South Africa - Round The World Tour 2003 Day 1

Kosmos in Hartbeespoort (near Pretoria)

Thursday 13th March

I can hardly believe it but we are now in Africa. We arrived at Johannesburg, via a 3 hours layover in Dubai, just this morning. I’m still adjusting to the fact that we are here after about a year and a half of extensive research and preparation. Wim and Helen, our hosts for the next few days, have been absolutely wonderful. Wim even met us half way between here and the airport to make sure we found our way here. Our accommodation is nothing short of a three or four-star hotel. Wim and Helen run a small guest-house and we have been given use of one of their apartment units. We have a combination living room and kitchen, a very spacious bedroom complete with king-sized bed, TV, air-co unit and all the other expected amenities and a very luxurious bathroom, which looks brand new with plush furnishings. The whole place has the feel of a Spanish villa to it and sits in a resort, which, in turn, is perched on a steep hillside overlooking a large lake. The view outside our full length, sliding door window is breath-taking. I feel like we’ve won the lottery and are on holiday in a dream resort. I seriously doubt that we will get to enjoy as luxurious surroundings as these for the continuation of our journey.

We rented a car at the airport. A little Fiat Palio (which I have never head of), which has the all-important air-conditioning. We shopped around at the airport for the best rates and managed to get a rate of 206 rand per day inclusive of taxes plus an additional 67 rand per day for insurance with National. Given that several of the car rental companies we first tried were quoting rates in the 300-400 rand per day range, I’m quite satisfied with how we made out. We have the car for 21 days with the option to extend that as we deem fit. I must admit that it feels a little bit weird driving a car with manual gearbox and on the right hand side of the car and on the left hand side of the road again.

Since we have our own kitchen facilities, we ventured out up the street a little earlier to buy some food supplies - just some essentials such as bread, eggs, milk, meat and such. Surrounding the little supermarket were dozens of market stalls with plenty of African wares. Many of the things there were spectacular and extremely cheap – even before the mandatory haggling had begun. Woodcarvings of animals and paintings of African culture were all available at a ‘good price’. In every stall the owner besieged us with various attempts to get us to make a purchase. One woman told us that she needed the money to pay the stall rent the next day. Alas, we had to turn them all down, one by one. I would dearly have loved to purchase a whole host of things but for the impracticality of getting it all home. Later, I will talk with Helen and Wim about how to go about sending some of this stuff home and what the costs involved will be. There were several things of interest that I particularly liked. However, we only just arrived today and I’m sure there will be lots of opportunity for souvenir shopping in the weeks and months ahead.