A few weeks ago I was in South Africa on a trip sponsored by South African Tourism. As promised in my earlier post, here is the report on the trip and a few pictures that ought to get you planning a trip to South Africa ASAP!
Although I am far from being considered a ‘world traveller’, I have had a decent share of some of the most beautiful countries and cities the world has to offer, and after my recent trip to South Africa, I think it tops my list. I do not know if it was the itinerary which was guaranteed to provide a wonderful experience, the people I shared the experience with or my new cultivated knowledge and appreciation of aesthetics- there is something about South Africa that made me decide upon my return to Nigeria that I shall never be away from her for too long!
I was fortunate to live in South Africa for 4 months in 2010; recollecting the experience triggers fun memories of youthful exuberance explored to its fullest; from a vibrant nightlife, to weekly braais, a found love for dry ciders, and the opportunity to be adventurous and to immerse oneself in a seemingly distant yet embracing culture. I had envisioned that my return to South Africa will embody all the aspects of the country which I truly enjoyed and loved, but to say that this trip mirrored my previous experience of the Rainbow Nation will be an unfair comparison.
I was provided with a broader sense of the country; let me be honest, my idea of adventure is going to a local block party with a few friends! I am sure you get the drift; ‘real’ adventure is not my thing! However, on this trip I was compelled to explore South Africa beyond my limited perception of what makes a good experience, and in doing that, I came to realize how the nation permits a variety of experiences. With South Africa, one cannot pinpoint a single offering; if you are up for some awesome adventure, it fits the bill, if you are up to a good time, the nightlife is pretty impressive and if you want to be enthralled by one of nature’s best sceneries, well… I am yet to know a place that immaculately combines natural beauty with man’s conceptualization of space in the creation of a sublime experience when one acknowledges the beauty that abounds.
The 6 day trip was split between two cities, Johannesburg and Cape Town. Johannesburg is Africa’s most developed city and South Africa’s largest city; it is a fast-paced, upbeat modern city. We were lodged in a 5 star hotel in upscale Sandton. Sandton is to Johannesburg what Manhattan is to New York with a barrage of Manhattan-style skyscrapers that contribute to its opulence. OK, enough of the history lesson, now on to the fun things SA’s financial capital has to offer!
As someone who has lived in a city all her life, I believe I am organically inclined to enjoy the up-tempo vibe cities like Johannesburg offer. Our first real taste of SA’s adventurous terrain came a day after our arrival; bundled up on the bus and settling our eyes on the large vista occupied by mountains and greenery we began the road trip to Magaliesburg for canopy tours. Our task, be 50 feet above the ground ten times over, sliding from hill top to another all for that adrenalin rush! Lord knows my knees were shaking, compelled by the urge to exceed my expectations, I took a go at it, and I am grateful I did!
It was my first attempt at being adventurous and I absolutely loved it! I decided to get more action at the Gold Reef City theme park when I journeyed to the Tower of Terror; the vertical-drop of 47 meters was crazy terrifying but exciting at the same time! Would I do it again? Maybe not! As cliché as this might sound, there was something about SA that activated the adventure gene in me, If it had to be done, South Africa was the place!
There is a saying that emphasizes the importance of an individual passing through an experience rather than the experience passing through the individual. This is an approach I try to adopt when I am abroad. Huh? (LOL)…I’ll explain! I make it a priority to expand my knowledge of the people, the place and familiarise myself with the region, integrate; pick up a few things about its heritage. South Africa is known for its complex socio-political history and Soweto was at the heart of the struggle. It was great touring the Gold Reef mine, Soweto and visiting Nelson Mandela’s house prior to & during his imprisonment. The tour of Soweto ended with a traditional South African lunch at Sakhumzi, where we got a chance to taste their rich local flavours and their version of soul food.
Our evenings in Johannesburg were spent dining in posh-style restaurants and a few hours in the afternoon were dedicated to shopping as much of a storm as possible at the Sandton City Mall, whose pyramid-style rooftop functions as a landmark in Johannesburg. I absolutely enjoyed the atmosphere in ‘Jozi’ as the locals call it; it is a great place to splurge on oneself, have the best of times and build fun or maybe wild memories, do you hey!
When I think Cape Town in the summer, I picture lazy days on the beach, body surfing, boat parties, strawberry daiquiris and cosmopolitans… Bliss! There is a contagious chilled vibe about Cape Town that makes it the perfect place for a weekend getaway or an easy going vacay. Our weekend in Cape Town was packed with activities; they definitely saved the best for last!
Upon arrival, we set out for a sunset boat cruise on the calm harbour waters viewing the gorgeous skyline. Breathing in the fresh sea air and soaking up the captivating view of Table Mountain, I was blown away by Cape Town’s splendour from the privileged perspective of her ocean waters. We kicked-off partying on the boat as we danced to familiar Nigerian music, bringing a bit of home to SA waters. Our night ended with a Long Street experience; which is the centre of Cape Town’s nightlife offering an inexhaustible line-up of clubs and bars. One of the great things about South Africa is that one does not need a whole lot of money to have a good time, it’s refreshing enjoying a good night out without breaking the bank!
The next day was the highly anticipated annual J&B Met. Advised to be dressed in our best, and with 2012 ‘Made Different’ theme in mind, I made a quick dash to the mall at the V&A Waterfront to get my very first fascinator! Thanks to a long fun night, I was in no mood for shopping and I was delighted to have packed something suitable from home for the event. There was a carnival feel to the J&B Met but refined to accommodate glamour, style and exuberance. I decided to wear a lush orange one-shoulder blouse with a dark-wine pencil skirt which I paired with a ton of accessories for some drama! It was a day of horse racing, betting, feasting on finger foods and enjoying the open bar! It all seemed very bourgeois to me, but with the right kind of company and a magician with a bag of tricks, my comfort level soared through the roof and I had the most splendid time.
My favourite day of the trip was the last day in Cape Town. We started off with a helicopter ride to the wine lands – Groot Constantia; the view of the Mother City from amidst the skies was beyond magnificent! It was one of those very few moments when one looses the self and succumbs to beauty; I wanted to be up there forever! In my opinion, going to South Africa would not be complete without wine tasting especially if you are a lover for fine wine. I was embarrassed to learn that I had been holding my wine glass the wrong way all along, but better late than never, right?
After lunch, we departed Groot Constantia in style on Harley Davidson bikes! Believe me when I say, it definitely ‘aint no Okada’! Enjoying the cool breeze as it brushed through my face, I thought to myself, this has to be the most amazing experience ever! We stopped over for some sun and sandy beach waters at Camps Bay where I finally got to quench my thirst for a fruity cocktail.
I have never done so much in such a short period, and I have not had fun like that in while! The trip encompassed a range of experiences, each unique in and of itself! I guess that’s what’s really brilliant about South Africa as a holiday destination; there is something for everyone, you just have to get on a plane and experience it!
Tell me if you have, and when you plan to!