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South Africa - village kids - v.g. photo

“Our driver was the adventurous type, and before the beginning of our itinerary he offered to show us round the black neighborhood. Now, a large majority of Johannesburg’s population is black, and live in perfectly pleasant houses and apartment complexes, but what he meant by the ‘black neighborhood’ was the illegally built shanty town where a great mass of unemployed people spend their lives. Given the lack of unemployment benefits in South Africa, a lack of work means genuine misery, so it’s no wonder crime rates are so high.

Young people were hanging about in front of shacks made of corrugated metal. It quickly became clear, though, that hairdressers do great business here – we saw several hair salons, and picture this: they put up a beer tent, the sort of thing you find in big supermarkets at the start of summer. It has a plastic chair, a battery and a power adapter, which operates the electric shears. That’s it, the salon is ready. I also saw a cellphone on a camping table set up on the street, which functioned as a phone booth. You can use it to make a call, then transfer the fee to the owner of the phone. A must see! The whole thing was more entertaining than shocking, and I’ve certainly seen much worse and more heartbreaking poverty elsewhere.

After out fellow passengers had been thoroughly horrified, we travelled on to the culture village of Lesedi. This is a sort of folk village, where foreigners are introduced to the varied living arrangements of South Africa’s aboriginal peoples. I usually have a negative opinion on places of this sort, but if you’ve only got nine days or so in South Africa, this is probably the easiest way to get some insight into the country’s history and cultures – even if the whole thing is very commercial in character. (phica, 2019)

1. Cape Town and the area within a 300km radius: If we’re in the city, then breakfast will probably be included in the bill. Given the strong British (and Dutch) influence, you won’t find it wanting: bacon, black pudding, baked beans, egg, toast, muffins… All this is complimented with stuffed rolls made of a lightly toasted bread, which they call burgers. They weren’t to my taste, so I stuck to the regular bread. This is topped with cheese (so much cheese), bacon and fried eggs, and served hot. Heavenly.

South of Cape Town is Boulders Beach. Aside from the penguins, which were an unforgettable experience for us, I’d also recommend a nearby restaurant (the Seaforth) which has weathered many raging storms over the years. True, you’ll spend the whole meal worrying that the wind will tear the roof off the terrace, but in exchange you’ll be served vast, unconquerable portions of delicious seafood. And the prices? Well, in the pictures you can see what I treated myself to, alongside a good-quality South African wine: 1/ fillet of cod with a shrimp sauce and potatoes – 200ml of fruity chardonnay (€20) 2/ seafood platter with crab and a jumbo-sized portion of roast hake, roast squid rings, black mussels and prawns – 200ml of chardonnay (€18). Yes, I know, the first seems both more meagre and more expensive, but cod is a delicious fish, and very filling. The prices include the tip, which is of course included in the final bill. But if you lunch here, you’re guaranteed to skip dinner. It was the most expensive meal of our trip, but in the most magnificent setting, right above the ocean. You have to book well in advance, or you’ll have no chance of getting a table.

(2019


Practicals

Transport

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Shopping

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South Africa - Durban - the Herb, ,,Muthi" market, where they sell all types of African traditional medicine ingredients - v.g. photo

Public safety

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South Africa - police presence

Others

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South Africa - Durban - sweeper squad - v.g. photo

Background

South Africa - national flag in the background

Destination in brief

South Africa in brief

The Republic of South Africa is a vast country in Southern Africa. Its neighbors are Namibia, Botswana, Zimbabwe, Mozambique and Swaziland (Eswatini) to the north and Lesotho, which is wholly surrounded by South Africa. The country has a long coast on the South Atlantic Sea (west and south) and the Indian Ocean (east). 

Size: 1,221,037 km² (471,445 mi²) – larger than the entire European continent minus Russia

Population: 59 million (rough estimate from 2019)

77% Blacks, 9% Whites, 9% Coloureds (mixed White, Black or Asian ancestry), 3% Asian (mostly Indians) 

Capital City: Pretoria, but the largest city is Cape Town 

Official language: there are 12 official languages so the list would be too long, but what is important for visitors is that English is understood in most urban areas and is the dominant language in government, media and in tourist information.

Official currency: rand (ZAR) 

Driving is on the left side. 

Average net monthly salary: 1,100 USD (2019)

Since the 2010 football Word Cup in South Africa, most of the world knows what the vuvuzela is. Clearly, the world is a better place now that we all know what the most terrible sound ever is when watching a sporting event.

There are no vaccination requirements to enter the country but some vaccines are recommended. Hygiene is far better than the African average. 

Public safety is problematic in South Africa and is a legitimate concern for visitors. It is really a pity because otherwise, South Africa is one of the best travel destinations for natural attractions. Travelers can minimize risks by being extra cautious and sticking to a few critical security rules. A simple theft is trivial compared to being (painfully, and possibly fatally) mugged.

In South Africa, if you want to wash your hands, you often get to choose whether to freeze them or scald them. Mixer taps were invented around 1880 but South Africa apparently didn’t get the memo.

Most famous tourist attractions:

Cape Town, Cape Provinces (whine-growing areas, Stellenbosch), Garden Route, Kruger National Park (Big Fives), Phinda Game Reserve, Sun City (South African Las Vegas), Robben Island, Drakensberg NP, Gold Mine Tours

Optimal timing for a tourist visit: March-May or August-October

A Nobel street: South Africa is the only country in the world to have two Nobel Peace Prize winners whose homes were on the same street. Both Nelson Mandela and Archbishop Desmond Tutu used to live in Vilakazi Street, in Soweto.

Geography

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South Africa - Cape of Good Hope - Elter photo

South Africa - Drakensberg National Park - v.g. photo

History

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South Africa - Pretoria - a statue of Mandela - v.g. photo

Nowadays

1. Many South Africans feel very negative about illegal immigrants from other African countries.

2. Most of the foreign tourists are surprised to see how strong is the black middle class.

People

Stereotypes:

1. They speak loudly and gesture a lot.


Johannesburg - school kids - v.g. photo

Attractions

Johannesburg

Johannesburg - from above - Elter photo

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