East London

November 3, 2008 – Monday – Coffee Bay to East London, Eastern Cape, South Africa

Southern Africa 2008

We have a late 10:30am departure from Coffee Bay, which gives everyone time to have a leisurely breakfast. There are some surfers and wake boarders out this morning, as well as some porpoises just past the surf line. I have plenty of time to walk the full length of the beach before we depart.

It is a long 200 km drive today. We travel through more of the dry Transkei Province, arriving in East London around 3:30pm. We are staying at the Kennaway Hotel, which is an older hotel that is in pretty good shape. The hotel is situated right on the East London esplanade (shoreline), and our guide Craig says it is safe to walk outside. It is very windy this afternoon, but many of our group walk along the waterfront and enjoy the fresh air and beautiful shoreline.

There is lots of action to see from my front-facing window at the hotel: a boy and a young man beg for change in the parking lot in front of the hotel (the boy gives the man any money he is given); construction workers wait for a ride home in a big covered truck (which finally arrives); young joggers from the exclusive health club located in the nearby aquarium building run along the waterfront; affluent black people pull up in the parking lot in front of the hotel in their fancy cars to use the ATM and buy junk food from a nearby convenience store.

I go for dinner this evening to Guido’s, a restaurant attached to the hotel, which is recommended by our guide Craig. The food is quite good. I have a calamari dinner and two glasses of wine (about 80 Rand or $9.50 including tip). It is a family-run restaurant, so the service is very good. I join a Swiss couple from our group for dinner this evening. They are very interesting to talk to. She has a South African friend with dual citizenship who moved to Switzerland after apartheid ended.

Canada also has many immigrants from South Africa, so we were comparing notes. We both agree that the current security problems in South Africa will likely get worse before they get better. We also agree that the role that South Africa currently enjoys as the economic engine of the African continent will not last. We think they will experience further economic declines before there is any possibility of a return to their current leadership position. As with other tour members, we agree prices of meals, liquor, as well as add-on tours is about one quarter to one half of what we would pay in Europe or North America.

November 4, 2008 – Tuesday – East London to Port Elizabeth, Eastern Cape

Before we leave East London this morning, we see a whale with its tail sticking vertically out of the ocean. As we drive through town, Craig points out the Mercedes assembly plant where most right hand drive vehicles are made for export to the rest of the world.

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