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'South Africa is a paradox'

india Updated: Aug 14, 2010 01:36 IST

Hindustan Times
Highlight Story

South Africa is a paradox — not quite a third world country, nor a first world country, not quite Europe, not quite Africa, and a rainbow of races and cultures, both ancient and new!

The visit to South Africa was my fifth. I have always enjoyed myself immensely whenever in South Africa. I can’t help but be blown by the diversity, the people,the juxtaposition of old and new, the abundance of industry, mining and agriculture, the serious concern for conservation, the innumerable outdoor activities, the stunning wildlife and the fabulous weather.

I had to chart out how to spend my time between the FIFA semi finals and the finals, and hence opted to do the things I had not quite covered during my earlier trips — namely whale-watching, the Garden route drives, quad biking and Kruger. The drive to watch the whales off the coast of Hermanus proved to be a stunner of a trip, through wind-swept terrain and orchards. I was amazed at the sheer abundance of Artisanal food products and organic foods available in and around Capetown. The Whalewatch cruise was not half as interesting because of the height of the waves. The cool thing is that in the peak months, you can actually watch the whales from the shore, and if you are lucky, watch them breach the water and land with a mighty thud!

Quad biking is something I have tried before, except never on pure white sand dunes! The Atlantis dunes outside of Capetown are amazing, maneuvering the quads on sand isn’t!

Kruger proved to be more thought provoking — it really felt like an outside-in oversized zoo, with us in caged trucks trying to watch the animals. The big cats evaded us,and we had to go to the Lion Park in Joburg to see the cats at close range. At one point, in one of the Lion enclosures, we saw the Pride become very restless — they started to track something outside the perimeters of the fence. Turned out to be three African villagers who were completely oblivious to what was happening on the other side of the fence. It kind of drove in the point that these are wild animals, not to be taken for granted!

South Africa is a fusion of the best of Africa and Europe, with great designer and local shops. Throw in some world class restaurants, and a different experience in the SA cities, and there is no dearth of things to do.

FIFA was enjoyed by one and all. What was more enjoyable was how personally the locals took the experience of the soccer tourists, and how enthusiastically they participated in the festivities.

All in all,South Africa has it’s share of problems , with corruption, poverty and crime, but it’s certainly far from the country that people said you couldn’t visit alone, because of dubious personal safety and crime, and definitely miles ahead in the strides taken to become a true-blue Rainbow Nation!

Must-visit cities in South Africa
Johannesburg

Some of the top attractions in and around Jo’burg include the Sterkfontein caves, the township of Soweto, The Apartheid Museum, the Mai Mai Herbalist market and Rosebank craft market.

Durban
This place has some awesome waves, golden beaches, sugar cane plantations and palm trees. The most well-known tourist spot is uShaka Marine World, which boasts an aquarium, dolphinarium, snorkel reef and crazy water slides.

Cape Town
Cape Town is loved for its breathtaking natural beauty, with Table Mountain dominating the views from almost anywhere in the city. Check out The Victoria and Albert Waterfront, which offers a world of entertainment and shopping.

Some interesting facts
Luxurious Train:
South Africa has the most luxurious train in the world, The Rovos Rail.

Clean Water: South Africa is rated 3rd in the world in supplying safe, drinkable tap water.

Car Wise: South Africa is the sole producer of the Mercedes Benz C Class, right-hand drive vehicles.

Great Windmills: There are about 2,80,000 windmills on farms across South Africa, second in number only to Australia.

Old Rocks: Table Mountain in Cape Town is believed to be one of the oldest mountains in the world.