Johannesburg, Cape Town, Wild Coast, Durban and Hoedspruit.
3rd March – 13th Jo’burg – Sandton
My experience for the past 2 months here in South Africa has been crazy! I did not expect all the things that I got to see in this amazing part of Africa. So my journey had begun on the 3rd March when I left Argentina, excited as I was moving to a different continent and was eager to explore. Landing in Oliver Tambo airport in Johannesburg in the early hours of the morning I was surprised but I don’t know what I was expecting. The airport was very big, very high tech and very clean – streamline comes to mind. I got my first taste of nightlife here in Jo’burg aka Jozi on the night that I landed. My host took me to a regular Saturday night out! Trust me this club and atmosphere is something so different from London clubbing…better! The club consisted of 4 different rooms (one of the rooms was outside so you could see the sunrise!), over 1,000 clubbers and did not close until the last dancer…which I would not know as I was back indoors the next morning at 8am lol and the club was still buzzing. The trooper that I am I slept for a few hours and headed for The Lion Park which was so cool. Short and a sweet trip, I got to chill with baby lions from ages from 0 till 6months – it was amazing!
So I visited various places in South Africa from Jo’burg, Cape Town, The Wild Coast, Durban and the National game reserves. All places very, extremely different from each other.
Johannesburg is known as the economic hub of South Africa and it certainly shows. If not everyone a majority of people drive fast cars! The houses here are BIG and all area have top notch security in place…is this to say that it is true about Johannesburg being another dangerous city to visit in the world?!?!? Well I have been here on and off for nearly 3wks and I have not come across any form danger or have seen any form dangerous activity! I think the general rule to bear in mind is to use common sense don’t do anything you would not do if you were back at home. The only problem that I experienced when I was here was transport! My local supermarket by foot had taken me 45mins to walk one way! Even though this is the Canary Wharf of South Africa public transport seems to be a problem. You seriously need a car! There is however the Gautrain which is amazing but it does not serve the whole of Gauteng State (which includes Jo’burg and Pretoria). You do have combi taxis which are great if you know how the system works and in which direction you need to be in order to go the right direction lol. The locals use sign language for their destination. I picked up on this by mingling in with the locals and it has been a blessing lol and very cheap 8Rands one way so that works out to be 80p. Your best friend would certainly be the local users.
I was lucky to have met an amazing resident who had taken me to a few sights here in Jo’burg. One thing that I must recommend for everyone to see if you ever come here is to go to the Apartheid Museum. It is the first of its kind, illustrates the rise and fall of apartheid in South Africa. It was a system of racial segregation enforced through legislation by the National Party governments, who were the ruling party from 1948 to 1994, of South Africa, under which the rights of the majority non-white inhabitants of South Africa were curtailed and white supremacy and Afrikaner minority rule was maintained. Want to know more? Get to SA! Or if money is an issue google it! SA has a complex land with a lot of confusing race-related stuff. There are 6 major races here and they are the blacks, English whites, Afrikaners, Indians, Coloureds and others. There was one book that helped me to shed light on the people of South Africa. It is a must read ‘The Racist’s guide to the people of South Africa’ by Simon Kilpatrick.
So my journey in to Cape Town was not for the faint hearted lol. I always tell people never to assume and there I was assuming that the overnight/day buses were better or even on par with buses in South America (well esp in Bolivia) but I was wrong!
I was told that the journey would take me 18hrs which is nothing compared to my 36hr journey from Mendoza to Iguaçu Falls. Half an hour in to my journey the bus broke down due to overheating. We had waited for over 2hrs for an engineer to arrive. The bus started over again (yay) with no AC (nay) on board mind you it was about 27deg outside…we then were told to change buses at 1-2am…things didn’t get better as an hour before we were approaching Cape Town we were pulled off by the drugs police, who had stripped searched all of us (a bus full of church goers!). Touch down after 26hrs…CT. I was followed by a guy off the streets trying to make some money and I was not in a good mood. Let’s just say the security at the hostel had to take care of him! Anyways that was just my luck…so don’t get worried. I had learnt my lesson about the buses here especially ‘SA Roadlink’ who you do not use! Other bus companies are good but at the price that they charge you’re better off catching a flight – so look around!
South Africa – 14th March – 3rd April Cape Town
I spent 3weeks in Kaapstad, very different from Jo’burg. Catered mainly for tourism esp after their world cup here back in 2010. You would only need a car if you wanted to go to vineyards/garden route and other places like Cape Agulas (which is the most southern point of South Africa not Cape Point). But generally everything is like a 20-30mins walk from main attractions. The city is surrounded by a mountains and amazing stretch of coastline. Table Mountain (you can also take a cable car) took me an hr and half both ways to the top and back down not clever going up on your own let alone late in the afternoon as I then had the challenge of making it back down before it got dark lol. The views from the top as you can imagine were sublime and you could see everything from Robben Island, the world cup stadium and both oceans. I hired a Cobra to drive alongside all the bays and I can not begin with the views that I came across. I was faced with never ending, gorgeous views of aquamarine waters, mountain ranges and homes with secluded beaches. I stopped over at Boulder Beach which the local habitants were African penguins just chilling in the same waters/beach with the local people/tourist…swimming with penguins was unreal!
The best place to have a drink, meal and even nightlife in Cape Town is down Long Street. You can find a stretch of all types of restaurants and bars but be prepared a very touristy place with numerous amounts of backpackers residing here but nevertheless a great night out! I was lucky to be part of a TedX event (Technology Entertainment Design and the ‘X’ stands for an independently organized event) where presentations of up to 18 minutes are given by leaders in their fields. This one particular was an event based on Marine Conservation an amazing event that got me excited and was lucky to meet Dr. Suparaja who I will be volunteering for when I hit Chennai! You can view this event at http://www.ted.com/tedx/events/3983
I went on a biomimicry workshop which took place on a boat and I had a chance to have a dip in the Atlantic to view marine life. It took me a very long time to get the courage and get in the waters…as everyone mentions that the Atlantic is cold. I can now confirm that the Atlantic Ocean is extremely cold but once in your amazing body acclimatises and I was glad I jumped in because I got to snorkel and saw some amazing underwater life!
There is this ongoing discussion on the two colours you would expect to see when the Atlantic and Indian Oceans meet. Well I went to discover whether if this was true or not. I drove to Cape Agulhas where I made it just in time to see the sunset, whilst enjoying a bag of fish n chips Anyway back to the point, I went to the local tourist information desk to ask where I would be able to see this meeting of both oceans. She came back with how the meeting takes place waaay down south near enough the South pole so you can not see this at Cape Agulhas but you can def feel the difference of water temperature. Put it this was I was happy to go in the Indian ocean for a skinny dip and it was warm! Also in this area we went to the local harbour where I saw stingrays just chilling, fed them with off cuts of fish but more than anything I was impressed by the sheer size of them! So back in Cape Town, if there is one thing that I think you should do is to go to The Aquarium. It is catered for all age groups and unbelievable array of marine life at a great scale as well. My favourite were the jellyfish. There are other activities that you can get involved in which I didn’t do as there were no interest to me like Robben Island (were Nelson Mandela was imprisoned), the shark diving but I would have liked to do the Garden Route (which I will do when I go back .
South Africa – Port St John 4th April – 15th April
From touristy surroundings in Cape Town I headed to the Wild Coast. In the modern world, ‘wild’ as far as nature is concerned is a relative concept. It is enough, perhaps, that an area of natural beauty is not utterly trampled by urban development, or destroyed by irresponsible land use, for it to deserve the term ‘wild’. Certainly this is the case when talking about The Wild Coast of South Africa. Rested in the Eastern Cape region it has gorgeous natural environment, comprising of open grasslands, secluded beaches and all outlined by the Indian Ocean. I stayed in an area called Port St. John’s and in my eyes the best place that I have seen here in South Africa. PSJ is very remote African town, in terms of technology and living lifestyle. It is a place of true tranquility and a great getaway. I had stayed at the amazing chalet overlooking a private beach and the Indian Ocean. All you could hear 24hrs a day was the Ocean and birds. No radio, no TV, no transport, no communication to the outside world and hours of sunshine. So what was there to do here? So me and Andre made friends with David a local fisherman who had taken us for a few fishing trips. I am proud to say that I caught my 1st ever fish and cooked it for dinner – amazing! In the evenings we would prepare a Braai of amazing seafood like mussels and crayfish and watch the stars come out in the evening. Nothing beats the sound of the waves crashing against the rocks, whilst cooking dinner on an open fire and sipping some good wine! The town is very small but it does have your standard banks, ATM’s and you supermarket. Everyone here was either Braaing or drinking a very chilled out town. The drives around the PSJ were so serene with acres of land, small villages scattered everywhere (all very happy people and welcoming – kids running along our cars asking for sweets or some change - very good long distance runners) all overlooked by the Indian Ocean. We headed off to Durban for 1night and that was long enough. Not much to do apart from the beach and walk along the promenade but I did hear that they are cool things to do and see on the outskirts. So Durban is the little India here and the craze here as far as food is concerned is a bunny chow. What is it? It is a half a loaf that has the middle of the bread scooped out and replaced by a meat curry. I did have it and it was nice but nothing special – another food craze here are chili bites aka pakora/Indian bhaji.
We headed towards to a private self-catering bushveld game estate near the Kruger National Park game reserve called Maduma Boma, about 10 hour drive (we stopped off in jo’burg for the night) from Durban. The sun would rise over our thatched chalet, which was in a secluded part of the bush. Whilst I was having breakfast a heard of Impalas were grazing just arms reaches from me. I also came across Giraffe’s, Wildebeest Kudu, Nyala and many other species of magnificent African animals. The night sky was covered by loads of bright stars, moving satellites and in the distant you could hear the loud roars of lions nearby. It was an amazing experience for the fraction of the cost of going to the Kruger National Park.
In my last week back in Jo’burg I hit Soweto and downtown Johannesburg; I came across some amazing places like Melville and the local Market on the Main.
South Africans have been so helpful, inviting and this is what makes this country an amazing place to visit. So overall this country has been a home away from home I can not wait to come back here to explore more. I have thoroughly enjoyed myself. Next stop India.