Ranulph Fiennes' Coldest Journey: the blog
The latest from TG mag's Man of the Year's bonkers arctic adventure
Posted: 10 Jan 2013
UPDATE: January 2
Spencer Smirl, Engineer
"After landing in Cape Town we cleared customs right away - probably the fastest I have been let into a new country. But, we must have stood next to the baggage carousel for what seemed like an eternity waiting for all of our luggage. Out of the 11 pieces of checked luggage we had, three were cardboard boxes. Apparently this is a huge red flag for the customs agents in South Africa.
Somehow all three boxes ended up on Richmond's cart and he was pulled aside at first sight. After a quick inspection of the boxes we were waved through and out into the blistering heat of Cape Town.
There was only one individual in our welcoming party, Jill Bowring. She had arrived with a small Hyundai that she had planned on transporting the 5 of us plus luggage back to the ship. After we stuffed all the luggage into the car, I don't think any of us were shocked at Jill's request for us to take a taxi. We sent Jill on her way and the 5 of us climbed into a rickety old taxi and directed the driver to East Pier where the S.A. Agulas was awaiting our return.
The taxi wasn't missing any parts, not yet any ways. As we sped down the highway I feared that very soon it might be however. The axles rattled and shook the entire time we were moving and every time the driver applied the brakes it sounded like the sea captain from Jaws running his fingernails down a chalk board. The scenery was breathtaking and soon I forgot about the death trap taxi beneath me. Table Top Mountain stands 1000 meters above the city.
With its giant plateau it looks like it has a massive table cloth draped over it, as the clouds drift over and down its mighty cliffs. The city stretches for miles along the lower levels of the mountain and out to the water front. Beaches riddle the coast line. Like a big flower garden, colours explode from the sky over kite beach. "There must be a thousand kites in the air" I said as we drove past. Ian, who had lived in Cape Town for nearly 2 years, told me that is why it is called "Kite Beach" the kite surfing capital of South Africa.
It was nice to be reunited with the team in its entirety and our mighty Ice Breaking vessel, The S.A.Agulas. Richmond and I didn't waste any time climbing below deck to reunite with our machines as well, Seeker and Rover. They looked even better than I remembered. I would be lying if I told you that I didn't get into the cab and make tractor noises as I pulled on the controls.
During the five days of leisure we had in Cape Town, the team re-bonded as we experienced local food and drink at various locations along the Waterfront near East Pier where we were moored. Our days were mostly relaxed. There was a very small amount of press but nowhere near the amount we had gotten used to in London. Ian took a few of us out to a beach for a surf lesson. I don't think I had ever swam so hard in my life. It was like being inside a washing machine. There was no break in the set at all. We could barely get past it. When we did, we would be so out of breath, me especially, that we didn't have enough strength left to paddle into the surf.
The last night was a late one. Richmond hadn't showed much interest in staying out very late any other night, but on the last one, we stayed out way too late. Maybe he was starting to feel as nervous as I was. The excessive indulgence definitely pushes those feelings aside. We closed down a pub along the water front then had to make a final stop at McDonald's on our way back to the ship. It was near 4 o'clock as we lay down spinning in our bunks. The worst part was we had to get up in an hour to involve ourselves in the glorious send off."
Pic: Geoff Long