With all the excitement that surrounded the hype of Cape Town, we ended up booking 10 days at a loft apartment. That way we could really settle in and explore everything the city had to offer. It wasn’t until our second day there that we were informed that Cape Town, as refered to by South Africans, encompasses a majority of the region we already covered on our road trip. The speculated time it takes to enjoy the area that is “Cape Town” (8-14 days) was misinterpreted by us as the amount of time needed to enjoy the city of Cape Town its self. Suddenly the loft apartment on the fifth floor seemed a bit excessive and we wondered what the f*&k we were going to do with ourselves for the next 10 days. But as with all of our time in South Africa, the days seemed to slip through our hands like a fist full of sand. It was with a blink of an eye we found ourselves rushing to pack while the cleaner tried to work around us.
While in Cape Town we were able to catch up with our favorite South African (Warren) twice. He is in the midst of setting up a South African tour company that runs the very route we just spent the last 50 days completing. With his valuable insight, social ability, and down right bad ass ability to throw back some drinks, we look forward to coming back and touring with This Is Africa Tours.
After almost two months in the country, speaking with various locals and trying my best to take it all in, I have come to the conclusion that summarizing a country is as difficult as picking out all the contributing aromas and tastes a wine has to offer. To one person its vanilla with a hint of bark. While someone else will note blackberry with coffee undertones. The very best analysis of wine that I have ever come across has been the simple response, “Who gives a shit? All that matters is do you like it. If so, then price and palate are just background noise.”
I can’t tell you everything that makes South Africa enjoyable to us, but I will do my best to describe how we interpreted the background noise.
South Africa is as complex and diverse as the extraordinary wines they create (Getting the idea that their wine made an impression on me yet?). Geographically, culturally, and the individuals that call it home, all come together to create a wonderful college of art that would be impossible for even the greatest of artists to capture. Their rich history is not shamefully pushed into the past but rather used to help propel them in a forward direction. The country realizes they are a diverse and has opted to have 9 official languages. (And to think, I know some Americans that complain about a McDonald’s having a Spanish menu)
Of course there are aspects of imperfection. For instance, never have I witnessed such poverty and prosperity in that close of proximity and it seems they have some trouble dealing with mine workers. But it is not overlooking the flaws that makes you fall in love with South Africa. It is admiring how they are working to solve their problems that creates the endearment.
The more we travel the more comfortable we get with the concept of not having a home. Not just in the sense of a place to sit on our ass, drink beer, and watch football (though that would be nice considering it is NFL time, Go Hawks!). But rather meaning we have began to let go of the idea that we have to live in a place we once called home. We don’t have to go back, we don’t have to hold onto the concept that a single place is where we are destined to return and live our life. This concept has always been at the back of our mind, slowly creeping forward the longer we are on the road. But it was thrust forward in a very real and tangible way during our time in South Africa.
The whirlwind love affair was 50 days of pure enjoyment. Our passion for the country began almost instantly during our time in Johannesburg. A city that many people chose to skip over and is degraded even by some South Africans. We enjoyed the rich history the city had to offer, visiting SOWETO, and learning about the struggles of the past, present, and future. The Apartheid museum was nothing short of amazing and set the cultural groundwork that enabled us to better understand the country and people we were about t explore.
The individuals we met in Joburg foreshadowed the amazing interactions we would have with all South Africans throughout the duration of our trip. I am a strong believer that it is not just the places you go but the people you are with. (I have sat on a curb in the middle of the night and had the time of my life. I could also walk through the pearly gates and do a B-line for the exit if I saw even one of a handful of people.) Our time in Joburg was filled with interesting and engaging conversation. The Gandhi Backpacker bar proved to be an excellent classroom to learn from locals and expats alike.
As we made our way down the coast we marveled as our love for the country grew with each stop. “We could live here”, we would continuously say to each other. Until it reached the tipping point of us actually looking into living and working in South Africa. Unfortunately the country doesn’t make it easy for foreigners to immigrate and the actual math of earning/spending the Rand rather than the dollar made us realize it just wouldn’t work.
Maybe its better this way. This way we don’t have to absorb some of the struggles that people endure by living in a country that isn’t quite 1st world. We can admire from the other side of the fence and marvel at how green the grass seems to be. We can visit, enjoy and leave without ever having to water, cut, and fertilize the grass that most certainly doesn’t grow easily.