We have added a new photo section on our website showing some highlights from South Africa, to be found here. We travelled to the southern tip of the continent in December 2006, and would like to share some impressions of one of the most beautiful and diverse countries on the planet.
South Africa is hands down the dominant economy in Southern Africa (in fact, it’s the 20th biggest economy in the world), and it also boasts the biggest population of 43 million – although as much as a third of the population is thought to be illegal immigrants from other African countries. There are eleven (!) official languages. Literacy rates are very good at almost 90% and it has 60% of Africa’s phones. However, life expectancy is only 42 years, amongst other things due to high infant mortality rates and HIV/AIDS, and it is stipulated that the country will have 10 million fewer people in 2050 than it does today! GDP per capita is roughly on par with Russia and Croatia, however its income equality is amongst the worst in the world (the richest 10% of the population are 33 times richer than the poorest tenth).
As we arrived in the African city of Cape Town things felt rather surreal as the city does not look or feel anything like the Africa we know… The city is simply very modern and very Westerns in almost every conceivable way. Coming from many consecutive months spent in Malawi, we didn’t even know where to start. Suffice it to say South African cuisine is amazing. Probably more than any other national cuisine it is fusion. All South African dishes are a mix of African, Asian and European flavours!
Walking amongst African penguins on Boulders Beach was a definite highlight. The penguins were cool as cucumbers and couldn’t care less about all the tourists and camera lenses scattered all over the place. They are not the most gracious of animals on the beach, but apparently they can reach speeeds of 40 km/h in the water! Note the picture of the hyrax – a small herbivorous mammal that only lives in Africa and the Middle East. Bjørn saw and photographed his first hyrax here! Funnily enough, the only mammal it is relatively closely related to is the elephant! They may share an ancestor in the distant past and they do share characteristics such as toenails, excellent hearing, good memory and high brain functions.
We also visited the vineyards in the affluent and beautiful wine districts of the Cape Area. We stayed in the mountainous Franschhoek and had good wine and fantastic food for very reasonable money! Shame about that very special bottle of wine Bjørn bought for his mum and managed to take back to Europe only for it to be confiscated by customs officials in Amsterdam…
Amazingly, Cape Town has a more than 1,000 meter tall mountain within its city borders. We left that hard hike up Table Mountain to our very last day. Nice to walk off some of that lekker South African cuisine!
For Bjørn, the minivan journey from Johannesburg to Maseru, Lesotho, to visit Jesper was a definite highlight too (this happened before Kim arrived). Squeezed in between to African mamas for six hours he was not necessarily very comfortable but he felt a lot safer than one usually does in a pimped 1985 Toyota Hiace with 15 passengers and suitcases stacked up to eye level travelling African roads at 120 km/h.
The world’s eyes will be on South Africa in two years’ time when they host the 2010 World Cup!