Our plane touched down on schedule after the 11 1/2 hour flight. The scenery is stunning during the descent and landing, especially on such a beautiful day with clear views of mountains, the city and the ocean.
The passport and customs officials were friendly and efficient. I was taken to one side for extra questioning by a customs officer who, on finding out I was headed for St Helena to work as a doctor, asked what medical equipment I was taking with me. I started to give her a full description of the equipment and what it was for but it was obviously TMI as she quickly interrupted and did not want to take the enquiry any deeper.
Ridvan, the driver from Blackheath Lodge, met me and gave me a brief guided tour along the road from the airport to the guest house. He was very happy to tell me that he had been in London for three days to attend, by personal invitation, the Hyde Park concert to celebrate Nelson Mandela’s birthday. Some time earlier, he and a small group of rugby supporters had driven to Mandela’s home to personally thank him for supporting South African rugby. As a result of this, he has joined the extensive circle of friends of this amazing man.
After a warm welcome and a restorative cup of tea on the terrace of Blackheath Lodge, a restored Victorian home now run as a guest house, I settled in to the lovely, comfortable room and made plans for the rest of the day.
A thirty minute walk, or a short bus ride, along the ocean side leads to the famous Waterfront area, full of shops and restaurants – and boats, of course.. I decided to walk rather than take a bus having been couped up in a confined space since yesterday. The area is reputed to be very safe to walk in, though the number of notices about security guards and other burglary deterrents including window bars and high tension electric wiring did make me wonder.. Even Blackheath Lodge has a little guard booth outside. However, I was out in the middle of the day and felt no insecurity about walking alone.
The Atlantic Seaboard
Two minutes after setting out I was gazing far into the Atlantic Ocean. The coast at this point is very rocky with swirling kelp forests adding interest to the wave patterns.
Dotted around the large grassy parkland between the shore road and the promenade were solitary men lying on the grass, mums or home helpers with young children, and dog walkers (from this short sample bull mastiffs seem to be a favourite breed here). There were children playing on the rocks and small sandy area. A man in a trilby type hat was entertaining other children by showing them how to offer titbits of bread to the squawking large gulls circling closely over his head.