Friday, April 29, 2011

The Afri-CAN in me!

I was recently back in Mauritius for a few days, but more importantly, I went to South Africa for the first time.

Like all other trips I took, I have done my homework before going there: researched places to visit, found out how to get around, what's the tipping rule, read reviews of the hotels, etc. Almost all the blogs/reviews online and all the tourist guides I have laid eyes on, warned tourists over and over about personal safety in SA. Personal accounts from friends and relatives were added to the mix to make us doubt the decision to visit such a country. So my parents and I landed there, with wary eyes and an overload of precautionary measures, tips from diverse sources on how not to be victims of any crime. Much to our surprise and relief, danger only loomed once and even that could have been just the fruit of a self-inflicted brain-washing due to constant exposure to negative aspects of the country that hosted the World Cup last year.  

The first few days were distinctly different from the rest of the stay. The destination was Sun City, major tourist attraction at the edge of the Pilanesberg National park, about 2 and half hours drive from Johannesburg. We are talking 2+ hrs drive into the bush! More than 2 hrs drive of scenic views of plains and mountains and greenery!

We knew even before we saw it, that the population demographic would be less diverse than in Mauritius. Caucasians in the bush are still a minority, Asians are even more seldom encountered except in little retail stores found at the periphery of a supermarket. Yes, we visited supermarkets there. My dad takes comfort in familiar things like KFC, Spar and Shoprite (both supermarket chains). Defying the warnings, we ventured out of the touristy paths and NOTHING happened to us! Not that we didn't tremble at every opportunity though!

Like I was saying to one of my ex-coworkers when I was telling him about this trip, I come from AFRICA. He was giving me tips on how to protect my belongings in public and I said to him "You watch, I will NOT be robbed, I grew up in Africa". It would have been easy to succomb to fear and stay inside the relatively safe walls of our hotels. But far from it, we roamed the streets at night, walked everywhere we wanted to go in Cape Town and drove on uncertain roads in the wilderness. Yes we can. More on the trip later.