Monday, August 19, 2013

South Africa's Wild Coast - East London

It was another long day of riding on the bus today, leaving at 7:30 a.m. and arrving at our hotel in East London after 5:00 p.m. We encountered a fair amount of highway construction and drove up and down a couple of mountain passes, but our driver delivered us safe and sound to our waterfront hotel.

The hotel itself is nothing special but, like most of our group, we have ocean-facing rooms on the third (our fourth) floor. We have the window cracked open and the sound of the waves crashing in is mesmerizing.

That was a welcome reward after several hours driving through country that reminds us a little bit of Eastern Oregon / central Idaho. That is, we encountered a lot of brown rolling hills. One key difference is that, unlike those places, we passed through areas dotted with "informal settlements, mainly tiny houses all over the hills. We could have passed 50-100,000 total population but even at a distance there is one big difference between here and many other places in the world; there are no discernible streets or even roads separating houses in many of these neighborhoods.

We also saw school children from elementary age up to secondary walking home many miles from school, still looking spiffy in their school uniforms, complete with white shirts and ties for the boys and skirts for the girls.

We went for a walk along the beach front before dark, and found ourselves a nice-looking restaurant just 100 yards or so from the hotel. Coincidentally, we bumped into a very friendly Australian couple on our walk and they accepted our suggestion that we dine together.

Photos will follow but we enjoyed a marvelous meal (seafood - seafood pasta for Kathy, grilled Dorado for Brian, and similar for our Aussie friends) sitting next to a window overlooking the ocean. The total bill for four of us was about half of what we would pay in the U.S. and maybe less than half of what we would pay in Australia. We said a pleasant goodnight to our service, a lovely lady soon going back to her native Zimbabwe to visit her mother and other family members, and the security guard at the front, identifiable by his very sturdy billy club.

We strolled back to the hotel and as we arrived in the parking lot a young employee burst out of the restaurant next door to warn us it wasn't a safe place to walk at night. Ignorance is bliss sometimes.

We're safe back in our hotel room with a late departure tomorrow and lots of time to rest up, sleep in, and enjoy the crashing of the waves.

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