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
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 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.