The travelling doctor, Katie McAnena joins Boardseeker for the next installment of her adventurous and water filled year. From Maui and Barbados, Katie now recounts a very windy three weeks in Cape Town...
And yet despite the guesswork being taken out of so much of my trip, Cape Town still remained a bit of an enigma to me. As with so many of my windsurfing adventures I found myself slipping into the usual routine of eat, sleep, beach, sail, surf and party. I think we are so lucky to have a sport that takes us to so many diverse, beautiful corners of the World, but sometimes I feel, what it offers us in terms of travel opportunities, it takes from us in terms of a tunnel vision view of where we are.
Despite the fact that I was in one of the most culturally rich, diverse, volatile and historically important nations in the world, all I seemed to do was drive from beach to beach with the odd glimpse of Table Mountain in between and a very blinkered sense of where I was. I had to remind myself that the purpose of my trip there was to improve my sailing and push my fairly average port tack jumping skills, but there was always this niggling sense in the background that this time, more than any of my trips before, I was missing out on the bigger picture. Cape Town, in a purely non windsurfing sense, is famed for its aesthetic beauty, its cultural diversity, its role in ending apartheid and to some extent, its violence. If you had asked me what was it I knew about South Africa before going there I would have said; Table Mountain, Robin Island, Nelson Mandela, apartheid, townships, great white sharks, rugby and crime. And of course, windsurfing and surfing. Clearly a shockingly ignorant summary of a country that is so multi-dimensional and culturally conflicted.
But did I broaden my knowledge or change my impression in the 3 weeks I spent there? Probably, but not to any particularly larger extent. On its most simplistic level, I suppose my biggest concerns while I was there were crime and sharks, both of which, having been victim to hearsay and the media, I was genuinely worried about. So what of the crime? Luckily the closest encounter for me was a cheeky little lady trying to slide my iphone out of my pocket on a night out..... not exactly life threatening stuff, and I got the phone back... so pretty much just like any other standard night out anywhere really. To be perfectly honest, I’m not sure whether it was luck or whether it was a refelction of where I was staying and who I was staying with, but my danger level guage never simmered up to amber or red. That may have been the crux of the issue, as I was staying in the relatively wealthier neighbourhood of Sunset Beach and my social circle was dominated by my UK and European friends. However, though my circumstances dictated a more rose-tinted glass impression of the place, it’s fair to say I had found myself a safety blanket away from the real Cape Town.
My very good friend from home was working as an Anaesthetist in the biggest trauma hospital in the city and she was exposed to treating the highest number of stab wounds in South Africa. This, paired with the shocking statistics that emerged in relation to the exponential rise of home robberies, violent attacks and the rising culture of “self-protection" following the Oscar Pistorious saga, made my little bubble experience of Cape Town seem even less relevant.
And what of the sharks? Well, I refused to take my surfboard so as to avoid dangling my legs into the sea as tasty bait and my falling in to waterstarting reaction time was lightening fast. Michael Phelps had nothing on me when it came to sprinting after my gear in the white water! And so I came away unscathed and with a speedy Gonzalez approach to getting back up on my board, which in my head was saving me from limb loss but in reality was probably just teaching me to faff around less in the water and maximise my sailing time!