As we leave South Africa and head offshore, it's a good time to reflect on our impressions of this beautiful country and what memories stick most solidly in our minds. Here's our list … Animals, animals, animals – Without a doubt, the animals and birds we saw during our visit here impressed us the most. Though it wasn't really on our bucket list, catching a glimpse of the Big Five in their natural environment was awesome ... in the truest sense of the word. Kruger was probably our best game park. Despite its reputation of being crowded, costly and touristy, it was definitely worth a visit.
Cultural experiences – We went out of our way to visit Swazi and Ndebele villages. Unfortunately, these were less than authentic experiences; they were tourist experiences and we realize it. That said, we visited museums which gave us good background and history on the indigenous peoples. We visited local markets and talked with craftsmen. There's always more to learn and see.
Exchange rate – On the practical side, the exchange rate of $1 US = R12 was definitely in our favor and we were able to get lots of work done at a reasonable price while supplementing the South African economy.
Sani Pass, Lesotho – Though their visit was short, we really enjoyed our time with Hannah and Brennan and our trip with them to tiny, landlocked Lesotho. Climbing the Sani Pass in a Land Rover was a unique, thrilling experience. Popping inside a Sotho home for fresh bread and maize beer and crawling on hands and knees into a Sotho shepherd's hut were definitely cultural experiences we'll remember.
South African Food – Curries were probably our favorite ...both Durban and Malay varieties were excellent. Ostrich isn't bad. Bunny chow, boerewors, biltong and mealie pap … not so much. Amarula liqueur is outstanding … even the elephants love it. Don Pedros are out of this world. And the wine … oh, my!
Third world eccentricities – like load shedding … when the electricity was shut off without warning for several hours each day in Durban, especially when we were showering, definitely made an impression. Or perhaps our “expedited” package that took three days to make it from the USA to Jo'burg and then nearly a month to make it from Jo'burg Customs to us in Cape Town. TIA – This is Africa.
Favorite town as cruisers – Mosselbaai was perhaps our favorite seaport visit. The people were exceptionally warm and friendly. Everything was close by and convenient. We enjoyed the Dias Museum and our visit to the Cape St. Blaize Lighthouse and just wandering around this pleasant town.
Inland travel – If seeing the animals was wonderful, the “getting there” was exciting, too. Our inland travel took us to game parks, two new countries (Swaziland and Lesotho), through winelands and mountains, bush and along the wild coast. The natural beauty of South Africa is astounding.
As always, the warmth, kindness and hospitality of the people we met and with whom we interacted was a highlight. We met so many and all enriched our lives. Whenever we read the headlines about political, religious and racial discord, we always come back to our one-on-one chance encounters with people we meet … different colors, different religions, different ethnicities, different cultures and who knows or cares about their politics. The meetings are always special, sharing experiences and one-on-one, people are all the same.
We may be out of South Africa, but we're not out of southern Africa. We're en route to Namibia and looking forward to it.