South Africa is amazing! Goods are so cheap and exotic, although we have to be on ‘Africa time’, i.e everything moves very slowly… Just add on some extra time when ordering food, waiting for public transport or meeting people etc and it’s fine! Shopping at market stalls is great although you need to be prepared to haggle – I got a pair of mahogany earrings carved into Rhinos and a copper bracelet, both hand-made, for 35 Rand which is approximately £2.70 – not bad! I love the traditional bracelets here, there’s such a variety of styles, colours, materials and they’re all pretty intricate – I want one from everywhere I go, but not sure how many can fit on my wrist…
Other highlights have included Pretoria Botanical Gardens which were beautiful and filled with gorgeous wildlife as well as plants – bright yellow, orange and blue birds, deer, guinea fowl and Dassies.
We are staying at the lovely Rosebank Lodge in Johannesburg now, and some locals showed us around Soweto, the biggest and most notorious township, filled with six million people. Chicken neck, pigs’ trotter and tripe were all offered for lunch; I preferred the traditional lamb stew with mealie-meal, which is the staple food of Zambia and many places in Africa. It’s hard to describe but it’s a maize grain and is similar to a mix of dumplings/rice/mash potato/porridge/bread when cooked! Very plain but delicious with meat and sauce. We visited Nelson Mandela House, where you can see his original letters, photos, awards which are fascinating. The outside walls are blackened from petrol bombs and littered with bullet holes from the numerous attacks on him and his family, especially when he was in prison.
Our guides took us to their family homes in Soweto so we could experience typical middle-class houses, one eccentric aunt was so sweet as she kept exclaiming “England is in my house, I’m so blessed”, and insisting we took a beautifully carved rhino. She also gave me a whole African outfit including headdress that she had made; her family explained that hospitality is very important and it would be offensive not to accept the gifts. We saw some poorer areas too – tiny, dusty houses with lots of street-vendors and litter everywhere. Makes you appreciate what you have.
N.B Springbok is delicious, especially with a squeeze of lemon.