Saturday, July 31, 2010

Port Alfred, South Africa

Port Alfred is probably not every tourists destination but it was a convenient stop for us to rest. The only backpacker in the town was where we were able to stay but it was quite a strange place. The husband and wife had a 3 month old baby so the common area was full of baby things. The veranda had broken and ripped seats on which two locals sat smoking and drinking beer. They seemed more to be boarders than tourists or backpackers.

Although our room was clean and comfortable we felt like we were intruding on a family in their home so it didn't have that backpacker atmosphere that we are familiar and comfortable with. The two huge dogs felt more at home as they spread out on the available couches in front of the TV.

In the summer and at Easter the owners told us they fill up with 25 surfers and have more camping in the yard. It is not far from a popular surfing and fishing spot.

In the evening we decided to go to the town to eat and spotted a place with bar meals called Flyboys. When we went inside all the staff were dressed in hats and all were wearing sunglasses.

We had to ask what was going on and were told the theme of the evening was "Spy night". There were old black and white photos of aeroplanes around the bar and lights were covered with aeroplane tyres. The huge open fire was blazing and it was pretty comfortable.

Pies were the speciality of the house so we ate and chatted to an English woman, Julie and a Scottish guy called Jimmy, who live in the town. She taught all sports at the local high school and he was an electrician who was responsible for creating the tyre lighting. He arrived in the town 9 years ago, bought a house and still has no work permit. He is finding it difficult to find work with the present recession and can't afford the 5,000 rand for a permit to stay.

Jimmy was in town one day walking home from the shops about 10 in the morning and someone threw a brick at his head and he was left unconscious on the footpath for an hour or so. His wallet was taken and he still has a numbness and damage to the nerve endings in the left side of his face. In spite of this they both love living in the town.

When we drove around the town we saw a park with a sign warning against loud music, dancing and alcohol. Jimmy told us that the wealthy holiday home owners with property on the river complained about the noisy dance parties that the local black people had in the park and as a result the sign went up.

At about 9pm a huge flood of young people arrived in the bar and the music went up 10 notches. Julie told us they were men from the flight training school nearby. They come from all over South Africa to train here.

The area surrounding the town has a lot of chicory and pineapples. All in all it was quite an unusual experience.