South Africa

January 6, 2013

You know that feeling you get when you first land at a foreign airport, and realize with a sigh of deep satisfaction that your vacation has officially begun?  That feeling which gets multiplied by about ten as a Canadian when you’ve gone somewhere warm in winter? Well, multiply THAT feeling by about a thousand, and you’ll know what it felt like for me to land in Cape Town (perhaps influenced slightly by the thought of a restful sleep after two days’ travel).

I don’t know why Africa has always had this powerful hold over me.  Since childhood, it’s always been the African animals that captivated me at the zoo:  I was haunted by the Dian Fossey book/movie Gorillas in the Mist in the 80s, and longed to share some of her African experiences; and as an adult working as a photo editor, my chest would ache each time I edited images taken on this magnificent continent.  When people would ask over the years about the existence of my “bucket list”, a trip to this mystical place was always at the top.

As I write this, I am sitting in a house on the southern tip of Africa, looking out a window at the waves coming in from two oceans.

Glencairn and False Bay, South Africa  (c) Allyson Scott

Glencairn and False Bay, South Africa (c) Allyson Scott

How serendipitous is it that I should meet and marry someone who actually has family here?  Someone who wanted to go back to South Africa as much as I wanted to see it for the first time?

Jody battling the famous Fish Hoek wind  (c) Allyson Scott

Jody battling the famous Fish Hoek wind (c) Allyson Scott

My enthusiasm could not be dampened even by the shark sighting warning on our first day at the beach:

(c) Allyson Scott

(c) Allyson Scott

(c) Allyson Scott

(c) Allyson Scott

There are mountains or ocean in nearly every view, and the weather is gorgeous:  a beautiful, clean, salty breeze keeps any scorching heat at bay, and blows any cloud cover away in short order.  The wine is excellent, the people are pleasant, and the goods are affordable.  The wildlife warnings (sharks, baboons, snakes, and the like) are mildly concerning, but as I am yet to personally see any of the above, I will choose to ignore the possibilities.  We did visit an ostrich farm, but aside from the strong peck of a beak in my hand I remain unscathed.

Ostrich  (c) Allyson Scott

Ostrich (c) Allyson Scott

At times this landscape, so radically different from where I’m from, reminds me of coastal California:

Witsands-Soetwater Coastal Conservancy  (c) Allyson Scott

Witsands-Soetwater Coastal Conservancy (c) Allyson Scott

Yet around the next corner (the hair-raising Chapman’s Peak Drive), I would swear I was back in Australia:

Chapman's Peak Drive, South Africa  (c) Allyson Scott

Chapman’s Peak Drive, South Africa (c) Allyson Scott

We were finally able to fit in our first wine-tasting a few days into our trip, at the Groot Constantia vineyard, which they boast is the oldest in the southern hemisphere.  The scenery was out of this world, with the Table Mountain Range looming over the rows of vines.

Groot Constantia vineyard, South Africa  (c) Allyson Scott

Groot Constantia vineyard, South Africa (c) Allyson Scott

Groot Constantia vineyard, South Africa  (c) Allyson Scott

Groot Constantia vineyard, South Africa (c) Allyson Scott

We’ve barely scratched the surface in the week that we’ve been here, though we are out seeing new sights every day.  Yesterday was spent at the V&A Waterfront in Cape Town, with more gorgeous views of the mountains, and some great finds at the markets there.

V&A Waterfront, Cape Town, South Africa  (c) Allyson Scott

V&A Waterfront, Cape Town, South Africa (c) Allyson Scott

The next leg of this incredible journey is the safari I’ve been yearning to do for decades. While the precise dream may have been the Serengeti in Tanzania, this closer, more affordable, and seemingly much safer version is an excellent way to ease myself into the wildlife experience.

I feel so small and insignificant on this massive planet.  I’ve spent pretty much all my disposable income on photography or travel for my entire adult life, trying to see and experience and record as much of the world as I can.  The more I see, the more I want to see, this is the problem.  While friends did responsible things like squirrel money away in investments, I would use mine to book another trip.  Now I have a life partner who has been bitten by the same bug, and I don’t feel quite so alone in this choice.  I feel like maybe there was a reason for having all the experiences I did, which led me to this exact place, at this exact time, with this lovely person.