Posts Tagged ‘South Africa’

Umqombothi. Say that three times. In fact even say it once. Not easy. But a lot easier to drink? Well maybe not, but it’s an adventure.

After my 1/2 day tour via Acacia Africa that took me to visit the District Six Museum and a local township outside of Cape Town, our last stop, not like any other last stop – a pint. Here our tour guide showed us a local brew house. We walked to a small wooden shack in the middle of the township where people gather to enjoy a locally brewed beer.

a fire warms and the large tin awaits....

Over a fire made from the scrap wood we sat on benches and gathered around to socialize. Our delicacy, an enormous tin filled with Umqombothi. Made from maize (corn), maize malt, sorghum malt, yeast and water the thick, creamy and gritty consistency contained a distinct aroma.  And even with the low alcohol content (usually less than 3%) it can hardly be classified as a light beer.

i also learned it is  often used in ceremonies.  Respect is expected when taking a sip. Of course, I paid some. A few times naturally.

I kneel down to pay respect and enjoy a sip among new friends...

And although New York is a city that has (nearly) everything, I realize I might not be able to find this brew. So this Friday my drink might be different, but I still plan to toast to you South Africa. Cheers.

Stay adventurous, Craig


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Cape Town, South Africa serves as an initial entry point for many travelers to Africa.  But some argue it’s not “True Africa,” Ok, then I ask, is New York true America?  The answer in both cases: Yes.

America as a nation cherishes variety and today so does South Africa. And both cities serve as a place where cultures mixed and continue to do so.

Cape Town, the modern cosmopolitan experience, provides a chance to see amazing views from Camps Bay or Table Mountain, entertain delightful and delicious dinners, and sip some of the finest wines. But, Cape Town also allows visitors to take a historical peak into the recent injustice under apartheid. It provides a chance to look and learn from the past. Two such powerful places now serve as museums and are must visits. One really shook my foundation.

Certainly, the prison on Robben Island, a place where Nelson Mandela spent seventeen years, is nearly on everyone’s must see list for Cape Town. I agree. The place tells the stories of the lives of the many political prisoners that worked to free the country from its racial divide.

inside the District 6 Museum

But when you get the chance to see the city, don’t miss the chance to walk through District 6 museum. The mere forty-five minutes I spent there left a more powerful impact on me than any other place in Cape Town.

As part of a ½ day tour of the city provided by Acacia Africa, the museum became our first stop. Here, my guide spoke about the injustices and the history of the mixed race district. A district eventually destined to be demolished by the government.  A place where all buildings were destroyed. A neighborhood essentially removed from the map.  Today, only a few churches and mosques (untouched) still stand on the empty grasslands.

A vibrant Richmond Street...

Inside the museum pictures display the districts history from its vibrant times to its post demolition. Street signs appear as art displays and also mark each stair as people climb up to the second floor.  Displays describe the history of the district, highlight the people who called it home and tell of the reason for flattening. Yet, some of the most powerful statements, the ones that initiate water in your eyes (and make you put back on your sunglasses) did not come from these artifacts. They were not from the pictures or historical text explaining this dark chapter in South African history. They came from the quotes.  Real people and their real words discussing the district years later.

after the demolition... just mosque and church remain...

Across the museum, quotes from ex-citizens of the district describe their experiences. Not the just the horrors, but more importantly the good times.  They speak of laughter and joy.  They speak of work, love, and music. They speak of  life. Humanity.

At times, it makes you unable to comprehend what happened. It makes the point needed to be made. Perfectly too.

That day, I left the museum in a different mood from the world cup fever I felt just the prior night on Long Street. I left knowing why Acadia recommends and offers this tour prior to traveling to the “Real Africa” on Safari or via an overland tour.

Then later that afternoon, I thought about it once again getting ready for the night on the town. On the very spot where division was the law, now the world united for its greatest spectacle – the World Cup. Incredible actually. A change for the better.

Stay adventurous, Craig

I’d like to thank Acacia Africa for opening my eyes to the District 6 Museum.

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A visit to Cape Town or South Africa that matter is not complete without a trip to the country’s wineries. On the Blue Train you pass straight through the heart of the countryside dedicated to producing some of the best wines I ever tasted. But you need to get up close and visit the towns. You need to walk the quaint streets, take in the incredible views, enjoy the delicious foods, and of course taste the wine.

And although I spent most of my time touring, Stellenbosh visiting Mooiplaas and Amani. (article coming). I also enjoyed the views and from Dieu Donne Vineyards (translates – a gift from God) in Franschhoek. And the tasting with this view was just that. A gift.

the views from Dieu Donne were truly God's Gift...

Not to mention, I was also very fond the peace and quiet I found spending 5 RND to visit the Huguenots memorial in town. Sometimes it is important to get away from the herd and just reflect.

peace and quiet at the memorial....

stay adventurous, Craig

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As an American, the Atlantic represents the sunrise, the Pacific, the sunset. But when one travels east, you can witness the sun set on the Atlantic. Although technically, my African adventures would not mark my first sunset on the Atlantic Ocean, (e.g. San Sebastian, Spain), it would mark the first time I really thought about it.

After a day at leisure in Cape Town, I made sure I positioned myself with amble time to catch a sunset in Camps Bay, the glitzy part of Cape Town. The neighborhood, part South Beach and part southern California provided more than an amazing sunset, fantastic seafood offerings, and cocktails. It provided a sense of sunset adventure.

That evening, a tandem parachute sailed directly across my line and I took this photo. Apparently, in South Africa you can watch the sunset from the sky and land on the beach just as it descends out of view from the horizon. Something to put on the bucketlist for certain.

a perfectly timed landing

Stay adventurous, Craig

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A trip up the cable car to Table Mountain is one of the highlights of visiting Cape Town. And if it’s clear in the morning, you must consider making the trip that day as weather can change quickly on the Cape.

a trip up to the top of the table...

Once above on a clear day you can see for miles in every direction. A walk provides visitors with such beautiful panoramic settings. It’s a lovely time to take a coffee, enjoy the view and do what I love to do – ponder ….

one of the many panoramic views from above

stay adventurous, Craig

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The taxi arrived early. A relief. I settled up with my hostel and left in my cleanest shirt for the journey that awaited. The morning had two important stops.

My first was to meet a twitter friend, the explorateur, for coffee and to say thank you. She was the very reason I received a guest passage on the ‘Soul of South Africa.’ And then to my second stop, the Pretoria Train Station to board the Blue Train.

For me train travel in the States consisted of commuter rails such as the LIRR, MetroNorth and the NJT with the occasional Amtrak from Penn Station to Union Square. Nothing fancy. But this was different. Much different.

The Blue Train in Station

The elegant experience of the Blue Train began as soon as I exited the taxi. Porters and staff surround you and cater your every need. Suddenly after a “Mr Zabransky follow me” (they knew my name) I settled in to my first mimosa waiting to board. Immediately I was in good care. That became the constant theme.

Then suite seven (my suite) was asked to board and I climbed on to meet my butler. He introduced me to my room. Spacious, comfortable and comparable to a luxury hotel room on a train.  (And much better than my prior night in the hostel.)

Afterwards, I decided to explore and walk down to the last rail car, the observation car.  “Would I like something to drink?” Why, yes. Yes, I would. Bloody Mary time. Not my usual, but this called for a change, it was not a ‘usual’ train ride.

a bloody mary and my journal, a perfect start to the day

The city became countryside as I looked through the panoramic windows. My passage began. I lunched with fellow Americans and then dined with Englishman. Both meal delicious. Both conversations entertaining. And in between (and afterwards) we took leisure, socialized and listened to World Cup matches swapping stories from our African adventures.

Yes, we listened, the Blue Train doesn’t have live TV (nor would I want it to). But it’s the World Cup? Crisis averted. A butler shared his transistor radio.  A perfect fit. It not only added charm, but allowed us a chance to travel mentally. A chance to time travel to a time when people gathered around to listen to a radio. A different era.

listening to the world cup on the radio

We listened in English, Afrikaans, and local tribal languages as stations came in and out across the countryside. At times, we even asked the bar tender to translate his language. Nearly perfect play by play. Nearly.

Even the afternoon high tea seemed oddly perfect with the World Cup broadcast in the setting. We enjoyed tastey delights, cocktails and camaraderie. It seemed to remind us all of simpler times and a simpler way.  What train travel represents. And frankly, why I like it. Especially in Blue Train style.

The following morning, after a night capped off by a cuban cigar and a heated cognac the train descended on Cape Town. Through the mountains, we started our passage through the most scenic part of the trip. We entered the South African wine lands. And to our good fortune, a rare dusting of snow accented the mountain peaks which also accented the view. Not the typical scenery you think about when one considers Africa, but most don’t think of the Blue Train either. Yet both deserve mention.

the passing view of vineyards and snow capped mountains

Certainly, the Blue Train provides the elegance in the lounges, guest suites and culinary excellence.  A true treat for the traveler. And yes, it provides transport from Pretoria to Cape Town. Yet the true journey joy is no different than any other journey; the people.

The new friends I shared the twenty-eight hours with included both the passengers and the staff.  Passengers hungry for African adventure and staff sharing their homeland with us. In fact, that morning just before we pulled in, I took out my certificate stating “I traveled on the Blue Train” and asked everyone to leave a message and an email address. My favorite message came from the bar tender, a simple “Ayoba!”

He summed it up perfectly. Awesomeness indeed.

Stay luxurious, Craig

(I’d like to thank the Blue Train for providing passage.)

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Whether it appears on maps as Pretoria or its ‘future’ official name of Tswahne a trip to the city is not complete without a visit to the Union Buildings. On the grounds where Nelson Mandela changed the history of South Africa serving as President, visitors can take in views of the city or simply walk through the gardens.

the flowers illuminate the grounds...

And whether you walk the park at sunset or during the day, you are bound to experience a sense of majesty among the landscaped flowers and architectural achievements that delight the human eye.

a look at the Union Buildings

stay adventurous, Craig

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