Before you even get a chance to properly pronounce their names, our tour guides on this incredible journey in South Africa were professing their love for their country. I share their sentiments, even as an outsider, I am drawn to this beautiful country. We landed in Johannesburg, 50 of us had made this trip to the "Joy of Jazz festival" where we swayed and rocked to the sounds coming from the instruments of the skilled musicians. I did not see Hugh Masekahla, one of my all time favorites. I later learned that because of illness he had to cancel. Those that I was fortunate to see put on a show. I was dazzled by the energy of the performers, young and old, they were in a class of their own.
We spent two days in the wilderness with the majestic animals. On our first evening out, we began our search for the Big 5 and we were lucky to see the elephant, lion, leopard and rhino. We drove around in the dark, searching and none of my travel companions seemed to mind the fierce winds, the threatening rain; we all wanted that 5th animal, the elusive cape buffalo. Two more outings out in the wild, searching and hoping but the cape buffalo never made an appearance. The springbok, South Africa's national animal was plentiful. This beautiful animal can live without drinking water for years, just by eating succulent vegetation.
Our tour of Soweto and learning of it's history, was an important part of this trip. Our visit to the Mandela Museum, viewing his life's journey left me in awe. We mingled with the bus loads of tourists who were just as curious to learn of this awesome man and the sacrifices he made.
We made our way to drop dead Cape Town. The Victoria and Alfred Waterfront shopping center houses many shops and wonderful treasures. Our cable ride to the famous table mountain was breathtaking. As we trekked our way around the mountain, I am so at peace in the surroundings.
We spent an evening in the home of a South African jazz musician, who fed us and entertained us with a local band. We sang, we danced and ate good tasting South African dishes, prepared and served by the hands of his family who showed joy in mingling with us.
Our shopping excursions were quick, bargaining with the vendors done at high speed. Apart from the one you are negotiating with,out of the corner of your eyes are other vendors queuing up, waiting their turn to to grab you for a look at their merchandise. I must admit I don't do well in this haste and bustle; mostly because there are too many choices and truthfully I cannot blame the merchants for going for the best price they can get. My soft spot wants to pay them the best price, especially for their hard work.
This is not my first trip to South Africa and if I have my way it will not be the last. I am always in admiration of the beauty of Cape Town. Everything in its place, clean streets, modern looking buildings, even the aging ones show beauty. There is this willingness to share its beauty and eventually you will surrender. The city beckons to you, to explore it, not to be afraid.
Johannesburg has its own share of beauty;it is vibrant, the residents seem happy go lucky. They invite you to join them and will not wait for you to make up your mind, with outstretched hands, they take you along.
We covered a lot of grounds in a short time. From a trip to see the Penguins, a whole colony of them, the museum of apartheid, Pretoria, wine tour, eating at the Braai, (barbecue)that offered a spread of food and entertainment, all lasting memories. I overdosed on my favorite Rooibos tea and came away with different ways to prepare this South African red bush tea.
Jo'Burg, as it is affectionately called and Cape Town offer different experiences, but for sure, they share the sense of community. This is the spirit of the new South Africa.
UBUNTU!("I am what I am because of who we all are")