The South African beach story

It’s summertime, it’s the festive season, it’s holidays, and the virus is peaking, again, with a new variant that infects faster. But wait, there’s more .. in the interests of public health, the government has closed the beaches in two of the most popular coastal holiday destinations.

The Eastern Cape. This province is one of South Africa’s most corrupt, incompetently run and poorest regions, but also one of the most beautiful. The long beaches are mostly unspoilt and fabulous with warm Indian Ocean water. But because a few pockets here and there are likely to be very crowded, the government decided to close them all rather than monitor the situation and enforce social distancing. This is because our Minister of Police is a really horrible and lazy bully who forms part of a faction that fights the president instead of working with him. We live in hope that he gets the boot one of these days. If it was up to him, the restrictions would be worse, with renewed prohibition and total lockdown..

Ironically, there are a few people who are able to walk on some of the forbidden beaches. The cattle herders of Pondoland. It’s not leisure, it’s work. Their job is to ensure that the wealth of the Pondo people, their cattle, is cared for and returned home every day after their traditional beach walk. Have a look at these stunning photos. Isn’t it ironic that the lowly cattle herder has a privilege not extended to the wealthy holiday-maker?

The Garden Route. Straddling the Eastern and Western Capes, this coastal region is also magnificent. So named because it is always green and lush, it’s one of our most popular holiday destinations. I like it very much and am grateful to have been able to take clients there on many occasions but I prefer going there outside of this time of year. It gets very crowded in December/January, unpleasantly so in my opinion, but that doesn’t deter the many who go there year after year, many of whom have a second home there. One can avoid crowds – there are several small towns and villages, there are forests, there are lakes and lagoons, and there are many beautiful beaches and the warm ocean offering a host of activities.

Oh, wait, not this year – this year all beaches along the Garden Route are closed. This is another of the crazy and lazy demands of the hated Minister, and it’s absurd. There are some very small beaches that might be difficult to control, but the most popular are wide and long, (and in some instances quite difficult to access, therefore never very crowded)!

Yes, there’s plenty of other things to do and places to go in that region but the warm water and the beach activities are a major attraction and for some people the only reason they go there, especially those from Johannesburg where there is no beach, or Cape Town where the ocean is too cold for swimming. The tourism industry has already taken such a knock that it was relying on this festive season to recoup some losses but unfortunately this stupid beach ban has caused many people to cancel their plans.

But all the beaches in Cape Town are open! There isn’t much logic in that because the Covid-19 hotspot is now extended to include Cape Town and surrounding areas. Logic has been absent from quite a few lockdown restrictions since March so this doesn’t come as a surprise.

All these photos are from the Garden Route – Robberg Peninsula, Victoria Bay, Wilderness, Nature’s Valley, and Plettenberg Bay. Only Victoria Bay is small and might not be easy to manage, all the others are either very wide or not very accessible, such as Robberg.

My ‘save my business’ fund has reached 50% of my goal and I am super grateful to see how generous and kind so many people have been. I still need to inch closer to the goal though, so in case you haven’t yet spent all your money on Christmas presents, here is the link. All I am asking of Dear Santa is to remove the spectre of losing all the efforts of my hard work 🙂

Sharing the tourism love

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Last year the New York Times published a travel blog list of 52 places to visit and Cape Town was listed at number one. This is fabulous because of course the NYT is a publication with a huge following. This gave the tourism industry in South Africa something major to brag about and social media mentions must have ranked in the millions.

Today, another list gives the city of Durban the thumbs-up and everyone is crying into their morning coffee that Cape Town is ‘no longer the world’s favourite tourist city’. Huh?? How long was I in a coma for that I missed Cape Town receiving this award? It’s just lists of suggested places to visit!!

Wake up, people! We are NOT the centre of the universe! We receive a huge number of tourists and the stats show an increase year on year – all fabulous news because tourism is this city’s booming new growth industry (and I make my living from tourism!) but we have a long way to go before we beat the likes of Paris and Barcelona and New York and many others that have been popular tourist destinations for far longer than our mere 20 years.

We will grow from strength to strength but we have some work to do on the infrastructure and mechanism of tourism first:

– public transport is still not as handy and frequent as it should be, and it  doesn’t cover the entire region yet. You can’t even get a bus back from Kirstenbosch after the Sunday evening concerts.

– restaurants mostly offer excellent food but good service is not as consistent as it should be. Waiting on tables needs to be respected as a career, not a job for students.

– many wine estates close too early in summer. They’re ignoring the large number of visitors who might want to continue tasting wines between 5pm and 8pm when the sun sets.

– we are not being marketed properly! No-one seems to know how and where the budget is spent and SA Tourism is often accused of not doing a good job.

– the perception that crime is a deterrent. It isn’t really but it only takes a few people to spread a negative perception that tourists are all in danger. Yes, our crime rate is high but no, tourists are not in any specific danger if they just take common-sense precautions, as they should in all major cities.

– the industry is not regulated properly, if at all, and government is not seen as taking it as seriously as it should. A closer look at working conditions and the labour laws would be a good start.

– things that can’t be helped: we’re far away! Far from everywhere, the end of the world, air fares are therefore high, you can’t really nip down here for a week’s holiday.

So let’s not freak out at one list suddenly mentioning Durban as a great place – it is fabulous, we’re not losing anything, and we can share the tourists with that city (where the water is warm enough to swim in) .. and others, like Johannesburg where the country’s only Apartheid Museum is located, and the Kruger National Park which is the world’s most fabulous natural park for game viewing, and the Garden Route which is so aptly named, and the Wild Coast which is still wild and wonderful, and the West Coast which bursts into flower annually and isn’t built-up, and and and …

I was shocked to see how quick some people were to share this article with comments that almost gleefully highlight Cape Town’s omission from the list instead of being happy that Durban gets recognition. South Africans are often accused of self-loathing and this seems to show something like that.

Here’s the blog entry where Durban is mentioned. Note how Cuba is number 2 on the list. Does that make it the world’s second most popular city? I think not! Check out how they compiled the list here. It’s opinion-based for suggested destinations, not a list of places most visited. So Cape Town has never been the world’s favourite tourist city to visit and Durban is still not the world’s 7th most popular tourist city to visit – as one person on Twitter was adamant to state as ‘fact’.

And here are world tourism rankings – actual stats that show which places get the most visitors.

Perspective, okay?

cape of good hope

 

 

Bestie Roadtrip – Day 1

Kaaimans River Bridge

The roadtrip with my besties was fabulous, only too short. In typical style, it took us a full day to reach our first night’s destination, Nature’s Valley. For those who don’t know, it’s a 6 hour drive if you stop once for a quick meal, it took us almost double that time. We stopped for many roadside snacks and coffees, a zillion photo stops and visits to various villages. Every other day on the road was the same – stop, stop again, click click, munch munch and lots of snooping around.

Heather and Caroline shared the driving, giving me a nice break. Caroline was in charge of the ‘coffee basket’ and Heather seems to have developed worms as she eats non-stop all day long, is always hungry, but remains as slim as ever.

We almost got lost in the forest one hour before sunset, we can’t decide where to buy a house when we win the lottery, we will never again stay in a backpackers’ lodge, we will use a larger vehicle next time so we can bring back every piece of driftwood and pretty stone we like, and Heather and I desperately need to improve our selfie-skills.

Look here for more photos and info. Next chapter: Day 2, The Forest.

 

Groot Brak River

Groot Brak – cute little seaside village near Mossel Bay.

Groot Brak River 1

Groot Brak

Wilderness graffitti Caroline

No roadtrip is complete without spending some time under a national road bridge posing next to graffiti.

Wilferness hurry up girls

Heather and Caroline

Beacon Island hotel

The horror that is the Beacon Island Hotel in Plett.

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Our self-catering accommodation for 2 nights in Nature’s Valley. It was well-equipped and clean and generally nice but it was freezing cold despite the heater.

New-age roadtrip

Packing 1

 

There was a time when packing and planning for a roadtrip meant only that you made sure the car had petrol, a spare tyre and a flask of coffee. You grabbed a bag, threw in some clothes according to the weather, added a map and a ham sandwich, and you were off.

Things have changed.

I’m off tomorrow morning for a few days researching roads less travelled in the Garden Route and the Klein Karoo. In the company of 2 intrepid friends, we’ll be investigating what lies hidden in the forests of Nature’s Valley, we’ll traverse the mountains between George and the Klein Karoo via Montagu Pass which I always look down at when I’m with clients on Outeniqua Pass but have never been on, and we’ll take the back-roads between Oudtshoorn and Calitzdorp. I didn’t even know this road existed until recently and it sounds like a nice option to the usual road so it’s worth a look-see, especially as it lies at the foot of some of that region’s most beautiful mountains.

Given that it’s the middle of winter my bag is double the size of a summertime bag and will be bulging with warm clothing, rain gear, socks, scarves, beanies and wellington boots, as opposed to the usual t-shirts and sandals.

Ok, so there’s nothing new in that but, wait … the technology.

  • Cell phone, with charger, and 2 point plug, plus car charger
  • Camera, with charger, extra memory card, and universal adapter, as well as local plug
  • Second, back-up, camera, with spare batteries, and 2 point plug
  • Tablet, as back-up to the first back-up camera and to see what sort of pics it takes, with charger and universal adapter.
  • Add one big multi-plug thingie so they can all charge together, if need be.

They’ve all been on charge since yesterday, and that’s just my stuff, the others must sort themselves out.

For once, the laptop stays at home but I can’t shake off the feeling I’m forgetting something.

 

packing 2

Disclaimer

A note to all accidental visitors:

I am not a photographer and do not claim to have any particular skills whatsoever in that department. I have enormous respect for those who can see the potential in a scene and can create a great photo. Good photography is an art, in my opinion.

I am just a happy snapper, I have no special lenses or accessories, my camera is very simple and it's usually best to leave the setting on auto.

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