Why South Africa? It is not possible to answer this question exactly. The country exerts its very own fascination. On the one hand, we wanted to admire wild animals on a safari, on the other hand South Africa has a fascinating history with apartheid and the resulting struggle for freedom with Nelson Mandela. Furthermore, Africa as a continent is a completely different world that we wanted to discover. So on 09 February 2020 the time had come. Unfortunately, hurricane Sabine also hit Germany on this day. With one of the last trains that were still running that day we arrived at Frankfurt Airport, where many flights had already been cancelled. Luckily our flight was still one of those that could take off that day. So our plane took off incredibly punctual to escape the hurricane and for us it went to Johannesburg as planned. Admittedly, our anticipation was somewhat dampened shortly before departure, because every time you tell someone that you are going to South Africa, there is someone who has also been there before or who knows someone who has been there before, and in the next breath the horror stories of robbery, assault and worse begin. I have heard that certain people have even placed bets on whether we can make it back to Germany without being robbed. On the other hand, you hear a lot about the beauty of the country. Either way, now it was too late, because now we were already on the plane.
Pretoria – Welcome to Africa
Arriving in Johannesburg we organized, on the advice of a South African colleague, an Uber-taxi directly to Pretoria, where our first accommodation was located. In the run-up we had checked the location of all accommodations meticulously, so that we were in one of the better areas of Pretoria, namely in Gezina. On the recommendation of the owner of our inn we visited a small shopping complex where we also ate in one of the restaurants and gained our first insight into South Africa: The food is great! While Kevin ordered a burger, I directly tried the local food and ordered chicken liver with pap, a mashed potato-like side dish and it was really unbelievably delicious. Strengthened by the meal we should soon gain our next insight into South Africa. Looking at the map we saw that the Union Building with the famous Nelson Mandela statue was just over 30min walking distance away. Even if Gezina was a safe area and the Union Building itself with its gardens seemed to be relatively harmless, the way there led us past street corners with corrugated iron houses, mountains of garbage and a strong smell of urine. This is Africa, too. You shouldn’t close your eyes to something like that, but walking through there as white tourists was anything but comfortable, especially against the background of the many horror stories we were told about the local crime. But maybe we are judging too fast, because fortunately nothing really happened to us. Arrived at the Union Building we took our first obligatory holiday pictures before we organized an Uber for the way back.
Next, we went to the botanical garden of Pretoria. In the middle of the big city, this was our first contact with the nature of South Africa in both positive and negative ways. Positive, because we actually saw a free living angulate tortoise. Who knows me knows that I am absolutely crazy about turtles. Negative, because unfortunately I did not consider that we were in South Africa when I chose my shoes. And so I wore simple flip-flops while we walked through the botanical garden. The local very large and aggressive ants felt threatened by our presence and started to run towards us in droves and climb up our legs, biting us sometimes. With flip-flops I was easy prey and so our journey started with me running screaming and jumping through the botanical garden of Pretoria.
Actually we wanted to go to Freedom Park afterwards, but meanwhile too much time had passed and for some reason the museum closed already at 04:30 P.M. whereby one should have been there at least 2 hours before to see the whole exhibition. So we went back to our inn instead, getting off at the shopping complex. I already mentioned above that South Africa really has a lot to offer in terms of culinary delights, even if this probably does not apply to vegetarians due to the large amounts of meat. Thus, in a special little shop we tried the next culinary speciality, thus, Biltong. Biltong is a kind of dried and spiced meat. It is very high in protein and a perfect snack. From then on, we always stocked up with biltong for the rest of our holiday. To drink we tried Ginger Beer, that was also available in a light variant and that had nothing to do with real beer but was rather a sour refreshing drink. This also became a constant companion during our trip.
The next day started with a bit of a spitfire. We wanted to organise a 4×4 car for our trip to Kruger Park, but the usual car rental companies didn’t have any big 4×4 cars or they were already taken. So we rattled through several shops until we finally got a Landrover for way too much money. With this hard blow to our holiday funds, we went on to the Pretoria Bus Terminal, where we wanted to buy tickets for our future intercity trips. We had already been warned about the intercity stations and once on site we realised that these warnings were not exaggerated. As is so often the case, we were travelling with an Uber. What we didn’t know at the time was that South African taxi drivers are in a dispute with Uber drivers. Our driver let us out a little before our destination with the words “They will attack me otherwise”. Nevertheless, a man was already demonstratively standing in front of my door when I wanted to get out. I quickly got out on the other side, clutched my bag with both hands and we walked quickly to the ticket counter. However, when we went to call an Uber again after we had finished, all that appeared on my display was a warning that we were in a dangerous area and Uber could not pick us up there. Slightly panicked, we clutched our bags again and walked away from the terminal until the warning went out.