.
Before that, though, we’re stopping off in Hout Bay, a little fishing town a little way down the coast. Initially, there doesn’t really seem to be much point in us stopping here; it’s quite pretty and all, but nothing that you wouldn’t find in the north of Scotland. But then we meet Peter, an almost-certainly-insane local, who P tells us has been locked in a 27 year battle with the authorities over his behaviour around the dock. Specifically, they don’t like his party piece – holding dead fish in his mouth and having blubbery, barking Cape Fur Seals leap from the water to snatch it out.
He has it down to a fine art, which is probably just as well as the seals are far bigger and, at least when food is on offer, more aggressive than expected. Peter has been feeding the seals like this since finding six pups covered in oil before I was even born. Only one survived and today, the imaginatively titled Petey Boy leads the pack when it comes out to hand outs. The Man says it creates a dangerous association with humans and food – and they might have a point; when a boy tried to imitate Peter’s weird feeding technique, his face was mauled.
The hobo in the red cap doesn’t really care (he later tells us that he has recently been in court for threatening to kill a man sent to poison Petey Boy) he just feeds the seals and collects donations from onlookers “for more fish” and possibly fortified wine.
We stop off at Boulders Beach to have a close up look at some African penguins in the wild but get absolutely soaked by a passing squall, so we’re quickly back in the van and heading towards the end of the earth. One of the great things about the Cape Point peninsula, the south westernmost point of the African continent, is that it looks exactly as it should – grand, dramatic, final, like Peter Jackson designed it with a limitless budget. Here, at the end of all things, the wind blows and the waves crash and mountains plunge into the sea. There’s so much fresh air and, well, general weather that the suffocating brown sky of Dubai seems like a dreadful impossibility.
We get buffeted by the wind at the Cape of Good Hope before heading for something to eat at the Two Oceans cliff top restaurant. As we’re visiting journalists, the manager orders the entire staff gather round our table to serenade us with a pitch-perfect, distinctly African chorus, before dancing off to the kitchen. Being British, and a dick, I find it quite embarrassing initially, but then quite enjoy it.
When they’ve left, a horrendous colonial type (she’s definitely into horses) leans over.
“I say, why did they do that for you? Are you on honeymoon?”
“No no, we’re just very, very important people.”
We tuck into a sprawling seafood platter (I avoid the mussels) but croquet woman hasn’t finished. Not satisfied with my answer, she wants to know more. I get half way through telling her the truth before she starts banging on about herself. No one is interested. Her teenage daughter is mortified. When she move on to P, grilling him about Apartheid (I’d be amazed if she didn’t support it) I have a strong desire to hurl her into the angry surf below.
We head back inland, pass an ostrich and a baboon, both of which have long since forgotten a fear of humans, and rattle towards the Sleepy Hollow Horse Riding centre. For reasons not immediately obvious to either of us, we’re here for a horse ride along a beach. We’re joined by a couple who actually are on honeymoon and are, bizarrely, from Glasgow, Shawlands in fact. That stabbing Glaswegian brogue is the last accent I expected to hear in a place like this.
We saddle up on grey horses Maestro and Cognac and tentatively follow our group leader out of the centre. It becomes pretty clear that my horse, Cognac, prefers eating to walking, this along with the general discomfort and increasing boredom confirm a long held suspicion that horse riding is, in fact, pure pish. Unfortunately for Wee Mo, the experience is altogether more unsettling. Her last riding experience came the best part of 20 years ago and ended with her thrown then hospitalised.When I fail to sufficiently stifle on of my irritatingly loud sneezes, her horse startles and almost bolts. The next 90 minutes are spent holding on tightly and occasionally cursing me. Like I said: horse riding = pish.
We’re taken to our new hotel, in the pretty little town of St James, but are both too tired to do much else other than digest the knowledge that our planned snorkelling with seals has been cancelled due to a choppy sea. Instead, the day will be ours to do as we please which, given how much running around we’ve done, is fantastic news.