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The First Seventy Years: Chapter 92 - Passionate About Africa

...Our last morning saw us board our Kenyan Airways flight to Nairobi. As the Boeing 727 climbed away from the runway the view of Table Mountain and the magnificent Bay faded from view. I was left wondering if I would ever again set foot on the continent that had, more than any other influenced my life so dramatically. Yes; I am still passionate about Africa; its landscapes; its wildlife but above all its people...

Eric Biddulph tells of the conclusion of a wonderful holiday touring in Africa.

To read earlier chapters of Eric's autobiography please click on http://www.openwriting.com/archives/the_first_seventy_years/

Eric’s book The First Seventy Years can be obtained for £10 by contacting http://mary@bike2.wanadoo.co.uk or telephoning 01484-658175.

All the cash raised by the book goes to a water aid project in Malawi.

Hiring a taxi to take us to the home of our Servas host for two nights we were taken to the other side of Table Mountain to the Newlands area of the city.

Glen and Gwen McLaren were both in their early 80s. They lived in a big house with three big dogs, one of them with three legs following an argument with a car some years earlier. Despite its handicap it managed to hold its own in the boisterous company of the other two. It was clear to me from the outset that neither Glen nor Gwen gave much thought to either cleanliness or tidiness. They had a more compelling agenda. Unlike so many other wealthy white families they rejected the notion of domestic help which would have easily addressed their obvious distaste for housework.

I decided to refrain from making too many trips to the kitchen. A diplomatic retreat from thinking too much about the conditions in which the food was being prepared appeared to be the best option. Glen had been a lecturer in electrical engineering at the University of Cape Town and Gwen had worked in the psychotherapy field. They had been hosting people from other countries for many years. Sitting down to lunch on our first day we were joined by three Chinese students. One of them was currently residing with them. The other two, now husband and wife, had been former residents. Their command of language was impeccable as you would expect from foreign students at an English speaking university. Our other companions at lunch was a ninety-nine year old South African and his eighty-two year old companion. A lively discussion ensued on all matter of topics with the currently resident Chinese student being particularly keen to discuss economic issues with me.

Later in the day we joined our host and the dogs on a drive to woods situated on the lower slopes of Table Mountain. It was a little cramped in the car to say the least. The dogs could not understand why their spaces had been invaded by two total strangers. The three-legged fellow managed to fall down a banking, Glen and myself acting as gallant rescuers. That missing front leg was a real problem for him on uneven ground.

The next morning in the light of the congestion in the car the previous day we travelled with Gwen, Glen having custody of the dogs in his car. Our destination was the Cape Flats, a long stretch of windswept coastline looking out on the Indian Ocean. It was here that tens of thousands of black families were banished during the 1960s after large areas of Cape Town were declared 'white'. The dogs were all in their element when walking on the shore. Old 'three legs' kept stopping for a rest but otherwise joined in the fun.

In the afternoon Glen transported us to the Kiestenbosh Botanical Gardens. We spent a couple of hours wandering around admiring the wide variety of plants and flowers that adorn these famous gardens. Glen and Gwen returned with a picnic meal just as the sun went down. They wanted to take us to view the fireflies which take to the air after nightfall. Hundreds of these small creatures with their flashing bodies fill the night air.

Our final day on the African Continent was a combined minibus mountain bike trip down the Cape Peninsula. Louise, our driver/guide was superb. Her knowledge of the history and geography of the area could not be bettered. The mountain bikes were towed on a trailer.

After visiting the penguin colony near Simonstown we headed southwards to the Cape National Park. Having selected our bikes Mary and myself rode through the Park whilst Louise went on ahead to organise lunch. After so many weeks cooped up on buses the ride came as a welcome respite. The first visit was to Cape Point lighthouse. This was followed by a ride along the coast to the Cape of Good Hope. It is not the most southerly point on the continent although it has greater fame than Cape Agulhas which has this distinction, some two hundred kilometres to the east. The return journey to Cape Town took us over Chapman's Peak lying on the west side of the Peninsula. This region is one of the most dramatic scene locations I have ever visited.

Our last morning saw us board our Kenyan Airways flight to Nairobi. As the Boeing 727 climbed away from the runway the view of Table Mountain and the magnificent Bay faded from view. I was left wondering if I would ever again set foot on the continent that had, more than any other influenced my life so dramatically. Yes; I am still passionate about Africa; its landscapes; its wildlife but above all its people.

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