King William’s Town, South Africa
Spent a day in King William’s Town (KWT) waiting for a cheap public bus to Port Elizabeth – it made for a great day trip.
KWT is a formerly English occupied town on the east coast of SA; it was previously was given the (more than verging on politically incorrect) name British Kaffraria! A few colonial buildings aside, there’s really not much evidence and to me, it feels a bit like deepest, darkest Africa.
Some markets I stumbled across is a good example of why I feel this way – they were wonderfully chaotic and refreshingly not at all catering for tourists – not a single one of those ubiquitous wooden masks or primary coloured beaded necklaces in sight!
Instead, were towering pyramids of cabbages, raw meat sitting in the hot midday sun and salesmen sitting on gingham tablecloths they were sharing with their wares (half a dozen brightly coloured plastic combs and single serves of mentos mints.) Faint whiffs of BO would dance under my nostrils in between sweet wafts of unrecognisable exotic fruits and the aforementioned slowing warming meat, as women pushed past me with babies wrapped tightly to them with thick blankets or carrying various items on their heads (including one woman with 12.5kg of cake flour!) Amidst the people singing, babies crying, african rhythms belting from portable CD players, street sellers advertising their wares and cars tooting people out of their way, promoters were trying to push fliers in hands advertising traditional healers who promised to “bring luck, speed promotion, pas [sic] exams”.
I love markets.
Later on, to my delight, I spotted a second hand book stall. My glee soon faded as I realised that it was the largest collection of unappealing books that I had ever seen! Titles included such classics as The South African Olympic Team 1992, Guide to MS DOS and BIOS, various car manuals, and bizarrely, six dusty copies of A Town Like Alice. I took that as a sign, so Neville Shute will be joining me on my next few bus trips. (Three hours today, twelve tomorrow!!)
I also visited the KWT museum – called the Amatole Museum after some nearby mountains. The museum follows the turbulent history of the town and also boasts one of the best taxidermy collections in South Africa, a little bizarre in such a town. This guy devoted his life to collecting tens of thousands of samples, many of them now housed in none other than one of my personal favourites, the Museum of Natural History in London. Happily, the safaris have not done anything to my secret love and guilty pleasure of taxidermy. Pfew!