“I saw myself as a seafarer’s wife who never stopped waiting…”
I am devoting this post to the most beautiful country I’ve visited so far. South Africa is home to unique natural phenomena, exquisite vineyards and adventurous safaris. My family and I went on vacation to the South African Republic in December of 2007 to celebrate New Year’s Eve in Cape Town and then explore the rest of the country. I was pretty excited, as it was my first legitimate trip to Africa (I had been to Egypt before, which is technically Africa but it doesn’t really have the African soul). As I said, we started our voyage in Cape Town and then proceeded to Durban and Hluhluwe.
Cape Town was just gorgeous. Because it is located in the southern hemisphere, January there is the middle of the summer. However, due to its remoteness from the Equator, the summers in Cape Town are not impossibly hot. It actually was pretty cool and windy but the sun was shining bright almost every day. Born and raised in Russia, I hate heat, and that kind of weather was just perfect for me. We stayed at the Table Bay Hotel, which was located very conveniently for the females in our family, as it had direct access to the biggest shopping mall in the city—Victoria and Alfred Watertown, with multiple fine restaurants and luxurious boutiques as well as the mainstream brand stores.
The first site we were anxious to explore was certainly the Cape of Good Hope. I had my biggest expectations of this place, which luckily were not only justified but exceeded. When I was a little girl I used to hear various myths and legends about this romantic confluence of the three oceans. And I often visited it in my childhood fantasies imagining myself a sleeping beauty in the old abandoned castle on the tip of the cape. Time went by, and during my geography lessons I learned that it was actually a misconception to consider the Cape of Good Hope the most southern tip of Africa where the Atlantic and Indian oceans met, but for me it didn’t deprive this site of romanticism and mystery. And it really is beautiful. Tourists can climb almost to the top of the cape and watch the power of the elements for a long time. Depending on the weather, the effect can be different. The day we visited the Cape was windy and gray, so standing there and peering into the ocean troubled me. And for a moment, I swear, I saw myself as a seafarer’s wife who never stopped waiting for her husband after all those years since he’d left.
Our next goal was to explore the Table Mountain, which is a unique natural phenomenon because of its absolutely flat top. The day we chose to explore the mountain happened to be sunny and clear. The view from the cable car that took us to the top of the mountain was just breathtaking. You could see the beautiful Cape Town and the neighboring green hills covered with a myriad of bright flowers. The Table Mountain was impressive not only from the bottom but also on the top. Local people foresaw an amazing opportunity to lay out a garden featuring exotic flora and creative architecture. It was on the top of the mountain when my dream finally came true and I saw the junction of the oceans. It’s amazing how clear you could see the distinction between the darker water of the Atlantic Ocean and the lighter water of the Indian Ocean.
The next must-do activity in Cape Town is the vineyard tour. There are dozens of them around the city, and all of them boast beautiful colonial architecture and exquisite wines. To be honest, it was my first serious wine tasting experience, and I didn’t know that apparently you have to spit out the wine in these small cups placed next to you for this purpose. For the lack of knowledge and experience I ended up so drunk that my dad had to carry me to our car trying to avoid the embarrassing looks. Despite that little incident, the vineyard tour was unforgettable. I especially remembered the one where the lunch was served picnic-style. They gave us a huge basket full of simple but delicious farm food, and we enjoyably consumed homemade bread, fresh cheese, ham and garden vegetables under the shadow of an ancient oak accompanying it with the finest red wines.
Our next destination was Durban, a resort town on the Indian coast. It was much more humid and hot there. We stayed at one of the most beautiful hotels I’ve seen—Zimbali Lodge, situated inside of a real jungle but within a walking distance from the ocean. I saw monkeys and antelopes almost every day. The resort was designed in the African style, which implied a lot of wood and simple decorative elements. One of the biggest surprises was that the hotel management knew we were from Russia, and they organized a Russian Orthodox Christmas party for us, which was completely unexpected and therefore, even more pleasant.
After spending a few days at Zimbali Lodge, we went on to Hluhluwe Game Reserve. It was also my first real safari experience. Seeing African animals in their natural habitat was very impressive. There, a human being is no longer a master but a cautious observer of the wilderness. We even had to go through a thorough briefing on how to behave during the safari. We saw various types of elegant antelopes, fierce buffalos, seemingly indifferent hippos, which apparently are the most dangerous animals in Africa; funny wild boars, timid zebras, stoic rhinos, and the king of the jungle himself. We even had a little incident with an elephant that for some reason didn’t like our safari jeep and expressed his feelings pretty blatantly by moving toward the car and producing threatening sounds. Thank God, the guide knew what he was doing and calmed the animal relatively fast.
One thing I regret is that I didn’t have a chance to dive in South Africa. The one day my dad and I picked for scuba-diving was actually stormy, so the coastal service prohibited any activities in the ocean. That was pretty disappointing; especially after I’d heard the scuba-diving there was unbelievably good. Oh well, it will always be a perfect excuse to come back to this wonderful place.