Bergie Bombsby Montle Moorosi / 29.10.2009
Yes, we’ve all heard it before, “Wow darling! Cape Town is such a beautiful place, its soooo hip babes, it’s so fab! I have Aids!”
The Travel Channel even said that it’s one of the most scenic places in the world with its charming mountains, panoramic views, sexy beaches and countless amounts of homeless alcoholics posted on every corner and sometimes in trees too. I have spent a great deal of time in Cape Town so I’m what I like to call, “an expert”. After about a month of frequenting Long Street clubs and wasting my money on horse meat boerewors rolls and trying to socialize in Camps Bay with graphic designers and people who wear sunglasses at night, I started to feel kind of washed out. I even had nightmares where I dreamt that I changed my name to Jonno and I really hated people that wore shoes, I think I even worked at a bar called Cool Runnings.
At seeing my discombobulated and grief stricken state, my friend and English Literature classmate Dmtri Hess, said I should come and visit him and a take a train out to Muizenburg.
“Where’s Muizenburg?” I asked.
“How far? By Wynberg?”
“Past Wynberg, by Retreat.”
“Where the hell is Retreat? That sounds nice.”
“You don’t want to go there, trust me… just buy a ticket for Muizenburg and keep your eyes open when you get to the stations to see where you are. It will take about 45 minutes.”
He said this with a smile like it was nothing, obviously he has no knowledge that I won the laziest teenager award for four years in a row when I was in High school and also that I have a chronic fear of South African trains. MetroRail has always been the devil’s iron horse in my humble opinion, and this opinion is based on stories about people being robbed and then being thrown out of the moving train if your cell phone is an out dated model. I use a Nokia 1101.
“Come on, you need a change of scene before you turn into a townie.” Dmtri said finally.
I didn’t really have a choice, he’d already decided for me and he even lent me his monthly ticket because he knew my first excuse would be to say how broke I am and that I could never afford a R5.60 train ticket.
The next day was a Saturday and I made my way to Rondesbosch station at about 10:30am. I was up early for a change because I didn’t get much sleep the night before because I had a nightmare that I got attacked by land walking snoek fish led by Zackie Achmat. The station was surprisingly neat and the walls looked like they just got a new coat of paint on and the sides of the platforms were decorated with pot plants full of ferns and petunias. Then in a quick second this pleasant sight had its pants pulled off to expose a nasty sign by its pubis that said “The following items are prohibited on the train” this was followed by images of a machete, a knobkerrie and an AK47 rifle. I immediately took off my wrist watch and Ipod which I felt doubled as a placard that said, “please make me a victim of a violent crime”.
I took a seat on a bench while I waited for the train to arrive and across from me on the opposite platform was a group of teenage coloured boys dancing to techno music blaring distortedly from a cell phone, while a group of girls stood by cheering them on.
“Is ja! Whopah! Is ja!” they kept chanting in revelry and unison while the boys did the robot dance but unfortunately the party was cut to an abrupt end when my train made its way towards the platform and everyone started butting their cigarettes out or telling their children to stand behind the yellow line so they don’t get decapitated by broken doors or kicked in the stomach by a train surfer. The train was one of the new trains added to the Metro Rail fleet, the traditional yellow and green carriages have been discarded for the American style silver carriage, with the Metro rail insignia now done in blue and orange. Alongside the panels of the train was a graffiti mural which had a little anecdote next to it that read “where do you hide money from a hippie? Under the soap”
The open plan design of the new train carriages is nothing short of a nightmare if you suffer from social phobia as much as I do because you have sit face to face with the commuter across from you, and the passengers on your sides sit so close to you it feels like you’re on board the Amistad. On top of this, passengers have to deal with the most uncomfortable seats ever, which have as about as much cushioning as the webbing between Kate Moss’s toes.
Ask any Capetonian punter of public transport and they’ll all tell you the same thing, which can be summed up with another piece of graffiti I once saw on a train which eloquently read “Fuck Metro rail”.
Across from me sat a middle aged white woman in a white floral dress, a navy blue blazer, and heavily tinted prescription glasses she used to read her Harry Potter book. She’d keep reading, and then look up from her book and look around the carriage, smile, then get back to her book again. On my sides were two large black ladies with a lot of Shoprite shopping bags, they were traveling together and I realized that I had just literally cut off their conversation by sitting between them. The looks in their eyes said “piss off” so I did; I moved about three seats away from them and twiddled my thumbs for about two minutes until the train stopped at Claremont station where the two ladies departed. They were replaced by two surfers clad in board shorts, Bondiblu wrap around sunglasses, Quiksilver t-shirts and they were sharing a parcel of hot chips which made the whole carriage immediately smell like salt and vinegar. There should be a law against such behavior, are you going to offer me a chip or what?
Two stations later at Plumstead the carriage was graced with the presence of a clairvoyant on crack. An old white man, who looked like Rasputin drunk on paint thinners, walked into the carriage dressed in a dingy dark brown coat flavoured and stained with all sorts of liquids which hinted that it used to be beige at some stage. His equally brown toes were peeping through his torn blue military boots and his diabolical brown and grey beard was adorned with various anomalous materials such as popcorn and saliva. He was nothing short off hobo regal. He had a wild look in his dilated eyes that said, “I haven’t slept in two weeks, I just ate a child’s liver.” And in his hand was a tape recorder that looked like an old fashioned answering machine, which he started playing immediately as he took a seat not too far way from me. What came out was probably the most jarring and frightening music I’ve ever heard in my life. It was a fusion of an endless air guitar solo against a backdrop of pots and pans clanging and a high pitched and distorted screeching note that sounded like a goat being slaughtered. He then started to talk to himself or rather mumbling very loudly to himself, “it’s them, it’s them,” whilst looking dead pan at the empty seat across from him.
No one seemed to mind him much, the two surfers were still slobbering on their chips and laughing at Rasputin and his avant garde tastes while the middle aged white lady kept reading her Harry Potter book, and she still kept smiling at her book and at the whole carriage. At Wynberg station we were joined by a group of young coloured girls and a surly looking teenage boy with the type of scars on his face that suggested he spent his summer holidays at the Pollsmoor correctional facility, it was the moment I feared, he sat right across from me, he wore a maroon Nautica hooded top which he pulled over his head despite the warm weather, blue jeans and black converse all stars sneakers which he wore without laces. Making eye contact with him was inevitable because all he did throughout the trip was stare at me, and all I could do was either count the specks on the floor or go talk to Rasputin about the great 16th century sewer yodeling compositions.
The next stop was Retreat, and Dmtri was right about it, unless you’re into visiting war stricken countries like Sudan or Yugoslavia back in the 90’s, then this place is not for you. 12 year old kids sharing cigarettes with their mothers, 1 litre bottles of Autumn Harvest lying all over the place, prostitutes handing out pamphlets for the next municipality meeting at the town hall, domestic animals addicted to anti depressants, its all there!
The parolee is still staring at me and I’m still thinking of a plan b, in other words if a state of emergency occurs, how does one get out of here? And who do I use as a human shield?
The closer we got to Muizenburg the more I realized that by some strange natural selection, only the weirdo’s were left in the train. I didn’t even notice the group of young coloured girls depart, the Harry Potter book lady was also gone, she probably went home to a house full of cats, wicker garden chairs and porcelain figures everywhere. As we approached Muizenburg we were greeted by a first rate view of the sea splashing against the rocks just below the train tracks and the famous sight of the red, blue and green change rooms that look like small houses.
Rasputin’s jarring tape is still playing, and it’s still the same long song. I even think I started to like it. Rasputin is also the only one who doesn’t leave the train and I wonder to myself does he have a regular gig? Does he tour? A DJ on a train, now that’s what I call an idea. Oh wait, Lucky Strike already did that.
At the station Dmtri was waiting for me and looking quite happy for some reason, while smoking a cigarette and nodding his head to whatever music was playing on his inferior 2 gig Ipod.
“So how was the trip?” he asked
“Too much for words” I said.
“Ha, ha! Welcome to Muizenburg,”
The first order of the day was to get some food at Osmans Fisheries, they serve the best fish and chip gatsbys in Cape Town and you don’t have to pay for the “pink sauce” or “sea food sauce” unlike other fisheries, we mention no names, where it’s also rumored that their fish is actually deep fried sheets of Styrofoam. Gatsby’s are not for people with petty gourmet morsel appetites, its something an American would love, or someone who smokes too much weed. A foot long baguette filled with barbeque spice, MSG, salt and vinegar hot chips, fried hake or “stock fish”, garnished with lettuce and a choice of tomato sauce, pink sauce, chili sauce and tartar sauce for the Camps Bay boys. It was a hearty meal and it went down well with a Coca Cola and a view of the beachfront and the occasional sea gull taking a dump on a car guard’s head.
On our way out of the fishery we heard some shouting out Dmtri’s name in a hoarse voice that sounded like the Cape Malay version of Louis Armstrong. An elderly coloured man whose clothes were full of grass and his head adorned with dreadlocks that came all the way down to his waist. He ran slightly decrepitly towards us half shouting:
“Ahoy Iya! Ahoy!”
He leapt at Dmtri and tried to give him a hug, which Dmtri tried to duck out of but was too late, he was given a hug by a homeless man. I’m all for charity and mankind and everything, but I’ll pass on the physical motions of it. Dmtri contorted his face as the man patted Dmtri on the back and said, “how are you King? One love Iya, oneness iya.”
“Iya, don’t you have some kroon for me man? I’m kak hungry.” He said, suddenly looking tragically sad.
“I don’t have much but I can check,” said Dmtri trying his best to get out his embrace as soon as possible without letting the old Rasta see that he had a wad of R20 notes on him. Dmtri handed him R2.00 and was given a flurry of, “bless iya! Bless! Most merciful iya!” In return and more hugs which he tried to squeeze out of.
“Sure!” said Dmtri as he started brisk walking away.
After we got away Dmtri said “Dude, don’t even ask… Muizenburg is a ghetto with a beach”.
Dmtri’s flat is about three streets away from the train station and is nestled on the top floor of the building, which he occupies with his mother and two brothers who were all away at a cherry festival in Ceres. The flat has a fine view of the main street and beach front, but after an hour of watching cars go by and laughing at the at the most raucous looking people on the street we got a bit bored and decided to get a couple of beers from the shebeen.
A mere two blocks away from Dmtri’s prime property space is Frankfurt Street, which a melting pot of African foreign nationals, Cape gangsters and a medley of tik dens and after hour drinking spots. The sheeben which is called “Oupa’s” is run from a dilapidated colonial style house which is occupied by Oupa and his family in one room, and the rest of the house is now a dance floor and a latrine. Outside the house we met Richard, an elderly Zimbabwean man who is also the care taker at Dmtri flat complex. He gave us a cheery smile and greeted us with a lithe and uncoordinated handshake as he said, “me I drink gin, I work hard, it’s time for gin.” Oupa came to take our order from the front door, we asked for 8 quarts of Amstel and had to give him my back pack which I had to hastily empty out at Dmtri’s house in order to carry the beers around. Waiting for Oupa to supply us with our devil’s mineral water took forever and we even started getting paranoid about being conned by Oupa but eventually he returned with my now swollen back pack and not much apologies for taking so long, all he did was spit out a thick gob of saliva whilst he picked on his nose. On our way back to Dmtri’s I realized that my toothbrush and deodorant were still in the bag, but when I looked in my bag they were gone. Oupa stole my toothbrush.
Back at Dmtri’s flat and after a couple of beers, the conversation we were having about whether Manchester United could take on a fleet of ninjas was disturbed by someone calling out Dmtri name through the open kitchen door which was barred by a trellidor where a thin set of cracked lips were sticking through one of the gaps trying to get our attention.
“Aw, shit… it’s fucking Chris.” Said Dmtri.
“Who’s Chris?” I asked
“He’s crazy and he talks too much, if I go to the door he’s not going to leave us alone”
“Dmtri? Dmtri!” Dmtri!” Chris kept shouting.
Chris lived in the boiling room of the flat complex and paid his rent by doing odd jobs such as washing cars inside the complex and also helping Richard with the gardening.
Eventually Dmtri got up and went to attend to Chris while I stayed behind in the lounge watching a muted episode of “So you think you can dance”.
After about 10 minutes Dmtri came back with a flabbergasted look on his face.
“What did he want?”
“He wanted to borrow my microwave” Dmtri said.
“Your microwave?” I said, not sure whether to believe him.
“Yeah, I told him to just give me what he wants to cook and I’ll do it for him, but he insisted on lending the whole thing… I said no, that’s like asking to borrow your air conditioning system”.
That night I slept like a baby on codeine and even had a dream that I retired at the age of 40 and bought a beachside property in Muizenburg next door to Solly Fernando and a general of the 28’s prison gang and later I got married to Tony Leon’s daughter.
*And if you made it to the bottom of this long, rambling but not entirely boring travel feature… Here’s the recipe for a Bergie Bomb. You’ve heard of Jaeger Bombs, ja? Where you drop a shot of Jaegermeister into a tumbler of Red Bull. So you know Bergies are poor, right. Substitute the Jaeger for Old Brown Sherry and the Red Bull for Zamalek (Black Label, soutie!). It kind of tastes like drunk fisherman’s vomit. Enjoy.
Images © and courtesy Nick Aldridge. Check his steez here.