South Africa is my country, Johannesburg is my City and that is what I picture when I think of Africa, only recently were my eyes opened up to the stark difference between the golden city and the southern cape. The differences in the people, the landscape and the weather, are extreme. My family moved to Brighton, England when I was 5 but South Africa is in my blood and my amazing Granny made sure we kept up to date and interested in the country she called home. Even though I’ve been back many of times, this is the first time I’ve been somewhere other than Joburg (as far as I can remember). My cousins wedding on a farm in the southern cape near Cape Town is the reason for this trip, we figured if we have to go all the way there we may as well make the most of it.
First off we have Cape Town, which is nothing like Johannesburg so already I’m majorly confused and am pretty sure I’m not in Africa. Everything is green, the people are multicultural and (to me) the poverty line isn’t as apparent as in Joburg. Cape Town feels safe, we pretty much walked everywhere that was possible, only using taxis for airport trips and late night galavanting. We stayed at a family friends holiday apartment right on the seafront in Mouille Point, about a 15/20 min walk from the Victoria Wharf and 100metres from the big bus company bus stop.
We went on two Hop On Hop Off bus tours. The red bus took us up to the Table Mountain cable car, up and over the mountains looking at the 12 apostles (there aren’t twelve) to Hout Bay (a famous fishing village) and through some amazing beach towns (Camps Bay, Clifton) inhabited by the very rich. The sea on this side of the cape is freezing! Table mountain is astonishing, you do not realise how big it is until you are standing at the top looking down at the city below. We were incredibly lucky to have such a clear day, not a cloud in the sky. We spent around 2 hours up there walking around to the other side in order to get a 360 view. We also saw a proposal on a hanging rock which was pretty awesome.
The blue tour took us behind the mountain range inland to Kirstenbosch Botanical Gardens. The only way to describe this beautiful scenery is like something from the days before humans. Everything is so green with amazing colourful flowers blooming everywhere you look, my Granny would happily have lived here if it was possible. This scenery is the complete opposite to the South Africa I know.
Unfortunately we didn’t make it to Robben Island (the island prison where Nelson Mandela spent 18 years before the fall of Apartheid) which we weren’t very happy about but being short on time and having to factor in the weather for Table Mountain when we did want to go on the boat trip all tickets were sold out. We did however take a catamaran boat trip through the harbour out into the ocean, this was a pretty cool sight, seeing Cape Town from the sea (very choppy waters, I don’t recommend if you get even slightly sea sick).
The wedding! My cousin and her hubby wed on a beautiful farm in the wine country in a small town called Robertson. To get here we had to drive through the Southerna Cape country side, there’s not much to see it’s all pretty bland but we did get to experience the always fun, MOT lacking African transport held together with duct tape and string which pump out thick black smoke. The wedding was beautiful, and the weather was perfect we danced the whole night away next to bonfires. My cousins husband sourced the beer for the wedding from a local distillery, the GPS said it was just off the main road.. it was about 40 minutes down a dirt track!
After the wedding we drove back down towards cape point, we spent a night in Wale cove, a real rural outback town. We drove down past the cape flats (the biggest shanty town in the eastern cape) and spent a couple of nights in an amazing apartment in Simons Town (naval port), here we watched the blood moon over the never ending ocean at a local bar/restaurant called Dixies, they serve the best wood fired pizza I’ve had in a long time (I love my pizza, I’m quite the critic). Just down the road, Boulder Beach is home to the cutest little African penguins, you walk along a raised walkway and can get super close to the little buggers.
We visited an old family friend in the urban side of Cape Town, this was a real eye opener, the area wasn’t pretty, nor felt safe at all. The craziest thing is her daughter has to catch the black taxis to school which is 2 hours away. You don’t have to be rich to live a good life in South Africa, but you do need a constant income in order to live safely and comfortably.
Lastly we took the Chapman’s Peak drive to the Cape Point national park, this route is crazy, the views you have are like nothing I have ever seen. The ocean drive is definitely a must-see. Cape point was pretty amazing too, we climbed the stairs past some baboons to the southern most point of Africa. We also drove down to the sea so we could paddle in both of the seas either side of the continent.
That concludes our Cape Town part of the trip, we hopped on a plane up to Lanseria Airport in Johannesburg for the next (more homely) part of our holiday. This leg of the trip was planned in order to visit my granny, unfortunately she passed away two weeks before we left England. We decided to keep the flights the same in order for my mum and dad to catch up with some old friends and for us to experience some of the things that we used to do when we lived there.
I have no idea how to describe Johannesburg to people, to me it’s safe but ridiculously dangerous, it’s scary but there’s a sense of security, it’s manic but peaceful and the people are still very much two worlds apart.
Our first trip was to the Las Vegas of Africa, Sun City. My dad spent his younger weekends here playing golf, gambling and having mini holidays. We stayed in the Cabanas, just next to the famous golf course – my dad played a round of golf on this trip and his ball was stolen by a baboon! The valley of the waves and the lost city are exactly how I remember it, over the top but oh so fun. It’s the first time I’ve been gambling in SA and the casinos at Sun city are quite amazing, the Afrikaans big boys with more money than brain cells make it pretty amusing. One day I’ll take my chances at Monte Casino near fourways.
The next day we spent at Pilansburg, a smaller more accessible game reserve compared to the Kruger. We used to come here all the time, it’s about a 2 and a half hour drive from Joburg, however on our recent trips back to SA we’ve spent a couple of days at the Rhino & Lion park owned by my uncles friend as this is a quicker and easier trip. We got into Pilansburg on local prices (thank you mum for remembering your SA ID number as we stupidly forgot our passports), and spent about 5 hours driving through pot holes on dirt tracks watching bull elephants have a stand off, a family of rhinos grazing in thorn bushes, cheetahs cooling down under a tree and hippos yawning in the dam. Unfortunately we saw no lions and leopards but for us this isn’t such a loss as we saw them the previous year close up.
On our drive back from Pilansburg we ended up in the middle of a shanty town as ‘astonishingly’ the roads have changed since my dad last went (10 years ago), this isn’t somewhere you want to be, so we quickly turned around and raced back home. My mum and dad spent the evening meeting up with their old school and work friends which was super nice to see, they miss their old life a lot.
I love this place, I do not believe that I would ever want to come back and live here but it certainly still feels like a home away from home and with family still there I’m sure we’ll be back soon. The crazy difference between Johannesburg and the rest of South Africa is something you have to experience first had, there is no way to describe it (as much as I have tried to above) and being able to see more of my home country has been great.
South Africa is an incredible country, the back story of apartheid and extreme wealth over poverty has made way for some very interesting people, unfortunately some of the old (and young) are still stuck in the stupid racist and I’m-better-than-you ways but then that can be said for any place in the world where a country has been taken over by a bigger commonwealth i.e. Australia.
If you ever get the chance to visit Cape Town or Johannesburg I promise you won’t be disappointed!
Come on the bokke !!