Bye Bye South Africa… Namibia here we come!
14 December 2012- Kalahari
We have just had a little drive this afternoon when it cooled down a bit and have been sitting watching two young Cape Foxes play around and trying to pounce on things, gorgeous. Its a hot and very still night, I hope it cools down before we go to bed. We are having a cold beer and Olly is having some biltong (dried meat stuff) before we heat up out left overs for dinner. Its our last night in South Africa before heading off into Namibia, the first country new to both of us on the trip, exciting!
We have loved South Africa and its been a great intro to Africa. What a place- beautiful, varied and complicated. Physically the country is stunning and of course seeing the animals you have only seen in nature docos and zoos is a thing of dreams…. simply wonderful and at times funny and moving.
South Africa has such a dramatic, dynamic history as many countries have. The difference here is that tumultuous historic times that have shaped this country are so recent, in living many of so many people. It seems to us the implications of apartheid something this country will struggle with for many years yet.
We have had a number of people (South Africans) tell us things here are getting worse- crime, unemployment etc. of course we can’t comment visiting a country for 6 or weeks you can never understand, it’s not our place, not our history. We can only observe what we do though our eyes, our own experiences and expectations.
Despite all you hear about SA before arriving and people continually warning us along the way to be safe we have not felt unsafe at all. We have been a lot more switched on than at home, are very careful not to leave anything on view in landy and we don’t drive at night (as suggested by everyone we meet) and are aware of where we park landy. One thing we have laughed at is South African people we speak to always mention safety to us, it is seemingly a big topic of conversation here (well maybe just to travellers?) and then they always end by saying “Like everywhere, you just have to use common sense and you will be fine.” We have laughed because what they consider common sense are not common to us! For example hearing, “Use common sense, keep your window rolled up and doors locked especially at robots (traffic lights).” Precautions people take here, things that become normal very quickly would be extraordinary precautions (unheard of) at home. But we have gotten used to it quickly and in the scheme of things its no bother at all. We are in the privileged and lucky position of having resources which of course doesn’t ensure safety but it certainly helps when you have the ability to stay in safe areas, leave when you want, and generally gives you options that the vast majority of people don’t have. Its complicated – the majority of violent crime occurs in townships and affects people living in poverty, although the average South Africa person is affected by crime -if not as a victim themselves to the extent that so many people feel it necessary to live behind electric fences, again something that is so very normal here and seems (or at least seemed when we arrived) extraordinary to us.
The stark contradiction here is that there are times and places it feels like Australia, safe, easy and familiar. There are places where you could forget you are not in Australia and suddenly you blink and there are such obvious reminders its such a different place that faces different challenges. It is startling and disturbing to see first world wealth and infrastructure in some instances along side African poverty. There is disturbing poverty and some major hurdles this country faces- HIV infection rates, the usual challenges and trauma poverty brings, high rates of crime and unemployment. As a visitor you could certainly be very cut off from it, especially if you flew into Cape Town, went down the Garden Route and to a few game reserves. Because at first glance things are so…. modern and easy, the roads are good, things work and seem to be carrying on but if you scratch a little deeper- listen to the local news, speak to people, pay attention or leave the tourist route then a different side starts to emerge and SA is nothing like Australia. Rural KwaZulu -Natal (the province Durban is in) for example feel very much like a developing country. We have found ourselves talking about these things a fair bit as we observe and are troubled by the stark divide of wealth and poverty. South Africans point out regularly, and at times almost defensively that every country has problems, which is true but that can’t be used as something to hide behind and not continue to attempt to work on these things. However on the flip side of that we were recently reading some SA history and it made us think; SA has had less than twenty years to address many of these issues and when we look at if from that perspective its an inspiring and impressive place. Some of these issues SA is facing many (most, all?) countries that have had much longer to tackle them. Anyway for all of its complexities and troubles as far as a place goes to visit- its brilliant, come if you can! As a visitor its very easy travelling- for the type of travel we do its easier than Australia in many ways- the distances between things is much shorter, there is heaps of camping mostly with excellent facilities and things like petrol stations and supermarkets are plentiful and easy to find.
We are both a little nervous and excited about going into Namibia but its a familiar feeling – we felt it when we left Sydney for SA and then again when we left Durban. It’s a feeling of the whats next and the what if’s? I guess a place is unknown, then becomes more familiar, then the next place is unknown but unknown is part of the appeal as we say to each other, if we wanted easy and familiar we would have gone to NZ! New Zealand is a brilliant place that we will make it too one day but its a very different trip. We don’t know much about Namibia but we soon will!