Travel advisor Tom describes his time on the South Africa Experience…
The worst part of any trip is the end. The waiting-for-the-plane (2 hours delayed); the murky cold weather on return home; ‘real life’. But it’s not really because of our loathing of day-to-day life that we want more time (come on, life isn’t all that bad!) – it’s because we always want one more day on our adventure. Be it beaches, bars and cocktails; bushland, wildlife and locals; friends, laughter and memories – we always want more. This is the feeling after a great time away. A legendary time away. This for me is what I call ‘The South Africa Feeling’.
In a land with a troubled past and promising future, South Africa treated me and my fellow traveller (and Real Gap Travel Advisor) Kevin to 2 and half weeks of pure, non-stop memories.
There were highlights within highlights within highlights! A first week involving discovering the plains of Africa volunteering on the Big 5 Wildlife and Community project left us stunned as we experienced face to face meetings with lions, elephants, giraffes, tigers and cheetahs to name but a few. Immersed in the bush and with the opportunity to step where most others don’t, this was a first-hand experience of African wildlife where it is meant to be; in the wild. Getting ‘hands on’ with the land and the wildlife and learning about it all was possibly the best thing about the whole trip. If a safari is a fine wine of an experience, volunteering on the reserve, in the reserve, is a vintage Moet.
Suitably stunned and then relaxed after two days on the beaches and in the bars of Port Elizabeth, we directed ourselves to Africa’s most famous journey along the Garden Route of the Eastern cape. Picking up surf boards and beers in Jeffrey’s Bay signalled the green light for a whirlwind 10 days. So much crammed in, in so little time! Ever tried jumping off a bridge into a cavernous gorge only to be twanged back up after a 200m freefall? No? You should, and can, at Bloukrans River. If a 64 year old lady can do it (she got the jump for free!) then so can you!
Total exhilaration continued in the form of zip lining tours across the same gorge, horse riding into the sunset (tick ‘cantering’ off life’s to do list!), stepping into a cheetah enclosure, swimming with crocodiles, riding an ostrich called ‘Killer’ and taking the back route up Table Mountain after one too many Flaming Lambourghinis the night before in downtown Cape Town – a positively buzzing scene with youth and verve, style and atmosphere.
Food flowed like wine, with a Braai on every occasion possible, filling our stomach with new wonders (BBQ ostrich is amazing) but not emptying the bank. Wine flowed like water as we sampled the local brews before giving up on the sampling and going for straight up partying as the South Africans showed us how to samba, zumba or something in between which we never quite grasped…
Once a backpacker, always a backpacker, and our roots took us to some of the best hostels in the world (officially and unofficially) and both stories and friends arose. The trip culminated in visiting community projects in Cape Town that make a difference to the lives of township kids who could barely afford the shoes they walked in let alone the fees needed to get education. As we watched the Royal Wedding unfold on the world’s tiniest TV in one of the nurseries, it became apparent that our efforts were appreciated and needed by the children and by the staff. With paper crowns on our heads (made by the kids) we thought all the way back to Cape Town about our fortune in life’s great lottery and thanked someone, anyone, that we weren’t part of the millions and millions suffering poverty like we had witnessed.
Making a small difference this time stirred the fire to make a bigger one next.
And so, after one final ‘quiet’ night out at a local rugby game (don’t stand too close to a local if you value your eardrums) and sampling rice rum (never again) we headed to the airport via the V&A Waterfront for breakfast. The cosmopolitan Sunday morning crowd offered yet another side to the multi dimensional country we thought was just full of lions and football stadiums 2 weeks prior. Sun beating down on already burnt faces, we reflected back on the 2 weeks and nearly missed the taxi getting caught up in “remember when…” stories.
So despite not wanting to go home, not really, we were happy with our lot knowing that South Africa had given us a lifetime of memories, experiences and ‘that’ feeling. And the best thing of all, if we wanted to do it again… it’ll be right there waiting for us.
Do you fancy getting that South Africa feeling for yourself? Real Gap offers various trips in South Africa, including the South Africa Experience that Tom and Kevin went on – book now online or give Tom, Kevin and the rest of the travel advisor team on 01892 516 134.