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March 8, 2014

We arrived at Johannesburg. Our flight last almost 2 hours longer because of the discovery of a small malfunction of the plane which is being repaired and analyzed. However, there is no need to worry”. In addition to that, some British ladies who sat on the seats behind me singing songs by Rihanna during the night made me not sleep and read and study as much information about South Africa as possible in the 13-hour time in the plane. We had booked the air tickets on Monday and flew on Thursday, so big traveler’s preparation could not be considered. On Tuesday, we were vaccinated, but the doctor had shaken her head – the vaccines start to be effective in 10 or 14 days (therefore, we did not rely on them much – “just be cautious”), she prescribed some antimalarials, a repellent (that was said to be able to etch even a plastic chair), we bought sleeping bags, packed some plum brandy (slivovica) and minimized the amount of the clothes by virtue of our backpacks and went on our 25-day long trip to South Africa. Our plan was to go from the North, Johannesburg, to the South, Cape Town, stay overnight at different places every day and experience and see as much as possible. How? – We would see later on. The only thing that had been arranged for us was the first overnight stay at a CouchSurfer’s in Johannesburg. This was arranged only by email during our travel rush, so we were curious ourselves whether our first African CouchSurfer would be expecting us at the airport.

My top of the whole 25-day-long stay in Africa – Kruger National Park and people. The people we met, the people who put us up and showed us their local Africa. We slept at CouchSurfers’ the half of our trip and in backpacker hostels the second half. We tried to spend only one night at the same place which we managed. Cape Town was the only case where we let ourselves stay last five days. See more about CouchSurfing and our “couch” here!

My other tops of Africa:

Kruger National Park – In one day, we saw the famous Big Five – lion, leopard, elephant, buffalo and rhino. Some people say they will not see the Big Five, though they are in the nature reserve whole week and someone not even in their lifetime. In a camp, you sleep in a really simple cottage where you hear animals and baboons that run back and forth and try to “check” the access to the fridge and you lying in the bed. Not hearing mosquito is the best – Kruger is at the border with Mozambique – the malaria area, so do not go hunting without a strong repellent (and ideally antimalarials). Do not take us as an example of the vaccine thing!

Braai – or a barbecue! A typical afternoon activity:) We had four braais in the first four days! I tried ostrich, antelope and kudu steaks, very strong rum Tipo Tinto from Mozambique and the best homemade olives! More in African gastronomy – it is a lot!

Cooking Safari – a food again:) In the colorful Jewish quarter called Bo-Kaap in Cape Town, we went and tried our cooking skills at Jazmine’s place. Our Mother Africa taught us to cook typical Cape-Malay curry, samosa, Chapati, so we were not hungry even the next morning.

Lion´s Head – This was the top of our sporty attempts and the top of the most beautiful view of Cape Town! We almost gave up three times before we managed to get at the top of the 669-meters-high mountain. It took us more than 2 hours, a couple of frightened looks at chains on the rock, a few swear words and a few requests for more water. Lion´s Head is said to be the most popular spot of the locals for meeting and watching the sunset. Very well, thank you. For us, it had been a heroic success which we shared with everybody until our return:)

Garden Route – Is the route along the coast from Port Elizabeth to Mossel Bay with the most amazing beaches, ranges of mountains and countryside. The whole route is circa 200 kilometers long with plenty of spots worth stopping and staying overnight. It is a duty to spend 3 or 4 days on Garden Route.

Soweto – A periphery area of Johannesburg to which African-American citizens were removed during the apartheid and they have been living there since then. It is the richest African township, but there are the biggest contrasts, as well, 150 square kilometers, more than 2 million people, one of the areas with the highest number of murder and rape in the world, giant poverty, HIV and unemployment. Thank our landlady, Lulu, we succeeded in going to see one of the “houses”. 

Soweto – 150 square kilometers, more than 2 million people, giant poverty and criminality

Visiting Lulu, ”This is where I and my husband sleep. The children, of course, sleep next to us on the floor…”

Jewish quarter Bo-Kaap and culinary safari, you eat what you cook! Mother Africa Jazmína preparing African Chapati

Kruger National Park. Let me say more about elephants, leopards, and hippos in a special article:)

Wilderness @ the Garden Route. There is fatigue of our muscles in hands from the canoe and in legs from the climb to the falls. Amazing!

Tsitsikamma National Park, Storms River @ the Garden Route

The view of Lion´s Head in Cape Town

Well, did I mention the degustation of the wines of South Africa? Wait for another blog – Pinotage in wine growing in Cape Town. There are more than 200 of them, so you can go and degust and play at sommelier… On top of that, mostly for free!