South Africa: Unending allure of the rainbow nation

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By Adekunle Adekoya

SAWUBONA!” I tried my limited knowledge of Zulu language on the driver of the tour bus that met us at Oliver Tambo International Airport in Johannesburg, South Africa, Thursday 30 August.“Nikoona,” he enthused in reply. I was not done yet.

“Kunjaani!” I followed up. The fellow, a pleasant guy with an ever-ready smile thought he had met a Nigerian Zulu speaker, and replied further in a torrent of words in which I simply drowned.

“That’s all I know in Zulu,” I said, quickly reverting to English, laughing. In between handling our luggage he then asked how the flight was, and hoped we would enjoy our stay in South Africa.

Earlier, after clearing passport control, I had quickly purchased a Vodacom line, activated it, and called Lagos to let family know that I arrived safely.

In a jiffy, we were all in the bus, the warmth of which simulated our own warm clime back home here, as the driver made his way to the hotel reserved for us. Along the way, the tour guide, a fair-complexioned, middle-aged fellow whom we would describe a half-caste here, but “coloured” in apartheid South Africa started pointing out landmarks of the city of gold as we drove.

South African female cultural dancers

Shortly we arrived the hotel, simply called 54 on Bath. It was tenement number 54 on Bath Street, not far from Sandton City. Checking in, the sheer opulence of the hotel was arresting. Our rooms were on the ninth floor, but mine was a corner room with an arresting view of the city from two picture windows. From one of the windows I noticed a flat roof, and looking harder, saw it was parking space. For a mall?

I guessed right, for after freshening up I decided to do some exploration of my immediate surroundings. I discovered that from the fifth floor a skywalk linked the hotel to the mall next door. I walked through, and in minutes I found myself in a cavernous mall where shops displayed eye-catching wares.

Not long after, it was time to move; we had to go to Pretoria to meet our Minister of Tourism, High Chief Edem Duke, who was in South Africa on the invitation of his South African counterpart, Mr. Marthinus Van Schalkwyk  as a special guest for the launch of the South African Tourism Month.

Along the road to Pretoria could be seen massive exhausts of one of the nuclear power plants in the country. Arriving the Pretoria Sheraton, we met High Chief Duke, his permanent secretary, Mrs Ibukun Odusote, and our High Commissioner to South Africa, Ambassador Sonni Samuel Yusuf. Too soon, we had to go back to Johannesburg, for the following day, Friday, we were to continue our visit to the rainbow country in Cape Town.

The two-hour flight to Cape Town was bumpy; the weather not too friendly but we landed safely, after which we were met by another tour guide, Terence, who took us to the hotel reserved for us. If 54 on Bath was opulent, the One&Only was more; it is said to be the only six-star hotel in South Africa. Opposite the hotel is the Graduate School of Business of the University of Cape Town.

The One& Only is by the waterfront; boats were available for a cruise if one desired it. From the balcony of my room the ability of man to dominate his environment and create aesthetics was evident; all things were simply bright and beautiful, with the picturesque, iconic Table Mountain looming in the skyline.

Night life in Cape Town is attractive, despite the cold (-3 degrees), people, mostly youths were up and about seeking fun in many of the city’s discotheques and clubs. But for the inclement weather, a planned helicopter ride had to shelved, as well as a trip to a winery.

That was made up for the following day, Saturday, with a boat cruise which began at the piers by the One&Only aboard a luxury yacht named the Sherilyn. I even had a chance to sail the boat for 15 minutes; the skipper, a fellow called Shawn showed me how to engage gear and manipulate the rudder.

Very soon I was feeling as if I had sailed boats all my life, and while holding the wheel, I remembered Treasure Island, by Robert Louis Stevenson, and his famous character, Long John Silver.

Fifteen men on the dead man’s chest, Yo-ho-ho!, and a bottle of rum!!! As soon as I sang the others joined, and from there, a discussion of Nigerian education began, with Chico of Classic FM reciting lines from Shakespeare — Macbeth, Julius Ceasar, Hamlet, Prince of Denmark, etc. If our youths don’t read good literature anymore, how can they write well?

Night falls very quickly in South Africa; by 5pm, it begins to darken. After traipsing around one of the waterfront malls with Charles Okoh of Businessday, we retired to the One&Only, and opted for dinner out. This time, we went to a Nigerian restaurant on Loop Street, which had eba, egusi, semovita, white rice, and meat pepper soup on the menu. It was a welcome change from the three, four-course meals served by the big hotels.

The following morning was time to begin the journey home from Cape Town. After the usual two-hour flight back to Johannesburg, we boarded the flight back home which took off at 2pm, arriving a little after 7pm. Home, sweet home! But in my bones, I feel the beckonings of the rainbow country again. from which we have so much to learn, with which we share so much in common. Sawubona, e ku u le o!

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