One guide book warned us that almost everyone leaves Cape Town thinking there was more to see and do that they had missed. That was true for us, too, and it could have been said about South Africa as a whole. For sure, one of the things that made it special was that Cindy and I had received so many dinner invitations from friend’s of friends we had met before arriving, as well as from folks we met while here too, that we just felt so welcome.
South Africa was the second country we visited that was not on our original list and we stayed a day shy of 6 weeks. (Jordan was the first, lasting 4 days). Since leaving Boston we hadn’t seen more than 30 minutes of rain for the first 3 1/2 months of being on the road. There was a bit of irony as we’d come to South Africa to avoid the monsoons east of Tanzania expecting a bit of rain and mild winter temperatures requiring the purchase of a fleece and some rain gear. We started off our visit with unseasonably hot and dry weather that lasted for about 2 weeks and ended with record breaking rains in Cape Town. Still, hiking in a t-shirt in the winter isn’t cause to complain. The weather did little to change our itinerary and the old adage from home that “if you don’t like the weather, just wait because it will change”, applies even more so because the weather fronts around here move faster than you can say, “Nor’easter”.
Perhaps it’s a low standard, but as travelers or tourists we never really felt like we were getting hustled as we had encountered so many times in other countries. The only exception being the panhandlers in Cape Town; even then, they were a minor annoyance.
The dollar goes a long way around here and for the most part, things are pretty inexpensive. Food is really inexpensive. You can get a pretty good meal at a restaurant for about $20-$22….a couple! We’ve had a couple of great dinners for about $30-$35 that would have cost double or even triple that back home.
Driving in SA is nuts! Drivers can be very aggressive. The have no qualms about tailgating and most disturbing is a general disregard for pedestrians, which is even more crazy since it’s not unusual for pedestrians to be walking on dark highways at night….and dressed in dark clothes. One time, while driving on a highway, we saw a person driving a donkey with its cart on the exit ramp going the wrong way.
There are some other odd things about South Africa worth mentioning. Barbed wired fencing is commonly used on the trails around Cape Town to prevent people from taking shortcuts through the fynbos. It’s seems very weird since there are many places you could easily take a wrong step and fall off a cliff, but try to make a short cut a trail and you’re hiking commando-style.
High crime rates drove many people out of post-apartheid South Africa. Everyone has alarm systems (some that warn of an ‘armed response’ and live in high-walled, gated and fortified houses. And a consistent theme we’d heard about from everyone was the extensive government corruption and lack of accountability. Still, this is a beautiful and amazing country to visit.
Over the past 2 weeks we did a lot more than I was able to post. Cindy and I were both having issues with our iPads and had to bring them to the iStore (SA’s Apple stores) to have the operating systems reinstalled. I had loaded too many pictures and they had taken some of the memory needed for the OS, thereby corrupting it. I wish I had a better prognosis for my camera as the shmutz in the lens housing is still floating around creating some spots. So I broke down, bit the proverbial ‘bullet’, and bought another camera.
Gotta go! We’re off to China!