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|Saturday, March 24th, day 264 of Lisa and Joel's Excellent Adventure, we took a 3:40 AM flight from Dubai, of The United Arab Emirates, to Johannesburg, South Africa. Approximately half way through the flight we crossed the equator. This marked our return into the Southern Hemisphere. Back on December 3, 2000, on a flight from Jakarta, Indonesia to Singapore, we crossed into the Northern Hemisphere. Until then we had been in the Southern Hemisphere since our flight from Hawaii to The Cook Islands, on August 3, 2000. We arrived in Johannesburg at 10:30 AM local time.
After exchanging some cash, one US dollar gets you about 8 Rand (Rd), we rented a car at the airport, a little VW Golf, and headed south out of Gauteng Province. Route N1 took us through Free State Province. Along the way we passed through Bloemfontein, the birthplace of J.R.R. Tolkein.
The landscape looked like something out of The Lord Of The Rings, as a beautiful sunset developed on the horizon. We crossed over the Orange River, into Northern Cape Province, and stopped at a pleasant little hamlet called Colesburg.
Sunday, March 25th, day 265, after a pleasant night's sleep at a cozy B&B called The Light House, it was back on the road, this time heading south on Route N9 into Eastern Cape Province. Eventually we pulled into a beautiful city called Graaff-Reinet. After checking into another B& B, The Impangele Guesthouse, run by a very friendly woman named Freda, we set out to explore the Karoo Nature Reserve, which surrounds the city.
The Valley of Desolation provided some amazing scenry and a pleasant hike. There is also a game viewing area you can drive through in your car. The road was more suited for a 4x4 than our little 4-banger.
We saw monkeys, antelopes, deer, wildebeast, buffalo and more than a few creatures we couldn't even identify.
After watching the sunset back at the Valley of Desolation viewpoint, we returned to Freda's to crash for the night.
Monday, March 26th, day 266 of our travels, we packed up our gear and headed further south into the Eastern Cape. Route 63 and N10 took us into Port Elizabeth, a sprawling city pearched on the Sunshine Coast of the Indian Ocean. Along the way we stopped at Addo Elephant National Park. We saw turtles, ostrich, warthog, something that looked like a deer with strangley shaped antlers called a kudu and of course elephants. Elephants, elephants, everywhere! Herds literally filled with hundreds of these wonderous beasts. They roamed the lush landscape in the only way they really should exsist -- FREE! It was truly amazing.
Once we arrived in Port Elizabeth, we checked into another B&B -- 141 Cape Road, run by a very nice woman named Wilna.
Tuesday, March 27th, day 267 of our adventure we did laundry, washed the car, Lisa got a haircut and we did some internet. Isn't traveling glamorous?
Wednesday, March 28th, day 268 of our journey, we spent the day at the beach. We basked in the sun and gazed out at the crashing waves as they rose and then dissolved against the shoreline of the southern tip of Africa.
After about an hour of relaxing we noticed a large crowd developing down by a rock pier jutting out into the ocean. Joel went to investigate and it turns out a corpse had washed up on the beach. Where does morbid fasination come from? Why were so many eyes locked on this old man, who had recently met his untimely demise, as his body rocked back and forth, its last movements being caused by crashing waves rather than its own volition.
Soon the police arrived, dispursed the crowd, and first covered and then removed the body. After the coroner's vehicle pulled away, an elderly woman appeared at the beach's entrance. She was obviously distraught and nearly hysterical. All we could hear her say was, "Where is he?", but this comment combined with her being consoled by the police officers, caused us to believe she was the recently deceased man's wife. It really was very sad.
We didn't expect death to literally wash up on our feet today, but when it did it made us think. You never know when your number is going to come up, so live each day like it's your last and make the most of all your opportunities. That's exactly what we did as we frolicked and played in the same waves the man had recently died in. We know he probably didn't choose to die here, but if he did, he would have been hard pressed to find a more beautiful place.
Thursday, March 29th, day 269 of our travels, after another restful night at Cape 141, we packed up our gear and started heading west, along the southern coastline of South Africa. This stretch is often called The Garden Route. Once we reached Jeffrey's Bay, we checked into a nice place right on the beach -- The Philton.; a three bedroom apartment with awsome views of the ocean was only 200 Rd per night (about $25.00 US).
We wound up spending the nights of days 269, 270, 271, 272 and 273 of our travels in "J-Bay". Sun, sand and waves were the order of the day. Every morning and night we would walk/run on the beach and watch the sunrise and sunset. It was a beautiful stretch of beach, which provided more than a few magical experiences. The surfing at "J-Bay" is world class, and so is the shell collecting. Lisa picked up a few gems.
Tuesday, April 2nd, day 274 of our adventure, we said goodbye to "J-Bay" and continued west on the Garden Route. We stopped in Tsitsikamma National Park and did the first stretch of the park's famous Otter Trail -- a three hour hike to the waterfall and back. We highly recommend it. Tuesday night we stayed in a B&B in Plettenberg Bay.
Wednesday, April 3rd, day 275, we headed west on the Garden Route towards Mossel Bay. Along the way we stopped to check out the view at Brenton-on-Sea. Once we arrived in Mossel Bay, we wasted no time and set out to explore the area. We hiked up on the cliff at The Point, by the lighthouse. What an amazing view! Later, we checked into The Green Door B&B.
Thursday, April 4th, day 276 of Lisa and Joel's Excellent Adventure, further exploration of Mossel Bay was the order of the day. Back in 1488, the Portuguese explorer, Bartholomeu Dias, stopped at Mossel Bay. This marked the first visit by a European to the bay. From then on, many ships stopped here to take on provisions and fresh water. A tradition was started, in which ships heading east would leave mail inside a shoe beside a large milkwood tree. Ships heading west would take the mail with them. The tree still stands and is adorned with a statue of Dias. We also saw a replica of the ship used in Dias' 1488 voyage. The caravel was built in Portugal and sailed to Mossel Bay in 1988 to commemorate the 500th aniversary of Dias' voyage. (The 1988 voyage only took 3 months, while the 1488 voyage took twice that long.)
Later in the day, we went on a boat ride to Seal Island. Besides taking in the beautiful views of the rolling, sparkling waves, as they were kissed by sunlight against the background of the horizon, we also saw sleek dolphins, menacing hammer-head sharks and a mountain of seals draped across the rocks of the island.
Friday, April 5th, day 277 of our travels, we first headed west on The Garden Route, then detoured south, to Cape Agulhas, the southern-most point in all of Africa. Cape Agulhas is 12,745km from New York City, 13,882km from the North Pole and 6,135km from the South Pole. Later, we again headed west, this time using the back roads, instead of the main thoroughfare, which rewarded us with views of the communities of Elim and Pearly Beach. We ended up at Gansbaai, where we crashed for the night at a B&B close to the water.
Saturday, April 6th, day 278 of our adventure we continued west on the Garden Route. On the way we checked out the ocean views at Hermanus and saw a colony of Jackass Penguins at Betty's Bay. (Yes, they are really called Jackass Penguins. They make a sound like a donkey.)
We ended up staying in Gordon's Bay. We were lucky to see an awesome sunset on the beach before bed.
Sunday, April 7th, day 279 of our travels, we finally made it into Cape Town. After checking into a B&B at 7 Hof Street, we went to check out the waterfront area.
Monday, April 8th, day 280, we walked around Cape Town. We lost a couple of hours in The South African Museum. This could be the best museum we have ever seen. We also walked through the Botanical Gardens. Lisa spotted two, hand-carved wooden statues that will make wonderful additions to The Around The World Art Gallery.
Tuesday, April 9th, day 281 of our adventure, we drove up to the top of Signal Hill. We had driven up here yesterday too, but the fog and clouds obscured any view there may have been. Today, however, was a crystal clear day. We had a little picnic and enjoyed the panoramic views of Cape Town, the mountains and the ocean. Later we checked out the beaches of Cape Town (Camps Bay and Clifton) and enjoyed the vista on Clifton Beach as the sun set over the Atlantic Ocean.
Wednesday, April 10th, day 282 of our travels, we climbed Lion's Head. Lion's Head is the name of a rocky mountain right in Cape Town that looks just like a reclining lion. This hike/rock climbing adventure took about 3 hours round trip. At two points during our ascent, we even had to use chains to scale up sections of the mountain. Once at the top, the views were spectacular. Cape Town truly is one of the great cities of the world. Beaches, vineyards, mountains and a cosmopolitan attitude will leave plenty of pleasant memories in our mind. After our hike, we rested on Clifton Beach, a beautiful little beach only minutes from the downtown area.
Later, we had an excellent dinner and went to a movie. The steak and the wine are outstanding in South Africa. And inexpensive too!
Thursday, April 11th, day 283, we jumped in the car and headed south, with the goal of seeing The Cape of Good Hope firmly set in our minds. We drove along the Atlantic Ocean, through Clifton and Camps Bay, and then we stopped at Llandudno Beach for about an hour. We drove as far as we could on Chapman's Peak Drive (they recently closed the inner portion of the drive after some people got killed by falling boulders) and then had a nice lunch at Hout's Bay.
After a while back on the road, we stopped at the oldest and grandest vineyad and homestead in the Cape -- Groot Constantia. We did a wine tasting and bought a nice 1999 Shiraz. We ended up staying the night at a B&B in Simon's Town, right on Boulder's Beach. Boulder's Beach is home to a colony of Jackass Penguins. Cute, little penguins walk all around this little hamlet. A couple of the little buggers were right outside our window, as the unique honking (donkey like) noise they make could attest.
Friday, April 12th, day 284, we awoke to hear the news of the terrible tragedy that happened at Ellis Park Football Stadium in Johannesburg. Our thoughts go out to the family and friends of the 44 people who were killed.
We used the day to drive into The Cape of Good Hope Nature Reserve. The entire southern portion of the Cape has been preserved. It is a truly beautiful setting.
General perception dictates that The Cape of Good Hope is the southern-most point in Africa and the converging point of the Atlantic and Indian Oceans. Both of these perceptions are false. Actually, Cape Agulhas, which we visited back on day 277 of our adventure, fills both of those criteria However, what The Cape of Good Hope lacks in true geographical significance, it makes up for in sheer grandeur. The rock cliffs pressed up against the crashing waves have a real end-of-the-world quality about them. As we stared out into the foggy mist, Antarctica seemed only a stone's throw away. Adding to the mystical moment was the huge winds blowing in from the south. On a day like today it is easy to see why so many ships have run aground at the Cape.
There are actually two distinct points that jut out at the end of the Cape -- The Cape of Good Hope and Cape Point. At the top of Cape Point rests a huge, historic lighthouse.
While we finished exploring the rest of the reserve, we were surprised to see a pack of baboons blocking the road ahead. We made sure to keep the windows rolled up, as there are warnings all over the park about the sometimes nasty nature of these unusual looking beasts.
On the way back we drove part of the way on the False Bay side of the Cape. Once back in Cape Town, we crashed at a local B&B in the Green Point section of the city.
Saturday, April 14th, day 284 of Lisa and Joel's Excellent Adventure we loafed at Clifton Beach most of
Sunday, April 15th, day 285, we went to a huge flea market where local artists display fine works of African art. We ended up buying a hand-carved statue of a hippopatamus.
Monday, April 16th, day 286, we drove north to The West Coast National Park. The highlight of our visit was walking down an isolated stretch of sand right along the Atlantic Ocean, called Sixteen Mile Beach. After an hour and a half of walking we discovered a shipwreck of a huge, old, rusting tanker. The shredded hull had rolled up close to the shore, becoming a permanent addition to the beautiful surroundings. What was the name of the ship? What was its cargo? When did it sink? What happened to the crew? Was anyone killed? Our questions will remain unanswered, but the indelable impression of this relic from the past would forever be planted in our minds.
Later we checked out the Mykonos Resort Area and then headed back towards the Cape. Instead of returning to Cape Town we changed course towards the wine region of Stellenbosch. We checked into a B&B and crashed for the night.
Tuesday, April 17th, day 287 of our travels and Lisa's birthday, we drove around to four different vineyards and enjoyed some samples of Stellenbosch's best wines.
Wednesday, April 18th, day 288 of our adventure, we headed east on Route N2 and ended up in a nice, little town called Oudtshorn. The drive provided some spectacular scenery as we wove our way through a region known as The Little Karoo. As the golden fields gave way to a backdrop of towering green mountains, we had a chance to reflect on our travels.
Each day is an adventure, each moment really, but the smaller parts make up a whole -- a journey. Going westward, advancing toward the setting sun, consequently, the days have grown longer by as many times four minutes as we have crossed degrees of longitude in that direction The earth's circumference contains three hundred and sixty degrees; these three hundred and sixty degrees, multiplied by four minutes, make exactly twenty-four hours -- hence we will lose a day. In other words, as we advance westward, we will see the sun pass the meridian one less time than our friends and family back home.
Where have we been? So far we have explored parts of The United States of America, The Cook Islands, New Zealand, Australia, Indonesia, Singapore, Malaysia, Thailand, Cambodia, Vietnam, Laos, China, Nepal, India, The United Arab Emirates, and South Africa.
Looking ahead, we hope to add parts of Kenya, Eygpt, Jordan, Syria, Turkey, Bulgaria, Hungary, Russia, The Netherlands, The Czech Republic, England and Iceland to this list. But nothing is set in stone. We will continue to travel as we have so far -- with no set plan and no set map to follow. We will see where each day takes us. Sometimes the best thing is not knowing what is going to happen next.
We have used every means of conveyance to help propel us over the surface of the earth -- cars, boats, trains, trucks, buses, planes, ojeks, skis, rickshaws, abras, flippers, motorbikes, camels, songathaews, trishaws, bicycles and our own two feet (to name a few). We have traveled through deserts, mountains, plains, oceans, forests, rivers, swamps, and every other geographical phenomena under the sun. Plus, we have a long way left to go and many places left to explore.
But what will we gain out of all this traveling? What will we bring home? Sure we will have a few trinkets and photographs to help us remember, but mostly we will have the experience. The joy is in the journey itself. Every step of the way, nature, culture and difference are teaching us important lessons about ourselves. In essence, by traveling around the world, we will make one important discovery -- we will discover who we really are.
When we arrived in Oudtshorn we checked into a B&B called Le Roux.
Thursday, April 19th, day 289 of our adventure we started off the day by going to The Cango Ostrich Farm. We learned everything there is to know about the world's largest birds. Lisa got up close and personal with these two-toed, flightless beasts and she even rode one!
After our "ostrich experience", we went to explore The Cango Caves. This national monument is very impressive. Fragile crystal and slippery flowstone drapes over menacing pillars and rough stalactites shining in glittering and hot, golden limestone. Intricate delights for the eye hang overhead, as grey and milky coloured limestone string through a backdrop of warm beauty.
To get back on the main drag, Route N1, we had to (or should we say we had the opportunity to) drive through Swartberg Pass. This pass is arguably the most spectacular stretch of road in all of South Africa. We gasped in awe as we wove our way through a fantastic geology of twisted sedimentary layers -- and the view from the top -- AMAZING!
Once back on Route N1, we got as Beaufort West and crashed for the night at a B&B.
Friday, April 20th, day 290 of our travels, we continued heading north and west. Route N1 eventually turned into N12 (as we took a more northerly route back to Johannesburg than the way we drove to Cape Town). Eventually we said goodbye to The Western Cape Province and crossed into The Northern Cape. This is where the vast, desolate Karoo blends into the fringes of the Kalahari desert. Amazing vistas surrounded us as we drove deeper and deeper into this "Big Sky Country". Mid-afternoon we arrived in Kimberly, the main center of the "Diamond Belt" and the former home of the "Diamond King", Cecil Rhodes.
Cecil Rhodes' life is an amazing story. He was sent to South Africa in 1870, at the age of 17, by his father with the hope that the African sun would help revive his sickly tuberculosis ridden body. He soon found his way to the diamond fileds of Kimberly. He immediately began "wheeling and dealing", playing off one miner against the other and buying up every claim he could get his hands. By 1891, Rhodes owned the De Beers Consolidated Mines Company, and De Beers owned 90% of the world's diamonds.
Rhodes was not satisfied with being one of, if not the, richest man in the world. He continued to expand his empire by gobbling up diamond and gold mining rights in the area that is today Botswana and Zimbabwe (Zimbabwe was called Rhodesia for a while). He even dreamed of building a railway from Cairo to Cape Town.
The times were ripe for such dreams and Rhodes became a favorite of both the British and the Boers. He was elected prime minister of the Cape Colony in 1890.
In 1895 Rhodes backed an uprising, in the name of British expansion, to take away Boer mining rights. It was a disaster and the result was Rhodes falling out of favor with both the Boers and the British.
Rhodes was no saint. He was incredibly ruthless when it came to using the natives of the lands he conqured as slave labor. In a sense, he personified everything that was wrong with The Age of Imperialism. With that said, he did do a lot to rehabilitate his image with his will in 1902. He devoted his entire fortune to setting up the Rhodes Scholarship which continues to this day, to allow promising students from around the world to study at Oxford University in England for free.
We checked into The Milner House and crashed for the night.
On Saturday, April 21st, day 291 of Lisa and Joel's Excellent Adventure, our friends Janine and Mike got married -- congratulations! For us, it was a full day. We started off the day by checking out The Big Hole and the Kimberly Mine Museum.
The Big Hole is the largest hole in the world dug entirely by manual labour. It is 800m deep and water fills it to within 150m of the surface, which still leaves an impressive void. It's amazing to think that over four times as much hole is below the water's surface.
Over 14 million carats of diamonds were taken out of this hole under Colesberg Koppie, before it was closed in 1914.
The Kimberley Mine Museum has a great reconstruction of what Kimberley was like in the 1880's. Many of the buildings are authentic and sit in their original positions. When you walk the streets of miners cottages, shops, auction rooms, and taverns, you almost feel like a diamond miner, filled with dreams of hitting a big claim.
Later, we checked out The William Humphreys Art Gallery. We had heard from the owner of The Milner House, Fires (he has red hair), that this was one of the finest art galleries in all of South Africa. It didn't disappoint.
After laying out by the guesthouse pool for about an hour, Fires took us to a rugby match. It was our first rugby experience, so it was kind of difficult to figure out what was going on at first, but we got the hang of it.
We stayed at Fires' place again Saturday night.
Sunday, April 22nd, day 292 of our travels, we awoke to hear the news of the big upset in heavy-weight boxing. Just up the road in Jo’burg, Hasim Rahman knocked out Lennox Lewis. This upset ranks right up there with Douglas-Tyson and Spinks-Ali. To show you how much of an upset it really was – Carnival City Casino (the venue for the fight) was giving 100 to 1 odds on Rahman knocking Lewis out in the 5th round or after. That is exactly what happened.
After breakfast, we got back on Route N12 heading north. Along the way, Lisa stuck her head out the window, with her $300.00 US pair of prescription eyeglasses atop her head and the glasses blew off. We quickly turned the car around and looked up and down the highway, to no avail. They were gone. Bummer, huh?
After another 5 hours of speeding through the desolate landscape, we arrived in Jo'burg. We first arrived in Johannesburg, back on March 24th, and we only stayed long enough to grab a rental car and get the heck out of town. Jo'burg is a nasty city. Driving through it felt like visiting one of Dantes' Planes of Hell. As we entered the city limits,the glorious South Africa weather suddenly turned gray and dark. The smog from the shanty towns that surround the city filled the skies with a layer of filth. Huge piles of garbage were set a flame, dotting the landscape with orange balls of fire. The smell -- repugnant!
After getting through Jo'burg as fast as we could, we keep heading north to Pretoria. Once we arrived we checked into a B&B called That's It.
Monday, April 23rd, day 293 of our travels, we spent most of the day working on getting a visa to visit Russia. This is the main reason we came to Pretoria, as the Russian Consulate for South Africa is located here.
It is tough to get a visa for Russia. You are only supposed to be granted a visa to visit Russia if you book a tour with an officially recognized Russian travel agency. They set you up with transportation into and out of the country, all your local transport, and all your accommodations and totally set your itinerary. Besides it being outrageously expensive to do this, we also feel it is stifling to be in an organized tour group with a set itinerary. We like independent travel! Therefore, we set out to get ourselves into Russia as independent travelers.
We found a place on the internet that would give us the official invitation and tourist voucher required by the Russian government, for a price of course ($30.00 US each). Then Lisa put her desktop publishing skills to work and doctored up a phony (but excellent looking) itinerary schedule. We went to the Russian Embassy web site, downloaded the tourist visa application form, and followed all the procedures required to the tee. We put together all the necessary documents (copies of passports, passport photos, copy of airline tickets, invitations, tourist vouchers and the phony itinerary) and headed off to the Russian Consulate. It was closed. They only work from 8:30 AM to 11:30 AM (tough job huh?).
This meant we would be staying another night in Pretoria, so we checked back into That’s It, did laundry, got Lisa a new pair of eyeglasses and called it a day.
Tuesday, April 24th, day 294, we got up early and headed back to the Russian Consulate. Everything seemed to be going smoothly until we were questioned about our current employment. They did not seem to understand why a couple of Americans, without jobs, traveling for a year, would come into the Russian Consulate in South Africa and try to get Russian visas. They kept asking us what our jobs were and where we worked in South Africa. They were finally satisfied with getting the information about our last employment, but we think they thought we were still currently employed there (hope they do not check on that).
The problems continued when they told us of the requirement that we must have health insurance coverage for the time we are in Russia. Loyal readers of our journal know we do not have health insurance (we have not needed it). We ended up having to tell them that we did have health insurance and that we would bring in a fax copy of our health insurance cards. (They were totally baffled that we did not have the cards with us.) Lisa is going to ask her friends, from her old job, to doctor us up some phony health insurance cards and to fax us a copy. We hope it works – you will be the first to know what happens, as we are supposed to pick up our visas on Saturday.
To add insult to injury, the fee for the visas was $315.00 US for both of us. (Of course, Americans pay more than anyone else.) This is steep, but if it works, it is a lot cheaper than booking a tour – and we will be free to travel independently in Russia (we are pumped!).
After our “Russian Consulate Experience”, we let our heart rates return back to normal and then jumped in the car to head towards Sun City.
Sun City is a huge entertainment complex, centered on the magnificent Palace of the Lost City – a hotel like no other. Grandeur and elegance ooze out of every nook and cranny. Ornate sculptures, impressive works of art, massive chandeliers, exotic rugs, and beautiful chairs that look to good to even sit in, are but a few of its attractions. It’s like candy for the eyes, but unless you are loaded, don’t plan on being able to stay there.
We stayed at the Sun City Hotel. Tuesday night we tried our luck at the casino and then crashed for the night.
Wednesday, April 25th, day 295, we checked out another Sun City attraction – The Valley of Waves. It has a huge wave pool, water slides and tube rides. It was a fun day. After a nice Chinese dinner we called it a night.
Thursday, April 26th, day 296, we layed out by the huge swimming pool at our hotel and soaked up some more of that great South African sun. The pool is right next to the 18th hole of the Championship Gary Player Golf Course. Lying on our lounge chairs, we watched the players finish their rounds. It looks like an awesome course.
Later in the day we went to the nearby Pilanesberg National Park. We saw antelope, white rhino (one was really close!), buffalo, zebra, warthog, a bird that looked like Toucan Sam on the Fruit Loops box and a weasel.
Friday, April 27th, day 297 of our travels, we said goodbye to Sun City and headed back to Pretoria and checked back into That’s It.
Saturday, April 28th, day 298, we went to pick up our Russian visas. After all we went through (actually our friends Matt and Francis did most of the work) to get fake health insurance cards, we were disappointed when they didn’t even ask for them. However, we will keep them, as they may come in handy at the Russian border. We got our Russian visas – no problem.
After getting our visas, we loaded up on grocery store food and we are off to Kruger National Park.
We ended up driving for most of the day and spent Saturday night at Embizeni Guesthouse, just outside of Kruger National Park.
Sunday, April 29th, day 299 of our travels, we got up early and entered Kruger National Park at 7:00 AM, through Paul Kruger Gate. We spent the next 11 hours (yes, 11 hours!) driving around very slowly viewing wildlife. We did stop a few times at official "get out" points. All the accomodations inside the park were fully booked due to the holiday weekend so we decided to "max out" the park in one day. We saw zebra, impala, bush buck, wildebeest, giraffe (several times), monkey, baboon, elephant, weasel, white-headed vulture, turtle, African wild cat, hyaena, African buffalo, a bunch of really cool looking birds and a cute, little unidentified creature.
Sunday night we stayed in a hotel in White River, outside the park.
Monday, April 30th, day 300 of our adventure (can you believe we have been “out” 300 days?) was spent driving back to Pretoria. Once we arrived in Pretoria we checked back into That’s It. Lorna, the kindly proprietor of this B&B, welcomed us at the door by saying, “Welcome home!” It will be our fourth night staying here.
Tuesday, May 1st (Workers of the world unite!), day 301, we jumped on Kenya Airways flight KQ461 for Nairobi.
At the risk of sounding too Machiavellian, for his true genius was drawing macro conclusions from microanalysis about the societies he visited, after our 39 day visit to South Africa we have drawn some observations of our own.
There are “haves” and “have- nots” throughout the entire world, just as there is a global problem of racism. However, nowhere is the disparity of wealth and status so based on race as in South Africa.
Apartied may have ended in a political sense, with the free elections of 1994, but an economical apartied is still apparent.
The white regime of the past used South Africa’s vast natural resources to accumulate huge amounts of wealth and even though a black majority may control the political environment, it is the whites who still control the wealth.
Currently there are 43,421,021 people residing in South Africa -- 75.2% of them are black, 13.6% white, 8.6% colored and 2.6% Indian. The vast majority of blacks, making up the vast majority of the population, live in appalling conditions of poverty, while the whites enjoy a comfortable standard of living.
With that said, there is still hope for the future. The current generation of children are color blind. They play, learn and interact with each other, with race having no bearing on their actions.
The black majority is instituting political measures, like affirmative action, that will help facilitate a reduction in the current economical inequality, but it will take time.
Will the nation be willing to wait? Many whites have left and are still leaving, taking their wealth with them. The economy is stagnant, with the only booming business being security specialists who create physical barriers that separate the rich from the poor, the white from the black, in a way that the former “Gestapo” of apartied can no longer do. (That goodness for that.)
Many blacks believed that the free elections of 1994 would bring with them a change in their economic status. As of yet, for the most part, that has not happened. The result is unrest, tension and sometimes violence. Are we glad we visited South Africa? Absolutely! The people we meet, whatever their color, were friendly, warm and helpful. The country itself is amazingly beautiful and travel, for the most part, is safe and easy.
Sometimes we felt a small sense of guilt, as if we were benefiting from the disparity between rich and poor. The wait staff at the Bed & Breakfasts we frequented, the petrol service attendants, the men who guarded our car – all black. Blacks fill almost every menial labour position in South Africa. The business and services that benefited from our visit were owned by whites and very little of the money we spent went directly to blacks.
With that said, we believe our visit, and visits from others, helps the current situation in South Africa. Our liberal attitudes towards race may rub off in a small way and barriers to the exchange of ideas and interaction can never be positive.
We encourage you to help South Africa enter into a new age of personal freedom and equality. Visit this wondrous and beautiful land. You will be glad you did.