With so many tasks to undertake during the week, I tend to stay at home convalescing during the weekends. This weekend, though, I found I had something special planned for both days! Today I visited the Bugz Family Playpark with my friend Catherine and her two daughters, Z and L. Since I don’t have kids of my own, getting to share in the family experience was a delightful change of pace.
As with many locations in Cape Town, the first challenge is finding the place. Friends had reported that the Playpark was in Bellville, but it’s actually a fair bit east of the suburb. Instead, the exit one needs from the N1 highway is for “East Kraaifontain,” specifically for the M167 highway. Kraaifontain is just about as far northeast as you can travel and still claim to be in “Cape Town.” It’s exit 34, so approximately 21 miles east of downtown. The town name means “Crow Fountain;” many place names in South Africa use agglomerative names, though few combine as many words as does “Tweebuffelsmeteenskootmorsdoodgeskietfontein.” Happily, I was able to take the correct exit on the first try. I bogged down badly at that point, though. I drove past the entrance to the Cape Gardening Center and was confused when my first street on the right was something other than Tarentaal Road. I got a bit nervous to be driving on dusty roads and to see a pedestrian trying to convince drivers to stop for him. After venturing a bit further north, I did a U-turn (illegal here) and headed south to cross the N1 into an industrial area. I saw a Volvo service center and asked the security guards for directions to the M167 highway. They looked confused, having apparently never heard of it. I poked at Google Maps on my phone; it seemed to believe I was very, very close. I returned to the main road (which featured prominent signs naming it as the M167 highway) and headed back north across the N1.
This time I spotted a sign for Bugz Playpark; it was inside the Cape Gardening Center. Comprehension dawned slowly. I’m just glad I gave myself plenty of lead time to get there. In the United States, we do not frequently see two seemingly separate businesses under one roof like this, but there are some counter-examples (For example Cabela’s stores sometimes feature aquariums and other animal displays). In this case, it seems that the Gardening Center realized that landscaping a small entertainment area nearby would open its doors to two separate clienteles. Now people with kids would be drawn to an otherwise industrial area, and might they not shop for potting soil on the same trip they gave their kids a chance to play outdoors? The Bamboo Lounge opened a restaurant inside the complex, and next door an art gallery and an auto museum have opened for visitors. The most common examples in the “Boland” area surrounding Cape Town are the wine farms. Beyond simply growing grapes, these farms are wine production centers, and they have taken advantage of the spectacular geography they inhabit by opening restaurants for free or low-cost wine tastings, adding art galleries and otherwise encouraging guests.
Back at the Cape Gardening Center, Catherine and I had arrived at the same moment, so she pushed the stroller with L while Z walked ahead of us to the entrance. We were happy to discover that the ticket prices for Bugz Playpark were still the 2015 versions; the prices on the website take effect on the first of March. For less than $20 dollars, both adults and two children were through the gate. Inside, we were presented with a wide variety of options. Z, a precocious three-year-old, rode the Worm Train in a circle for a few circuits all by herself. We looked at the Speed Water Slide, but Z needed to gain a few years for that. The same was true of the Pedal Carts. Z gave the Rowing Boats a try, but she’s a little young yet for getting the hang of turning both paddles at the same time to go straight ahead. Then we saw the Swing Horses ride (photos from my silly Android).
Catherine stayed with L in the pram, while I stayed with Z on the ride (kids her age cannot ride alone). We perched precariously atop the horse; each can pivot a little to the left and a little to the right. The ride operator started spinning the carousel at a pretty good pace, and the horses swung outward. Too late I thought about the impact this might have on someone with a history of vestibular migraines. I gritted my teeth and held on tight. Round and round we went! Z laughed and had a good time. As we slowed to a halt, I let my feet back down to the ground to slow us down even a bit faster. Z popped off and walked over to her mother, and I tottered to the nearest bench to wait for my world to stop spinning. Yes, I can no longer deal with the G-forces of children’s rides!
We soon headed for the northwest corner of the park, which features several water-play entertainments. Z loved the Wave Slide, an inflated double-bump slide that landed in a pool of water. She must have climbed and descended ten times!
Catherine and I sat in the shade and chatted while Z frolicked in the undulating Splash Pool. She and the other kids seemed to love the area, with some nice fountains to block and redirect, some well-placed sun-shades, and water that was deep enough to play submerged hippo but not so deep that swimming skills were required. The park had a pretty good mix of races in its patrons, neither all-white nor all-black nor all-Cape Coloured. Finding a place in Cape Town where all races of kids can play together is harder than it sounds.
After a while, I began to fade from a big event the night before. I decided to hit the road back to Durbanville Road. I decided to grab a bite to eat before coming to Turtle House, so I popped into the shopping area where Cantina Tequila is located. McDonald’s is still undergoing remodeling, so I needed to make a choice in adult food instead. I decided to give “Yummy Zone” a try. The restaurant features sushi as well as Chinese food. It passed the most basic test of ethnic restaurants in that several people of Asian ancestry were within the restaurant. I decided to try “Combo 2,” including four California Rolls, four roses, and four fashion sandwiches, for a total of R72 ($4.67). I added a little pot of green tea, as well. In very little time, my food had arrived.
I admit to being a little less familiar with sushi than with other cuisines, but I ran into a bit of a surprise with my food. First, I have always thought of California Rolls as being vegetarian, but these featured a bit of salmon in each one. I am guessing that it’s Atlantic salmon since I’ve never heard of an Indian ocean variety. Second, the three types of sushi were all quite generous with mayonnaise sauce! I enjoyed the California Rolls reasonably well, but the quantity of mayonnaise in the other two hampered my enjoyment a bit. Still, it was quite nice to find a healthy meal right on my track home from the office.
The waitress at the restaurant was an enthusiastic youngster. We talked a bit about her dream of visiting the United States some day soon. Her siblings have already made a home for themselves in Dover, DE. She spoke almost reverently of how bad the weather in the United States seemed to be. I should explain that the weather in Cape Town is incredibly moderate. Even in February, reputed to be the hottest month, we are experiencing days with highs in the 70s F alongside a few with highs in the 90s. The winter here is mostly rainy and dark; I expect my prior experience of Seattle winters may be relevant there. It has been lovely to see that so many South Africans want to visit my home country.
I am relieved that spending some time out of the house on a Sunday can be so pleasant. This area really does offer a tremendous variety of experiences for someone willing to give new things a try.