south africa 10: kruger and the big 5

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Kruger National Park is nearly every South African’s favourite place in the world. It is also part of every tourist’s mandatory itinerary to the country. Covering an area of two million hectares, the game reserve is a realm in itself where wildlife reigns supreme and we humans are the outsiders, satiated with being mere audiences to a world that is complete.

No matter how many times one has been to Kruger, one can just never get enough of it. It is too big. It changes colours and moods with every passing day. Established in 1898 to protect the wildlife of the lowveld in the country, the park contains a mind-boggling number of animal and plant species together with centuries old cultural treasures such as rock paintings and archaeological sites.

I stayed for three days and two nights and, yes, saw all the Big 5. 🙂 Which boiled down to herds of buffaloes and elephants, a leopard smacking away its lips after an impala kill, rhinos marking their territories with trails of urine and dung, and seven lions and a herd of buffaloes battling away on the banks of a stream after the lions had attacked one of the buffaloes. Continue reading

south africa 9: the ‘panorama’ journey

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Guess you’ve heard the old adage—the journey is as important as the destination. My destination is Kruger National Park. The journey is appropriately the Panorama Route. 🙂

I had always wanted to do South Africa’s Panorama Route. One of those ‘have to do’ things in life. Why, you might well ask? It is scenic, on a majestic scale, cutting through the northern Drakensberg Mountains and Great Escarpment to abruptly give way to the plains of the lowveld.

Nature in South Africa is rather grand. Everything a little larger than life, a little more verdant, a little more unique and unduplicated by god. The Panorama Route’s first highlight is the Blyde River Canyon with the Three Rondavels standing sentry on the side; the latter evocative of the huts of the country’s indigenous people. Continue reading

south africa 8: gauteng, johannesburg, the place of gold

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Gauteng, place of gold

Four whole days in Gauteng! I’m a very happy woman. Yes, trust me, there is a lot to see and explore in this concrete jungle that is South Africa’s economic powerhouse. Gauteng actually means ‘place of gold’, a name that is evocative of its history and reason to be. The smallest yet wealthiest province in the country, covering a mere 1.4 percent of its total land area, Gauteng contributes 33.9 percent to South Africa’s GDP and 10 percent to the whole African continent’s GDP. In historical terms its name traces back to the discovery of gold in 1886 in Johannesburg.

I used to live here at one time and enjoyed it fully, that is apart from the traffic which is absolutely crazy. I know, everyone talks about the crime. I have, touchwood, never had a bad experience. And things are even better now with neighbourhood watches, plain-clothes police, and security cameras. Here is my take on Gauteng, not as a resident, but as a traveller. 🙂 Continue reading

south africa 7: durban—sun, sea, sand, and the indian connection


Self portrait—Artist: Me; Location: Golden Mile.

Sun, Sea and Sand and a bit more

Durban is South Africans’ choice domestic holiday destination. It is the most African city in the country. It is also the most Indian city in Africa. Not many foreign tourists come here. Another one of those slips.

The busiest port in Africa, Durban is an eclectic mix of golden sands, colonial architecture, and Indian colour. There is an easy feel to it which makes one feel immediately at home. The pace is relaxed; the smiles are warm and friendly. Life simply revolves around the beach which makes the six-kilometre long golden mile the obvious ‘start’ and at times ‘finish’ to one’s explorations of the city.

Which is what I did as well. An invigorating walk down the paved promenade took me to uShaka Marine World, a themed aquarium park built in a mock-up ship-wreck. At the other end of the day, a sky-car lifted me to the roof of the Moses Mabhida Stadium and windy, stunning views of the sun-kissed city. And somewhere in-between, against a backdrop of children shrieking with delight in the water rides and weathered Durbanites throwing their fishing lines into the waters, soft warm golden sands kissed my bare feet as I chatted with sand sculpture artists from far off Tanzania and Sudan. Continue reading

south africa 6: kwazulu-natal adventure—from sani pass to its game reserves

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The thrill of Sani Pass

Aah, that adrenalin rush! That sense of adventure in exploring unchartered, gruelling terrains and then coming back to tell the tale. For many travelling to South Africa, and to me, it simply means the Sani Pass.

Once a rough mule trail, Sani Pass is now a notoriously dangerous mountain road to Lesotho via the Drakensberg Mountains which can only be traversed by a 4X4. Lying between the border controls of South Africa and Lesotho, the 8-kilometre-long gravel road through no-man’s land starts at 1,968 metres above sea level and ends near the summit at 2,873 metres. The journey is marked with steep ascents, hairpin bends appropriately named “suicide bend” and “big wind corner”, loose gravel, and beautiful views. Some walk this road. For the adventurous, the thrill is in the 4X4 drive. Continue reading

south africa 5: kwazulu-natal history—from rorke’s drift to kamberg to shakaland

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At the historic Anglo-Zulu battlefields in northern KwaZulu-Natal. What you see behind me, to the right, are sand storms in action. 

Day 1: Isandlwana and Rorke’s Drift: Where heroes were made

An endless expanse of dusty plains and stunted thorn trees sprawls for miles in front of me. We’ve been driving for five hours now. I’m on my way to Isandlwana and Rorke’s Drift and am told it is just beyond the last mound that shimmers in the horizon.

It is incredible that these barren expanses in the middle of nowhere, absolutely nowhere, were once the scenes of key battles fought during the Boer-Zulu, Anglo-Zulu and Anglo-Boer wars.

The few travellers who trickle up north to make this journey tend to be British, military buffs, or those tracing their family tree. But you don’t have to be any of them really. Isandlwana and Rorke’s Drift are a celebration of the human spirit during war, of courage against all odds. In the former, the valour was that of the Zulus. In Rorke’s Drift, the heroes were the British. Continue reading