An ordinary tour leader would have taken a straight shot on the N2 from St. Lucia Estuary to Durban’s King Shaka International Airport for our two-hour flight last night to Cape Town. But thanks to Gate1, we are in the hands of an extraordinary tour coordinator, Arthur Geffley.
Arthur can be prickly on our behalf, insisting on nothing short of perfection in details of hotel check-in, local tours, and handling of baggage. He has provided us with useful information, such as “Don’t dress like a mobile ATM.” He shares intriguing details about his country from his fat file folder at the front of the bus each morning, lets us doze in the afternoon, and always speaks softly into his mic at the end of nap time, rousing us gently for the next phase of our journey.
But for my mind, his single greatest moment so far was yesterday’s detour to the Indian Ocean. Many of us took his suggestion that we put a toe in. With the chilly water of Maine as my reference point, I was surprised by how warm the water was. Arthur explained that the Mozambique Current warms the eastern coast of South Africa, and I don’t think we are as far south here as Ocean Park, Maine, is north.
That said, I was struck by the similarities of the beach scene more than the differences. The sand was coarser than that of Ocean Park, but the surf had the same aroma and random power and beauty. The line of the horizon was the same, and the clear view of the sky. Deb found beach glass for her artwork, just as she has in the Virgin Islands and Maine. It was deeply satisfying to be at the ocean, whatever name it’s called by us locals.
Today Arthur will be giving us a tour of his home town, Cape Town. This afternoon, Deb and Darlene and I will take the ferry to Robben Island, where Nelson Mandela was imprisoned for 27 years.