Jonathan and I returned to the City Bowl by rail. The Kalk Bay Station was initially sleepy. Three slender, glammed out coloured boys were catatonically entwined together on the platform. I wondered what combination of drugs and partying they were blissed out on. A fourth was holding court loudly with an American backpacker, who nodded with mid-Western politeness. His body language said, someone rescue me from this chatty local!
About 20 young drunk Brits then arrived at the station in their boardshorts and hipster sundresses, as the rattling yellow rail cars pulled into the station. They all piled into the next train car down from me. The Brits monkeyed and danced, so that the colored ladies clucking, exclaiming and hugging each other in my compartment stopped and glanced mirthfully at their antics.
A smartly dressed hawker wearing a newsboy cap, khaki button up and acid washed jeans slid open the door between our compartments and gave his trademark nasal whine, “Peeanuts!” He made three rounds, selling small bags of peanuts, crisps and lollies. The two Xhosa men sitting opposite of me, one an off-duty security guard and the other in white-collar dress, rubbed the peanuts in their palms and blew the skins off to join the other rick-rack on the floor of the car.
The fancy dress hawker came through our compartment thrice. On his third run through, he met his competition, a slight man wearing a well-worn collared polo shirt. They had a mock stand off.
“Hey you!” said Polo Shirt.
Fancy Dress replied, “Peeanuts!” and threw back his shoulders with nonchalant defiance. The other hawker then made a show of depositing a 5 rand coin and a small bag of peanuts back into Fancy Dress’s basket.
“You dropped it,” he said, in response to Fancy Dress’s quizzical look. Then both went on their way.
As the train continued to roll towards the city center, I became nervous as the car continued to empty out. Only a handful of passengers got off with us at the central station, and I walked quickly to stick with the thinning crowd. There had been no one to buy tickets from in Kalk Bay, and nobody collected tickets as we passed through the station gates.
Finish out this story in Part IV!