After some epic game viewing in Kruger Park, we continued south en route to Cape Town. We visited eSwatini (formerly Swaziland) for a couple of days and stayed at the beautiful Hlane Game Reserve. There were two special things about this game park. First, there was no electricity but instead it was lit by paraffin lamps! This gave it a certain kind of old time charm. Each night at sunset, the staff would come around and light all our lamps as well as supply us with ample firewood to start our campfire. Secondly, we were treated with the most amazing viewing of white rhinos - 12 of them! Sadly these magnificent animals are critically endangered, so it was such a treat to be able to see so many of them. This was all from the comfort of Adirondack chairs with a beer in hand at the watering hole right at the camp. The only thing separating us and these huge animals was a flimsy fence made of 2 barbed wires! Thankfully they didn't feel like having human for lunch. We did however have a close encounter with a bull elephant when we went on a self game drive. While the one we saw in Erindi (Namibia) did not allow us to pass on the road, this one actually came at us! Luckily we made a swift getaway.
After eSwatini, our road trip continued through a huge swath of South Africa with 2 long days of driving to eventually reach the coast. We stayed in a wonderful beach house on the water in Kleinmond for a few nights just relaxing and taking in the beautiful scenery. It was so nice to see and hear the crashing waves. Although it was winter, we still ventured down to the nearby beach. The boys had a great time playing with the big sea kelp and weaving with the grasses they collected. The rugged mountains came right up to the water making the area very stunning and offering loads of great hiking.
Our final destination in was Cape Town. Located on the southwest coast of South Africa with Table Mountain as the backdrop, Cape Town is a vibrant and cosmopolitan city. The history of Cape Town, and South Africa as a whole, is fascinating and not without war and conflict, as is typical of a colonized land. And surely it is difficult to mention South Africa without mentioning Apartheid, the systematic policy of segregation and discrimination based on race and colour from 1948 to the early 1990's. Colonization and apartheid have left a long legacy and will take generations before South Africa will be a more just society. However, the South African constitution is one of the most inclusive and progressive constitutions in the world. This is in part due to the amazing people who have dedicated their lives to put an end to apartheid. Most notable is of course Nelson Mandela, the first black president of South Africa. A hero, a humanitarian, a tireless crusader for equality for all people, he is much revered and loved by the world over. He was so pivotal in bringing an end to apartheid and creating a new South Africa. For his political struggles, he was incarcerated for 27 years. He spent 18 of those years on Robben Island Prison, off the coast of Cape Town. We did a trip to visit the island to see the prison and it was truly an eye opening experience. All the guides were ex-political prisoners, making the experience that much more intimate and telling. On a lighter note, we visited the beautiful wine region of Stellenbosh, drove down to the dramatic Cape of Good Hope, and checked out the sites around town.
South Africa is an amazing country. It is geographically breathtaking, the game parks are unrivaled, and its history and people are complex and compelling. It leaves you with moments of sheer discomfort and joy, but mostly hope.
“For to be free is not merely to cast off one’s chains, but to live in a way that respects and enhances the freedom of others.” - Nelson Mandela