Cape Town: Glitter, Beggars, Mountains, Jazz!

We arrived in Cape Town on Friday morning after a brutal 32 solid hours of airports, airplanes and airline food. We were successfully able to check in at the Auckland airport without being asked for proof of onward travel (you may remember that I nearly missed a flight to Auckland because of this in 2009) and went through South Africa customs without a problem.

We were lucky to have accidentally chosen the weekend of Cape Town Fest for the date of our arrival, and were rewarded with a huge parade on Saturday night. People started queuing at the barriers on the sidewalk long before the sun set, donning sparkly feathered Mardi Gras-esque chintzy masks and drinking sour Castle beer from flimsy plastic cups, beggars with no teeth and mismatched shoes jingling handfuls of small Rand coins through the throngs of people.

Then, we watched as the streets lit up after dark, starting with huge foam puppet unicorns, giraffes, springbok, flying  owls, a kangaroo, gangly ostriches running circles around each other, a dancing tyrannosaurus rex. Church youth groups danced to intense drum beats, their elbows punctuating the rhythm around them, some in tribal costumes with glitter face paint, some in neon glowing pinstripe suits and bowlers with trumpets, kids with vuvuzelas tooting along to the beat from precarious window sill roosts high above the crowds. The hotpantsed moffies–gay men or perhaps simply in drag– doing casual backflips down the sidewalk or on parade floats (singing predictably to the Village People but attracting awe and attention nonetheless). Spectators lined the streets, oversized glitter bits clinging to their sweaty hairlines and cleavage, young men in skinny pants and vests, girls in short shorts or shiny leggings and gladiator sandals, fat older gay couples with button-up shirts and suspenders meandering along the movement of the street. Kids clung to lampposts with a certain borderline tantrum, too-tired-to-function-anymore look to them, right around when I started to feel the same way and we went back to the room to bed, too jetlagged to even be hungry.

The past few days we have been going to see jazz concerts in the garden park, eating tuna sandwiches and watching several different wedding parties stop for photos, radiant brides surrounded by bridesmaids in shiny gold or hot pink polyester matching dresses shooing away the pigeons before posing and smiling, Table Mountain in the sun behind them. Having coffee in little market restaurants, sitting in bright plastic chairs at bright plastic tables with bright plastic tablecloths covered in pictures of Barack Obama, yellow and purple cardinals holding a banner that says “Hooray for the President!”

The next step is deciding when to leave–we will take the train to Johannesburg or Pretoria, but without an agenda and being in a place we like, it’s hard to make that decision…

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