Picture this. Your family have survived a combined 16-plus hours of flying time on two flights to step out onto the sunlit apron of Cape Town International Airport. The ribbon of verdant vineyards along the slopes of the Cape Fold Mountains beckon, and beyond them, a two-hour drive away, lies a stunning whale sanctuary with your sanctuary nestled on its shores.
You just have to pass on an item to a friend. Oops… where are the keys to your plastic-wrapped and locked suitcases? Lost. Luckily the South African Police and the very patient man from the car rental company form a procession to the police station and proceed to work out how to gentle coax your locks off with a crowbar. (The bolt cutters were missing.) Who says the SAPS aren’t helpful? One favour down and two sleeping guys loaded up and we happily made our way to our place on the bay.
Those who know Jay know he loves his wine, so you can only imagine his anticipation at being able to reacquaint himself with the contents of the cellar. In what was becoming the theme of the day, I had left the cellar keys in New York.
In a country where everything shuts down between 16 December and 2 January (or the 3 January in the Cape), finding a locksmith was a challenge. But there’s a happy ending to this chapter: we located one the next day.
Unfortunately an unpleasant surprise awaited me as I strode down the stairs: SPLASH! Into two feet of fetid water and a swarm of mosquitoes. It was the nightmare scenario of a flooded basement, complete with bobbing wine bottles and a rotted fake Christmas tree. No surprise that trying to find a plumber right before Christmas proved to be almost impossible, and when we did, they were unable to pump the basement.
Never fear, because another branch of the South African public service rose to the rescue. The municipal sanitation team were borne forth on a large tanker truck that Sunday evening, and proceeded to suck up the subterranean swamp, even brandishing mops to reducing the situation to a few damp puddles. Needless to say we are happy that our property taxes were well spent!
So we spent Christmas eve looking like a forensic squad, complete with gumboots, gloves and face masks, and carrying out piles of smelly black garbage bags of ruined things. All the wine was salvaged, with the exception of an open bottle of Muratie Port — what a shame!!! We spent the evening decorating a new, even more realistic fake Christmas tree, and Christmas Day being thankful for just having an ordinary day.
Needless to say, a start like that ensured that the rest of the holiday was absolutely brilliant. We got to spend wonderful time with my family; make firmer friends with our neighbours; and get up close and personal with cheetahs. Daily restorative walks along the cliff path, pottering around the wild, natural fynbos garden and soothing sleep to the sounds of the waves.
All too soon it was time to return to the Big Apple to brave the sub-zero daily highs and cold and flu epidemic… and time to plan the next trip.