I really got around South Africa last week.
I participated in #MeetSouthAfrica, a campaign sponsored by South African Tourism in which 14 travel bloggers split into three groups — the Luxury group, the Adventure group, and the Heritage group — and followed different routes around the country. I was in the Adventure group with Meruschka from Mzansi Girl, Melvin from Traveldudes, Matt from the Expert Vagabond, Caspar from StoryTravelers, and Kash from the Budget Traveller. We covered a massive swath of the country in a very short time and had an insane amount of fun.
A rudimentary map showing the #MeetSouthAfrica Adventure group’s journey. I wish I had time to figure out how to make this look better (how do I get rid of that annoying box?!) but at least you can see the route. We traveled in a counter-clockwise rectangle — from Joburg, to the Northern Cape, to Cape Town, to Durban — by land and air.
Here’s one of the high points (literally) of the trip, on a cliff overlooking the Orange River at sunset. Left to right: Matt (who fortunately did not sail over the cliff after this jump), Meruschka, me, Caspar, Kash, and Melvin. (Photo: Bontle Madiba)
I have many stories to tell about #MeetSouthAfrica but I’m short on time. I returned to Joburg last night and I leave again tomorrow morning for five days in Lesotho. The real stories will have to wait.
In the meantime, I thought I’d do a quick recap of our #MeetSouthAfrica adventures by showing you my ten favorite Instagrams (i.e. iPhone photos) from the ten-day journey. To see all of my #MeetSouthAfrica Instagrams, click here.
1) Jozi by night.
Our trip started on a Friday in Joburg (just ten minutes from home for me) at the Protea Hotel Parktonian in Braamfontein. I had been to the Parktonian many times to take photos but had never stayed there before. It’s an older hotel but I love that fact that all the rooms have balconies and the cylindrical shape of the building ensures that pretty much every room has a view. Here’s an intentionally blurry shot of Hillbrow from the roof — I had a similar view from my room on the 16th floor.
2) Portrait in Soweto.
On Saturday morning we met up with the local Instagram community and took an Instawalk around Vilakazi Street in Soweto. I enjoyed introducing my new international blogger friends to my local Instagram friends. This portrait of a man named Simon is my favorite shot from Soweto.
3) Ballooning over Magaliesburg.
From Soweto we headed to Magaliesburg, where we spent the night and then got up at a ridiculously early hour to go hot-air ballooning. The balloon ride was a major highlight and I took hundreds of photos — expect a longer post soon.
4) Beer and taxidermy.
Still on a hot-air high, we bussed it back to Jozi and spent the afternoon in the Maboneng Precinct. I’m in Maboneng practically every weekend so this was nothing new for me. But Meruschka and I loved introducing the area to the international bloggers and showing them some hidden places. Here we are at the Zebra Inn, my favorite Joburg bar. (Read more about the Zebra Inn in my “Quirky Joburg” post.)
5) A girl and her puppy in the Northern Cape.
The three groups separated at this point. On Monday morning the Adventure group rose at another ridiculously early hour to fly to Upington, where we met another bus and traveled across the desert to the South Africa/Namibia border and camped on the Orange River. I shot this in the dusty town of Kakamas, where we stopped for lunch.
6) Sunset over the Orange River.
Tuesday was the best day of the trip. Our main activity was rafting down the Orange River, which I loved. I don’t have many photos because I was too busy paddling — I need to collect some shots from the other bloggers for my rafting post. Meanwhile, here’s another shot from sunset on the cliff. Not a bad view, hey?
7) Election Day in a tiny town.
On Wednesday morning we left camp ridiculously early (see the trend?) and trekked ten hours by bus to Cape Town. Wednesday was Election Day in South Africa, so we stopped in the tiny Western Cape town of Bitterfontein for the South Africans among us to cast their ballots. We had a great time interacting with the locals.
8) Bo-Kaap beneath Table Mountain.
We spent 24 glorious hours in Cape Town and went on a tour of Bo-Kaap, to my great joy. Bo-Kaap is my favorite neighborhood in Cape Town. Full-length post to come.
9) Baba the rooster.
Durban was our final stop, where we reunited with the other two groups. In Durban, among other things, we did another Instawalk through the huge maze of traditional markets at Warwick Junction. In the chicken market we encountered Baba, king of the Zulu cocks.
10) A Durban Sunday on the beach.
I spent my last morning of #MeetSouthAfrica on Durban’s North Beach, a lovely place to hang out on Sundays. Then I said goodbye to the other bloggers and flew home. Sniff.
Here’s one more bonus Instagram, shot just before the balloon ride. This was my most popular Instagram post of the trip, which I find interesting because it didn’t make it into my own top ten. I thought I’d share it anyway.
What an incredible trip. I actually cried a little this morning when it hit me that it’s really over. Fortunately I’ll relive it for weeks (maybe months) to come as I write all the blog posts, and you can relive it with me. In the meantime, check the #MeetSouthAfrica hashtag on Instagram and Twitter.