\Four sleeps to go before we fly Cape Town/Joburg/Melb/Syd. This trip to South Africa has been absolutely fantastic but I will be happy to go home; enough of living out of a suitcase for the time being.
|Friendly creatures in SA|
South Africa is a big, incredibly beautiful and diverse country- twice the size of Texas and the size of Spain and France combined. We have covered a lot of kilometers, seen a lot of very different landscapes and people and learnt a lot. Stats are interesting - 68% Christians (& attend Church), 2% Islam, 1.5% Hindu and 28.5% Indiginous beliefs. Crime is an issue but not nearly the issue reported in the press. All is not black and white here, ie 'Coloured' means South African of mixed race.
The population is made up of 77% Africans (indigenious South Africans) 11% whites, 9% coloureds and 3% Indian. Afrikkaans is the mother tongue. English is widely spoken. This is a nation struggling to find its identity. Unemployment is running at 33% so terrible poverty as a result. No government handouts until 60 for men and 65 women and only if you have nothing....Rand 1200 per month - approx AUD $161.
My last missive was written 14 days ago when we had just arrived in Zimbabwe. Our stay at the grand Victoria Falls Hotel was just magic. Here we met some very interesting people from all over the globe including Godfrey Oettle and his charming wife Pam. Godfrey was the Forensic Pathologist at Sydney Morgue when John was working at the Coroner’s Court back in the 60’s. This meeting naturally called for a sundowner or two to give the chaps a chance to reminisce.
|John, Pam & Godfrey|
Victoria Falls was every bit as breathtaking as I had imagined. The walk along the viewing path of the falls was like taking a shower wearing an ineffective poncho. It’s impossible not to get drenched.
|Ian & John on the falls path|
The 15 minute helicopter ‘flight of angels’ (scary name) gave a wonderful overview of the whole area and the raging falls. This flight is a must. Many adventures and activities are available such as absailing, white water rafting, bungee jumping into the gorge (been there, done that so didn’t bother).
|Weighing in before Flight of the Angles|
|Victoria Falls from the air|
|Landed safe & sound|
Instead we acted our age and had a private walk with the lions in a sanctuary where there is a breeding program to save this beautiful animal from becoming extinct. We were instructed how to approach the lion from behind and where to touch it, given a long stick to put in its mouth if it turned around and told not to jump or run if it did this…..fat chance of obeying that advise!!! I loved this experience. With their keepers close at all times, we patted and stroked these gorgeous big pussy cats, without feeling one bit threatened.
|Having a rest|
After four wonderful days being thoroughly spoilt in Victoria Falls Hotel, the Savages and the Hamiltons flew to Durban for two nights. A rather dull uninteresting city and not known for its safety, Durban’s population is almost entirely black plus a large number of Indians. John and I took the 3 hour hop on (no hop off) bus with commentary. This was a good way to get a better overall feel for the city. After our tour the guide agreed to take us into the heart of the colourful bustling Victoria Markets where whites are not exactly welcomed. It was a fascinating experience, particularly in the massive witch doctors ‘pharmacy’ area where all bits of various animals and plants are for sale and prescribed for every ailment known to man. Photography is a definite no-no. It is obvious what we would call witch-craft, is not a dying practice in the province of KwaZulu-Natal.
|Victoria Market Durban|
|Pharmacy stall in markets|
|Play area on the esplanade Durban|
|View from our hotel room in Durban|
Our great Soooth Effrica driving adventure began the following day when we collected a Kia Sportive from Mr Hertz and set off on a 14 day exploration of the Eastern Cape through to Cape Town on the Western Cape.
|Packing the car|
We sought advice from various locals, guide books etc before we set off and I must tell you that never have I heard so many conflicting recommendations, suggestions or guidance’s in my entire travel experiences. Some said it is a lovely drive but by far the majority said it is a very boring drive until the renowned ‘Garden Route’ and couldn’t imagine why on earth we would want to drive it. Nothing to see they said; Unsafe, shocking roads. The last bit was right in many places I admit and we were very pleased we were in a hire car and not one of our own.
|Some roads were a challenge|
We are currently in Stellenbosch, almost at the end of this great drive. We took off-roads wherever possible and how rewarded we were with utterly stunning scenery, interesting and sometimes scary squalid third world African villages, desperately poor people living in disgusting squatter villages tucked away from the mansions overlooking fabulous beaches and inlets.
|Just love this photo. This women was walking home - more than 20 km. The goods she carried on her head were very heavy, we later gave her daughter and the goods a lift.|
From Durban we drove The Wild Coast and it was just that. Our first overnight was in the rural seaside town of Port St John’s. What a sight, dramatic landscape of sea cliffs with Mt Thesiger covered in lush forests and a mighty river running to the ocean. We arrived on a Sunday afternoon and followed the signs to second beach which we thought may be a good area to stay. Those thoughts were quickly dropped. The potholed road was lined with totally intoxicated locals drinking beer and goodness knows what else. One young chap stood at the side of the road with nothing on except his pants around his ankles displaying his God-given goods. Believe me, he had plenty to show!! We guessed the drinking may have been the Sunday pastime but were later told by the hotel owner that it is a daily event. The second beach is stunningly beautiful. It is the first time I have seen cattle grazing on a beach. Amazing.
Between Port St Johns and Stellenbosch, we stayed at Hole in The Wall, where the sea water gushes through a natural hole in a massive rock formation, Cintsa (gorgeous seaside village), St Francis (village where all buildings white with grey/brown thatch roofs), Plattenberg (spoilt ourselves and booked into the iconic Beacon hotel), Victoria Bay, Witsand (could have died in this sleepy fishing village and never ever be found) and the beautiful seaside town of Hermanus.
|Hole in the Wall|
The garden route runs 200km from Storm River Mouth to Mossel Bay - billed as the South African Paradise. It is indeed a beautiful drive but I was a bit disappointed. After the spectacular scenery on the Wild Coast and the Sunshine Coast I had expected more. According to The Rough Guide, long ago the area was all lush green forest with rivers from the mountains north to southern rocky shores and sandy beaches. Dutch woodcutters came and exhausted the forests and the birds and animals suffered as a result. Today we see pine plantations, tourist shops and resorts along the garden route. Growth in tourism plus city dwellers seeking a quiet life or holidays homes in relatively crime free areas along the route have obviously robbed the area of much of its tranquility.
Stellenbosch is a stunning university city with magnificent heritage protected homes and buildings. The very lively historic centre has gorgeous avenues lined with 200 year old oak trees. It presents as a wealthy city although we have been approached by many more street beggars here than anywhere in SA. Afrikaans is the everyday preferred speaking language; much more so than in the North and North East. The city surround is almost all under vine so very lovely indeed and the wine routes are a major tourist attraction. Today we enjoyed a wonderful long lunch at the Delheim winery.
|Wine vats at Delheim winery|
|Vegie garden at Delheim winery|
|We had some great accommodation|
If you have not been here, put it on your bucket list. It’s a perfect country to backpack if you are under 35!
Today we drive the scenic route to Cape Town via The Cape of Good Hope . Only have to pack the bags two more times – yippee!
|Savages & Hamiltons at Cape of Good Hope|
|Entrance to Robben Island|
|Double security fences|
|The cell of Nelson Mandella|
|The mainland from Robben island|
|Australian Eucalyptus trees on the island|
|Multi coloured house in Capetown|
|Children busking in Cape Town|
See you soon all being well.