Friday, March 26, 2010

Is Less More ?

(a feature I'm working on for the next 021 mag issue)

Cape Town is our Mother City and a place of sensory explosion. Her changing landscape is extraordinarily beautiful; the mountain meets the ocean, and the city finds harmony in between. Cape Town is my sanctuary, and I know, that whilst the city’s streets will be moved upon by changing feet, the natural structures shall remain loyal. Many MNC’s like to bank in on Natural Beauty. Setting up borders with boom barriers, handing out day passes and guiding tour groups….we all end up living vicariously through The Council. And, let me tell you, this is no way to experience Cape Town. Especially if you only have R100.
A day in Cape Town for under R100 really is subjective. Travel, food, drink…primary expenses one cannot do without. Hunter S Thompson, in an interview with Matthew Hahn in 1997, refers to the metaphor of a tree falling down in a wood. You cannot hear it, but it did happen. Silent actions. This is the heart of my feature. You do not need any proof of your day to show to people when you get home. He or she will experience this, perhaps, in his or her own time. And if they don’t, well, they can just ask you. You will be able to tell a lot more than a present you could have bought for them would. So here is my day in Cape Town for under R100. Enjoy.

Breakfast – been granted as the most important meal of the day. Usually, for myself, Breakfast comes in the form of a dry double skinny Cap from Seattle, gulped down before I scramble into my office. But, this sets me back by R19. So, today, there will be no foamy black gold. And besides, today I am not dealing with any drones dressed in ‘suitable attire’. That’s what double Caps are really needed for. So, I head to Beleza on Kloof Street. This will be my starting point today.

Staying clear from ordering any coffee, I go for the trusted R12 fry up breakie. Being hostage to a R100 budget, I take pleasure in taking my sweet time carving my way through two pieces of toast, sunny side up egg, a fried tomatoe and two rashes of bacon. The great thing about Beleza is this breakie special is on all day. If you are up before 7 however, many little cafes in town will serve the Early Bird which will set you back about R10.

Long Street: A famed street, where the spirit of Cape Town is at its most obtuse. A straight stretch of concrete; Long Street wears a different face every day. Flanked with backpackers, the street is a constant runway for tourists, and if filled with the energy they exert. The Street is your base to explore the city. It is a fairyland, filled with goblins and hides many secrets. The architecture, a merge of Victorian and Art Deco style, creates an old-world ambience filled with new life.

The attraction of Long Street is that it offers a juxtaposed experience; where by high art meets popular culture and old blends with new. It is a street of textures; oil paintings, rich in colour, exist across the street from plastic retro creations and soft cashmere cardigans.

It is a street for all ages, all races, all cultures, all Everything. And each person has a favourite part. I cannot decide yours, however, I can try capturing the feeling you will come inhale. You do not need to reach for your wallet to be included the magic of the City. Why buy something tangible to trigger a memory you will not forget in any case? It all comes down to opening your eyes, your mind and your heart to the people, sounds, sights, smells and tastes around you. Forgetting my dogma falsely attached to Cape Town, I spend the next two hours exploring the mystique hidden behind each corner and in each smiling face.

Welcomed overdoses for my senses, my legs are tired and I crave the soft, velvety feel of grass. Cape Town is no Big Apple, but we do have our own inner city park – The Company Gardens. I find a spot under a tree and close my eyes, clearing my head. Time stands still and the rush of the city seems lifetimes away.

My next destination holds the promise of lunch and requires a return train ride that’ll set me back R13. I am off to Kalk Bay; a fishing village about 40 minutes outside Cape Town and a haven for all us city slickers. As I build invisible steam, the graffiti walls and hustled side-walks give way to ocean views and salty air. I feel like a child again, and I realize moments like these cannot be bought, with R100 or even R1000 000. I soak in the beauty of Kalk Bay; and bask in the energy of a culture that is a joyous blend of classes that celebrate life in his or her own unique way.

At the local store, I buy two bread rolls and a large packet of Simba Cheese & Chives chips, and a banana for later. This sets me back R7.5, and is my substitute to the traditional slop chips and fish all wrapped up in newspaper that I would usually opt for. I did check for a half portion size, but life in Kalk Bay is simple and complications and exceptions are avoided.

I sit on the harbour, surrounded by wooden fishing boats and bunch of young children running around in leaps and bounds, arms waving, all bright-eyed and rosy-cheeked. I miss those days. The ones made up of innocent hours.

I walk down the main station and find stores filled with obscure treasures; some old and some new, and all a small part that makes Kalk Bay the charming town it is. Second hand stores have given a home to past decade remnants, and you don’t really want to wipe away the dust off the dolls, books and hand-built yachts; it is the ashes of a life gone. A little magic dust that comes from a place far away.

With my thoughts still caught up in someone else’s past, I treat myself to a glass of pomegranate juice (R10) at a charming sea-side cafĂ©, feel indifferent to the fear I had earlier felt of having only R100. So far, the money is really just an excuse for me to stay here longer. I am buying my time, one could say. I guess in a world of Capitalism and gross consumption, even time can be bought.

The train ride back is a sweaty interlude, and after arriving back at the station, I make my way, pushing and shoving, to the taxi rank. I follow directions that are shouted at me by various people, and hope to God I’m on the taxi that will take me somewhere close to Camps Bay.

A taxi ride in Cape Town is in its own right an experience like none other. Such as the motorized rickshaws are to India, the Taxi is to Cape Town. You’ll find yourself a sardine in a large automobile, that you pray has working brakes and a driver who has a licence and a sympathetic heart. It also costs only R5, and you rule the road. Pedestrians, cyclists, vendors, strays…you name it; everyone stays clear of The Taxi. Expect to go through a red robot and listen to some crazy base blasting through speakers that sound like they were used in a night club.

I get as far as Sea Point. I can’t really complain; I realize walking plenty is a given in a day limited to R100. Just behind me I can see the public Sea Point Swimming Pool. It’s a free refreshment opportunity here, I know. But time waits for no one and I have plenty on my agenda still to do! And, at least in the ocean I cannot see any pee that someone took the liberty of having. A 30 minute walk alongside the promenade, I am at Camps Bay – the gem of Cape Town’s Golden Strip. Beach vendors roam the ivory sand, luring topless sun bathers with popsicles and Coca-Cola. I grab a Popsicle (R6) and count my remains. (46.5)
The cold, menacing Atlantic Ocean engulfs me, and my whole body becomes a canvass of salty goose bumps. I’ve seen this landscape scene all in a post-card before, and I do find myself wishing a few certain others were here with me.
Its 4pm and the next two hours are dedicated to climbing Lions Head. As clichĂ© as it might sound, this walk / hike really is a must do if you’re on a tight budget. I’ve prepped myself with essentials, which include walking shoes I stored in my backpack, a PowerAde (9) and an apple (2.40) The sun is still bright at this time, I reach the summit in sweaty smiles and as I gaze over the city below me I am filled with gratitude to be living in this city of wonder.

As the day draws to an end, I catch a taxi (R5) back to town and walk back up Long Street. A transformation from the day, the street is filled with night-time energy that’ll be used up in dancing and drinking, in mingling and laughter…all in all, in good times that will probably not be remembered tomorrow. But, fuck it, you know there will be plenty more to come.

I resist all the Nigerian hustles trying to sell me all sorts of goodies, and get myself a R10 boereworse roll that is dressed to impress with onions and three sauces. 6pm and I have about R20 left. A day of shenanigans, like this one, deserves a cold beer. And in the spirit of celebrating local, I head to Mixes bar and restaurant on Kloof Street to take advantage of 5 – 7 R7 beer special. One Black Label (R7) and an introduction later, I get up to leave in fear of presenting some kind tourist with a mid conversation yawn. I’m exhausted anyway. Eating the rest of my lunch-time chips I had shoved in the back pack, I find my way to the Salvation Army, where I will be spending the night. A shelter in Cape Town costs around R12 and this takes me to R98.9

So there! Cape Town not only can be done in R100, but in less! I retrace through my day and take thought at how my budget went to primary survival elements. If only I was a vampire who could chill in the sunshine. God, human consumption is a bitch.

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