South Africa. The best & the worst.

South Africa is a strange and wonderful place. Its one of those countries that evokes polar emotions. I was so ecstatic to see wild, free animals in their natural habitat. Then so dismayed to discover the poverty, the blatant racism & tainted history. Then again, elated to sip delicious & cheap wine in the countryside near Cape Town amongst manicured gardens, living the lifestyle of the rich & famous at a fraction of the cost. Then, hopelessness, as I realised the huge dichotomy of Cape Town itself; essentially divided, based by race & wealth.

This is why we travel though right? Not only to see the wonders of the world, but to realise that there are people, animals & situations out there that don’t enjoy the lucky life. And if we don’t see how the rest of the world lives, how are we ever expected to change or improve as human beings? Even though I’ve travelled to developing countries before, this trip was definitely the eye-opener, that not everything is as it seems. It also had a hand in my decision to be more careful about what cruel practices I support at home. I will never go to a zoo again.  And I will never fail to be compassionate to those who don’t have as much as me. Because really, this trip highlighted how damn lucky I am.

We started in Franshoek, a gorgeous little town near Cape Town where Chenin Blanc flows freely & an 8 course gustation meal costs the same as your local dodgy Italian place in Australia. Surrounded by mountains & whispy clouds, this place was the perfect way to get into ‘relax mode’, something that always takes Wally & I a couple of days to achieve. After wining, dining & buying as many bottles as we could carry, we moved onto Cape Town to meet Wally’s besty & his soon to be wife (the purpose of the trip).

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Cape Town is a funny one. On one hand, its the perfect mix of beaches, mountains, great restaurants & good coffee. We felt that it was very similar to Sydney, so were instantly comfortable there. People are very active in Cape Town, weekends consist of running along the foreshore, cycling around the jagged coastlines & hiking up Table Mountain & Lion’s Head. But then you cross over into the ‘other Cape Town’ which is scary, poverty-filled & incredibly bleak. There’s a giant stadium built for the football world cup in the middle of the Waterfront, prime real estate. Its completely silent & abandoned & apparently the country is still paying it off. You can’t help but think this would have been better spent on housing the poor or at the very least, improved education.

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Wally & I found Capetown a great place to explore. There was so much to do, including a daytrip to the Cape of Good Hope & a visit to a little penguin sanctuary (these guys do conservation sites so well – animals protected in their natural space & people can just go and look at them doing their thang without interfering too much).

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Penguins!

We hiked up lion’s head (oh em gee safety is so not a thing in South Africa, we were left to scale its cliffs in the dark. There were a few volunteer firemen helping us down – mostly because so many people die hiking this thing!). I kind of enjoyed the lack of nanny state though – in Australia there are laws & procedures stopping you doing anything exciting because they’re designed for the stupid people of this world.

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Lion’s Head from above

Then there’s the ‘bush’ (don’t dare call it ‘Safari’ to a South African!). Well, I’ll let the pictures & video do the talking as there’s just not really any way to describe this adequately.

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Reasons to go

  • South Africa is cheap! Wine, food & clothes are a fraction of the cost of what they’d be in Australia (the exchange rate definitely helps)
  • Its a flora & fauna lover’s heaven. If you’re an animal lover like me, you will not be disappointed. Although there’s a lot of time spent looking at empty bush, its worth it for the times you’ll pass big cats, elephants & giraffes.
  • There’s so much diversity. In the people, the animals, the landscape, the architecture. You can travel a couple of hours and everything changes. I felt like we’d visited 3 or 4 countries in one trip!

Things to be aware of

  • Cape Town, Johannesburg & other cities have what’s called ‘Load shedding’. These are blackouts that last up to 3 hrs. There are schedules available online but they’re really hard to keep track of. Just be prepared that you’ll be out of power at any given time! Pack some candles!
  • Skim milk is not really a thing in South Africa. They won’t really know what it is. Accept that you’re drinking full cream. The coffee IS really good though assuming you’re not watching your weight!
  • Be careful on the roads. The cities can be really hairy and if you’re in the bush a rhino or elephant could appear in front of your car at any moment. Either way, keep your wits about you!
  • The weather in Capetown can be pretty unpredictable & change quickly. Always layer up and be careful on the mountains – most of the deaths have been due to rapid changes in weather & wind, particularly on Table Mountain.

 

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