World in One Country (2002) by Jayant DoshiFor over a century, South Africa was torn apart and ruled by the most vilified apartheidsystem whereby people were grouped together by their skin colour, where mixing of races was banned, and all the public facilities were segregated for the whites and others. Over the same period, the whites built a heaven for themselves at the cost of the rest of the population. After years of strife, and world boycott of this reviled system, the Africans, or the majority, were granted the right to select and participate in the government of the country. It is only eight years since this change took place, and it would take a long time to undo the iniquities created by the past regime.Since then, S Africa has become a popular country for sightseeing. Besides a good holiday,I was expecting to see the aftermath of those years of strife and racially segregatedsystem that put all humanity to shame. We decided to arrange such a holiday. Beingvegetarians, with a special taste for spicy foods, we were inclined to go for a tour offeringIndian food. But, after some research, we opted for a local company, with establishedreputation, which promised vegetarian food but not necessarily Indian spicy food.We reached Cape Town just before lunchtime. Our hotel was right on the sea front and wecould see the waves from our window. After freshening up, and a quick lunch, we decidedto walk along the sea front and get a feel of the place. The next day we had a half daytour of the city. The city was founded by the Europeans who needed replenishment for thelong journey made by the ships, which went to India and the East to procure spices. Whitepeople, who excluded the blacks and the coloured people from the cities, had developedthe city beautifully with wonderfularchitecture in buildings, neat roads andlots of greenery along the way, and littleseems to have changed since apartheidwas abolished.In the afternoon we visited the famousRoben island where Nelson Mandela spent27 years of his imprisonment. The visitwas emotionally moving and touching. Theguide who showed us around the prisonhad himself spent 20 years in the prison,and his comments could not hide thebitterness behind them. He graphicallydescribed the life in the prison. The island has now become a national monument and atourist attraction.
Next day we saw the Cape point where the Indian and the Atlantic oceans meet. In reality, the oceans are one, but since man has named them, the point signifies the point where the two are separated. We also saw southern most point of the continent of Africa, and the place where the first Europeans set foot on the continent five hundred years back. We visited the famous botanical gardens and some museums on our way. Table Mountain, literally like a table, is world famous, and was on our itinerary. Three times our visit was cancelled due tothick fog and clouds. However the guide arranged for us to leave hotel early on the lastday so we could visit the mountain. Luckily, the sun shone on that morning and made ourvisit to the top of the Table mountain worth the wait. The top of the mountain is accessedby a cable car, which revolves while taking people up a steep slope and allowing apanoramic view, and the mountain is like a table as its name implies. We spent an hour onthe mountain, and walked around it and enjoyed the beautiful scenery, which could beseen from that height.The guide, a proper Africaaner, with ahusky voice, looked after all our needs,and gave running commentary all alongthe trip. He came up with detailedhistorical facts for each place, and attimes gave such difficult Boer and Zulunames that it was difficult to keep up withhis commentary, and lot of passengers inthe coach could be seen snoozing. Whileall the facts he presented were new for us, I could see discrepancies on the facts I wasaware of, but it seemed futile to try to rectify those facts and end up in an argument,which no one would have liked. Then we drove along the coast to Worcester surrounded by vineyards. We visited a vineyard and had a taste of their wine, followed by a visit to a peaceful small town where we had lunch and did some shopping. Next day we visited the historic town of Tulbagh, the town where the first Dutch made their settlement in S Africa. Though the original town was destroyed in 1969 by earthquake, the historical
buildings with their unique features, were rebuilt and restored to their original Dutch glory.Our drive to Wilderness was long, but relief was given by a visit to an ostrich farm, whichproved very informative. We passed George, which styles itself as the capital of the famous Garden Route, and reached to our hotel in Wilderness in the evening. Next day was the day of a nostalgic trip on a steam train journey through some of the beautiful scenery and greenery of the route. Next day we drove along the famous Garden Route. Unlike the name, it is a route of greenery with rolling hills and valleys and forests along the route, and a lovely coastline along the way. If one were expecting beautiful gardens along the route, then one would have been disappointed.The hotel at our next stop, Port Elizabeth, was also on the sea front with a busywaterfront. We paid a visit to the original settlements by the British in the area, with someearly 19th century towns and traditional architecture. We also saw the solid steel bunkersbuilt to fight the Boers. We flew on to Durban. The southern part of this huge country ismountainous and green, while the northern part is flat like a plateau and quite dry. WhileDurban visit was not on the schedule, the guide decided to take us on a short tour roundthe city. This city was in total contrast to Cape Town and Port Elizabeth. The first twotowns were quiet and serene, with a preponderant white population, Durban seemedteeming with Indians and black population and buzzing with lot of activity.When we booked the holiday, we stressed that we must be given Indian food as far aspossible, and we were promised the same. But the variety of foods we got in the buffetthree times a day was such that whenever Indian food was given, most of us avoided it.Soups, salads, fruits and vegetabledishes more than filled us up, and I havefeeling that most of us put on a few kilosweight during our trip. We found the foodmore satisfying and healthy, and did notmiss our traditional food for a day.We moved on to a game lodge. The lodgehad wooden huts built on stilts, andconnected by a wooden walkway to otherhuts and dining area. It had a wateringplace nearby and a hut built to watchanimals come to drink water. The placewas lovely, and we had a bon fire while having our drinks. The next day we had openjeep safari through the game park. Like other game parks, we saw lots of animals, butsomehow the numbers of wild animals to be seen seem to be depleting fast.
Next day, we visited a traditional Zulu village and learnt a few things about their life styleand culture. We continued our journey with a drive through Swaziland with its lush sugarcane farms and total change in the landscape. This small country is landlocked, and isvery beautiful with its sugar cane and orange orchards, misty mountains and greenery. We spent a night at a lodge. Next day we drove through a pretty small town, and then on to Kruger National Park in S Africa where we spent two nights in a game lodge inside the national park. We had a drive in open jeep for a safari through one of the oldest and largest national parks of Africa. While we saw a good variety of animals, missing out on the big ones, the numbers were negligible and disappearance of many animals seems inevitable if strong measures are nottaken soon.Our next stop, and final stop for some, was Pretoria where we had a farewell dinner. Someof the group left next day for London, while others flew on to Livingstone for a visit toVictoria Falls in Zambia. Driving from the airport to our luxurious hotel on the banks ofriver Zambezi, we could see that we were now really in an African country. Our journeyfrom Cape Town right up to Pretoria hardly gave us an insight of how the Africans lived.What we saw were beautiful riverside bungalows, and beaches with lovely houses, butwe saw little of how the majority lived.Victoria Falls, with a span of almost 2 km, is the biggest waterfalls in the world. However,due to lack of rains, the falls seemedpretty dry, and the falls covered hardly afew metres of the big span of the actualfalls. While we walked many times andsaw the beauty of the falls from variousangles, and actually walked on the fallsitself which were dry at this time of theyear, the site did not have exciting tripsas offered by Niagara falls. Our hotelwas on the banks of river Zambezi, andwe had a lovely cruise down the river.The highlight of the trip was walking.Some of our group were keen at walking,and at times woke up as early as five in the morning to go on long walks. On the average,one to two hours of walking per day was standard, and that was the most enjoyable partof the trip. Walking along the beach, with perhaps gusty winds, or walking down theriverbank, or on the streets of a still sleeping town, had its pleasures, and only those whoappreciate and experience those walks, know what those pleasure feel like. Walking onboulders and rocks on the surface of the Zambezi river which was dry, and reaching to the
mouth of the actual falls, had adventure and pleasure mixed in one. We were told that a visit to South Africa would be incomplete without a visit to the famous Sun City. Surprisingly, all local touring firms do not include this venue on their itinerary. However, those who came back from Victoria Falls had 24 hours at their disposal, and decided to visit this city. Originally built as a gambling resort, but now more of a family resort, the wholeplace can be looked around on foot in a matter of hour or two. There are four hotels, andlots of leisure activities. A Lost City has been built depicting hug animal carvings in rocks,and a real jungle atmosphere. Two golf courses adorn the city, and a lake provides arange of water sports. While we did not have the time to enjoy all the facilities, we at leasthad the satisfaction that we saw the place.(More on www.jayantdoshi.yolasite.com)(