Siyakwamukela ku South Africa (Welcome to South Africa).
We have arrived. Between noble and poverty-stricken neighborhoods, between historical consciousness and long nights of partying: Johannesburg is ugly. That’s not a question. Johannesburg is magnificent! Nobody would dispute that. Joburg – or Jozi, as the city is known to locals, represents an authentic South African culture. No where else is the failure and success of an African industrial nation more observed than here.
Failure, because it is impossible to ignore the gap between rich and poor, the violence, the expansion of slums in entire metropolitan areas. Success, because in no other place of South Africa they discuss the future of the country and its cultural groups more openly. The smell of fume is hovering in the air while the sun is blaring down onto the tin roofs. Our eyes are directed towards the narrow streets that are filled with people, trash and traffic – only the locked door in front of us gave a certain sense of security.
Superbness for take away, please.
A few hundred kilometers away from Jozi, there is a completely different picture of breathtaking scenic viewpoints. One of them, known as the God’s Window – located at the edge of the Drakens Mountains – where nature overwhelms us with countless waterfalls and stunning scenery that passes our way. Goose bumps. Our hearts beat faster. By now, we have reached the Blyde River Canyon – on one side a sea of bizarre, abundant mountains with wild vegetation, on the other side the river Blyde that runs through it in zigzagging manner.
We jump above the rocks, we climb up toward the highest cliff point. Suddenly you have the scent of freedom in your nose – we yell into the valley and we’re stunned by the third largest canyon in the world.
Our next goal was only about an hour and a half from our current location: the Kapama Private Game Reserve – at the edge of the Kruger National Park.
When they aren’t hiding from the scorching African sun, you will find the Big Five (lion, elephant, buffalo, rhinoceros and leopard) eating or relaxing. Then you can drive onto the sunset and finish your day listening to the sounds of the bush with a Bush Braai – the African BBQ. In cultural villages like Shangana we drank homebrewed beer and sat with African homies to warm up next to the bonfire.
Ahoy Cape Town!
Past some steep and rough mountains, semi-deserts, small colonial charm places, the next highlight follows after 1.600 kilometers. Mother City – the city of all cities in South Africa. Considering it’s long history it can hardly be surprising that over the centuries Cape Town became a multicultural place.
If you want to discover how young, hip South Africans live then you should visit Woodstock. A former working-class district with a special atmosphere that makes it Cape Town’s counterpart to Bushwick (New York City) or Kreuzberg (Berlin). Between many galleries, start-up offices and restaurants you find the Old Biscuit Mill. Exhibitions, live concerts, holy shit – there is always something special happening.
Cape Town has become the enthusiastic scene of creative people and areas. As soon as the sun sets restaurants and bars open their windows and doors, locals come onto the streets. The city remains alive and vibrant.
Most of the 3.7 million Cape Townians are black and live in townships. The settlements differ widely – but still no one wants to live in any of them. You can’t find public transport and rarely an operating sewerage system. Places to be, impressive buildings or urban attractions are being left out. Once again they don’t have a direct connection to the other city areas. They are stuck with a system that is supposed to be considered to be over. Cape Town’s streets, train lines and bridges separate instead of connect all city-dwellers.
What’s definitely not missing are inspirational places for artistic work. In three quarters of an hour you drive above the Chapmans Peak to the Cape Agulhas. The most southern point of the African continent. It’s the incredible expanses, the wind that clears your mind. It is impossible not to enjoy this mystical atmosphere with the set of rocks, disappearing slowly in salty wafts of mist. We are here – at the other side of the world. Right here the cold masses of the Atlantic are catching with the warm billows of the Indian Ocean. This place is better known as Cape of Good Hope. The hope of contrasts, poverty and exploitation. What we have found is an authentic country that is likeable and convinced us precisely with its rough edges.
Bheka wena ngokushesha South Africa!
(See you soon South Africa)
Thanks to iTravel who organized this trip for us and to my team Eva, Florian and Jonas for those incredible weeks.
Text by Florian Kleinsteuber
Photos by Jonas Hofmann, Florian Kleinsteuber, Marko Roth