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Discovering South Africa After Madiba

            I arrived in South Africa the day after Nelson Mandela was buried.  I didn't plan it that way.  I was joining my daughter and her family in Cape Town for the Christmas break and my itinerary landed me in Johannesburg on December 16, 2013.
             Like the rest of the world, I had followed Madiba's long decline and passing in the media.  In my lifetime, I know of no public figure so universally mourned as the first black President of South Africa.  A somber mood settled over the country.  Cities emptied as people headed home for the holidays adding to an unnatural quiet in the streets.  Mandela's handsome face smiled from shop windows, billboards, and TV screens everywhere.  "Tata," the Father of the Nation was gone and uncertainty about the future was palpable.
             Unfortunately the current President does not appear to be a worthy successor to Mandela.  Nothing I heard nor anyone I spoke with had a good thing to say about Jacob Zuma.  During the Mandela services in Johannesburg that drew heads of state and dignitaries from every corner including Barack Obama, Zuma was booed by the crowd who welcomed the American President warmly.  The future of South Africa looks more uncertain now than any time since the end of apartheid. 

                                                                                           Johannesburg, January 3, 2014

 "Difficulties break some men but make others. No axe is sharp enough to cut the soul of a sinner who keeps on trying, one armed with the hope that he will rise even in the end."

“As I walked out the door toward the gate that would lead to my freedom, I knew if I didn't leave my bitterness and hatred behind, I'd still be in prison.”

“No one is born hating another person because of the color of his skin, or his background, or his religion. People must learn to hate, and if they can learn to hate, they can be taught to love, for love comes more naturally to the human heart than its opposite.”

“There is nothing like returning to a place that remains unchanged to find the ways in which you yourself have altered.”
                                                                                                   .... Nelson Mandela

            In spite of the national mood, my family and I spent two happy weeks exploring the magnificent coastline of the Western Cape.  I left Santa Fe in the grip of record snow and cold and arrived in South Africa in brilliant mid-summer. We  rented a car and drove from Jo'burg to the Cape to see what lay between here and there.  No need to endure the two days of that barren emptiness ever again.  At times the landscape reminded me of New Mexico only browner and with no sign of life, human or otherwise.  We spent two nights coming and going to Jo'burg in a charming pub in the remote town of Colesburg.  The food is fine, if you like meat.

            The best lay at the end of our journey in the Western Cape.  I stayed at the Kingfisher Hollow Guest house in Gordon's Bay south of Cape Town.  From there we explored the ruggedly beautiful coastline as far as the Cape of Good Hope.  We searched out sandy white beaches where my five-year-old granddaughter and I picked shells while MommyDada hiked in the rocks. 

Monkey Town, Gordon's Bay, South Africa

 Monkey Town where people are in cages and monkeys run free was a great hit with granddaughter, Salome, and her Mom

             We visited the Cape Town aquarium in the famous harbor, browsed the shops, strolled along the docks and watched the sun set from the top of Table Mountain.  We enjoyed dining and drinking in the wine country.  I have never met such universally fabulous food and excellent wine anywhere - as good as France and a whole lot cheaper. Only my son-in-law complained about the paucity of good beer  – "and in a country settled by the Dutch!?" he wondered. 

           All in all, I wholeheartedly recommend South Africa to travelers.  It is a bit remote, but once you are there, the dollar goes far.  Where else can you enjoy exotic wildlife, perfect weather, a spectacular coastline, gourmet food, excellent local wine, warm hospitality and reasonable cost?  When you are there, remember Madiba Mandela, the man who made it all possible!  His spirit most definitely endures.


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