Road Trip Recap

Over the holidays, I had the opportunity to travel along the southern coast of South Africa. Here is a much delayed and brief photo journey of the trip:

The first stop on our journey was the Drakensburg – a World Heritage Site and the highest mountain range in Southern Africa. It is interesting not only for its physical beauty (a panoramic view is even more spectacular), but also because of its rich history and cultural significance. For example, the Drakensberg has between 35000 and 40000 works of Bushmen art within its caves. The Bushmen are the indigenous people of Southern Africa, who are often referred to as Bushmen, San, Sho, Barwa, Kung, or Khwe.

After a treacherous trek up the steep cliffs of the Sani Pass, we eventually arrived in Lesotho – a small landlocked country that is surrounded by South Africa. It is sometimes referred to as the “Kingdom in the Sky” or the “Mountain Kingdom” as many of its mountain peaks are well over 3000 m, and it has the highest “lowest” point of any country in the world at over 1000 m.

The next stop: Coffee Bay, our first touch of the Indian Ocean. This picture depicts “Hole in the Wall”, a famous local landmark which is a giant huge detached cliff that has a large opening carved through its centre by the waves. The local Xhosa call this place “izi Khaleni”, which means “place of thunder”, and it is also symbolic in Xhosa mythology.

And then onto Hogsback, a village in the Amatola Mountains – a picturesque, artsy, laid-back and friendly little town with an overabundance of references to fairies.  The reason for the references – the area is often claimed as JRR Tolkien’s (who was born in South Africa) inspiration for The Lord of the Rings.  And although this claim is actually erroneous, this doesn’t stop the village from using it as a claim to fame (for example, we stayed at a place called Away with the Fairies).  The picture (taken by Ms. Chelsea) is Rina and I resting by a waterfall after a morning hike.

I couldn’t have asked for a better place to spend a Christmas away from home.  Surrounded by imagery like the above, I stayed with a dear friend of mine’s family.  My friend Celeste Shankland had just married another friend of mine Zachary Davis.  They were married in early December, and although I was unable to attend the ceremony, I got a much better deal – five days and nights with the newlyweds on their romantic South African honeymoon in Herold’s Bay (where Celeste’s grandmother and relatives call their home).  They did have two weeks together prior to my arrival, so I didn’t feel quite as guilty with the whole crashing element.  And besides, I promised to act extra romantic for the occasion 🙂

This is the view atop Table Mountain – overlooking the stunning city of Cape Town. An active city and a hotbed for tourism, it’s here where I spent New Year’s – where we stumbled upon a Middle Eastern bar and downed a bottle of champagne while watching a belly dancer. Here’s to 2012!

We were told that a trip to Cape Town wouldn’t be complete without a drive along the coast. On the way, we stopped to get a glimpse of the African penguins – nestled on the beautiful beaches of Boulder’s Bay.

Lying at the foot of the Cape Fold mountain range, Stellenbosch provides soil favourable to viticulture, and it is here where we spent numerous days visiting the South African wineries. South Africa is serious about wine and produces more than 1,000,000,000 litres annually. Cabernet Sauvignon, Chardonnay, Merlot, Shiraz, Malbec, and South Africa’s trademark, Pinotage – the wines were every bit as stunning as the scenery.

But there was also a limit to the amount of wine one can consume in a day; hence, the need for a cappuccino.

On our return to Johannesburg, Craig and I took a day to bike around Soweto – a township (South Western Township) located just miles from where I live. The people were incredibly friendly – especially the children who gave us high-fives as we rode along the streets. I think this quote appropriately captures its essence: “Soweto is a symbol of the New South Africa, caught between old squatter misery and new prosperity, squalor and an upbeat lifestyle, it’s a vibrant city which still openly bears the scars of the Apartheid past and yet shows what’s possible in the New South Africa.”

Thanks to Georgina Murphy, Chelsea Dagger, Craig Meek and Celeste Shankland for the use of their photos.