Published: February 3rd 2009January 23rd 2009
We just got back from an amazing safari trip with Jake's family in Botswana and Zambia; we haven't had internet access in a while so we are way behind on the blog. Here's a short update of our pre-safari trip... so no cute animal photos yet. Sorry!
Our South African journey continued as we set out in our little rental car from the Drakensberg mountains for Durban, one of the country's main cities. Durban is billed as South Africa's gem, their surfer's paradise.... but is actually reminiscent of Atlantic City, with its downbeat waterfront and overall sketchy vibe. Don't get us wrong, it's no Jo-burg, it's just a bit rough around the edges...
As explained to us by the hostel staff, most of the beaches are dangerous for tourists except the one that charges 5 rand--50 cents-- entry fee. They marked our map with several "no go" zones, including the central area where 2 immigrants were recently chased by an angry South African mob and forced to jump to their deaths off a building roof (anti-Zimbabwean sentiment has been running high after the recent influx of illegal immigrants escaping inflation and a cholera outbreak). As in Pretoria, the homes
and busineses in Durban are surrounded by steep walls and fencing. Additionally, the popular Casino/mall/food court complex at the waterfront boasts an "enter at your own risk" warning sign, and an exit sign advising you that you are leaving the safety of their private security force... a bit ominous. However, there is a bright lining that makes Durban a lot more fun to visit; our hostel was located near a main entertainment strip, Florida Street, with tons of restaurants, bars and other trendy businesses. And all within safe walking distance. Yay!
After a 2 uneventful nights at the friendly Gibela hostel in Durban, we headed to the airport. We returned the rental car with its busted tire and were happy to finally be rid of it... (although we are not as pleased by the $185 charge they put on Jake's credit card! Insanity). The Durban airport was pretty entertaining, as we discovered a burger chain called "Salt Lake City Spurs" complete with huge hamburgers, and patrons who wore pistols tucked into the belts. That s&%t doesn't even fly in the US (well, maybe in Texas). Not sure how someone goes through security with a gun in their side holster...
Diner packing heat at "Salt Lake City Spurs" restaurant
...a visible side-arm at the Durban airport? Craziness!
Our flight to Capetown arrived on time and we were excited to meet up with Jake's mom, brother and sister, who were on a flight from New York. Their flight was delayed by 30 hours-- they had to spend a night in Senegal, minus their luggage-- so we headed to the "An African Villa" hotel by ourselves. It was so luxurious!!! After backpacking for 7 months we loved staying in a posh b&b with made-to-order breakfasts, fluffy duvets, satellite TV and doting service. When the Semmels arrived, we had fun exploring the city and doing the requisite touristy stuff, including the tram to Table Top mountain where we saw cute little creatures called Dassies. We loved eating out in Capetown, with its trendy restaurants that are very affordable by NYC standards. It was strange, though, how white/european the city is, and how different from the rest of South Africa. If you are going to visit the country, try stopping in Johannesburg to see how other South Africans live.
Anyway, we are running out of time online, so we'll wrap this up. We are flying to Brazil tomorrow, where we are going to post all of our safari photos.
There are more photos below