26 South African sights you will NEVER see in Ireland.

That’s right, you will never see these scenes in Ireland (unless you look at my photographs), because these are all typical sites you would find in South Africa. Some of these are so normal to South Africans, it has taken me thirteen years of living in Ireland to realise these are not normal features for other places too!

Since 2004 we have returned to South Africa every two years or so to visit family, it’s important that our kids maintain relationships with their grandparents, aunts, uncles and cousins.  Apart from that we love the country and look forward to our trips with great excitement. I think my husband starts his countdowns about 9 months before we go.

In April of this year (2017) we went on a three week road trip that began in Cape Town, followed the ‘Garden Route’ to George and then on through the ‘Karoo’ up to Kimberley in the centre of the country. We returned to Cape Town via the same route. On our journey it was hard not to compare how different South Africa is to Ireland. Some of the differences are fantastic and others are not so good. Each time we go back I appreciate more and more the good things that both countries have to offer and mindful of the downsides of living in either. I recognise that neither county is perfect but both have so much beauty and charm.

We are well settled now in Ireland but I do miss so much from our previous home country.  I miss the huge diversity of cultures and languages (11 official – Afrikaans, English, Ndebele, Northern Sotho, Sotho, Swazi, Tsonga, Tswana, Venda, Xhosa and Zulu, most people speak more than one language).

I miss the spectacular variety of foods, the seemingly endless sunshine and outdoors life style, the wide skies where the mountains form a circle around the horizon 100km away, vivid blooms of purples, pinks and reds, the smell of baked earth and the sweet aroma of fynbos, the varied bird calls and the high pitched cheep of the cicada beetle in the heat of the day.

I admire the entrepreneurial spirit of the hard pressed folk, the positive attitudes of those who are most down trodden, the creativity and energy that has created such a vibrant society in the midst of the challenges of dire poverty, violent crime, dwindling education standards, overwhelming unemployment and corrupt governance.

I could list so much more that was remarkable and eventful. There is literally nothing like international travel for broadening horizons, especially for kids. Mine were struck by how different life is for many of the children in South Africa and how much we have to be grateful for. They also loved bonding with their cousins, exploring new sights, spotting wildlife and trying new foods. It is good to be home but it is going to be difficult having to wait another two years before we can go again.

Here follows just some of the sights from this trip that you would not see here in Ireland:

1. Restaurants can reliably serve customers outside under the trees in late Autumn without fear of the rain:

Long table set outside beneath the trees
Cafe Bon Bon, Franschoek, Western Cape

2. Boule + beach + bush hats + beer bellies:

Three men playing boule on the beach
Herold’s Bay George

3. Shopping trolleys used as a means of transportation for a business:

Three men pushing an overloaded shopping trolley
Business transportation

4 ‘Don’t care attitude’ Hitch-hikers waiting on the on ramp of the motorway right next to the NO Hitch-hiking sign:

On ramp with hitchhikers
Thumbs up or thumbs down?

5: Acres and acres of mega shopping malls with air conditioning, free parking, state of the art toilet facilities and car guards:

Outeniqua Shopping mall exterior
Outeniqua Mall, George

6: Vehicle guards wherever you park:

Car guard in parking lot
Please tip your guard, it’s his only income

7: Friendly smoking signs:

You May Smoke Here sign
I’m not a smoker so it’s good to see the smoking area is not right in front of the entrance.

8: Biltong (desiccated beef or venison) shops:

Strips of biltong - dried beef
A vegetarian’s nightmare!

9: Wide horizons and 6 hours of driving through desert scrub:

Wide open Scrubland
Miles and miles and miles of not much at all

10: Straighter than straight, straight roads:

Straight road to the horizon
Endless seeming roads that stretch to the horizon and beyond.

11. Child buskers on marimbas earning a living:

Three young people playing marimbas under a tree
Kids entertaining passing tourists for a few rands

12: Thorn trees on white grass plains (I really miss the umbrella thorn)

Thorn tree surrounded by dried grass
Note the colony of weaver bird’s nests dangling from the tree.

12. Using the open back of a bakkie (pick-up) for game viewing

kids sitting in the back of a bakkie (pickup)
One way of squeezing everyone in

14: Nests that hang like bunches of baskets (Weaver bird):

Two weaver birds nests
clever birds keeping their young away from snakes

15: Picnic areas under gum trees with built in braais (bbq):

Blue gum tree and barbeque in picnic site
Rooifontein Eco Centre, Kimberley

16: The MOUNTAINS of (cheap) fresh fruit and veg:

vegetables piled high in store
Fruit and Veg City, Kimberley

17: Koppies (table-topped hills) and towns sometimes up to 200 km apart:

flat lanscape with koppies in the distance and sign post reading Beaufort West Victoria West
If you break down between one town and the next and need help you may have a bit of a wait or a bit of a walk.

18: Roadside farm shops, aloe and dust combo:

Karoo farm shop with aloe shrubs and tall palm trees
Chutney, koeksusters, rusks or biltong anyone?

19: Kiddies climbing frame decorated with antelope skulls:

climbing frame with antelope skull
‘Watch out for the thorns, snakes and scorpions sweetheart.’

20: Shops selling a typical assortment of animal skins, art, bric-a-brac, preserves, meat and wood for your braai fire:

Karoo farm shop interior filled with furniture, animal skins and preserves
Decorate your home or your larder with the produce of the land

21: River beds with NO water in them:

dried river bed, karoo
Desiccated water course, Great Karoo
wide dried river bed
an even wider river bed with not a drop of water
stony river bed and hills
We must have passed more than thirty dry river beds

22: You may get to pat a giraffe:

giraffe being stroked by two children
He’s a gentle giant

23: Men travel together in the same truck as ostriches:

truck with ostriches and farm hands
Ostriches en route to the happy ostrich home in the sky

24: The fields are green in Ireland but in South Africa they may be red:

red fields up to the horizon
Dried grass not a sheep in sight

25: Vast areas of corrugated iron shanty houses with satellite dishes:

shanty town and power lines
Khayelitsha, Cape
shacks made of corrugated iron
the palisade fencing prevents people from crossing the highway

26: Kids using the open ground next to the highway as a soccer pitch:

kids playing football on open land next to a busy higway
but palisade fencing can be breached

So that was a brief snapshot this crazy beautiful country but really, it would be better if you went there to see it for yourself.

PS IMPORTANT to KNOW: if you travel to South Africa with children, you HAVE to have their original birth certificate with you as well as a passport.

Here’s a post I wrote about our camping trip to France and another with tips on travelling with kids

 

16 thoughts on “26 South African sights you will NEVER see in Ireland.

  1. Wow, awesome pics! I have always wanted to go to South Africa. Perhaps someday.

    “VERY straight roads that disappear over the horizon.” — Hmm, I-80 running through Illinois, Iowa, and Nebraska. Straight, boring, and nothing but corn as far as the eye can see! Nice to see other parts of the world are like that, too.

    1. I think South Africa would have a lot more in common with the States than European countries purely because of it’s size and diversity in one country. I hope you do make it there – such incredible beauty.

  2. South Africa is so addictive once been there you can’t help it but to return. What makes south Africa so unique it is townships(ekasi) and its so caring people not to mention the unique culture including 11 official languages.

  3. Fabulous [ics, made me so homesick, though we have come back to Europe now. Loved the satellite dish in the informal settlement! Some of those places are amazing inside, complere with furniture from Saville’s!

  4. Love this and found it really interesting. The long long roads are so different to our windy ones and the trees are spectacular #Blogstravaganza.

I love to read your comments!