April 8th
2010
written by Alonna

We only spent about half of our time in South Africa on safari. The rest of the time was spent with our couchsurfing hosts in Johannesburg, driving, and relaxing in the Blyde River Canyon area near Kruger. Here’s a few things about our time in South Africa that I didn’t want to leave out…
 

Blyde River Canyon

Just west of Kruger park is Blyde River Canyon, a beautiful mountain range with cute towns and amazing viewpoints. After driving through the area, we booked last-minute reservations for two nights at a guesthouse out in the country. It was probably the most comfortable and beautiful room we’ve ever stayed in, with an enormous bed, jacuzzi, gorgeous view, and friendly host. Originally we were hoping to stay in town and spend our time hiking and sightseeing, but we took this opportunity to relax for a couple days instead. It was absolutely lovely.

Enjoying the view at Blyde River Canyon Alonna Ben Guesthouse in the country
 

South African Braai

Meat is cheap and delicious in South Africa, and similar to Argentina, this contributes to a grilling culture. Argentinians call it “parrilla”, South Africans call it “braai”, we call it “grill”, and supposedly Australians call it “barbie” but we’ll see when we get there.

We ended up with a love/hate relationship with braais in South Africa. The meat is fantastic – you can get cheap and delicious pre-marinated beef kebabs called espetadas. However, cooking them on the braai (a lidless charcoal grill) must take some special skill… somehow it always took us about 2 hours to get anything cooked.

The South African Braai Wildabeest Espetada
 

Couchsurfing

We were lucky to line up couchsurfing hosts for 2 nights in Johannesburg. In case you haven’t heard of it, couchsurfing is an online community of friendly people around the world who let travelers stay at their place for a couple nights for free. Dawn and Paul were great hosts; they made us feel at home, gave us great advice for things to do and where to go, and filled us in on local history and their take on current politics.

Couchsurfing in Johannesburg
 

Apartheid and ongoing Racial Tensions

This is way too big of a topic to tackle in this blog, but let’s just say that South Africa has a fascinating history and is unlike any country we’ve ever visited. Prior to arriving, we knew basically nothing about apartheid, the country’s history, or current politics. While in South Africa, we visited the apartheid museum, heard opinions from our couchsurfing and guesthouse hosts, witnessed racial divisions, and happened to be in town when the right-wing leader Terre’Blanche was murdered. In a lot of ways we found South Africa to be the most like the United States than anywhere we’ve visited so far, and in other ways it’s completely opposite. Although some people might say that we still have racism and racial issues in the United States, this is nothing compared to South Africa. Just 15 years ago the majority of people in South Africa (blacks) couldn’t vote. Now the country is still struggling to establish a fair and balanced government and come to terms with it’s diversity. Seeing this from the outside, I’d call it growing pains, but locals who are living through are frustrated to say the least. I’ll leave it at this, but if you’re interested, you can read about apartheid on wikipedia, and ask us about our experiences when we get home.

2 Comments

  1. 04/09/2010

    I saw some of those animals in Kenya. Africa was really an interesting place. I am looking forward to hearing about it from you.

  2. Cal
    04/12/2010

    It was lots of fun catching up with your travels! Your blog will make a wonderful journal of your trip. Good luck in New Zealand.