South Africa is well known as home to many adrenaline pumping activities. From cage diving with Great White Sharks to bungee jumping and white water rafting, there are no shortage of activities to get the blood coursing through your veins. As Tourism Month draws to a close in South Africa, we zoom into the North West Province and showcase the best way to spend a Sho’t Left day.
1. Slip-sliding away
Zip-lining is an activity that will appeal to the whole family. Big on speed and big on adrenaline, Magaliesburg Canopy Tours allow visitors a unique way to explore the North West. Having zip-lined a number of times before, I can highly recommend it for a few hours of fun. Expect to be strapped into a not-so-flattering harness (jeans and trainers are the best clothes and shoes to wear) and strung up on a steel cable running from one side of the gorge to the next. For most, the adrenaline factor is moderate to low, but if you’re of the less-adventurous kind, you can be expected to let out a few screams. As you progress down the gully, the lines get faster and faster, but there’s no need to panic, the competent and trained staff will hit the brakes for you if necessary.
2. The fast & the furious
Ahhhh, quad-biking, one of my favourite activities. Few things get me as excited as quad-biking, so when I found out that we’d be quad-biking as part of the media tour for the launch of South African Tourism’s Sho’t Left campaign, I was almost beside myself. We enjoyed a lengthy ride on quad-bikes supplied by Soweto Outdoor Adventures, but there are a number of companies such as The African Chapter and Adventure Bookings that allow families to explore the North West Province in this unique manner. Closed shoes are definitely required and prepare for a dusty and dirty half-day adventure!
3. A view from the top
There can be fewer more incredible ways to see the Magalies River Valley and surrounding areas than from high up above, by enjoying one of Bill Harrop’s hot air balloon safaris. The first thing that strikes you is the size of the balloon, and the loud “whooshing” sound of the burners that inflated them. The balloon ascent is incredibly smooth and after a safety briefing you’ll be up…up…and away. The view is really breathtaking and, because the balloon drifts on the air currents, it really is peaceful up there. The silence is punctuated every now and then by the sound of the burner but don’t expect this to be a thrill-a-minute kind of experience – it’s more about the serenity and spectacular view. With pre-trip coffee and rusks and post-trip breakfast and champagne, this is one adventure you won’t go hungry on.
4. Feline footsteps
Several times during my visit to the Ukutula Lion Park and Lodge, I wished fervently that I had not worn white that day. The white lions that we were walking with had a penchant for white objects. Thankfully the guides made sure the lions had some padkos along the way so that we didn’t end up looking like a good meal option. Ukutula, just an hour from Johannesburg, allows you to see lions in their natural habitat and you have the opportunity to walk with some of these amazing animals, without being separated by a cage or fence. We were also fortunate enough to hold lion cubs of only a few weeks old, and to see other animals, including hyena and cheetahs. The park boasts several rare white lions, bred naturally at the lodge and they place a strong focus on environmental education and awareness.
5. Pack your trunk
The Elephant Sanctuary in Hartbeespoort provides visitors with a unique opportunity to get up close and personal with the world’s largest land mammal. Elephants are one of the “Big 5” and very little beats the thrill of seeing an elephant in the wild. At the Elephant Sanctuary however, you get to see a far more personal side to these giants. Predominantly serving as a rehabilitation centre, we experienced an opportunity to feed these remarkable creatures at the Sanctuary, but visitors to the Sanctuary can choose from intimate interactions such as an elephant walk, bare-back elephant riding and even spending the night in the Sanctuary, in a room right next to the elephant’s lodgings.
Have you done any of the activities above? What did you enjoy most?
The authors participated in the listed activities as guests of South African Tourism, as the Sho’t Left media campaign relaunched in South Africa. As always however, all opinions are our own. Parts 1, 2 & 5 by @clareappleyard; parts 3 & 4 by @metroally.
South Africa is our country, a country we love, a country that hosts upwards of 9 million visitors a year. What do the international visitors know that we don’t? Why are we so reluctant to get out and explore our own country?
As Tourism Month (September) kicks off in South Africa and South African Tourism relaunches it’s massively successful Sho’t Left campaign to boost local tourism, here are 6 reasons why you should book your next holiday within our borders…
1. Spectacular scenery and abundant wild life
There are many reasons why international visitors flock to South Africa each year, but top of many visitor’s lists is to experience a real “safari” and to take in the beauty of places like Cape Town, the Drakensberg and the Garden Route. Cape Town has just been voted the 4th best city in the world by Travel + Leisure’s in their annual “World’s Best Awards”, yet many South Africans have never visited the city. It’s also sad how many South Africans have never visited the Kruger Park or the Pilanesberg in an attempt to spot the “Big 5”. Very little beats the thrill of seeing a lion or an elephant out in the wild, so grab your binoculars and get out there!
2. Outstanding and unique cuisine (and wines!)
South Africa is a melting pot of cultures and thus, unsurprisingly, our cuisine is both varied and delicious. From traditional African fare such as “Smileys” (sheep’s head) and “Walkie Talkies” (chicken heads and feet) to world-famous curries (Durban is home to the world’s biggest Indian population outside of India) to top-rated restaurants such as The Tasting Room at Le Quartier Français, Franschhoek, and The Test Kitchen in Cape Town, both of which rate in the Top 100 World’s Best Restaurant list for 2013. And, world-class cuisine deserves world-class wine, which South Africa has in barrel-loads.
3. It’s on your doorstep
Holidays don’t need to be a week or two weeks long. Weekend getaway breaks are perfect to get you out of the house and relaxing in a game reserve, guest house, hotel or B&B. Sadly, weekends as we know them are pretty short, so it makes sense to explore areas within 2 – 3 hours of your home. From Johannesburg, why not explore Magaliesburg and parts of the Northwest province or Limpopo? From Durban, there’s plenty to choose from in the Midlands, North Coast and South Coast. And, from Cape Town, Cape Agulhas and the Cedarberg are perfect escapes.
4. It’s not as expensive as you’d think
For some reason, many South Africans think that local travel is over-priced and unaffordable. It’s sometimes understandable when you consider the number cut-price trips to Thailand, Greece and other exotic destinations. At the launch of Tourism Month last week, the CEO of South African Tourism, Thulani Nzima, summarized this belief perfectly when he said, “It’s a perception of cost that’s not real. People buy the latest cellphones, designer jeans, new sunglasses. You can have a weekend in Durban for less than R2000.” The new Sho’t Left website went live last week with approximately 80 travel packages, to suit all travel tastes and budgets.
5. There’s something for everyone
From rugged mountains to pristine beaches; from rural hamlets to thriving cities; from the solitude of the African bush to the hustle and bustle of mega-sized shopping complexes, there’s a style of travel and holiday to suit everybody. Adventure activities abound with white-water rafting, bungee jumping, parasailing, shark-cage diving, sand-boarding, quad-biking, hot-air ballooning all available in many of our provinces. Whether you’re looking for a relaxing beach get-away or an adrenaline-filled adventure, South Africa has it all.
6. A world of history in one country
Over the years, South Africa has made history for reasons both good and bad. Our most famous and well-loved figure-head, Nelson Mandela made history by becoming the first African president in 1994. Prior to this though, South Africa has lived through some turbulent times. Robben Island in Cape Town, the Apartheid Museum in Johannesburg and the Hector Pieterson Museum in Soweto all show-case our history in a world-class, interactive fashion. If you’re in Soweto, stop past Vilakazi Street, the only street in the world to have housed two Nobel Prize winners, a great claim-to-fame indeed.
Rest assured though, politics is not the only history we have to brag about. The biggest diamond ever found was mined at Cullinan diamond mine, 90 minutes from Johannesburg. There is a great diamond tour and diamond display on site at the (still-operating) mine and, if you really want to take a trip back in time, The Big Hole in Kimberley is a fantastic tribute to South Africa’s early diamond mining days.
Last but not least, the Cradle of Humankind is a World Heritage Site that has produced some of the oldest hominid fossils ever found. The Maropeng visitor’s centre opened in 2005 and gives visitors a fascinating trip back through millions of years to discover all we can about our early ancestors.
So, there you have it. 6 reasons to explore the wonderful and diverse country you live in. What’s your favourite local destination within South Africa?
Experiencing authentic Indian food truly is a delightful sensory experience. From seeing colourful and beautifully arranged dishes, to inhaling the exotic spices of cardamom, cumin and coriander to teasing your taste buds with flavours of chili, yoghurt and chicken, few cuisines deliver like Indian food.
As a lover of the sights, smells and tastes of Indian cuisine, it was with great excitement that I opened my emails one morning to find an invitation to a sneak preview of Johannesburg’s forth-coming Taste of India festival.
One of Sandton’s premier restaurants, Piccolo Mondo at The Michelangelo, will play host to top Indian chef Jerry Mathew from the 20th – 23rd August for 4 nights of Indian splendor. South Africa is home to a significant Indian population and there is no doubt that this festival will be a phenomenal success. Supported by South African Tourism, the festival is part of an ongoing drive to promote Indian tourism to South Africa. As Thulani Nzima, CEO at South African Tourism notes, South Africa needs to be able to adequately cater for the specific dietary requirements of Indian travellers. To this end, Mathew will be extensively involved in the training of Legacy Group restaurant chefs.
If the food presented at the media launch is anything to go by, Indian food lovers will be in for a treat during the four nights of the festival. We were greeted with a choice of alcoholic or non-alcoholic mojitos; the non-alcoholic one I sampled was so delicious I couldn’t resist indulging in a second one.
The beautifully decorated room in which we were hosted was conceptualized and decorated by CS Events and the authentic style décor will certainly add flair to each evening of the festival. We were entertained by troupe of dancers from the Ghungroo Dance Academy and the Bollywood style routines are sure to entertain dinner guests at the festival.
Chef Mathew prepared a number of his favourite dishes for us to sample, with a selection to satisfy both carnivorous and vegetarian tastes. The chicken tikka kebabs were melt-in-the-mouth tender, with just enough heat to give your mouth a delicate tingle. The onion pakodas were exceptionally delicious and the machi amritsari were cooked to perfection – the fish was flaky, moist and perfectly seasoned.
For the duration of the festival, guests can indulge in a buffet of dishes, including Dhahi vada, a South Indian delicacy of fried lentil nuggets in mild spiced yogurt; Kerala roast chicken; Jinga Jalfraize, prawns cooked in a creamy tomato gravy; Paneer butter masala, cottage cheese in a tomato butter and, Lachha Paratha, a delicious bread layered and grilled with butter. Lovers of the sweet things will no doubt look forward to the selection of traditional Indian desserts that will be on offer.
I attended the media launch of the Taste of India festival as a guest of South African Tourism and Shed Marketing, but, as always the views and opinions expressed are strictly my own.
My first trip to Paris was 5 years ago, back in 2008. We were on holiday in London for 2.5 weeks and with a cousin living in Paris and a brother who could organize free Eurostar tickets, we hopped over to Paris for the weekend. Literally.
In 3 short days we managed to pack in a world of sight-seeing…
The Louvre and the Mona Lisa? Check.
The Eiffel Tower? Check.
Basilica Sacré-Coeur? Check.
The Catacombs? Check.
Notre Dame? Check.
Arc de Triomphe & the Champs Élysées? Check.
People watching at a pavement café? Check.
The problem was, I was miserable. Emotionally, I was going through a turbulent patch and as a result, I really, really did not enjoy Paris. The food didn’t appeal to me, the people were abrupt and rude and quite frankly, I could do with not ever having to visit Paris again. Rome, Budapest & London rated far more highly on my list of enjoyable European cities.
So, when my partner decided that this was the year to participate in the Paris Marathon and that we’d make a holiday of it, I was, understandably, a little anxious. Would it be any better this time around? Could Paris really be enjoyable? What if the trip brought back old memories and regressed me emotionally? 7 days in Paris…how would I cope?
Thankfully, second time around, Paris was a pure delight. Apparently your emotional state of mind has a lot to do with how you enjoy your travels (like, duh!).
We rented an apartment in Ivry-Sur-Seine and set about exploring parts of the city that we hadn’t seen first time round. We splurged on breakfast pastries from the local boulangerie; we bought salamis and cheeses and crispy French loaves.
On our first day we discovered La Sainte-Chapelle and the Conciergerie. The Hall of the Guards dominates the Conciergerie, an imposing medieval room with striking pillars and arches. There are some quaint recreations of cells where prisoners had their hair shaved before their execution and Marie Antoinette’s private cell with her guards.
However, nothing can prepare you for the sheer beauty of La Sainte-Chapelle. Consisting of a lower chapel and an upper chapel, La Sainte-Chapelle has to be one of the most awe-inspiring buildings in the world. The lower chapel is dominated by Gothic arches with rich blue and gold colours, but it’s the upper chapel that takes your breath away. Fifteen massive stained glass windows, dating back to the 13th century, depict various scenes from the Bible and, religious or not, one cannot help but feel awed by the sheer size and beauty of the chapel.
We spent an afternoon strolling around the Père Lachaise Cemetery, Paris’ largest cemetery and the final resting place of notable icons such as Jim Morrison, Edith Piaf and Oscar Wilde. Having chosen not to buy a map (we have an iPod, an iPad, an iPhone and apps…why would we need a map?) and having declined an elderly gentleman’s offer to guide us around, we got horribly lost, but delighted in discovering family crypts, unique tombstones and amazing memorials. Finally, 2 hours later, we relented and bought a map, allowing us to find the graves of Edith Piaf and Oscar Wilde.
Marathon day allowed us to see new parts of the city and on our final night, I took a stroll through Le Quartier Latin, discovering cobbled walkways, cosy restaurants and an eclectic part of Paris that we never new existed.
Yes, this time round Paris was a pleasant surprise. It does appear to be the fantastic city that everybody thinks it is and for that, Paris, I must apologise. I judged you wrongly first time around. Rest assured, I will be back.
It’s the question that gets me every single time.
“Is it safe to visit South Africa?”
Inevitably, my blood starts to boil as I brace for the next hammer blow, “Because you know, from what I’ve heard it’s very dangerous and they’ve told me not to visit”.
Who are the ominipresent “they”?
Have they ever been to South Africa?
Have they ever travelled through the many parts of our countryside?
Have they taken the time to educate themselves on our nation, or are they just regurgitating snippets that they’ve heard on the news, found on the web or overheard from some disillusioned, white, ex-South African who emigrated because “the country is going to the dogs under that black government”?
[Please, excuse my frankness, but those are often the people trash-talking South Africa]
But, despite the resounding success that was the 2010 World Cup, despite 19 years of freedom for all, despite everything, people are still reticent to visit South Africa because they deem it too dangerous, too risky, too threatening.
In my work with American tour groups, I find that the travellers have inevitably been warned (by well-meaning relatives and neighbors), not to book that package tour to South Africa, yet the groups all thoroughly enjoy South Africa and would “highly recommend it”. In the advent of travel bloggers, more and more bloggers are visiting South Africa and I have yet to hear a bad word spoken against South Africa.
Disappointingly though, despite all the positive experiences we hear about, negative media about South Africa still abounds.
Enough! It’s our job as responsible South Africans to change that.
So, I polled a variety of travel bloggers who have visited South Africa for their Top 2 reasons on Why You Should Must Visit South Africa. There were some common themes that surfaced together with some touching, heart-felt responses. Let’s hear what some of our favourite bloggers had to say….
Diverse & Spectacular Scenery
Not surprisingly, this rated highly on many blogger’s lists. Keith Jenkins of Velvet Escape highlights the “jagged snow-capped peaks of the Drakensberg to expansive savannah and rugged coastlines” as an example of the natural beauty that South Africa has to offer. Africa lover Sandy Salle (Hills of Africa) echoes this sentiment as she celebrates South Africa “for its spectacular wine lands, unspoiled beaches, as well as Cape Town, which compares to a mini San Francisco!”.
Perhaps one of the most enthusiastic votes for this category came from Wandering Earl who notes “From large, vibrant cities to beautiful coastal communities, from mesmerizing wine regions to tiny towns in the middle of nowhere, and everything in between, every region of South Africa feels as if it is an entirely different country in itself.”. Nothing quite beats an African sunset either for amazing colours against wide open skies. Check out Craig Zabranksy’s amazing gallery of South African sunsets, and see for yourself.
The “Big 5” Safari Experience
Many visitors to South Africa come solely for the purpose of visiting the Kruger Park to spot wild animals in their natural habitat. “Seeing all these amazing animals in their natural environment while enjoying the beautiful landscape” was a personal highlight for Earth Xplorer J.D. Andrews and “viewing the “Big 5” (lion, leopard, buffalo, elephant & rhino) in person was a remarkable experience” for Landloper Matt Long. Jen Pollack Bianco and Cailin O’Neil both share this common sentiment, after their visits to South Africa included a safari expedition.
Sandy Salle highly recommends visiting some of our many monkey and elephant sanctuaries, all of which offer guided sightseeing tours, allowing you to get within meters of the animals. Don’t discount our offshore wildlife either, home to whales, dolphins and Great White Sharks, all off which can be spotted along many parts of our coastline.
Delicious Food and Drink
There was no shortage of enthusiastic comments regarding the variety of top class South African cuisine. Some bloggers, like The Travel Tart, raved about particular South African dishes, quipping “There’s nothing like stuffing your face with a half-loaf of bread packed with tasty curry” (known as a Bunny Chow). Cailin O’Neil was particularly smitten with our local game meats, particular “springbok and kudu” and shares our fondness for a “braai” – the Afrikaans word for a barbeque. Cape Town in particular offers a huge diversity in cuisines and, if Indian food is your flavour, head to Durban where you’ll find some of the best curries outside of the subcontinent.
South Africa is well known for its world-class wines, something that Keith Jenkins is particularly passionate about. The Stellenbosch & Franschoek regions in the Western Cape are home to many award-winning wine-farms, so be sure to add this destination to your itinerary. And, if you prefer your tipple a little sweeter, be sure to sample Amarula, a cream-liqueur made from the fruit of the Marula tree. It’s exceptionally delicious, very South African and very, very addictive as Craig Zabransky discovered when he attended the World Cup in South Africa in 2010!
“It will change your life”
At a first glance, I thought The Explorateur’s comment about a visit to South Africa being a life-changing experience was a little bit of a cliché. But, as I received more and more responses along similar lines, I began to realize that she had a point. The Explorateur is well known in South Africa, and she found the “real” South Africa when she chose to break out of the “safety” of her hotel and took a tour through Soweto, a local African township. From meeting a tour guide who was imprisoned during the Apartheid era, to being musically serenaded by school children in tattered clothing, The Explorateur discovered that when you look beyond the surface of South Africa, “you’ll gain a whole new perspective on yourself and what’s important”.
Kirsten Alana recalls shared a similar experience, “I remember standing on Vilakazi Street in Soweto and thinking that if two Nobel Peace Prize winners could come from one such humble street, surely nothing was stopping me from changing the world.”
South Africans have long been recognized as some of the most hospitable people in the world, a fact graciously acknowledged by both Keith and J.D. If volunteering is close to your heart, you’d do well to pay attention to Sandy who notes, ”South Africa’s volunteer opportunities are some of the most humbling and rewarding experiences to be had and allow families, individuals, groups and couples to immerse themselves in the local culture, whilst providing locals with the gift of upliftment”.
Perhaps the last word in this section should go to Matt Long, who, like many bloggers, discovered that South Africa really does get under your skin. He says, “Before I first visited South Africa I was warned that the ‘bug’ would grab hold and not let go. Everyone tells me that I’ll love every location I visit, so I didn’t think a lot about it. This time was different though and by the end of my adventures in South Africa, I had indeed caught that mysterious bug. South Africa enjoys a unique mix of qualities including staggering beauty, a rich culture and people so kind your teeth hurt. These and many more factors coalesce and truly do become more than the sum of their parts. A special magic is created that doesn’t just ensure a great trip, but changes at a molecular level turn any trip into a personally transformational experience. Before you accuse me of extreme bouts of hyperbolic imagery, just wait. Visit South Africa for yourself and then, and only then, can you tell me that I’m wrong.”
Are you ready to book your trip to South Africa now?
Sincere thanks must go to all the travel bloggers who shared their heartfelt thoughts on South Africa. Please, keep spreading the positive news on our amazing country.
Tucked away in a corner of the old Eastern Transvaal is the hamlet of Kaapsche Hoop. Comprising little more than a sandy, rutted main road, lined with period houses and quaint shops, the town has become well known for the large number of wild horses that roam freely in the area.
We knew very little of the town prior to my partner entering the 2012 Kaapsche Hoop marathon. Advertising for the marathon announced the opportunity to “run with the wild horses”, but we had very little knowledge of the area, let alone the famous wild horses.
The day of the marathon dawned cold and misty and as we walked the “high street” towards the dreaded race porta-potties, a group of horses emerged from the mist and drifted towards us. Seemingly tame, a few approached me, sniffed my hands cautiously and allowed me to pat them. For the non-runners (like myself), this was really our only interaction with the horses, but for the runners, a forest detour on the race route was an opportunity to watch in awe as the wild horses galloped alongside them, a “magical experience”, as Davina reports.
The day after the race, we headed back to Kaapsche Hoop to get closer to these wild horses. Theories as to how the horses originate abound. Some suggest that when the area’s gold rush petered out, prospectors simply left their horses behind and moved on. Other theories range from horses left behind after the South African War (or the Boer War to us locals) in the early 1900’s to horses abandoned after the local police station shut down. Whichever story is true, these wild horses are the only herd in South Africa and are fiercely protected by the locals.
The current herd is estimated to number up to 200 horses and have full run of the town. We discovered a table of hungry visitors at a local pancake restaurant having to guard their breakfast from the foraging equines. You normally might lose your meal to a bird, a dog or even a monkey in Africa, but a horse? That’s a different story altogether!
We took a stroll through some of the open fields behind the local houses and discovered a group of about 8 horses, grazing contentedly. Some of them came up to us, clearly looking for some easy treats, so Davina headed off to the car to pick up a bag of apples.
Apparently they’re wild horses for a reason. No sooner had one horse sampled an apple, they were all clamouring around us to get a bite. Suddenly, they were showing signs of aggression, attacking each other to get to the bag and nipping at us (I have a rather nasty blue bruise on my arm from an impatient horse). We narrowly avoided getting kicked as one horse suddenly turned heel on us, so, tossing the last two apples into the field, we dashed back to the car as fast as we could, thankful that no hooves connected with our jaws!
It was only as we popped into a local store to fortify ourselves with a drink that we saw a “Don’t feed the horses” sign *sigh* …we should have known better. Next time you’re on your way to the Kruger Park or Mpumulanga, stop off at Kaapsche Hoop and meet the wild horses, but leave the apples and sugar lumps at home!
Right up front, I’ll admit that I’m not the world’s greatest rugby fan. Despite living in South Africa for nigh on 30 years, my English football roots are still strong. So much so that, on any given weekend, you’ll find me avoiding rugby like the plague and focusing instead on willing Liverpool to win a match, any match.
Now that you know this, you’ll understand my trepidation at the thought of attending the inaugural Jozi Tens rugby festival. A spin-off from the mightily successful Cape Town Tens festival (the biggest Tens rugby festival in the world), the Jozi Tens festival kicked off on Friday 14th September, fittingly with dark, heavy skies reminiscent of a Cape Town winter. Not knowing how 7’s Rugby differs in rules to regular 15-man rugby, the explanation that Tens rugby “is the same as 7’s, but with 10 men”, didn’t help me in the slightest. What I didn’t realise is that the Jozi Tens wasn’t just about the rugby, it’s an entire entertainment experience.
7 players, 10 players, 15 players – it doesn’t seem to matter, there are crunching tackles at every turn and, every so often, the ball will pop out from under a pile of men and be tossed to a nimble-footed giant who dashes down the line to score a try. The entire Jozi Tens tournament is geared around entertainment. Games are a mere 10 minutes per half and provide much more “running rugby” action than a regular game.
On the pitch, the players were out to win, but still managed to keep in the social spirit of the game by donning colourful wigs and massive American flag hats. With team names like “Disco Ninjas”, “Southern Faakers” and the “Zamalek Zulus”, you just know the object of the weekend was fun. However, it was the flatly named “MK Rage” team that ultimately beat the SA Rugby Legends in the final, doing what every other team had failed to do – steal points off some of the grand old dames of South African rugby.
However, it is the action off the pitch that provides the most entertainment at Tens rugby. Think music festivals, beer festivals and a beach party all rolled into one. Sadly, the “beach party” aspect didn’t materialize at Jozi Tens – perhaps it was something to do with the hail and rain on Friday night and the chilly temperatures on Saturday, but there was a distinct lack of bikini babes and shirtless jocks.
The beer hall action kicked off on Friday night with awesome live music provided by Me and Mr Brown, covering rock classics from across the ages. These guys have cemented their reputation at the Cape Town Tens tournament and they had most of the beer hall up on their feet, dancing like nobody was watching.
DJ Sox threw out the dance tunes as the hall filled up with party-goers, many dressed up for the “Tight and Bright” dress-up competition. And tight and bright many of them were. Fluorescent colours abounded, as did tighty whitey shorts, but my vote of the night had to go to the Morph Suit men. Anybody brave enough to wear a fluorescent body suit deserves a prize. Ard Matthews and Gareth Cliff both kept the Friday night party going and there’s no doubt there were going to be some very hungover rugby players on Saturday morning.
The Jozi Tens was a fabulous entertainment experience for the whole family and there is no doubt that, like the Cape Town Tens, it is going to cement its place on the Johannesburg sport and entertainment calendar. For those that can’t wait another year for the action, get yourself down to Cape Town for the 2013 tournament, on Friday 1st and Saturday 2nd February. Blue skies, cold beer and hot bodies are guaranteed!
Many thanks to Getaway Magazine who sponsored our attendance at the 2012 Jozi Tens tournament; however, as always, all opinions and viewpoints are strictly our own.
Way back in 2010, we watched a fabulous movie called “Whip It”, directed by Drew Barrymore. The movie focused on a shy, retiring character called “Bliss” who discovers the sport of roller derby and, to her surprise, finds out she’s quite good at it. We thoroughly enjoyed the movie – girls racing round a track on roller skates, wearing short clothes and touting stage names like “Maggie Mayhem”. The movie was fun, but we didn’t give it a second thought and didn’t even think that roller derby existed outside the USA.
Fast-forward to 2012 and a friend of mine Facebook invited us to South Africa’s second roller derby. What? It turns out that roller derby is alive and well in South Africa, thanks to a visionary lady who not only watched “Whip It”, but who believed there was a market for it in South Africa and made it her mission to start a league here.
And so it was that we found ourselves in Wembly Arena, in Johannesburg’s industrial south inner city on a cold Saturday night, trying to decide whether we’d be rooting for the Raging Whoremones or the Thundering Hellcats in the C-Max Death Row Demolition Derby. Roller derby is a counter-culture unto itself and a big part of the sport revolves around team names, individual names and outfits.
The Raging Whoremones took to the track with bright pink helmets, button-down mini-dresses and, in many cases, leopard print panties. Fish-net stockings appeared to be optional! The Thundering Hellcats were kitted out in bandy yellow socks, equally short skirts and shorts, facial war-paint and kitty-ear-themed breast-plates (well, that’s what they looked like from the stands).
Not personally knowing any of the skaters, we really weren’t rooting for one team over the other, but in the first half (lasting 30 mins), it became pretty clear that the Thundering Hellcats were whipping the Raging Whoremones, so we chose to root for the Whoremonal underdogs! Teams consist of 5 skaters and points are scored when one nominated skater (known as the jammer and identified by the star on her helmet) breaks through the group of cyclists to lap the track ahead of the other team’s jammer.
It sounds pretty straightforward, but when there are 4 members (sometimes, er, substantially sized) of the opposing team trying to block the jammer’s progress, things can get a little messy. Pushing, shoving, elbowing and tripping up all seem to be part of the game – you do what you can to stop the opposing jammer breaking through.
Gasps of “Ooooh”, “Ahhhh” and “Ouch!” rang out from the 1000-odd spectators each time a skater took a fall – and there were some heavy, heavy falls. How there were no broken bones is anybody’s guess. Miraculously, only one skater was escorted off the track with medical assistance but I’m guessing most girls would be sporting some pretty impressive bruises the next day.
At half-time, the Thundering Hellcats had a substantial points lead over the Raging Whoremones, thanks mostly to the offensive, “go get ‘em” approach of their jammers. The second half bought a performance reversal though as we screamed and cheered for the Raging Whoremones, who started skating equally aggressively and stole a narrow victory from right under the Hellcats’ noses.
We’re not sure when the next South African roller derby will be, but I’m pretty sure we’ll be down there to cheer on the teams! Come to think of it, it’s the kind of sport I could see myself doing, but I bruise so easily I’d be terrified of the shape I’d be in afterwards! On reflection, I’ll stick to a supporter’s role – it’s so much safer!
People frequently have incorrect, preconceived ideas about Johannesburg and South Africa. One is that we have lions roaming the streets; another is that if you go into downtown Johannesburg you’re likely not to make it out alive; another is that South Africa is always hot and sunny.
I really don’t wish to burst your bubble, but that last one could not be further from the truth today. Yes, it’s winter (we’re in the Southern Hemisphere remember? Something I continually have to remind my American friends about) and yes, it’s cold – but yesterday it snowed. Snow. Fluffy, white, freezing stuff in Johannesburg!
We’re not just talking about a few flakes here and there, we’re talking about persistent snowfall for a good hour or so – enough to make snow angels, snowmen, throw snowballs with and for our puppies to have the time of their lives in.
All around Johannesburg people were pulling over at the roadsides, whipping out cameras and clicking photographs. Cashiers from supermarkets were outside the shops shrieking with joy; children were let out of class early and in downtown Johannesburg, immigrant Africans were dashing out to cars and having their photos taken next to the snowy windscreens.
We were lucky in our part of Johannesburg, we received more snow than most, but alas, it had melted within the hour, leaving only damp lawns and muddy footprints as evidence. For that hour though, it was wonderful to be able to feel like a kid again – full of wonder and amazement at the beauty of snow and excited about being alive!
Next time you’re travelling to South Africa, don’t just assume that it’s going to be sunny and hot. Check the weather forecast as you might just need to bring your ski gear along!
They came from Russia, the Ukraine and Khayelitsha. Acrobats, drag queens and skipping skeletons. Whether you’re looking for some risqué humour or jaw-dropping acrobatics, Madame Zingara’s has it all.
Started in Cape Town in 2001, Madame Zingara’s was a whimsical restaurant that firmly established itself as a local favourite. Tragically, the restaurant burnt down 5 years later and, in 2007, re-launched as a Madame Zingara’s Theatre of Dreams. Hosted in the very first Spiegel tent to hit African shores, and propped up by 1000 bevelled mirrors, Madame Zingara’s is pulling in hundreds of people each night – 420 to be exact – to eat, drink and be merry.
We joined the excited guests on Friday night, after having had to book two months in advance. My partner Davina had no idea what she was in for and my impression of what the evening would hold swung somewhere between Cirque du Soleil and a dinner cabaret show. We’d heard that dressing up for Madame Zingara’s was de rigeur, so I’d dutifully visited China Mall and topped up on beads, boas and basher hats (sparkly, of course).
Our visual senses were overwhelmed at every turn – flashing hearts, swinging tea-cups, giant lollypops and gilded carriages greeted us as we entered the lobby. Inside the tent, we were shown to our table and offered complimentary vodka, mint and lime cocktails. With a full house booked, thankfully the service worked like clockwork and in a flash our Mediterranean-inspired mezze platter and espresso-cup starter of butternut soup was served to warm us up.
The El Milagro show opened with a compere who welcomed “old faces, new faces and old faces with new faces”, setting the tone for an evening of humour. A pair of acrobats set the tone, swinging from the tent’s centerpiece chandelier with nary a safety harness in sight. In between the Russian gymnasts, the Ukrainian chair balancer and South Africa’s biggest Dream Girls trio, we feasted on butternut ravioli (heart-shaped, natch), a lamb shank that literally melted in my mouth and a trio of granadilla (passion-fruit) pannacotta, chocolate mousse and raspberry sponge.
The glittering MC of the evening came close to stealing the show. Cathy Specific is South Africa’s “First Lady of Flight” and, with her two Trolley Dollies (Molly and Holly) kept the audience in stiches for most of the night. Sadly, there was a table behind us who couldn’t appreciate a “cock in a frock” and Cathy’s tale of reporting a “bumper lashing” at the local police station flew over many people’s heads (“Only the gay audience members got that”, observed Cathy).
The evening ended with a wonderful display by talented local artists. There was the gymnast who had us gasping as she rolled down from the roof of the tent, stopped from falling by only two broad ribbons and the skipping skeletons, three local lads from a Cape Town township who knew their way around skipping ropes like no-one we’d ever seen before. The stage was then cleared for the audience to take to the floor and dance the night away, which we did with much enthusiasm.
If you’re still debating whether or not to treat yourself to a night with the Madame (with ticket prices from R410 – R495 you may be thinking twice about booking) let me give you three words of advice – just do it. But you’d better be quick. At the end of August the Madame packs up her mirror tent and heads back to Cape Town, so phone them now and you might just get to party with the cast in August.