A forever bucket list item, Africa has always been a place that I yearned to visit. While realistically I never thought it would be possible (my limited thinking), I was oh too excited when a friend called and asked if I’d go. After researching flights I realized this dream could become a reality. This would be my first “real” International trip out of the U.S. and I couldn’t be more excited. Not knowing what to expect but being open to everything I just wanted to take it all in.
- We’d catch a direct flight out of Atlanta with a quick fuel pitstop in Dakar. That stop was interesting for a few reasons. We’d been in the air some 14 of the total 18 hour flight. Once we stopped like nothing I’d ever seen before a literal army of men with guns in tow boards the plane for what was called a routine “security check”. I tried to take pictures but in his thick accented voice one the men told me to put the camera away. Without hesitation that camera was down on my seat. This was something like right out the movies.
- First stop Johannesburg – My initial thoughts was that it was crowded, busy and a bit run down. In my head I just imagined wild animals roaming around everywhere. That was not the case. There was infrastructure, paved roads and actual stores. There were mothers walking the streets with babies attached to their hips being held up by fabric only. People were on the corners selling fresh live chickens, school aged children walking to school and the normal hustle bustle sound of cars, horns and typical city ambience. Not overly impressed we ventured out to a little town called SOWETO. Soweto is home to the Nelson Mandela Library, several historical museums and somewhat a cultural hub. Lots of restaurants and entertainment venues. The highlight was visiting this small village that comprised of possibly 100 shanty homes. As we pulled up we could see women on their front porches hand washing clothes with washboards. Young kids frolicking about playfully. The older kids were seen walking home from school. The all were dressed in uniforms, burgundy coats and dark blue pants/skirts. These children walked for hours to and from school as there were no school buses. I was taken back by the 1 water spigot that was to be shared by all the houses in the community. This is when you realize as an American you are spoiled! The homes were meagerly built. You could see the daylight through the cracks in the walls. These homes appeared to be constructed out of what we would consider construction scraps. There were no indoor bathrooms. Each house was equipped with a “private” outdoor enclosure that essentially had a hole in the ground as its version of toilet. They were thankful to just have privacy. After several days of indulging on the best most flavorful seafood I’d ever eaten and several adventures in the Joburg area which included visits to the Elephant sanctuary, zip lining and a safari we would board our next flight to visit nearby CapeTown.
- Capetown – Nothing like I’d envisioned but everything I could hope for. In a word it was simply BEAUTIFUL! Lush green vineyards, beautiful ocean views, equally delicious food and just a cultural experience to behold. We by happenstance found a driver who would take us around the area daily. We visited world famous Stellenbosch winery, table mountain as well some cultural experiences with local tribesmen and another safari.
For my 1st International trip this was not only the trip of a lifetime but the start of many more to come.