We took an overnight bus from Zimbabwe to Johannesburg, and I have to say that we were ready to be in South Africa again. Despite the bad reviews we had heard of Johannesburg, we had a great time in the big city. We went out to nice meals and fun bars and clubs in a trendy area near our hostel. Jo’burg was surprisingly hip but still laid-back. It was encouraging to see diverse groups of people, at least in the ritzy nightlife scene. We met friends from the US and Botswana in our hostel and joined them for the night on the town.
The next day, we visited the Apartheid Museum, which was incredibly powerful and beautifully presented, and the World of Beer, which was commercialized and worth skipping. As we were walking out of the World of Beer, we received a phone call from our friends from the hostel. “Um, can you pick us up? Our car was stolen!” “Of course!” “We’re in a shopping mall.” “Be right there.”
We drove as the sun set…and we drove and drove. We saw a sign for “Soweto,” the historical township, and current high crime area. We started getting nervous. Not a good idea to drive here at night. Random objects in the road, then people walking in the road. “Don’t stop at stoplights,” we had been told, which was easy because the street lights were mostly out, adding to the darkness and our increasing anxiety. We called our friends: “Our GPS must be wrong! It drove us straight into Soweto!” “No, that’s right – we’re in a shopping mall…in the heart of Soweto.” Well, that would have been good to know – we thought we were driving to one of Jo’burgs chic malls. Despite our better judgment, we picked up the stranded group in Soweto. “Now, can you drive us to the police station?” “Allllright.” We didn’t get out of the car for the entire two hour rescue mission, even at the sketchy-looking police station. It turned out that they had stopped at a chain food shop in a strip mall, and their car had been stolen in less than 6 minutes in broad daylight in a crowded parking lot. All in all it was quite a long rescue mission, and they never did find their car. We were glad it wasn’t us and happy to have helped.
After a few days in the big city, we headed to the Drakensburg Mountains. We spent a day staying with the hospitable and kind family of Jon’s friends from college, Cameron, on a beautiful cattle farm. We then spent a night in their rustic cabin near the entrance to the national park into a section of the Drakensberg Mountains. We hiked to some cave paintings, and tried to stay warm with a fire. Jen came down with a stomach bug, so Jon went on a hike in the morning, and then we headed for the coast and warmer temperatures.
Durban had perfect temperatures and a nice beach, a perfect antidote to freezing nights in the highlands.
Overall, we loved our time in Africa… the people, the diverse natural beauty of desert, coast, mountains, and valleys, and of course, the animals. We both agree we will make a return trip to Africa, it is a special place.
But for now… next-up, brief stop in the Middle East and then on to Asia! Can’t wait!