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South Africa: California on steroids

Lions, safaris, beaches, and beer (yes, its back)

rain 71 °F
View Our Trip on thea-min's travel map.

While we were in Morocco we had a great time. But we were also glad to leave. Looking back, especially now that we have been in a more relaxed South Africa for a couple weeks, we have realized that Morocco was too hectic to enjoy ourselves. Unfortunately, instead of blending in as observers of a very different culture, we were constantly harrassed by people wanting to be our tour guide, or bring us to a hotel, or draw henna on us, or sell us things. So we were so busy fending off these advances that we were unable to sit back and watch. I suppose we stuck out like sore thumbs, and any time you stick out as a tourist in a third world country you are always going to be a target for people trying to make a buck.

So far, South Africa has been a completely different experience. The first couple of days we were on edge, expecting that every person who said hello to us had an agenda, but we soon realized most people just let you be. We felt immediately at home here, because South Africa seems a lot like California. The landscape is similar, with brown grasssy hills and everything from deciduous trees to pine forests. The weather has also been comparable to California in the fall or spring. Everthing felt so familiar, we felt like we were home. Except that there are lions and giraffes and hippos here. Thats why we say it is California on steroids.

We went immediately to a town called Nelspruit upon landing in Johannesburg. Well, sort of immediately, as we have been publically transportating, and nothing goes fast. Nelspruit is a jumping off point for Kruger National park. We hired a private guide for 2 days, rented a car, and camped a night in the park. By hiring our own guide we had a custom tailored tour of the park, which, believe it or not, was actually cheaper than doing a packaged tour where you have to share your guide with other people. We saw a ton of animals, including 4 out the "big 5" (we looked hard but didn't spot a leopard). Just so ya know (cuz I didn't), the big 5 is a hunting term and includes lions, leopards, rhino, cape buffalo, and elephant. Immediately after Kruger we went to Blydes River Canyon park, which is a beautiful red-orange canyon set in pine forested mountains- it reminded us a bit of the Southwest of the US.

We left Nelspruit and headed toward the coast, which is where we are now. We decided to change our trip a little bit, and instead of trying to tackle all of South and east Africa (which could take a year in itself), we are choosing to focus more on Southern Africa. We'd rather explore an area slowly and in more depth, we realized, rather than rush all over and see just the highlights- it's too expensive to travel like that, for one thing, but we also would rather go slow and get a better feel for the area. So our plan is now to cruise the coast of South Africa for a month or so. Poor us. We are just outside Durban right now, and are heading south toward Cape Town. Slowly.

We have been staying at great backpacking hostels. We have camped about 1/2 the time, as the hostels have spots set up for tents that are about 1/2 the price of a room (we are paying US equivalent $12 tonight for a campsite with an ocean view). The US dollar is super strong here right now, and we have been getting deals and steals. A hamburger and fries is about US $2.50, and a six pack of beer or a bottle of wine is about the same. Lucky us! The food has been great too. You can drink the water, which is really nice, and we have been cooking in the hostel kitchens, which are fully stocked. We are possibly going to buy a couple surfboards to use here, as you can buy them for as little as $20 used. But how is my sherpa Raminder going to carry all our stuff and also 2 surfboards????

The most memorable food has been a potjkie, which is a South African stew, slow cooked over an open fire for about 6 hours. The one we had included beef, noodles, rice, a bottle each of red and white wine, onion, plenty of garlic, potatos, squash, and a ton of seasoning. But the coolest part was the beer bread that was cooked from raw dough right on top of the stew. One of the people at one of the hostels cooked this, and I MUST REPLICATE. We also ate a termite, which is apparently a big source of protein for the poor Africans. I was not the first person to eat one, I made sure someone else did it first to make sure no one was playing a trick on me.

Sadly, it is raining out right now, and a bit chilly. The weather for the past week has been kind of junky, but we are hoping it will clear up so we can go to the beach! When it's raining we just play a lot of cribbage, or read, or play Scrabble on Raminders Ipod (and I am 2 games up in snooker). And we go by the theory that it is 5 oclock somewhere, so we'll have a drink and watch the rain. The nice thing is we have plenty of time to wait for good weather. We think of everybody a lot, and are loving our trip, but can't wait to see everyone when we come home, too. I hope everyone is doing well. And have a Happy Halloween!!!

PS: not so easy to upload photos anymore, a lot of internet places are v. expensive and some won't let you plug a camera in. We'll do our best. T and R

Posted by thea-min 05:49 Archived in South Africa

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