Yesterday I went to a little place called Onrus, near Hermanus in the Western Cape, with some of my friends from student government. We were to meet the new first years to our faculty at their welcoming camp.
After spending a few hours in the sun watching the “kids” play (we felt rather old), we decided it was time for a drink. So we headed to a quaint little place called The Gecko Bar at a nearby harbour. I feel quite an affinity towards the place since we do share a name (see the “About Me” page).
This bar is practically on top of the ocean. You can see the waves breaking and the swell of the water, you can feel the sea spray and smell the salt as it drifts along the cool ocean breeze.
Some of my friends wanted to have a smoke, but the outside tables were all taken. And so one of them pranced right out and approached a young foreign couple sitting alone at a rather large table and asked if we might join. As if they had much of a choice.
After the obligatory banter, the guy (who is German, as is his girlfriend) commented, “[South Africa] is rather boring.”
I was a bit caught up in the waves and didn’t quite realise what he had said, but it provoked some intense discussions among me and my friends later on.
When one travels, we decided, one is a guest. You do not declare something to be “boring” until you have tried it all and you remain humble. That is something which you will ALWAYS see in South African tourists, and when you visit their country they will expect the same.
More importantly (and this was mostly the intellectual brainchild of one of my friends, the one who took us to the bar) one should travel with an open mind, not caught up in your own mindset. One should not travel to see more of what is already in your own country. You travel to experience new things, to redefine your perception of beauty, of culture, of adventure.
When travelling to South Africa, you will not really see many ancient buildings or cathedrals. You will not see art galleries with world-famous portraits (although these are slowly starting to blossom in the country).
What you will see is breathtaking natural beauty. The ocean and the sky choreograph ballets the likes of which you will be hard pressed to find elsewhere in the world. Every province will offer you a different kind of beauty – the dusty beauty with flocks of flamingos in the Northern Cape, the Fynbos in the Western Cape, the Cango Caves, Ostrich farms, Nature Reserves nationwide where you may be fortunate enough to see mother and child interact. The lush forests and tropical beauty of the Eastern Cape. And then there are the people, who are easy to talk to you and always hospitable.