Dispatch from the Razor's Edge, the Blog of Michael Stephen Fuchs
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High Above the Rainbow City

     That's what Desmond Tutu has called Cape Town. It's even more commonly known as The Mother City – the cultural and spiritual capital of South Africa, I gather. I confess this is where I would, should, and genuinely want to insert a few well-edited paragraphs from my Berlitz Pocket Cape Town guide, which I read on the plane – a few good bits about the very interesting genesis and history of this semi-European outpost at the bottom of the world, this metropolitan steward of the Cape of Good Hope. But you know what? I'm sitting in the lounge of "The Backpack" (the backpackers lodge that is Mark's and my address for the next four days), I'm tapping happily away, I'm drinking something sparkling and fruity (and non-alcoholic – a pretty major personal/cultural adjustment for me, doing this without a pint (or four)!), watching Mark shoot pool with some Aussies, chatting with folks here and again (very nice crowd in this place – Mark has already commented on the commune-like nature of the facility, and how one could do worse than, well, just live here), listening to a highly eclectic sampling of music (Queens of the Stone Age, mariachi music), and just being well-pleased with myself and with life.

And my Belitz Guide is back in the room. Perhaps I'll amble back for it before I shoot this off. Otherwise – no edifying political/cultural Cape Town history for you! But I will show you some really groovy pictures of Cape Town, from way up over it.

By the end of my final leg of travel – an endless night on a packed 747-400 across the height of two continents (which followed three hours of sleep the night before), then an hour on the tarmac in Johannesburg, then a final two-hour hop from Jo-burg to Cape Town – I tell you I was pretty wrecked, head about to fall off of neck, frankly. However I was perked up quite a bit when Table Mountain lumbered into the frame of my window; and I was feeling positively sprightly on the shuttle into town, when I got a taste of the Mediterranean climate – hmm: 70, breezy, brillianty sunny; seems happily familiar. My tongue was practically hanging out the window.

I met Mark (who got in a couple of hours before me) at the striking, Italian Rennaissance City Hall, which poked into view in bits as I negotiated the Wednesday market across the way. The market is in the space that held the like 130,000 people who listened to Mandela speak from the City Hall balcony, the day after his release from the Robben Island prison.

M: Let's see, you're . . . four minutes early. Okay, on a two-day, 10,000-mile trip, you're allowed a four-minute margin of error.
M: Thanks. You know, I recognized you from almost a block away – from your posture. You were hunched over reading, just like always – just like when you sat on the wall on the Acropolis that time.

Mark is also packed spectacularly light – his bag is 2/3 the dimensions of mine – with his sleeping bag and ground pad (and a volume each of Dostoevsky, Nabokov, and Bronte) inside. I'm instantly in awe. We get busy humping these rucks up toward the backpackers where I wrote to secure a reservation. The place in question had the significant virtues of a good location, Internet access, a few private doubles w/en suite bathrooms, and negligable price. It does not turn out, however, sadly, to have the virtue of existence, which explains why they didn't return my mail. Could you please turn off your web site when you go out of business?!

No worries, though, as we got the last private double w/head in the Backpack, which as previously mentioned, has turned out spectacularly well. We're happy guys here. Having dropped off our camel humps, we headed out to hit the town. We only have four days in Cape Town, and this was one of them. Word on the street was that thick, spilling fog can roll in over Table Mountain at any time ("the tablecloth"), so if you can see the top, now's a good time to go to it. We begin the trek to the lower cable car station, which looks pretty far to me – and, as my map failed to illustrate, is starkly elevated, even at the base of the mountain – but Mark is extremely keen on the hike, and so hike it we do. I love to move my legs at least as much as the next Intrepid Explorer, but I'm worried about the fading light and the cablecar schedule.

Upon reaching the station, my griping seems to be – not justified, as when is griping ever, but at least rooted in some facts of the matter: We're told we've just missed the last car up for the day, a bit after 6pm. Blimey! As we turn away, and I get busy trying to master myself to the point of making 0.0 comments on this to Mark, we're hailed frantically back: They're letting us duck under the rope and sprint up to hop on the last departing car! Yeah!

Okay, right, those pictures then:

We hop a (free) cab ride back down the hill, to Long Street, the lively, funky, backpackery drag (which reminds me a bit of San Ignacio, Belize), and dine at the Caravan Cafe, am empty, winning Moroccan joint with solicitous employees who paused quite frequently to suck on one of two resident hookas. Dinner is stellar and free (okay, 110 rands (11 smackers) for two big entrees, two appetizers, and world-famous Caravan Cafe home-made ice teas, which are highly minty and sweet). I stay conscious long enough to crank out yesterday's dispatch, then the both of us sleep the sleep of steamroller hit-and-run victims.
Tomorrow: A special dispatch commemoration; plus Mark smiling tightly as Michael drags him on a Cape Town greatest-hits walking tour – and the Nomad Adventure Tours orientation meeting!

  cape town     africa     pitely     travel  
close photo of Michael Stephen Fuchs

Fuchs is the author of the novels The Manuscript and Pandora's Sisters, both published worldwide by Macmillan in hardback, paperback and all e-book formats (and in translation); the D-Boys series of high-tech, high-concept, spec-ops military adventure novels – D-Boys, Counter-Assault, and Close Quarters Battle (coming in 2016); and is co-author, with Glynn James, of the bestselling Arisen series of special-operations military ZA novels. The second nicest thing anyone has ever said about his work was: "Fuchs seems to operate on the narrative principle of 'when in doubt put in a firefight'." (Kirkus Reviews, more here.)

Fuchs was born in New York; schooled in Virginia (UVa); and later emigrated to the San Francisco Bay Area, where he lived through the dot-com boom. Subsequently he decamped for an extended period of tramping before finally rocking up in London, where he now makes his home. He does a lot of travel blogging, most recently of some very  long  walks around the British Isles. He's been writing and developing for the web since 1994 and shows no particularly hopeful signs of stopping.

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ARISEN : Operators, Volume I - The Fall of the Third Temple by Michael Stephen Fuchs
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