Two weeks ago I left Joburg on a road trip around South Africa, in a van full of bloggers and Instagrammers. We went lots of places in that van, and ate lots of potato chips. But I’ll get to that later.
The major goal of our trip was to visit a tiny town called Graaff-Reinet, to participate in the first-ever South African national Instameet. I’ve written about Instameets before; see here and here and here. I’ve participated in dozens of Instameets in Joburg and a couple in other cities. But last weekend’s gathering was the first time that Instagrammers from all over South Africa traveled to one place for a giant mega-meet.
Graaff-Reinet is roughly in the middle of the country, not especially close to anywhere but not more than a long day’s drive either. People came from Joburg, Cape Town, Port Elizabeth, Durban, and everywhere in between to meet new faces, explore a new place, and take tons of photos for Instagram.
This wasn’t the entire Instameet group — just those who happened to show up for this particular walk through the Valley of Desolation.
When I first heard about this Instameet, I wasn’t super keen to go. As much as I wanted to visit Graaf-Reinet, which is the fourth oldest town in South Africa and located in a mystical desert region called the Karoo, it was a long way to travel for one weekend. I also wasn’t sure about 300-400 Instagrammers crammed together in one small town. I told my friends that I thought the weekend would become “a Huge Annoying Cluster F*ck”, or HACF, an acronym that later inspired the hashtag #HACF15.
But then I got invited to participate in this longer South African road trip, which included the national Instameet, so I decided to go. And guess what? I was totally wrong. The national Instameet was not an HACF; it was incredibly fun and well organized. I loved every minute of the Instameet and I didn’t want to leave.
But I digress. Let me stop talking so much and show you my favorite pictures from the Instameet.
I took this photo of Andy Carrie during the drive from Joburg to Graaff-Reinet, in a field where we stopped to shoot the sunset. I didn’t realize it at the time, but the Instameet organizers were running a contest for the best photos taken during the road trip to Graaff-Reinet. This photo was chosen as one of the winners and I won a helicopter flight over Graaff-Reinet. More on that later.
We arrived in Graaff-Reinet late on Thursday night and settled into our rooms at the Andries Stockenström Guesthouse. I really enjoyed my stay at Andries Stockenström. The guesthouse also has a nice restaurant called Gordon’s.
The Instameet organizers arranged several walking tours each day in Graaff-Reinet. On Friday morning I took the “People of Graaff-Reinet” tour, which wound through the centre of town and the adjoining township. Here’s one of the people we met, with her cat. The cat freaked out after I took this photo and I wasn’t able to get their names.
This is Den. I met him outside the funeral parlor.
Girls on a stoep (front porch) in the township.
Graaff-Reinet is surrounded by Camdeboo National Park, one the most beautiful places I’ve ever been in my life. The Valley of Desolation, pictured here, is Camdeboo’s highlight. We went to the Valley of Desolation for sunset on Friday and Saturday evenings.
More Valley of Desolation.
On Saturday morning it was time for that helicopter ride that I won. Pictured here: Photographer Jon Meinking shooting the copter from below.
A piece of Graaff-Reient, bordered by Camdeboo.
I spent most of Saturday wandering around town and hanging out with my Instagram friends. I loved the quaint, white-picket-fence feel of Graaff-Reinet.
The spectacular Graaff-Reinet Dutch Reformed Church, built in 1887.
I met several cool people on this Instameet. Marcus, aka @pilgrimagejaunt, was one of them.
Saturday night there was a huge party for the Instagrammers in Graaff-Reinet City Hall. We had curry and lamb and koeksisters and beer, all organized by the local community. There was much music and dancing and falling off of unicycles. It was great but I didn’t bring my camera.
Check out this beautiful two-minute video about the Instameet, directed by my talented friend Gareth Pon. If you have good vision you might be able to spot me.
I’ll be back next year, wherever the next national Instameet may be. Because #ThisIsSouthAfrica.
Me in the Valley of Desolation. (Photo by @ryanguerilla)
More on my epic South African blogger road trip (and all the potato chips we ate) in the next post.