South Africa

South Africa 2008

Thompsons Africa‘s South African Surprise bus tour drives 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 started my tour of Southern Africa with – 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. It left Johannesburg the day after I returned from Botswana. Travelling for a total of four weeks (instead of 12 days in Zambia & Botswana) before returning home made enduring those long flights to the opposite side of the world worthwhile.

South Africa route map 2008

South Africa route map 2008


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

  • Place names: “berg” means mountains, whereas “burg” mean people’s place
  • South 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.
  • White 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.
  • Education must be paid for directly by parents, so three grades of education exist: Module A (deluxe), B (moderate), C (bare bones)
  • There are two levels of health care: private hospitals (R1,000/mo/family for insurance coverage) & government hospitals (1/10 cost, offering basic services)
  • Source of electricity: 3/4 coal fired, 1/4 hydro
  • History: the Dutch farmers settled the inland regions after The Great Trek; whereas the English settled mainly in Cape Town and other coastal areas