Last 24 hours in South Africa and How I Almost Got Knifed

While I was in South Africa I updated my Facebook status about how I almost was knifed and that definitely garnered a lot of attention. Here comes the story.

Half an hour after we got back from Table Mountain, we were out on the town again, this time headed for downtown to do some souvenir shopping. This was my last call for shopping in Africa so I wanted to pick up some items for the folks at home and so did everyone else. On our way into town I was telling Bob, Lizzy, and Adam about my awesome time sand boarding. Bob and Lizzy listened attentively and said that they wanted to try it themselves. I wanted to go as well, but tomorrow was our last day and I was booked on a vineyard tour that started at noon and lasted all day. However, wanting to squeeze my Cape Town experience for all its worth, I decided to call the sand boarding company to see if there was any possibility of doing an early morning session. They told me that they could pick us up at 8, get us to the dunes by 9, give us two hours of boarding, and have us back by noon. Perfect. It was decided. While I was on the phone call was the first time we almost were knifed.

There we were, walking down a street in Cape Town in broad daylight. A man approaches Bob and asks for money. Bob refuses and the man shows him a closed jackknife. The man tells Bob “I don’t want to hurt you.” Bob tells the man to “fuck off,” and the man proceeds to open the knife. I was oblivious up until this point because I was on the phone. I saw the man but I did not hear or see any of this action occurring. I only noticed when Bob told me “dude, the guy has a knife. Run” I was on the phone and I was not approached by the man, so I simply kept walking amongst a group of other people and continued my phone conversation. The man’s beef was with Bob, not me. Once I was in front of a hotel on the other side of the street, I turned around and saw Bob, Lizzy, and Adam talking to some construction workers. The knife man was gone and so the others rejoined me and we continued on our walk. The whole episode was weird. I’ve met some pretty insistent beggars but I’ve never heard of one threatening to stab you.

We carried on into the city, did our shopping, spent a couple of hours walking around. We stopped by a bar and had a beer at an outside table and watched city life unfold. Then we hopped into a cab and headed back to the ship to get ready for dinner. It was just Bob and I going to dinner tonight. We decided to go to V&A Waterfront. The boat was docked at Duncan Dock. The MV Explorer stops in a lot of places that pleasure cruises don’t visit, thus we frequently dock in commercial shipping ports as opposed to cruise terminals one visits in the Bahamas or Fort Lauderdale. When we do stop in popular ports, we oftentimes still dock amongst commercial vessels because massive cruise ships get priority on the cruise ship terminals instead of our small ship full of budget-minded college students. Thus, we had to walk from the commercial waterfront to the fancy waterfront. It was after dark and Bob and I were alone. Randomly we here a man yell. We turn to the right and there is the knife man from a few hours prior, running towards us. The man looks to be in his 50s and he’s wearing flip-flops and carrying a plastic shopping back. Seeing that we can easily outrun this guy, we decide to do so. We ran past a port security guard who asked us why we were running. We told him, “There was a man chasing us with a knife.” The guard clutched his radio and spoke into it: “Command, we have a sighting in Parking lot six.” We told the guard what the guy looked like and then carried on our merry way as he went to go look for the guy.

Given that the man was much older than us, he was alone, and he had a knife, not a gun, neither Bob nor I felt really scared but rather thought of it as more of a nuisance. If there had been a physical altercation the two of us definitely could have taken him. However, I think we were more surprised just that it had occurred, rather that we had been in danger. If the man had been younger and stronger, if he was accompanied by others, or if he simply had had a gun not a knife, we would have been a statistic.

Bob and I ate dinner at the same seafood restaurant from two nights ago. Not surprisingly, the service was much better on a Tuesday night. After dinner we went around the corner to Mitchell’s, the irish bar and restaurant that all the semester at sea kids had been haunting since we pulled into cape town. A number of people were already there, including my friend Tally, who was there with her father and her stepmother. A handful of SASers were visited in South Africa by parents. Tally had just been on a safari with hers and this was there last night together before the parents took off to explore more of Africa on their own. Tally’s father offered to buy me a drink, which I graciously accepted. The big hit at Mitchell’s is a fish bowl, which is a fishbowl filled with ice, juice, and assorted spirits. The concoction is blue overall and tastes like nothing but the color blue too. As we sat at a picnic table sipping our complimentary drinks more and more SASers arrived at Mitchell’s. As usual, SAS was taking over, although this time it was slightly different because since Cape Town was predominately white it wasn’t as obvious that we were all foreigners as it was at bars in Ghana or Brazil. Someone originally told me that everyone was going to a place called Hemisphere tonight, but I was soon informed by more and more people that this had been changed to another place called Caprice. At around 1030 everyone decided to head over to Caprice. I called my good friends at Elite Taxi and arranged a pick-up from Mitchell’s. Soon we were all loaded up and ready for the evening’s main event, but first, we stopped at a gas station and stocked up on energy drinks to supplement the 15 hours of sleep I had obtained in the past three days.

Caprice was uncomfortably far away in an area called Camp’s Bay. Camp’s Bay is the South Beach Miami of Cape Town, but I saw no reason that we should choose this town for our evening activity. We were there to hang out and enjoy our last night in Africa, not go to the beach. Eventually we arrived at Caprice and my discontent tripled. Caprice was more of a bar/restaurant than a bar/club. There were two small bars in the venue but only one of them was open, which behind three bartenders worked. This made no sense to me. If they didn’t know they were going to get the big crowd, why did they have three bartenders on that night? If they knew they were going to have a big crowd so they had three bartenders on a Tuesday night, why didn’t they use the second bar? Anyways, quickly a giant mob developed in front of the bar, making it a strenuous activity to purchase a drink. I mingled about for a while but eventually I became frustrated with the situation so Bob and I walked down the street to see what other bars were open. Most venues were already closed and the street was quiet. We felt slightly apprehensive given our encounter earlier that evening so we walked in the street, however this time the mood had changed. We were sick of being hassled and vowed to take on anyone else who should dare to make that mistake again. This conversation was accompanied by some air-kicks and a bit of yelling to amp up the masculine energy and prepare ourselves. Luckily, besides one woman who wanted spare change, we made it to Dizzy’s without any problems. Dizzy’s was cheaper, less pretentious, and more fun than Caprice. There were lots of South African youths performing karaoke and the beers were 2 for 1. We decided to stick around here and gradually we were joined by more fed-up SASers.

It was my last night, the music was great, the beers were cheap, and I was with my friends. We hit the dance floor and I was quick to bust a move. The energy drink was alive and well in my system and I was emphatic, much to the dismay of the girl who I may have stepped on our bumped in to. The first time I did it she yelled at me, the second time she gave me a shove. I’m not sure why one gets mad at someone because of unintentional but unavoidable physical contact on a crowded dance floor, but she did and it was obvious that we were foreigners and they were not happy to see us. Around 1 o’clock I received word that caprice had closed. Apparently someone had reached behind the bar and stolen a bottle and thus they decided to close. I’m not sure who is managing this bar but they’re terrible. The wholesale cost of a bottle of liquor to a bar is minimal. The revenue that they forfeited by closing when there were still hundreds of thirsty, affluent American teenagers is innumerable. What a shame. Regardless, we were enjoying Dizzys and were glad to be able to salvage the evening.

Eventually my hyperactivity wore off and I was ready to return to the ship. There were a number of cabs in front of Dizzy’s, including one SUV, and it was my mission to find enough SASers wishing to return to the ship at this point that we could fill the SUV and make the cost per person small. I scooped up a number of them, including Bob, who left when the four locals whom he was talking to randomly, and quite awkwardly I might add, stopped conversing, each pair broke off into a make out session.

When I returned to my room on the ship I found that 3 additional people decided to join me on my sunrise sand boarding trip. I went to bed and awoke early the next morning to get ready to board. We left at 8 o’clock, six of us sand boarders, for a 2 hour session. I was glad that our SUV was now full considering that originally Sunscape had agreed to host the trip for only three people, with each of us paying a price per person. The drive out to the dunes was unremarkable, except when we arrived we were halted by the security guard. As it so happens, the dunes were being used to film a movie that day. There was disagreement in terms of who’s permit to use the dunes superseded who’s, with the production company forbidding us from entering the dunes used for sand boarding. This took a long time to settle, and as Upi spoke to various people in authority, our sand boarding time grew shorter and shorter. Eventually Upi came back and we found we were relegated to another section of the dunes further down the road. We drove one kilometer and found another entrance to the dunes, however, this path through the scrubby plants took longer. The path to the original dunes was less than a one minute drive form the main road. In this section we were driving for another 15 minutes, bouncing and skidding through the sand, finding the perfect hill to ride down. Again, this reduced our time further. Finally, Upi found a good spot and we hit the dunes as quickly as possible. It had rained recently and the sand was firmer and less flowy than it had been the first time it was here. Although I understood procedure, unfortunately it was not obvious that I had 3 hours of sand boarding experience and the other five had none. we enjoyed the sands and I momentarily forgot the dune debacle. Soon though, the park ranger approached us and told Upi that we were still in the shot of the movie producer and that we needed to move. Upi stood ready to move the SUV and trailer to another spot, but it was already time to make our way back to the ship. We took photos, backed up, and made our way back to the road over the bouncy, sandy trail. Upset that we were able to sand board for less than an hour, I called sunscape’s office on my cell. I explained to Jessica that fortunately twice as many sand surfers joined us than originally anticipated, but that unfortunately this movie production debacle ruined the experience. I reminded her that this was my second time sand boarding and that I only came back because I had such an awesome time the first one, but that this second did not live up to the first. I then asked her to give us half off our sand boarding, given that that was the money they were expecting to receive anyway, and that we only got to sand board half the time we expected. Jessica apologized and told me that was not possible. That they had done their best to put this trip together on such short notice and that they couldn’t do anything about it. I retorted that it was not the weather or highway traffic or some other highly unforeseen circumstance that ruined sand boarding today, but that this movie production was surely scheduled months in advance and it was sunscape’s negligence that forced us to sit their wasting time pleading with the producers only to eventually go down the street. Jessica made some lame excuse and offered to give us a 150 ZAR discount for our trouble and that she was sorry it wasn’t what we had hoped for. The situation only deteriorated when Upi became the slowest driver in the world, proceeding to slow down at green lights, making them yellow and then subsequently red. He knew that i had to be back at noon but he took his time.The clock ticked on and I grew more anxious and noon grew closer quicker than we grew close to the city.

Soon it hit noon and I still wasn’t at the port, therefore I was missing my FDP, my wine tour for my business classes. I was bummed, but not stressed, given that it was out of my hands now. I maintained a small amount of hope that we’d return to the ship and the trip would be running late as well, therefore I’d be able to make the bus. We pulled into the port and, of course, the bus was gone. I shrugged it off and realized the advantage that now I would have the afternoon to finally use the internet and take care of other necessitates before leaving the country. As we walked towards the ship I saw the field office director, the lady who organizes all the SAS trips. I confirmed with her that I had missed the bus, but, there was one girl who was going to take a cab to the vineyard instead. She asked me if I wanted to join her. I told her that the vineyard was far away and that I wasn’t spending $100 on a cab, instead I’d just do a field trip in another country. She told me that she couldn’t do a field trip in another country, she needed this one, and that I could pay a smaller portion than her, because she’s going anyway, with or without me. I agreed, and my lateness costed me an extra $40 in cab fare. I was no longer upset about missing the bus, though. I was able able to sand board that morning, if even for a small amount of time, and I simply paid the taxi fare for the privilege of doing so.

I passed out in the cab from exhaustion after looking at Ellen’s helicopter pictures. She had taken a scenic tour of Cape Town and that was her reason for missing the bus. When I woke up, I was at a beautiful vineyard in Stellenbosch, South Africa’s wine country. The SAS group was in the field adjacent to the parking lot. The tour had only just begun. We listened to one of the vineyard’s owners talk about the growing process, then take us inside to tell us all about the process of actual winemaking. Then we entered a banquet room where we sampled a handful of the vineyard’s wines after a lesson on the mechanics of a wine tasting. There was also a delectable sampling of cheeses and crackers that complimented the various varietals. After the tasting, we had an opportunity to visit the store. Adam and I bought a bottle of merlot and purchased a few souvenir glasses to use on the bus ride to the next vineyard. I then surveyed the grounds for a few minutes. Vineyards are beautiful places. It’s no surprise to me that people choose to get married there, although their beauty does surprise me. A vineyard is an agricultural and manufacturing operation. When else would one have so much beauty? Speaking of beautiful, there was an adorable golden retriever hanging around the grounds, which immediately made me miss Gus and Titus. We’d seen hundreds of dogs on this voyage but this was the first time since the US I could pet one without fear of getting rabies.

Soon we left and had a short drive to the other vineyard. It was another surreal moment, sitting on the air conditioned bus sipping a glass of wine as the South African landscape passed by the bus window. The sky above was sunny and cloudless and fields of grapes stretched on for miles. In the distance brown, treeless mountains stretched across the horizon. Soon we reached Backsberg wine estate. Again, more beautiful grounds. This time, no vineyard tour, just a tasting. This vineyard master, though, knew his audience better and everyone was laughing, having a good time, or maybe it was just because the wine from the first vineyard was kicking in. This vineyard let us try their premium wine and although I can’t critique wine and talk about tropical fruit accents, the difference was certainly clear. They also produce brandy which has its own method for tastings. Again, we had a few moments to stroll around and then we boarded the bus and returned back to the ship. It had been a full day and a beautiful conclusion to our time in South Africa

Table Mountain, Cape Town SA

I woke up the next morning at went to wake up Bob for Table Mountain. Originally I told Bob we’d go at 10AM because I expected I would have been out partying the night before and need to sleep in a little bit. Instead, I ended up back at the ship with Lizzy at a reasonable hour so I was pumped and ready to go the next morning at 7. After a little pounding on the door Bob finally came to the door. I told him the plan and soon he was ready to go. At breakfast Adam met up with us. Adam told me that he had been ready since six, thinking that he was going to find someone to hike Table Mountain with at sunrise. Adam surprised me that day. I think my original judgement was wrong because I kind of took him for being one of the party boys on the ship. I had seen him at Mercury the night before but here he was, ready to take on the mountain the next morning. It reminded me to keep an open mind.

After grabbing some breakfast we went to Tymitz Square. Lizzy and her friends were there assembling for their journey to the mountain. I suggested that we all take a cab together seeing as there were seven people total; the maximum capacity of a cab. They agreed and soon we were off. There are many ways to hike up Table Mountain but I was told by locals to enter via the Kirstenbosch gardens. Everyone else was slightly annoyed when we had to pay to get into the garden because there are other ways to the top that are free to the public. Soon though we discovered that it would be well worth the money.

We walked through the gardens to the mouth of the trail. I would have enjoyed spending some time exploring the gardens considering we were already there and paid, but the others were on a mission to climb so we took the most direct path through the garden to the hiking trail. Parts of the trail were just a little steep but others were nearly vertical. There was rock climbing involved and at one point even a ladder to climb. It was vigorous exercise and my shirt was drenched with sweat as we neared the top. An hour into our journey we reached the surface of table mountain. The view of Cape Town in front of us and below was stunning. Behind us the surface of the mountain sloped up into the clouds, or “the table cloth,” as its referred to. The visibility was pristine, unfettered by smog or pollution. We stopped for lots of pictures and to appreciate the view. Nearby we found a map which showed that we were a four hour hike away from the other side of the table where there is a restaurant and a cable car. We headed off in that direction, walking into the clouds. We took the walk at a gradual pace. The cloud surrounding us cooled our sweaty bodies from the ascent. We made it to Maclear’s Beacon, the highest point of the mountain, 1085 meters higher than where we departed the ship a few hours prior. The trail also passed by a cliff face without any guard rail. I laid on my stomach and inched my neck over the cliff. I wondered how far the cliff plunged, although the cloud kept it a mystery. Eventually we made it to the restaurant.

The restaurant reminds me of any restaurant at the top of a mountain at a ski resort. There is a cafeteria and lots of tables and everything costs twice as much as it would on ground level. At first I regretted that we did not just carry our lunch with us considering we all had backpacks, but then I decided to have some pizza, again, for the first time since I left the United States, and it seemed like a more worthy expense. With my lunch I had South African red wine. I’m not sure if they have a similar product in the US, but I bought a small bottle of wine that probably had the volume of two glasses of wine. The brand was called Bob’s Your Uncle, and the marketing was half of the draw towards it. They have advertising around Cape Town for it that says “Real men drink wine straight from the bottle.” Interesting. I guess that’s the idea behind serving wine in a beer bottle. Soon Lizzy’s friends had to leave because they wanted to go on a tour of Robben Island, the site of Nelson Mandela’s imprisonment. Lizzy stayed back with us as we leisurely enjoyed the fruits of our labor.

We took the cable car back down the mountain. The cable car rotates as it descends down the cable, giving everyone a panoramic view. Again, the clouds made things interesting as we descended into pure white. Eventually we pierced through and were greeted with another breathtaking view of the entire city. It’s a shame the cable car moves so fast because it was all over in a few minutes time. At the bottom we hopped into a cab and returned to the ship.

Unlike Sunday, I knew exactly what the plan was for Monday in Cape Town. I signed up to go sea kayaking to boulder beach and sand boarding in the dunes outside of the city. Like shark diving, this was another experience where I was never really certain who I would be traveling with until the morning of. There was considerable switching back and fourth, but all I knew was that I wanted to see some penguins and some sand dunes. The night before, right as I got back to the ship and went to bed, I ran into my dear friend Emma. I told her of my plan for the next day and by coincidence, she too was going on the same trip. Knowing I had at least one friend along made my outlook towards the experience exponentially better.

As planned, we met the tour organizer outside the port at 8AM. The entire group was assembled shortly thereafter with the exception of one person. Rafael was on the roster for this trip but no one knew where he was. We waited for fifteen minutes. Then, Sean decided to run back to the ship to see if he could find him. Another fifteen minutes lapsed and Sean came running back to the van with Rafael behind him. The group in the van was pissed. The whole time we were waiting there was a discussion about how Rafael is infamous in his disregard for other people’s time. As it so happens, Rafael was still asleep when Sean pounded on his cabin door. Rafael offered no excuse, extenuating circumstance, or apology. He simply climbed into the van and we were finally able to leave.

We had an hour long drive that was very scenic for the latter half as the road hugged the coastline. Eventually we arrived at a marina where we were outfitted with two-person kayaks. I was stuck with Rafael. Rafael wanted to steer the kayak, as these kayaks were outfitted with rudders, but I insisted that his tardiness demerited him from steering privilege, and no I would not flip a coin for it. Kayaking within the harbor was a breeze as the water was entirely flat, but exiting the shelter of the docks, the water picked up, and soon the experience became irritating. Within five minutes Rafael was complaining about the paddling, not believing that he actually paid money for this. Why did he sign up for this? Why did anyone sign up for this? We could have easily driven to the penguin beach if we wanted to see penguins! The paddling was rigorous but really it was the whining that made things unbearable. Finally, we arrived to Boulder Beach, home to a large colony of jackass penguins. These cute little fellas live on the beach year round in Cape Town and are generally pretty relaxed around humans.

There were three penguins sitting on a rock that I decided to approach to take some pictures. I slowly inched closer in order to avoid frightening them. Either a local or European man from a distance shouted something. I could not understand him so I replied, “Do you speak English?” The man repeated himself and this time I understood him. It became evident that he was speaking English and I simply did not understand his accent the first time. The man was instructing me not to get too close or I’ll scare off the penguins. I wanted a good picture of the penguins and did not see this man in any position of authority over me so I went closer anyway. The penguins were allowing and I got my pictures. Eventually though, they waddled off towards the water. Seeing this, the man yelled at me because I scared them off. I chose to ignore him. There are 300 penguins in the colony and I wanted to get close for a picture. If this guy had a problem with it, he could just take a hike.

Soon we had to return to the kayaks for our return journey back to the marina. I decided to be equitable and allow Rafi the privilege of steering the kayak back to the marina. Rafi just continued being a jackass, insulting my ability to steer the kayak, believing his steering to be vastly superior. He then decided to shove the rudder from left to right, believing this was a method of propelling the kayak forward. I implored him to shut up and paddle but he just increased his complaining as he grew more tired. Finally we made it back to shore and were done with kayaking.

To get to the dunes we had to backtrack along the coast again but the road was closed so we took the high road along the mountain. The view of the coast and Cape Town below us was spectacular. There were also a number of large, impressive houses that were built into the mountainside. I’m sure the views are breathtaking but I can’t imagine the feats of engineering that must be required to build and stabilize such large buildings into the steep mountainside. These houses all had electric fences enclosing them, and I’m curious if those are meant to keep out would-be thieves or the resident baboon population.

After a long drive through Cape Town (the dunes are on the opposite side of the city as Boulder Beach) we made it out to the sands. I had never been to any place like this before. There was nothing but miles of pure white sand in every direction. I love sand. It’s like snow, except warm. It gets into everything whether you like it or not, but once you embrace that fact and just stop resisting, its fine. Our sand boarding instructor was a man named Upie, who is from Zimbabwe. Upie showed us how to wax our boards, how to strap our bare feet into them, and then how to ride them down the dunes. I found sand boarding to be pretty self-explanatory except for one essential technique. When you’re sliding down the sand, your natural impulse is to lean back in order to restrain yourself and maintain your balance, however, all this does is ruin your ride and make you slide down awkwardly, stopping your momentum and ultimately leading you to fall back and bare the brunt of your impact right on your butt. The better thing is to lean forward when you’re riding down the hill. This makes you gather speed, which can be scary, but it makes your ride down smooth and actually leads to less falling. The trick is just to overcome what feels like a natural instinct to hold yourself back. The dunes ranged in size and steepness so I started with the gentle ones and each time I successfully made it to the bottom without wiping out, I took on a bigger hill. There were a few of us who took to sand boarding immediately, a few who needed some extra coaching from Upie, and a couple of people who took a few rides down and then just sat in the shade for two hours. I was in the group that was pushing for bigger and badder dunes. Besides the challenge of getting down them on a board, there is the challenge of the rigorous walk up the dune at each ride’s conclusion; there ain’t no ski lifts in a South African sand dune. It’s easy on the shallow hills but on the steeper dunes the sand just gives way as you try to climb it so if you don’t climb it fast enough you end up sliding downwards. Each walk to the top was like climbing the stair master for a few minutes. I tried developing my technique, walking pigeon-footed to increase the surface area of my foot on the sand, climbing up on all fours, but in the end I found it was easier just to walk around the side of the dune, which is longer in distance but less steep. Jogging up the side is easier than trudging up the front.

I’m really not sure where my energy for sand boarding was derived from. I boarded from the time we arrived til Upie said it was time to go, only stopping to chug a bottle of water or two and to take my pants off. We were all having fun taking silly pictures and videos. I went sand boarding down the hill, pantsless, wearing my shirt around my head. In another we pretended we were stranded in the desert, and in one video postcard to the folks back home we expressed our sadness for missing North America’s winter, deciding to toboggan down the dune to make up for the snow’s absence. A grand time was had by all. We then headed home with sand in literally every nook of our bodies.

After showering up it was time for dinner. Will received a few restaurant recommendations from some locals so we decided to follow him. On the way we passed by a Mexican restaurant. I, not having had Mexican since I left New York, was deeply interested, but Will and others wanted to go to an African restaurant to eat the game meats I had already partaken in at previous dinners. I attempted to persuade the group to stop here, appealing to their current state of hunger and the fact that the other restaurant was still another 6-8 blocks away, enticing them with the prospect of frozen margaritas. Most of the group was unmoved, but Erin and Emma were swayed and so the group split apart here. The restaurant was on the second floor. When we entered we discovered that there was a private function occurring that evening, and thus there were only available tables on the balcony. As it so happens, we only wanted to eat on the balcony! We ordered our margaritas and our food came quickly, thus the dinner was a success all around! All three of us were comatose by the time desert ended and it was uncertain whether we’d go out tonight, but I insisted that we would rally once we were out on the scene. We called a cab and headed for Mercury, SAS’s spot for the night.

One of the things that mystifies me about SAS is how quite frequently a very large number of students all end up at the same bar or club on any given night. In the Bahamas it was no surprise because Señor Frogs is known to all as the party bar that Americans like to go to when they’re on spring break, but in every place I’ve been since then, SAS students have congregated at some unremarkable bar or night club. This is in no way formally organized; it spreads purely through word of mouth and thats why I’m shocked that such a consensus is built. We’re not all friends on the ship. Let me tell you, its as cliquey as high school. And yet everyone ends up at the same spot. It’s almost a conspiracy. Who decides where we end up? Who is responsible for the genesis of SAS night at the Krazy Koconut, Crocodila’s, Manilla, or Mercury? Why do they pick that spot? How come no one along the line says, “Nah, lets go to Aligator’s instead”? Great are the mysteries of the sea…

Back to the story. We pull up to Mercury and from the outside it almost looks like a biker bar. It’s a cement structure with a big wooden door. The “Mercury” sign is black with a gothic sort of typeface. The people that were outside at this point looked kind of punk-ish. We were about to just tell the cabdriver, “Nevermind, take us back to the ship,” when we saw some SAS kids walking down the street and decided we should at least give it a go while we’re here. We go inside and it’s looking more punk-hipster than biker now. There are some pool tables and lots of white south africans about our age are hanging around. I think I found what drew SAS here when I noticed the price list for drinks. Some of the shots at this bar were less than the equivalent of a US dollar. Emma ordered each of us a hand grenade. This is genius.

Hand Grenade
rocks glass, two 1-oz shot glasses.
-1 oz Vodka
-1 oz Jägermeister
-½ a can of Red Bull

Fill shot glasses and pour Red Bull into the rocks glass (no ice). Take the shot glasses and carefully put them into the rocks glass side by side so that they touch each other and the sides of the glass, staying suspended over the red bull in the bottom. When you’re ready to drink the hand grenade, you “pull the pin” by knocking the shot glasses into the bottom of the rocks glasses and proceeding to chug the entire drink until its all gone.

After our hand grenades, I discovered the second floor of Mercury, which was a club with a dance floor and a stage. The bottom level is only a bar. Here there were more SAS kids, so I ordered a Monster with a double shot, to assist in my efforts to rally. Gradually as the evening progressed more and more of them made it to mercury. The music grew louder and the dance floor more crowded. I’m not sure if its like this every night or not, but tonight at Mercury all the music was dub step. This was the first place I’d heard dub step since I’d left the US and also the only place I’ve ever been to where the DJ played only the dirty dub as opposed to just a few popular songs. I was massively glad that I had anticipated going out this evening because I remembered to bring ear plugs which I definitely needed. Every club I’ve been to has had bone-rattlingly loud music. I love my music loud. I do. The iPod is capable of playing music far beyond a level that is safe for your hearing and I typically listen to mine at 2/3rds, ¾ths of maximum volume. But oh my goodness who enjoys the music being that loud? I know plenty of people that tolerate it. I’ve only seen two or three other people out at clubs with earplugs before. But honestly, who desires the music to be that loud? My only hypothesis is that gradually people who frequent clubs lose their hearing and thus in order for it to be loud enough for them they have to just further the damage by turning it up even more and its a vicious feedback loop. But really, people. Buy some earplugs if you go out to clubs and don’t let people give you shit for wearing them. Besides the teasing I originally got, I actually had my boss tell me I couldn’t wear them when I was a bartender because she thought I wouldn’t be able to hear customers’ orders. When I asked her if the music on Saturday nights was OSHA standards compliant she stopped caring if I wore them.

The music was great and I was getting pretty into it, more with the South African kids than the SAS ones. Dubstep is still a little bit away from being completely mainstream. Deadmau5 and Skrillex are becoming household names as trance and dub step proliferate the music scene in the US, but the most commonly made comment I heard that evening was, “How do you dance to this?” Answer: Unless you have the skills and patience to learn how to dance like you have no bones and dance like you’re a liquid, most people generally flail about to the beat. You have to see it to understand. Mercury was awesome. Whoever randomly decides where SAS shows up on a given night in port, thank you. You made an awesome decision.

I was bouncing around between friends at the club. Emma and Erin came and found me and quite predictably told me they were tired and they wanted to go back to the ship. I put them in a cab and returned to the action. A few people were going to head over to Long Street because they weren’t really feeling the scene at Mercury. I decided to join them just because I like variety and by this point we had been at Mercury for a couple of hours, so we piled into a cab and headed for Long Street. We went to Bobs first and it was empty so we walked down the street towards other bars. Lizzy, though, decided she was tired and wanted to go back to the ship. I agreed to put her in a cab so I called one and waited for it to arrive. While we were waiting for the legitimate cab to arrive, one that wouldn’t rob Lizzy with an unfair price, or even worse and also a possibility, rob her at gunpoint, I started contemplating returning to the ship. I’d prefer if Lizzy didn’t go by herself, even if she was in a legitimate taxi cab, and also I realized that I was planning on hiking up table mountain in only nine hours. The voice of reason set in and I returned back to the ship with Lizzy. Lizzy told me that she too was planning on hiking table mountain. I told her we should combine forces. She clarified that she was not running the show, that she was just along for the ride with some other girls thus she could not make that executive decision, but that they were leaving at 8AM. Back at the ship we parted ways until tomorrow.

a special Mauritius update…

Today is a red-letter day here on the MV Explorer; a day of celebration; a day of triumph; a day of victory. Why? Today was the day formerly known as Mauritius Day. They canceled our port in Mauritius because a cyclone delayed our sea crossing and now we’re running behind on our way to India. Instead of being in Mauritius today we had a day off, which most of the ship-board community commemorated by laying out tanning in the tropical sun. There were many fun events scheduled to raise our spirits, such as various sporting events during the day, a delicious barbecue in the afternoon, and at night everyone’s favorite gameshow, “Are You Smarter than a Dependent Child?” However, the highlight of the day was when the dean assumed the PA at noon as he does every day at sea, and informed us that after a great deal of toil here on the ship and at HQ back in Charlottesville, Virginia, ISE found a way for us to experience Mauritius: Tomorrow we get to leave the ship for four hours!

I’d like to take this moment to recognize all the nay-sayers, who chided my idea of circulating a petition, who said that there was nothing that could be done, that it was pointless. I’m not going to take credit for our stopping in Mauritius obviously (although the dean did make a reference to my petition), but the point is, ya gotta have faith. Miracles do happen.

How will I spend my 4 hours in Mauritius? I plan on exploring Port Louis, the capital city, so that I can take in a little culture, have a nice meal, hopefully use the internet to pick my Fall 2012 classes (grumble grumble), and buy many mauritius-branded products. (I can already see the puzzled faces given that no one at home knows what Mauritius is). Many of my peers are headed to the beach to get drunk. To each their own but I’m a little surprised considering we’re in this country for only four hours and you can go to a beach pretty much anywhere. Yes, I understand that these beaches are the best rated in the world. But still, come on.

Mauritius Day tomorrow: the day that almost wasn’t.