South Africa

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South Africa 2008

Thompsons Africa's South African Surprise is a driving tour from Johannesburg to Cape Town down the Wild Coast and the Garden Coast, with diversions to Kruger National Park and other interesting sights along the way.  This appealed to me because it offered a nice counterpoint to the Botswana safari I was starting my tour of Southern Africa - going from Land Cruisers bouncing wildly in off-road adventures to an air-conditioned tour bus on paved highways; and from sleeping in tents at camps without electricity or running water to nice hotels and resorts with all the amenities.  This South African tour was 15 days long, and it left Johannesburg the day after I returned from Botswana. Traveling for a total of four weeks (instead of 12 days in Zambia & Botswana) before returning home makes enduring those long flights worthwhile.

Johannesburg - Hazyview
Hazyview
Kruger National Park
Hluhluwe-Umfolozi Game Reserve
Swaziland
St. Lucia
Durban
Drakensberg
Wild Coast
Garden Coast
Cape Town
Cape Peninsula

October 26, 2008 - Sunday - Johannesburg

Lagoon, pool & patio area of the Protea Waterfront HotelI am staying at the Protea Waterfront hotel for two nights.  The hotel is adjacent to the Centurian Mall - which is a typical mall with lots of shops.  This evening at 7pm our tour group of 40 people meets downstairs in a meeting room.  Most of the group are British, with some Dutch and other Europeans mixed in as well.  Our tour leader Craig Olivier introduces himself and gives us an overview of the tour and answers questions.  Craig also discusses the optional excursions that will be available as we travel along the route.  I have pre-booked and prepaid most of these excursions, so I simply give Craig my coupons and I'm done.  My radar normally goes up when tour companies offer add-ons, but in this case, these excursions offer excellent value and allow me to complete the South African experience.

I had Ostrich medallions in garlic sauce and a glass of local red wine for dinner in the hotel restaurant.  I asked for the Ostrich to be done medium, but it was rare so I didn't eat all of it. It is very lean red meat, and tastes similar to beef.  The following morning I had the breakfast buffet, which offered a full European breakfast at reasonable cost.  Buffets are common in South Africa, but they don't use sneeze guards, unlike North American restaurants.

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Over the next few days, Craig gives us the following tidbits of information about his country of South Africa:

bulletPlace names: "berg" means mountains, whereas "burg" mean people's place
bulletSouth Africa is a land of contrasts - poor living beside rich; industry next to subsistence farming; national parks and preserves next to development; racial tolerance and intolerance; little-used train tracks next to big expressways.
bulletWhite farmers are "bringing along" 15,000 black farmers: selling land to them as their farming skills are developed. This is certainly a better way to integrate black farmers than the expropriation which neighboring countries used.
bulletEducation must be paid for directly by parents, so three grades of education exist: Module A (deluxe), B (moderate), C (bare bones)
bulletThere are two levels of health care: private hospitals (R1,000/mo/family for insurance coverage) & government hospitals (1/10 cost, offering basic services)
bulletSource of electricity: 3/4 coal fired, 1/4 hydro
bulletHistory: the Dutch farmers settled the inland regions after The Great Trek; whereas the English settled mainly in the Cape Town area

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