I am still in a whirl emotionally after our three week stay in the Western Cape. The nature was truly fabulous and was what we sought out most. That aspect of the trip was a great success. The culture of the area around Cape Town and Stellenbosch is perhaps not typical of the whole country. Stellenbosch, where we were based, is an old Dutch style settlement dominated by its university, tourism and wine estates. Its picturesque and comfortably familiar for a European visitor and that in itself was very odd. This is Africa, there are settlements all around Stellenbosch or what the locals call ‘the village,’ the houses are often pretty fortresses with electric fences and big dogs. Armed response security vans tour the middle class estates and everywhere are warning signs about the alarms. This comfortable whitewashed prettiness feels like a place under siege and that is very unsettling. Continue reading
South Africa is not all the same. The Cape is very different to the area around Jo-Burg. It’s all in the seeing I guess. Many people from our parts hated their visit to Jo-Burg, too shocking and too massive and without the compensation of wonderful scenery, cool sea breeze and Penguins and the Cape Wineries.
This watering hole in the Addo reserve is a case in point. Nothing here, right? Continue reading
Images crowd one upon another. A vivid mind film replayed before sleep every night. The ones that stick are not always the big screen panoramic vistas.
A tortoise under a bush,
a group of resting penguins and their smell,
the fierce intelligence and menace of a pair of baboons at the roadside.
A sandy track leading back in time to the first settlements and farms. The scale and majesty of the place.
The diversity of people and the beauty of faces in a city filled with excitement and potential. Energy and drive and dignity, even in the new shanty settlements so shocking to our comfortable eyes. The satellite TV dishes on the little cardboard and tin and ticky-tacky self built houses shouting of priorities we find odd but are they?
It goes on and the images pile up making a visit with years worth of replays and sifting.
South Africa is both familiar and at the same time intensely exotic to anyone educated in a British school of the fifties and sixties, as I was. We were taught more of the British colonial adventure in that far away land than we are about the history of the land we were intimately connected to – Ireland.
Being here now, has been exciting, profoundly thrilling and horrific too. This nation is in flux and there are still vast problems to solve before Nelson Mandela’s dream of ‘the Rainbow Nation’ is made real. However I will not dwell on that since I’ve been here only a week and can’t pretend to understand the cultural complexities faced by our overwhelmingly generous hosts. Continue reading