In April of 2008, my family and I lived in South Africa. It was our second, and last year there (we were to move to Seattle in June). South Africa is a country of which one hears amazing things- beautiful landscapes, hospitable people, cultural- but one also hears the awful things, especially when there. Due to lack of time, we hadn’t explored this variegated country, except the usual safaris one goes to as a tourist- but we were not tourists. Thus, we commenced our spontaneous seven-day journey around South Africa.
My family consists of six people: my parents, my three brothers, and myself. Leaving our very cosy house in Johannesburg we set off for Durban, which rests at about 600km. The sloping hills in burnt yellow and fresh olive sped past, and the light blue sky seemed never ending. The people we passed always greeted us with a smile and a wave, and even the policeman who pulled us over for speeding let us off unpunished (though we did pretend not to speak any English). Eventually we arrived in Durban, a stunning city by the Indian Ocean whose winds were blowing a warm windy cover over the ice cream stands and carrousels. We chose a three star hotel called the Blue Waters Hotel right by the beach.
The following day I woke up to wash my hair with twenty eight different mini-shampoos, and left for breakfast. I fancied myself some pancakes while gazing into the deep celestine waters of the ocean, and my family decided to devour some traditional boerewors (bratwurst-like sausages). The beach of course, was stupendous. The water hit hard- it stung, and it itched after- but it was an experience so exhilarating that not even the seven kilograms of sand I found in my swimming costume could dampen my spirits. I was so beaten up by the playful waves that at one point it in fact ripped my bikini top off!
We left for Cape Town that very same day. The distance of course, is impossible to cover in one day (1753km) and we stopped at a grimy 0.23 star motel near Mossell Bay. The hotel had umber bed sheets and cockroaches in the drawers, had no room service, and now, I can’t even find it on the web. But when in a country I love, with people I love, I couldn’t help but love the motel as well.
The following day we reached Cape Town, and registered at Cape Royal, a dazzling, five-star hotel, with clean rooms and soft sheets. In Cape Town, we visited the Table Mountain, which derives its name from the way the peak almost appears to have been cut off. From the mountain we could see the very location of Nelson Mandela’s imprisonment- a most thrilling experience. The medley of tourists who went to see it ranged all the way from locals to the Hell’s Angels.
All in all, it was the best trip of my life. I realised that a five-star trip is not what I truly love, nor is a trip with absolutely no luxury at all. I decided then that the most successful and salubrious holiday is one where spontaneity is key, and there is an ever-switching balance of the poor, and of the rich. It is best to stand on both sides of the bridge, and in the middle too, to truly get the whole phantasmagoria of experiences.
However when visiting South Africa, one should know an outsider will always feel like an outsider, no matter how long you stay.
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