We spent three weeks in South Africa in late August and early September. We read a bit about the history of the country (the first peoples, building of the Zulu empire, the British and Dutch arriving, the laws passed to keep Black people downtrodden, apartheid and the recent democratic challenges) and made sure to read blog posts about the current situations and what we could expect.
The experience that was one has varies by what you bring into the situation. As a Black person living in America I was excited to be returning to the continent of my ancestors and excited to meet some South Africans. Due to some of the blog posts I read, I was a little worried about crime (car jackings) and people trying to take advantage of us. Thankfully, we didn’t have any problems in any of the three major cities (Johannesburg, Cape Town and Durban) that we visited.
#1 Driving in South Africa isn’t scary
After reading so many terrible things about driving in South Africa we didn’t rent a car when we landed in Johannesburg. After getting around town using Uber and local taxi mini-buses we decided that the traffic didn’t look that bad. We rented a car in Cape Town and savored the freedom that having a car can bring. It enabled us to thrift, see the penguins, explore the Cape of Good Hope national park and pick up groceries at a local grocery store. It went to well that we decided to rent a car back in Johannesburg and drive the six hours to Durban.
#2 South Africans love kids
We had our seventeen month old toddler with us and everywhere we went people wanted to play with him. Everyone. When walking to a local garage (gas station) for snacks a group of three girls actually picked him and giggled with him. At the penguin reserve in Simon’s Town a security guard played with him while we shopped. We ordered food and the lady came from behind the counter to lift him up. Our hotel shuttle driver couldn’t stop talking and playing with him. When we arrived at the hotel, we swooped him up in his arms, pinned his name tag on the baby and walked into the hotel beaming. Everywhere we went people were smiling at him, talking with him and generally enjoying his company.
#3 South Africa has penguins!
This may sound silly, but I generally associate penguins with cold weather so imagine my surprise to find out that South Africa has a group of jackass penguins at a penguin reserve in Simon’s Town.
#4 Primates Rule
We were surprised to see lots of different primates hanging out …. in the streets … in South Africa. In Durban, wild grey monkeys hung out at bus stops, stared at us while entering/exiting our car at our guesthouse and ran across residential streets while driving. On the drive from Simon’s Town to the Cape of Good Hope you see signs warning you of baboons and every now and again you see a baboon family on an errand. There were a lot of ostriches too, but no one saw fit to post a sign about them. *shrug*
#5 The meat pies are delicious.
I’m very picky about what I’ll eat so even though we travel a lot I’m always concerned about food. Since I hadn’t visited South Africa before and I’ve never even seen a South African restaurant I wasn’t sure what to expect on our three week adventure. I started off eating KFC because it was familiar, but woman can’t live on chicken alone.
I started seeing these little meat pies in stores all over and decided to try one. They had flavors that ranged from curry to pepper steak (my favorite) to chicken. I tried a few, but I fell in love with the pepper steak. It’s like a pot pie with tons of delicious flavor. The pepper might be a little strong for some, but they are filling, cheap and delicious. Give ’em a try next time you’re in South Africa.
There were small surprises and big surprises but all the surprises were good. What surprised you most about visiting South Africa?