south africa is lekka

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in afrikans, lekker (pronounced lekka)=really good.

when i was thinking of traveling from capetown to cairo, i quickly dismissed south africa as the country that i would be least interested in spending time in.  the plan was to move quickly through the country and linger in the the countries heading up the east coast.  i just assumed that south africa would be boring and less adventurous than say tanzania or mozambique.  they’re so different that they’re incomparable…but south africa surprised me.  it was the adventure i wasn’t expecting.

irena and i flew into capetown and posted up in a hostel on long st., the backpackers area.  the first night we popped into the restaurant across the street and had the real tourist experience at zula.  we ate ostrich burgers, listened to some congolese bands in the hostel courtyard and sipped juicy, delicious wines for about $1.80 per glass.  i was quickly warming up to the idea of spending some time in south africa.

we were both tired from the 17 hour flight, so we did the lazy thing the first morning there and signed up for a wine tasting tour.  we went around stellenbosch, franschhoek and paarl and sipped wines and nibbled cheeses from all.  we bought a few bottles and marveled that something so tasty only cost $5 (you can obviously spend more).

we spent a few days in capetown, enjoying the beaches, taking in the views from tabletop mountain…and really enjoying the food and beverage scene.  we encouraged an older guy to rent a car with us and drive across the country (we didn’t know how to drive a manual, he did = we had ourselves a willing navigator).

we stopped and looked at baby penguins. we went to an ostrich farm and held little baby birds, stood on eggs to test the durability of the shells (a grown man can stand on them!) and  irena got flung from the back of an ostrich she was riding.  good times!

we rested at an incredible hostel in wilderness called wild farm (http://www.wildfarmbackpackers.co.za/).  it was perched on top of a hill and had views for miles up and down the coast.  but the glorious thing about this guesthouse was that they had a huge garden out front and we had free range to pick and eat as we liked.

i ran out to the rows of veggies and started piling carrots, onions, peas, squashes and their blossoms, beets and kale into my shirt.  i spent the next 3 hours in the kitchen, chatting with a south african family that was on holiday, and whipping up a veggie feast. that evening, we dined by candle light vegetarian style…and it was so good.  and of course we had a bottle of wine to wash it all down with.

we stopped in many towns along the garden route: tsitsikama, jeffrey’s bay, cintsa, bulungula..but port st. john’s was my favorite stop.  and mostly because the owner of the amapondo guesthouse (http://amapondobackpackers.wordpress.com/), tim, took us on so many adventures.  we went to mud baths where we smeared each other with black and white clay (and smelled like sulfur afterward), hiked up millennium mountain and out to a rock face with blowholes pocking the surface, and partook in a party that was celebrating the newly initiated sangomas (or witch doctors) in the area.  the owner welcomed us into his guesthouse like it was his home.  he made sure we saw the local culture and ate the local food. ( if and when you make it there, go to wood n’ spoon and order anything off the menu. it’s an old trailer off a side road that serves fresh seafood and hearty entrees).

we didn’t want to leave port st. john’s or amapondo, but our driver was pushing to move on.  reluctantly we had too.  we continued on towards durban where we finally left the confines of the car.  we hitched a ride with 2 chinese men to the border of mozambique…and that in itself was a ridiculous experience.  but at least they knew where to find great chinese food once we arrived in maputo…!

how much?

guest houses cost about 100 rand, or $10 for a bunk bed

delicious savanna dry cider: $1 in a bar, $0.70 in a market

wine tasting in capetown (four wineries plus nibbles and bites): $48

average cost of a steller wine: $2-$6

car rental: $20/day, all inclusive with a one way fee

food from a little shack: $2-$4

shoprite has a steam table where you can pick up squash, corn, chicken etc. for a few dollars.  more than once irena and i bought a whole chicken with a side of potatoes and would sit on the sidewalk and eat that for a meal. so satisfying for around $5

baz bus: if you’re by yourself and you don’t want to rent a car…or don’t know how to drive manual, there is a bus pass meant specifically for backpackers (http://www.bazbus.com/ticketoptions.aspx#to1).  check out the different travel options.

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