Farewell to South Africa

Saturday was our last full day in this amazing country. It was, as usual, hot. We decided to enjoy some greenery and drove over to Johannesburg Botanical Gardens. It covers a huge area, but the part we were in didn’t seem much like a botanical garden and was really more of a park. It is obviously very popular with Johannesburg’s dog lovers as we were one of the few groups walking in the park unaccompanied by a canine. One alien aspect of the dog-walking culture was that there was no attempt whatsoever at picking up dog poo. We’re so used to that being a requirement in UK parks that its absence is quite jarring to see. You also need to be careful where you step.

After our walk, we decided to take a drive down to see the FNB Stadium – formerly Soccer City and colloquially The Calabash – home of the Kaizer Chiefs and venue for the 2010 World Cup final. It’s a shame that they don’t offer tours but it is a great looking stadium.

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After that we headed back to the hotel before going back over to Nelson Mandela Square for dinner at The Butcher Shop and Grill. Since it was our last night, we celebrated with a bottle of The Chocolate Block.

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As we made our way home after dinner, we started to feel a few spots of rain, so quickened our pace. The storm clouds gathered as dusk fell so, of course, Ishbel needed a photo.

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That photo was taken from the hotel entrance. By the time we got up to our room on the 10th floor, the thunderstorm was in full swing.

And that’s it for South Africa. Sunday will be pretty much a dead day as we fly at 12:30pm and arrive in Hong Kong at 7:05am on Monday. At twelve and a half hours, this is the longest flight of the entire trip.

We will be taking some amazing memories of South Africa with us. The safaris; Robben Island; the Cape; the penguins; the wine; the scenery; the whales; the apartheid years; Soweto and Sipho. All of this and more. Ishbel and I spent years steadfastly boycotting SA goods when we shopped, and it took an active effort for us to re-start buying them after the introduction of majority rule. We were still a little ambivalent about the country when we booked this trip. This has been a learning experience for us. There is clearly still work to be done in managing South Africa’s vast wealth and helping those who still live in abject poverty, but the vibrancy of this young democracy is obvious and exciting. We wish them well and hope to be back.

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