Friday, October 5, 2007

South Africa: The Mighty Drakensberg

We can´t get over how different it is to travel in South Africa compared to the rest of our African adventure. At times, it can simply feels like we’re on holiday in the United States. Almost everyone speaks English, everything is modern and convenient, the grocery stores are plentiful and stocked with organic veggies, and the wine is cheap and delicious. But it’s more complicated than that, too. Because the townships stretch far and wide, and show a face of poverty that we had become accustomed to in East Africa, but that seems all the more shocking and glaring in contrast to the affluence of so many other South Africans.

While undoubtedly South Africa has come a long way since the end of apartheid, there is still an obvious disparity between blacks and whites. And while the country is heading in the right direction, it was still hard for us to witness the realities of its past (former homelands and shanty towns stretching for miles) in real life. We couldn’t help but feel a certain mistrust of all Afrikaners of a certain age, which is undoubtedly unfair as we know the politics are more complicated than that. And we felt even more uncomfortable around whites that had moved to South Africa during the height of apartheid. What would inspire someone to move to a country with such a horrid system of government-mandated oppression and inequality? We met a few European hikers in their mid-50s who had been living in South Africa for 30 years and there were so many questions we wanted but were afraid to ask (or perhaps fingers we wanted to point). We tried to educate ourselves as best we could, while at the same time enjoying the sheer natural beauty of South Africa.

And the Drakensberg mountain range is just that: sheer, natural beauty. We spent a glorious week hiking in the mountains and witnessing some of the craziest nighttime electrical storms that we’ve ever seen. Luckily the rain would break occasionally, and we were able to climb to the top of Tugela Falls supposedly the second highest waterfall in the world (although there seemed to be some debate about that fact.) Regardless, it was a beautiful sight and introduced us to our first set of chain ladders, a surprisingly common feature in South African hiking. We also enjoyed walks in the Monk’s Cowl region, and along the Giant’s Cup trail. Beautiful scenery, all. Our weather wasn’t always the greatest, but at least it gave us an excuse to sleep in occasionally. We tried to organize a pony trek into Lesotho, but it wasn’t in the cards for us. We did, however, start to eat a lot of spaghetti and corn/avocado/tomato salad. This pretty much became our staple diet. That and red wine and dark chocolate, as they had been inaccessible on our trip thus far. Dreamy. Oh, and we’ve been ferreting out local brewpubs for Eric’s exhaustive research. South Africa has quite a few, and our first foray was to the Nottingham Road brewery. Not that it sounds pretentious or anything. It actually wasn’t.

1 comment:

Dan said...

Is this Eric's brew pub mating dance?