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The Many Splendours of South AfricaAuthor: Arvind Pinto
Date of Trip: April 2013
It was a family trip to the Southern hemisphere, and South Africa was our destination. We started at Johannesburg, affectionately called Joberg by the locals. Not the best place to start since our guide Garth - a white South African termed the city as the crime capital of the country. South Africa is indeed a country of contrasts : a developed country with exquisite where a large majority still live in shanty towns, most of the whites and a small minority of blacks are extremely rich while a large population of blacks are poor. This is probably what makes crime rampant in Johannesburg. While we did not see any crime, we saw its effects. Most of the rich live in gated communities, protected by cctv cameras and security guards. We stayed at Indaba Hotel on the outskirts of the town. Indaba in the local language means a meeting place and this hotel was used for different types of meetings and conferences. Indaba like most of the hotels was protected by high walls, and security round the clock. Even the guards at the gate discouraged us from venturing outside. While in the city we visited Soweto - the black township where in June 1976, the first of the main uprising of the blacks began. Today Soweto is a more developed township, but with little education many of those who live there still continue within the cycle of poverty. Yes Johannesburg is a city of contrasts - affluence and extreme poverty that makes crime a way of life
But South Africa does not live only in its cities. Travelling Westwards we camped at Sebi Sands - a private game resort that borders the famous Kruger National Park. The animals was our goal and we did see the African big five - the elephant, the buffalo, the lion, the leopard and the rhino. In Africa, animals are within sighting distance and the tracking system of the guides, when any of them spot an animal makes for easy sighting. It was wonderful seeing these animals at close range. Besides the big five, we did see the Zebra, the giraffe, hordes of Kudu, springbok, cheetah, and a host of smaller animals. Would have loved to watch some of these animals mating but no such luck although we did get to see lions feasting on a buffalo that they had killed!
From Sebi Sands we travelled South into the vineyards of the country - Franschhoek district. This is the region where the French Hoguenots escaping from France came to settle and started cultivating vines. South Africa makes some great wines - We visited Rickety Bridge, a vineyard and tasted their exquisite Pinotage. South African wines are relatively cheap, especially with the fall in value of the Rand!
From the wine country, we moved over to Capetown in the South. This is indeed a fun city - we stayed in the Victoria and Alfred Waterfront Area - this is indeed a happening place with several shops eating places, bars and a small amphitheatre where every evening at least in summer there are various entertainers. Of course while in Cape town we did the Table Mountain. the flat table land overlooking the city. Fortunately, it was a clear day and we did have a wonderful panoramic view of the city and its environs. We also went down to the southern most part which is commonly known as the end of the continent - the Cape of Good Hope as it was commonly known.
South Africa is indeed a wonderful country to visit - its has a variety of cultures - scenic beauty, natural beauty and today with the falling value of the Rand - it makes for a budget holiday
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