• 15 May 2017

What I did during the period I stayed in Cape Town South Africa

What I did during the period I stayed in Cape Town South Africa

What I did during the period I stayed in Cape Town South Africa 1024 683 Gürkan Genç


One day before my visa was due to expire I met Ali in Cape Town thanks to Kerem and Aysel. My plan taking a flight to Lusaka/Zambia (there I had friends) without my bags and then back seemed the best. By this way I could solve the visa problem. Ali immediately prepared the documents required for the visa application. At noon time we went to department of Home Affairs for visa application, he also had arranged the application number in advance. We joined the queue, compliments to a couple of people, offered the employees Coca-Cola and in a short time we were at the front of the line. I handed my passport and received a temporary document valid throughout the country.

  • Well Ali what happened now?
  • Congratulations abi (brother in Turkish, also used for men older in age). You’ll receive a message confirming your visa application for 3 months. Then, we’ll come back and take it. Wait, you don’t need to come, I’ll bring it to you.
  • Wow, it shouldn’t be that easy.
  • Well abi it is not that easy in fact. Your World tour plus my contacts made it easy.

For 3 months visa I paid 150 USD (let me mention that I entered 3 times the country staying one month each time for free, but if you want to stay more, then you pay for the visa). Ali did also another favor for me. He was renting his house downtown to the foreign students coming for language education. “The house is empty, you can stay there. You do not need to pay for it” I stayed there for about 3 months. I continued to meet Kerem and Aysel for the week ends.

Well, what is Ali doing in Cape Town? If you want to learn English abroad those countries come in your mind initially; UK, USA, Canada, Australia. South Africa is a country where everyone speaks in English and which has much better opportunities compared to that in Europe but never comes in mind. Ali was cooperating with several language courses assisting students from Turkey. How? For example, you call Ali and Ali tells you about the choices, you check from internet and you tell him that you’ll come over. He meets you at the airport. Upon arrival hands you a prepaid card and you send a message to your beloved back at home. Even though you might have already chosen a English course from internet, he takes you to all the English courses once again.

You can say that you want to get a lesson for one week at each of those courses available. After deciding which course you’ll attend he does the paper work for you. If you want, he finds a family for accommodation including breakfast, lunch and dinner. He has also apartment flats which he rents to the students. To the flat where I stayed a Kenyan and 2 Turks came after 2 months. They stayed for a while then moved to a family for accommodation which is much more comfortable for a student. Ali rents also cars and organizes touristic tours. He has a latest model luxury car (the Arabs were preferring to travel by Mercedes) and a panel van. Although I went to the Cape Point on bicycle I also went with Ali by car. That day I came upon Benan sister of a friend of mine from the university. The world is small.

Many people invited me in Cape Town. The best would be to meet everyone at a single place. I said: “let’s meet at a café downtown”.

Our first meeting with Sarper happened such. He was famous and popular among motorbikers in Turkey. He wanted to make a short trip with me on his motorbike, but he had no spare time. He was also organizing trips for Turkish tourists here. In South Africa the high season never ends.  I entered the country on April 2016 and left November 2016. I could say I saw the summer and winter time of this country. There isn’t a single time out of season. To each region there is demand depending upon the season. At the same time Sarper also attended Cape Epic Race, afterwards drove to Turkey from South Africa by motorcycle with his friend. I’ll mention about Cape Epic later.

Besir and Alara had come for graduate education and Enes for language education. Everyone seemed to be pleased with their life here. As I asked how the life is, I got the impression that living in South Africa and getting education seemed to be good for everyone. I support the idea of going abroad for foreign language education. It is very important for oral practice. But for undergraduate or graduate education in universities abroad, the difficulties we face in my country comes in my mind. The opportunities and regulations are quite different in this country. Alara also wishes that the educational system in Turkey changes in the future but doesn’t know at which level the changes should start. (While writing this article I looked at what changed during 2017 in the educational system in Turkey. The aim of the changes was to rise a generation unaware of their own history and disinterested in the developments in the world casted in a special mold. That was what I understood reading about those changes in education). I met Resat member of the Kick Box Federation. While I was there he was studying a master’s degree program which he graduated recently. He is establishing the Kick Box Federation in Botswana nowadays. I like such innovative people. For example, one day I met a group of university students who had come to South Africa to introduce their solar energy vehicle in a contest. They were upset not be successful because their vehicle had faced many technical difficulties. But the experience they gained would be invaluable.

Five of the top 100 universities in the world are in South Africa and if I’m not wrong one is among the top 10. Unfortunately, the universities were suffering due to racial discrimination. For example, the admission point scores required for acceptance were lower for black students.  Why are you doing that? If you want to educate a scientist, then everyone should pass the same exam. This is also done in my country.  Why are the students graduating from the high schools abroad with lower scores accepted to Turkish universities whereas the ones gradating in Turkey need much higher scores? To me everyone should equally be treated regardless of color, religion and culture. If you are not an idiot, you pass the entrance exam and study. Similar nonsense is everywhere in the world and due to the politicians.

Umut working for Turkish Airlines called me one day. He was on holiday with his mother. We met one evening for dinner. Umut knew that I would go to South Africa. He showed me the route of his bicycle trip he did a couple of years ago on map. He was going to start to work in Argentina the next year. That’s we’ll meet again and most probably I’ll be his guest there.

Another day Murat, the regional manager of Standart Profil company invited me. He came to South Africa from Mexico recently. He was trying to become familiar to the life here with his wife and new born. We could meet only once. He had a busy schedule added to the stress of moving out. Although we didn’t have time for a long conversation, I was impressed of the works done by his company. On the day we met with Murat. I also met Yunus Abi whose living since long time in South Africa. He came during apartheid period and entered into a partnership with a local doing coal business. Now he is doing well. He also told his wife’s name, but I forgot, she was one of the most famous archeologists in the world. He wanted to introduce her, but he had a busy agenda.

Since I stayed long in Cape Town I used almost all transport vehicles from public transport to taxi. Public transport within the city was quite well. You can buy a card like a credit card and charge it from one of the stations downtown and use in public vehicles. Though on the card is the logo Maestro you cannot use it for other purposes. At the station, entering you let your card scanned and when you exit. If you use one of the city bus stations along the road and not the main stations, then you scan your card in the bus while entering and getting out. Those city buses had their own lanes. The city buses are fast and are almost always on time. But at the evenings after work there is traffic jam. Though the streets in Cape Town seemed new built, the width of the lanes were the same since 1960s. They haven’t added a new lane for the last 57 years. Even, there was an unfinished bridge in the middle of the city which has become a movie studio used during castings. I happened to come up to a movie or serial casting almost every day at different spots in the city. The city looked like an open-air stage. There were huge employment opportunities for advertisement, movie making and related subjects in this city.

What is Uber taxi and who are Uber drivers, how does the system work? I didn’t see any other country I had visited so far where the Uber taxi system worked so well. After downloading the cell phone application and scan your credit card as payment option. You activate the app on your cell phone: “Now I’m at this address and want to go to this address” after only 5 seconds one of the Uber taxis around is directed to you. This application also shows the price for the distance you’ll going.

This system is secure. The license plate, the photo of the driver, the opinions of the customers used this taxi before, all are found on the system. If you don’t like the car or the driver you can cancel it and order another car. Also, the drivers are rating the customers. Dude, every time I got in a car the driver asked me: “shall I open the air conditioner, what type of music would you like to listen, would you like to have a candy, are you comfortable?” Well, who are those drivers? For example, you have a car, you register yourself on the system, give you bank account number, Uber company cuts 20% of your earning and transfers the rest to your bank account. You don’t pay tax, don’t pay fee to driver’s chamber or pay for the taxi license plate or to cabstand. Uber taxi system is forbidden in many countries. Even, the other taxi drivers were fighting against those Uber drivers because for Uber taxi you pay 50% less than to ordinary taxi.  Most of drivers of the Uber taxis were not the owners in South Africa. They were mostly employees although I happened to come across a few owners. The drivers share 50% of their income with the owner of the car. I was surprised about the high income by this way. Would such a system be allowed in a country where millions of Turkish Liras are paid for the taxi license plates? Of course not. But can you truly prevent it? You can’t. The Uber application is forbidden in Turkey like in Germany, in France. The application does not work but I have heard that it is used via VPN. By the way, Uber company has launched its driverless cars. They are working in a couple of states in USA.  In a close future, at most in 20 years you’ll see at many spots in the world driverless taxis and will use it. That is, this system has become profitable to the owner of the application.

Of course, one of the transport vehicles I used in Cape Town was bicycle. Bicycle sports is very popular not only in Cape Town but also in the whole country. They are hosting a couple of worldwide known races: Cape Argus, Cape Epic and JoBerg2c. I won’t talk about the reasons why those races are worldwide known or about how they reached this point here. If one day I and my team get the opportunity (if I become Sports Minister) in my country, well I promise you we’ll try to make better. At this point I want to talk about my Cape Epic memory. Then, I’ll mention about my memories related bicycle transport in Cape Town.

A message was sent to my e-mail:

“Hello Gurkan. We are following your world tour and know that you are presently in Cape Town. We would like to invite you to the Cape Epic 2017 Launch Gala Dinner and would appreciate to meet you as Cape Epic family.”

This was a great jest, a fineness, a respect, honoring a man, regarding an athlete, respecting his way of traveling, the article he wrote, the photos he took, the videos he recorded, that is respecting every inch her rode on his bike. I stared at the message for minutes and didn’t know what to write. I thanked them and wrote that I’ll attend. On that day I went to the address given.

It was a 5 stars hotel, in front of the door luxury cars were stopping and going. Men were wearing dinner jackets and the women were so beautiful in their evening dresses. How I did go? I was wearing decolorized green pants, my famous white shirt because I didn’t have extra money to rent a suit. I entered the hotel. People seeing me were asking: “Hello Gurkan, how are you, how is your travel going?” Dude, I’m at a meeting in South Africa alright, but I’m not a famous athlete, how come people happen to know me?

I entered the hall where the Gala Dinner was given. The girls at the reception desk came to me and took selfies with me. The creator of Cape Epic and his wife came to me. While chatting a crowd formed around us. I was given the table number. Then, everyone was invited in. Just imagine you are invited to a wedding at a 5 stars hotel. I went to the table and got acquainted with everyone at the table. They told me their names but don’t remember any. They were asking about my travel. It was weird. It was impossible that everyone would know my journey. Anyway, on the stage the history of Cape Epic was presented. The presentation, organization and the details were incredible.  Then, the winners of the previous race were called to the stage. The man and woman sitting at my table stood up and went to the stage. Wow, they were the winners of Cape Epic sitting next to me. The first black athlete traversing Antarctica on foot also had attended Cape Epic and was sitting at the same table. Also, the athlete walking to North Pole was called to the stage and he was also sitting at the same table. All those athletes had attended Cape Epic race. All of them were introduced to the audience. Then a couple of jokes. I was eating my meal.

And he started to talk to the microphone: “He started his journey on September 9th, 2012 from Turkey with his bicycle….”

I put down the fork and knife on the plate. I hardly swallowed my chew. The journalist sitting next to me put his hand on my shoulder: “Well done Gurkan well done”. The deserts I crossed, the summits I climbed on my bike, the projects I realized, the supports I’m giving to the young people and students, everything what I did so far for minutes. They had examined thoroughly what I did, afterwards I learned that this writing had been sent to everyone by e-mail. At the end of the speech everyone stood up to applaud but me, I was sitting. Why? Because if I would stand up I would burst into tears. I was prepared for this. I needed a couple of seconds. He called two times Gurkan. The third time he said “Actually there isn’t such a man, what we told was just a joke. : )” everyone including myself laughed. I stood up:

“I don’t know what to say. Thank you very much. I’m proud to be among you today. Thank you very much for your invitation” Honestly, I really don’t remember whether I said those sentences or something else. I could fell unconscious due to excitement or even could not say anything. I’m not used to receiving a standing ovation of 500 people.

In Turkey I’m a cycling athlete and I have a license. I also conducted basketball, volleyball and swimming as certified athlete. I also do snowboarding, water kayaking, ice skating and play soccer quite well. Therefore, I call myself an athlete. The travel I’m doing is not categorized under sports. It is called touring by bicycle. If you cross the Northern Arctic Circle in winter, the deserts in summer, climb more than 420 thousand meters on bike and set several Guinness records than you become an extraordinary touring cyclist or touring bicycle adventurer. Or as it called in English:  An “Extreme Long Distance Cyclist”.  In my country people traveling by bike say: “He travels because his sponsors are supporting him. If I’ll be supported this way I would also travel.” This opinion shared by 80 % of my Turkish followers reflects the behavior of Sports Ministry of Turkish Republic and our Bicycle Federation. They didn’t send a single message to the man on the road for the last 5 years asking: “Do you need anything? Are you alright?” For many people this man is traveling for his own pleasure.

You read above what have societies behave by which sports and athletes are valued. Those people were also trying to earn their own bread and butter. While I was riding in South America 6 months later, Cape Argus race was run in South Africa. In their promotion journal they had written about me on 4 pages. The Turkish cyclists attending this race sent me messages: “We read the article about you. We are proud of you.” Simple looking issues are in fact quite important. Some idiots are unfortunately unable to recognize the impact of a process on the future.

Although the center of Cape Town was nice I couldn’t stroll around at night. I felt comfortable only on the main streets. Anyway, I never strolled around at night anywhere in Africa for the last one year which I later recognized when I came to South America. I was walking on the streets at nights in Argentina which was a completely different feeling. Also, Spanish cyclist Javier I met in Argentina who traveled in Africa had felt the same way. The main streets I walked on where the popular ones in Cape Town. In one of these streets the art galleries were open till 01 a.m. on the last Thursdays of the month. A wine glass in your hand you visit the art galleries. Even, they put a DJ cabin on every street with different types of music, etc.

There is about 40 km from the point I entered the city to the center. It is a big city. On the road along, you can observe that the level of income increases towards the city center. Including South Africa, in every Sub-Saharan city you see old corrugated iron houses at the skirts of the city which I mentioned previously. The same is also valid for Cape Town. I had to ride across those iron houses to the city center. Generally, it is not wise to take out the camera and take photos of the people there. Sometimes they get angry and sometimes attack you. Once when I stopped at a gas station for a short rest in this district the attendant came to me and we chatted. We had a nice conversation talking about Africa, then a group came and set next to us.

They started to talk in Zulu, but I could feel they were talking about me. The one who was talking to me got angry, then stood up and showed them my flag on the bike.

  • He is not European, he is Turk and came from Turkey ride through whole Africa.

He said this in English and then went away to work. (It is good to be able to say I’m European or I’m Asian depending upon where you are). Those guys were looking at me. I was eating a piece of biscuit calmly “Do you want biscuit?”

I don’t give a damn about their racism. I was sitting with my balls spread out. The sentence “he rode through Africa on his bike” was enough I guess. They didn’t say anything, didn’t take biscuit and went away. Well, at the beginning of my South Africa travel I had written. I South African friend of mine had said: “I person who is living in a country like Turkey would do a better analysis of the country compared a European.”  The way of living and the life experiences of an Scandinavian and a Turk would be quite different from each other. Anyway, till the city center I payed attention looking around.

The bicycle lanes are a few but you see people riding on their bicycles in Cape Town. There are people commuting by bike, but due to security issues I mentioned afore quite few. Every weekend, hundreds of cyclists are riding from Cape Town to Cape Point. The view is fantastic. Since the road is single lane I was told that many conflicts happen between drivers and cyclists on this road.

Staying 3 months in Cape Town I didn’t ride so much. On the mid of the second month I said it is time to accomplish my final route in Africa: To ride from Cape Town to Cape Point or as known to Cape of Good Hope on my bicycle. By the way let me remind you Cape of Good Hope is not the most southern tip of Africa. Well then, why is Cape Point or Cape of Good Hope so famous?

Beginning with the Portuguese explorers at the end of 15th century, it was hard to sail from Atlantic Ocean to Indian Ocean till 19th century. Nowadays, if you would try to cross the same route using a sailing ship you’ll face the same. But if you say you are not sailing and still want to feel the force of the wind then ride to the Cape Point and return. The wind blows from South to North. The route is about 160 km long. I had faced strong winds at many spots on the earth.

Azerbaijan Baku (May 2010), I had head wind for 48 km. That was all I could ride the whole day. At the end of the day I had fallen down the bike due the wind blowing from the wrong side. My average speed was 13 km/h.

Turkmenistan Karakum Desert (June 2010), I had head wind for two days. Riding on bike under sand storm was very hard. My average speed was 14 km/h.

Mongolia Gobi Desert (November 2010), along 750 km I had head wind from time to time during the day. My water reserves were emptied earlier because of facing wind. Since I was riding on dirt road on some days my average speed was dropping down to 7 km/h.

Morocco Tan-tan Desert (March 2014), it took 2 days for me and my friend Enes Sensoy to ride 80 km with an average speed of 5 km/h. There was a place in the desert which we could cross 8 hours riding only 40 km, that was the highlight.

South Africa Cape Point/Cape of Good Hope (October 2016), while the wind was blowing towards north, suddenly it changed its direction hitting on my bike. Since my bike was full loaded I fell down the bike once. Cape Town’s wind is strong and its direction changes at any moment.

South America Patagonia (June – July – August 2017). This region stretches about 2000 km and during summer time wind blows from south to north. It is a quite difficult route for the cyclists and motorbikers going to the Southernmost tip. Since I rode in winter I had wind blowing from north to south and sometimes there was no wind. In summer time the speed of the wind is constant, 120 km/h.

It was a pleasant ride to the cap, we camped one day heading towards and on the road back again one day. I had the opportunity to see one of the most dangerous snakes in the world along the road. It was crossing the road. I made the whole traffic stop till the snake could cross safely to the other side. A ranger coming next to me talked about the variety of the snake and that it was one of the most poisonous snakes in the world, we got surprised. One of best parts traveling on bike is such nice coincidences. There is no bicycle lane or road along the road but as I mentioned above it is possible to see cyclists in teams on the weekends. We went to this tip with Margaretha. Although she was living in Cape Town and attending bicycle races she had never been cycled to the cap before. This way she made a long bicycle trip and reached Cape of Good Hope for the first time with me. Then, one day I gave a presentation to her colleagues about my travel. After this presentation a Turkish citizen came to me and asked to take a photo with his whole family. We had a nice conversation with the family.

Cape Town is famous for its wine yards. Well, if the history of these wine yards is searched you come up to sad facts. Well, at the present the production is huge. Researching you will see that South Africa is the seventh biggest wine producer in the world and more than 300,000 people are employed in this.  I was curious how big the wine yards of this country were? There is about 100,000 hectares of wine yards 59,000 of which is used for wine production. Besides contributing to the economy by exporting wine, the festivals and worldwide promotions result in touristic income also. My friend Melissa invited me to one of these festivals. There was about one month to the festival, but she said that we had to make reservation for accommodation. We couldn’t find a place to stay. I don’t remember the name of the festival, but it was the second biggest festival in South Africa and we could find a place to stay only at a small town next to Ashton (I guess it was the city if I remember right). People from all over the world come to this festival. Normally I don’t promote hotels or other accommodation places. The place where I stayed in Robertson was Galloway Guest House (don’t miss understand. I just share this because I liked it). Shortly, it was a fantastic place. It was one of the best places I had stayed throughout my world tour. I didn’t stay in any other hotel where I felt myself so peaceful. The owners were a young couple (I don’t remember their names but if you visit them say hello from me). The house was right in the middle of a wine yard. Their web page: (www.exdiem.co.za).   They had a hard but full of life story as we all have. When I met the woman, I felt sadness and happiness at the same time and hugged her for a long time. She was a powerful woman. I admired her as she was talking, what experiences. I said: “What kind of a courage. From where to where..” I’ll tell her story one day somewhere. I would never forget this special woman and her husband’s love.

We stayed at this guest house and went to the festival the next day. At the entrance we were given a wristband and a glass of wine. It was a huge area where at least 50 different wine brands were introduced. 45 of these brands were produced from the grapes grown in Cape Town and its surroundings. On the festival arena there were places where you could taste the wine and then spill or spit every 10 m or in front of every stand. If you would drink all the wine from 50 different brands nobody would be able to carry you out. The wine prices were very cheap. The best South African wines cost only 10 USD. The lower grades were almost for free. There were play stations for children, snakes and live music. There were from every nation people inside. People passed me talking French, Japanese, Chinese, German. I guess I was the only one speaking Turkish. The promotion stands of the companies were professional. Some of the companies were also producing olive products. Everyone having snacks etc. Nice ambience. They offered sightseeing tours on tractors through the wine yards. I made a small round on the wine yards with my drone. That is, the festival was amazing and showed me how an effective promotion should be done.

While the situation is such in South Africa, I feel to write down this information:

The wine yards used in Turkey are 600,000 hectares, the fourth biggest in the world.

Turkey is the leading country in raisin export.

One kg of Sultanas raisin in amazon.uk costs 1,7 GBP in September 2014 (equal to 7.5 TL), while you buy the same quality of raisin for 9 TL in Turkey and UK is among the countries where we export raisin to.

The reason why Turkey doesn’t earn as much as South Africa the home of wine from grapes and grape products is that we produce molasses from those grapes. Well, there won’t be international molasses festival or a worldwide advertisement.  There is potential but if you don’t make use of it ….

It was hard to leave Cape Town but the time to leave had come. My next destination was South America but before I had to go to Johannesburg once again. My university friend Meltem sent the money for the flight ticket from Cape Town to Johannesburg to me. While chatting on the internet she said: “Wait don’t buy the ticket yet, I’m sending money for your ticket” and in a few minutes the money was on my account. The same way, my brother’s high school friends and my friends bought my South America Argentina flight ticket and paid my stay there. I would like to thank all of them once again.

After months I stayed once again at Ismail and Esra Nalti’s house. I could say that I was back home in South Africa. I had missed all the kids. This time I stayed for 15 days. In the mean time I helped Selim to learn how to ride a bike.  Thanks to the couples Elif and Mert Sentarli and to Sabriye and Erkin Tekel. So many people invited me to their home that I put on weight, 8 kg.  In fact, there were so many stories to tell but I guess I’ll tell about them in my next South Africa article. Thanks again dear Nalti family. A new continent and a new country… Continuing from Argentina, South America. For a while I thought to travel through the whole continent but then I didn’t want to spend 3-4 years for Africa for the time being. I might do it one day in the future.

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