Everyone we spoke to about our idea of a do-it-yourself trip to Southern Africa thought we were crazy, but thank goodness my husband insisted, because we had the adventure of a lifetime. Definitely NOT a safari, but nevertheless a journey filled with awe, wonder and delight. From the moment we landed in Cape Town—at midnight—we were enchanted, and that feeling continued throughout our stay in that delightful city and later in Namibia and Botswana.
While in Cape Town, we rented an absolutely marvellous apartment that looked out towards the iconic Table Mountain. It was within walking distance of the colourful Cape Quarter and the historic Long Street and close to the incredible V&A Waterfront complex. We couldn’t have asked for a better location, and we took full advantage of all the city and its environs had to offer.
We spent delightful days enjoying the Cape Quarter, taking bus tours of the city and out to Groot Constantia, the first vineyard on the Cape; going by cable car up to the top of Table Mountain and gasping at the awe inspiring views; making a pilgrimage to Robben Island and learning more about its long, sad history as a penal colony; wandering around the ever changing Kirstenbosch Gardens; visiting the dramatic Cape of Good Hope and the little known, but most southerly point of Africa, Cape Agulhas; and stepping back in time in Stellenbosch, all the while enjoying the food and wine of the Western Cape.
Probably the only “bad” thing we did on this trip was deciding to take a twenty-one hour bus ride from Cape Town to Windhoek in Namibia—exhausting! Having done this sort of long bus trip many times before, we thought it would be a piece of cake, but—I’m not sure why—it wasn’t. So when we arrived in Namibia’s capital we were like a pair of wet dishrags that had gone through a ringer several times. Never mind, we survived, and after deciding to rent a car we spent an interesting and delightful month driving, albeit carefully since it was on the “wrong side,” through northern Botswana and most of Namibia. Among the many wonderful things we saw and did was be surprised by a very green Kalahari, a fascinating trip in a mokoro on the Okavango Delta, a river cruise and game drives in Chobe National Park where we saw animals galore, and a drive through the seemingly desolate expanse of the ancient Namib Desert.
In retrospect, what was the most wonderful or the most delightful thing we saw or did in the three countries we visited? It is incredibly difficult to answer in just a few words quite simply because there were so very many things that captivated us in one way or another.
Therefore in general and in no particular order, I would say each of the following in some way touched our hearts, our minds, our senses:
- The sheer beauty of each country — majestic, wild, varied.
- The animals roaming free and giving us, for one brief moment, a glimpse into their world.
- The people—proud, welcoming, pleasant, helpful, informative and inordinately generous in whatever way they could be.
Travelling anywhere is an adventure and visitors should always be conservative and cautious; but having said that, if we were asked, ‘Would you suggest a similar trip to others?” Yes, absolutely!
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Carol is one of the creators of a series of pre-retirement and post-retirement planning workshops and co-author of Transition to Retirement: The Uncharted Course.
This article is from Canadian Teacher Magazine’s Nov/Dec 2011 issue.