THE SOUTH AFRICAN ESCAPE
“The world is a book, and those who do not travel read only one page.”
This line by Saint Augustine truly sums up everything I feel about travel. I love myself when I travel. It’s not just the road you see, it’s the feel. Watching how people live across states, countries and continents and learning to be happy in their own cocoon of facilities (which might not even qualify as a facility for you!) is, believe you me, something else in itself. In many ways, travel changes you. I would not have vouched for this fact some years ago, but now, I must say, it does. In its own beautiful way, travel changes your distorted perception of the world. And once you have that in place, the way you look at people, at relationships, at success and at failure, changes. It changes for the good.
Darn! That’s how passionate I am about travel; forgot to introduce myself. Well, hello, I am Jaikishen Kaurani- an MBA by qualification, a bond trader by choice and an explorer by serendipity.
This December, having finally married the woman I dated for over five years, we were very sure that we didn’t want a cliché honeymoon. Yes, it was supposed to be romantic, but not so romantic that we’d be bored of each other towards the end of it! After a lot of thought, why-did-I-even-marry-you discussion nights, you-just-don’t-get-it debates and ok-fine(s), we decided to explore the land of South Africa. Second to my marriage, it was one of my (as she just reminded me, ‘our’) best decisions ever!
So let me tell you a little something about this trip.
A perfect blend of nature, adventure, romance and scenic beauty, the land of South Africa is in itself a world on its own. The moments in which I was not falling for the missus a little more, I was falling for the country.
Having started on a shaky note and with our fears intact about the journey itself, we soon discovered how easy it was to talk to people without judging them. All our thoughts of spending long dreadful hours in the flights were put to rest by a very friendly neighbor. The man we didn’t know until yesterday, was soon passionately discussing cricket with us. What’s more? He turned out to be a blessing in disguise! He not only suggested some places that we’d have regretted had we not visited them, but also gave us suggestions on places to visit, local shopping arcades, restaurants to eat, general precautions to take, traffic rules and even the cuss words that locals use!
With renewed enthusiasm, we were all ready and rearing to go by the time we landed.
One of the nicest things about exploring South Africa is the availability of self-drive. It’s like the frosty icing on the gooey chocolate cake, we all love! It is relatively easy & economical to drive in South Africa. Having started from Knysna, we covered Garden Route and ended the drive in Capetown. Driving in South Africa is as special as flying- each one leaves you awe struck, each one has special memories and with each one, you know that it will never be the same again. While the breath-taking views stole half of our hearts, we willing gave away the remaining halves to the beautiful people we met on the way. Meeting these people and losing ourselves to their friendliness and warmth, we finally realized why South Africa is often referred to as the ‘Rainbow Nation’- it is only because the true colors of the country are its humble and friendly residents.
The land in its own way charms you a lot beyond its natural beauty. During our stay of ten days in South Africa we covered the beautiful coastal towns of Knysna and Gasnbaai (white shark capital of the world), we saw the famous Big-5 on a private game reserve, enjoyed Capetown with a perpetual look on our faces that said, “We are literally here right now; isn’t that wow?!” and explored the culinary best that the country had to offer. Honestly, Capetown has so much to offer that I possibly cannot mention all of it here. Over a coffee maybe?
Knysna is situated in the heart of the Garden Route & is the perfect town to stay while exploring the surrounding areas. We drove from George Airport to Knysna & chose Guadeloupe Self Catering Apartments for our stay. The place is owned by Albin & Jenny Kilzer who also run a cookery school downstairs. Their apartments are well furnished, immaculate, equipped with all the appliances & kitchenware courtesy our gourmet host.
A wise man once said that, we all give off certain energies and that this world rotates on the axis of attraction. From the moment we started interacting with Jenny on emails for room reservations; we knew we’d found a reliable friend. She was so helpful that she even asked her friend who was a Hotel Grading Inspector for suggestions on places to stay as per our itinerary. We had already shared many notes over our string of emails in order to improve our trip. The stay was just a welcome extension. In her, we found our first pen pal and we couldn’t have been more grateful. She is undeniably for keeps!
The moment we entered our apartment we were greeted with a bottle of wine along with a special message written from Jenny & her family welcoming us on our honeymoon. By the time we unpacked and met her it was dinner time & we were famished. Without giving any second thoughts she helped us with a lot of groceries from her kitchen so that we could enjoy a hearty meal and also gave us freshly baked lemon tart. Well, who really does that? Throughout our stay, as the layers of unexpected hospitality peeled off, we got to know the beautiful family they were underneath with big beautiful and welcoming hearts. Their endearing gestures didn’t end even after our surprise had!
We visited their food stall at the Friday market & it was such an amazing experience seeing people from the neighborhood bonding over food, music and craft. We spoke about Indian tradition and culture and got to know about theirs. The discussions often went on until late in the night. With the moon and the warmth of their hearts giving us company, believe you us, we weren’t complaining! A travel enthusiast once said, “There is a veil of anonymity that makes you feel safer than when you are at home and wearing your heart on your sleeve”. After meeting Jenny and the people who made up her world (and now ours too), we finally discovered the truth in this statement.
Don’t I already sound different from what I did at the start of this article? This is exactly what travel does to you. When you travel, you are uninhibited. In the sack. Having coffee. Rolling anything you want in a cobbled street. Making love at times you never thought you could. Talking about happiness, struggles and fears to exotic special someone(s) you meet on the way, those you know you’ll never see again. Be yourself, be whatever. Yes, this is what travel feels like.
With tearful send-offs and promises to keep in touch, we bade our bye-byes to the land that had given us so much. For those of you who have traveled, you know what we mean. For those of you who haven’t, do it. And do it soon. Let it change you. Let it consume you. Let it be the only thing that does not let you sleep at night. Travel and the memories you build on the way, have a sparkle; and though every sparkle eventually fades, there’s no reason not to bathe in the glow when this one is lit.
After all, in the words of Nelson Mandela, “There is nothing like returning to a place that remains unchanged to see the ways that you yourself have changed."
Disclaimer: This article was written by me for a friend who wanted to pen down his experiences of his travel to South Africa. With some changes, it was published on Tripoto's blog. You can have a look at it here.