I was told to be a canvas before I left for South Africa, so that I can gracefully receive the colours of the Rainbow Nation.
I knew the history, I read about the places I was going to visit, but I was to realize that nothing in the world could prepare a traveller for a face-to-face with South Africa.
Whatever your expectations of a country might be, get ready to be amazed!
I never knew there could be so much diversity and so many contrasts in one place!
The 4,700 km of South African land that we crossed by truck have given us an unforgettable lesson about beauty and freedom. From Johannesburg, Mpumalanga, Karoo, Drakensberg, Garden Route, and through to Cape Town, we learned that with every turn we took, we would discover another stunning piece of heavenly scenery, time and time again.
The landscape is generous and welcoming. Imagine a long road that stretches to infinity.
To the left and to the right, nature has done its best to ornate the wide open space with mountains, lakes, rivers, trees of all shapes and sizes. Above, the largest slice of sky that can be seen. And as if this cocktail were not enough to dazzle us, the colours just kept changing under the unsteady light as we drove past this vibrant territory.
“Blink and you miss something,” said our guide, who was also our driver, cook, storyteller, mechanic and personal counsellor over a drink. So we tried not to.
We kept the cameras at hand to capture every moment. We clicked like mad, conscious though we were that the pictures would never do justice to the way in which South Africa truly revealed itself to us. This is a place that awakens the senses and makes one pulse with life. I have not found a device that can immortalize this yet.
As we drove by, we waved at black, white and mixed people, and they waved back at us, a smile larger than life on their faces. There were women in colourful dresses hitchhiking on the side of the road, carrying huge loads on their heads, and children with bare feet running after our truck– a surreal sight for the unacquainted. Cutting though the country, we witnessed richness and extreme poverty dangerously bordering one another and desperately fighting to coexist.
No doubt that some of the Earth’s most precious treasures have been granted to this country.
We’ve had it all:
two oceans, one warm, the other cold, falling into one another, mountains that go up to 3,482 m high, beach resorts and small towns that look like doll-houses, national parks that stretch five times the size of Belgium and where fauna and flora compete with the human imagination, immaculate white and yellow sand beaches diving into crystal clear bluish water, modern and noisy metropolitan streets contrasting with the bushveld wilderness.
In the Karoo desert, a storm evolving in the distance is a phenomenal show worth the detour in itself. There, in the big wide open, the world is reduced to an eternal embrace between the Sky and the Earth. Nothing blocks the view, except from springboks and impalas running around free, occasionally breaking the stillness of the place. The sky shows endless possibilities of moods and colours.
Someone has drawn a huge, improbable painting:
on one half, the rain is pouring down, and on the other, the sun shines unbothered. The lightening can brighten up the night for more than half an hour. The time just stands still in the desert. It is a magic place, even more so when the arcade of the rainbow harbors it after a heavy rain.
But the most impressive stretch of land is probably the one that links Durban to the Drakensberg Mountains. Incredible though it may seem, one can travel from the Indian Ocean to the mountains in few hours and have the best of both worlds in one day.
Drakensberg, romantic setting be excellence, is very close to the possibility of a Paradise: unspoiled nature, green pastures where horses graze unfenced, still lakes which mirror back an exceptional scenery and rivers to quench the thirst of the adventurers. I can almost hear sounds from historic battles.
The place must have inspired many fairy-tales!
Sitting on a rock at the Cape of Good Hope, the world’s end, I caught myself in reverie. “Where does all this water come from?” asked my tour guide, also bewildered, though he’s only too familiar with the place. The giant blue waves of the ocean turn green as they break against the rocks. I spent a lot of time staring at that developing picture, ignoring the wind in my hair, hoping that I will remember it.
Until I go back!