Caution: If you are Australian you may find this post hard to believe (apart from all you lovely Saffers now living in Australia who know how awesome South Africa is – and of course our beloved Aussie family who travel to SA regularly and know the truth). This is because a recent travel advisory from your government recommended the need for high caution when travelling to our land. It warned of – amongst other things – robberies on roads and in shopping centres, ATM and credit card fraud and spiked drinks. It said you should never drive with your window down.
I recently took a once-in-a-lifetime road trip through South Africa with my family. Over two and a half weeks we drove more than 3500km’s, we crossed 5 of our 9 provinces, we visited tiny dorpies (villages) in the middle of nowhere like Alldays, Messina and Komatipoort, larger towns like Makhado and Polokwane and major cities like Johannesburg. We crossed 8 borders into and out of neighbouring countries Botswana and Swaziland. We visited 2 major national parks, the unparalleled Kruger National Park and the mesmerizing Mapungubwe. We went through around 40 toll gates, filled up 6 times with petrol and stayed in accommodation ranging from 5 stars to no stars. We met dozens of people, we travelled with our windows down, we bought food off the side of the road, we got stopped by the police – and let go (without being asked for a bribe). We found world class shops and restaurants in the most unlikely places like Bethlehem and Tzaneen.
We didn’t get assaulted, robbed or scammed once. We enjoyed friendly service wherever we went. People often spotted our NT number plates and we enjoyed a banter about their days in KwaZulu Natal. We felt safe and welcome and we loved every minute of it.
Now you might say that our positive experience is because we are locals and that foreigners might be targeted. This may of course be true, and I suggest that when you do come and visit us you take the normal precautions you would when visiting any foreign country. Begin by asking a local where is safe to go and where isn’t. This will tick all the boxes of those alarmist travel advisories. But please do come.
And to us locals, there really is no greater adventure than discovering your own land. This trip reminded us that we live in a place of such diversity, richness and beauty.
We should travel it more.