Nothing could prepare me for South Africa. I watched countless National Geographic shows, read a lot of travel guides and travel blogs but in the end, discovered that its a country unlike any other. Here are 10 things that I learned while visiting this year:
1)A Special Kind of Stupid
Monkeys which attacked the Ostrich
Ostrich are the dumbest animal that I have ever encountered. They were a special kind of stupid with their dull vacant expressions and their tendency to run head first towards danger instead of away from it. Not only did it mistaken its own reflection in the window and almost knocked out the glass of the Thornhill Lodge near Kruger National Park but it also allowed 2 little monkeys enjoy their comedy show of attacking the ostrich which was too slow to run in the right direction. And so it was with great delight when my travel partner saw Ostrich steak on the menu in Cape Town. Never before had an animal been more deserving of consumption, he proclaimed. (Unfortunately it lacked flavour which was really no surprise considering the animal it came from).
The Old Lion which won the fight
2) Tough Love for Lions
Lions kick their young cubs out of their territory so they could go mate outside their pride. This secured healthy and strong future offsprings. They also continue to find their next territory by standing up to the male lion. It was also fascinating to learn that the fight is as much a strength game as a mind game. A local young lion lost even though he was stronger as he was not ready to be the king just yet.
3) Rhino Poaching
Save this beautiful creature!
Save the Rhino campaign can be seen all over Kruger. I honestly had no idea how bad the rhino poaching had got since it rarely gets discussed in Canada. According to locals who are fighting these anti-poaching wars, the fire fights are more dangerous then those seen in modern warfare. This pouching will continue as long as the Chinese believe that the rhinos posses aphrodisiac affect obviously they have not heard of chocolate, lingerie, exercise and other technics which the rest of the world has been using for centuries.
4) Limelight dancers in the centre of Cape Town
The Townhouse Hotel, our hotel in Cape Town was surrounded by many important landmarks – Parliament Buildings, Police Stations, Court Houses, The Castle of Good Hope and a strip club. This strip club was pointed out by every single cab driver and tour guide as it was right in the centre of public office and tourist attraction and is run by Russian mafia. This was entertaining to the locals however, a bit disturbing to a tourist (after all it is not Amsterdam).
Passing grade for school children is under 35%. There was a debate to decrease it from 33% to 30% as many children are not able to reach 33%. I found this to be a very sad fact and it is a horrible way to invest into the country’s future.
6) Mandela – The Man, The Myth, The Hero
Nelson Mandela is their national hero many do not know that he grew up in a small village and was a poor student whose ideology and principle took precedents to freedom, even though he was fighting for the freedom of his people. Without this man and other men who were dedicated to the cause, South Africa would be different today. While South Africans are of mixed opinions about the country being better or worst than twenty or thirty years ago, they all agree that Mr. Mandela was an amazing leader and a gift to the South African people.
7) Multiple Marriages is commonplace
Men are allowed to marry multiple women including the current president, Jacob Zuma. Sometimes they also have girlfriends on the side that the wives do not even know about. While in parts of the world this is common, what was shocking is the women want children so that the government could send them a very small payment. The other disturbing part was that the men while loving their children do not worry themselves with the future of the child. Making me question the future of this otherwise beautiful country.
8) A Plethora Of Languages
There are a total of 11 languages with English being the official language spoken by all. Most people’s first language is not English and they typically know more than 2 languages. To this day, people associate themselves with their tribes or European origin and those of mixed races are called “coloured” and unlike the North American slang this is not considered a derogatory word. This was discovered by accident as I heard a taxi driver use that word and I looked in horror to which he explained that in South Africa it is the official term.
9) A Life of Luxury
The townships of South Africa
When I think of luxury I often think of places such as Monte Carlo, 5th Avenue New York, Dubai (Maybe before the economic crisis) and Beverly Hills, California I did not suspect that South Africa would make the list. However, when you see the cars and the diamonds that some people possess, you have to really think of where you are. The sad part, is that there are a lot of very poor people who sometimes cross the highway where Porsches drive to hitch a ride since there is no good public transportation to the slums/townships where there is lack of water, electricity or toilets. Making South Africa also a dangerous place to visit as people who have nothing to lose often resort to desperate measures.
Cape Town View from Table Mountain
10) And now for something completely different..
The country posses the most diverse flora and fauna that I have ever encountered. Thre are parts that look like Egypt, parts that reminded me of Canada, parts that was unique to Cape, parts reminded me of Spain with white houses and winding roads, parts which were unique to the African landscape which I have seen in movies and canyons which reminded me of Peru, all in one country!
What have you discovered when you visited South Africa? If you have not been there is a lot more to discover than can be covered by any one person!