My trip to South Africa
My journey to South Africa started with the flight from Paris to Johannesburg. I flew with SAA. I travelled First Class so as soon as I was settled I was offered Champagne. I was then given the Menu which had as good a selection as a gourmet restaurant.
I could feel my brain gradually numbing as I progressed through the interesting selection of wines all selected to complement each course, starting with a nice fruity white and finishing with an oaky French Bordeaux. The gay Flight Attendant was very entertaining and service was excellent! After a good night’s sleep in the wide seat that turned into a bed I woke to a nicely cooked South African breakfast, sausages, bacon, eggs, toast….
We then landed in the Cosmopolitan city of Johannesburg. Early December in Paris was -4 degrees and I left in a flurry of snow. As soon as we arrived in Johannesburg I started stripping off layers of clothes. Jeans, boots, jumper, scarf, gloves were rapidly replaced with a nice cool sundress and sandals.
I picked up a hire car and was shocked and slightly worried at the auto-lock device and bullet proof body. However, I made my way to the up-market suburb of Sandton, one of the most important financial and business districts in South Africa. The Hotel where I stayed had a swimming pool and waiter service After one day the waiter was familiar with my order and brought me a gin and tonic as soon as I sat down. I loved being addressed as ‘Mam’!
There are many restaurants in this area with a very high standard. The African buffet style restaurants were particularly impressive, (Lekgotla Restaraunt is one example). South Africa is amazing value for money. Shopping is exciting and excellent value. Particularly good value are gold and leather goods.
I was working during the week so I decided to spend the weekend at the Kruger Safari Park. I took my hire car and set off early on the Saturday morning with the intention of arriving early afternoon. This shouldn’t be a problem. However, my sense of direction isn’t just bad but horrendous! So, after six hours of driving, I found myself on the Swaziland border with a big, dark-skinned soldier looming over me. Luckily, there were no threats and I’m still alive to tell the story! I showed him my map and explained that I was on my way to the Kruger Park. He looked suitably amazed and told me that I’d been following the map upside down!
I then had to retrace my original route and keep my fingers crossed that I didn’t run out of petrol as there wasn’t a petrol station in sight. I finally arrived at my destination as the sun was going down. Luckily my host was very sympathetic and had a very cold gin and tonic waiting for me.
It was a small Lodge complex with huts and a nice pool, BBQ area and restaurant. As I was a lone, female traveller I was quickly whisked to join a group of fellow English travellers. We had a great time, eating, drinking and singing along to someone playing guitar. The evening by now becomes a blur but my day’s adventures are quickly forgotten.
After a good nights sleep in my little hut along with someone’s pet dog, I stumbled into the sunlight to get my full English/South African breakfast. It was just like being with old friends back home. Everyone knows my name and I’m invited to join several tables (Oh dear…….what did I get up to last night!)
Now it’s Sunday morning and I’m going on Safari (that is why I came to the Kruger Park). I’m a bit crazy really as I’m sure not many people would drive by themselves through a Safari Park. You have to keep moving, driving and trying to spot well camouflaged wildlife along the way. Not quite as you see on TV but then again this is more than budget safari!!! I did see an amazing amount of wildlife and was suitably impressed.
Next evening, back in Johannesburg, I decided to join some friends to experience eating the same wildlife I’d been spotting the day before. Funny but very true there was a restaurant called ‘The Train’. This was a unique buffet experience. You take a plate and can sample all kinds of jungle life. It gives some kind of perverse pleasure to sample such delicacies as crocodile and shark. I tried as much as I could manage but particularly enjoyed the wild buffalo and zebra. The wine was good as well!
Moving onto the subject of wine takes me nicely into my next destination which was Cape Town. Everyone’s written about wonderful Table Mountain and the wine regions of Stellenbosch etc. All of which I can rave about as well. However, I’d like to share some of my unique experiences of this town……
I stayed in a small bed and breakfast run by Edna and Ethel. Two, very interesting ladies who cook the best South African Breakfast. Again, as I was on my own I was rapidly seated at the table of two very attractive German gentlemen. We had such a good time at breakfast that we agreed to meet up later and go out on the town – I won’t go into details but it was a very memorable night out (it was also the last time I ever had tequila shots)!
Next day after breakfast and vast quantities of orange juice, tea and any other liquid available, I decided to find an outdoor pool and go for a swim and relax a bit. There was a big public pool which was almost deserted. I had a great time and on my way back to the guesthouse decided to stop off for some refreshment. I spotted the Hard Rock Cafe and decided this was just the place for me. After I walked through the door a dozen eyes were looking at me. It seemed that I wasn’t just the only white person but also the only woman! What a welcome – everyone greeted me, offered me drinks, cigarettes and wanted to talk with me. I was quite sensible and managed to leave before I fell out the door! My new German friends were very impressed when I related my experience and wanted me to take them back – we never made it!
Next day, I decided to go to the beach in the morning and a trip to Penguin Island in the afternoon. I drove along the coast road and seeing a road sign with a sun umbrella and the sea I followed the direction to the beach. On arriving at the car park I was puzzled that mine was the only car in the car park. All the other space was taken by buses. Not deterred by this minor detail I parked my car and then walked the short distance to the beach. Oh dear, it was not for white people! However, having made the effort to get here I laid down my towel and sunbathed no-one bothered me.
I can only say that South Africa is one of the best experiences ever. The people are so friendly, there’s sunshine, good food, good value and an exciting adventure just waiting for you. Well, maybe I was lucky to survive!!