My understanding of this country prior to my visit came from two places 1) my vague recollection of anti-apartheid protests in the 90’s and 2) Nelson Mandela. I’ll be honest, I didn’t really focus on either very much in my USA bubble that I grew up, and still live in.
This is a country with a long history, which has some very sad moments, but she doesn’t hide from it. Frankly, if I were to sum up South Africa in one word, it would be OPEN. Open about its mistakes. Open about its successes. Open about its poverty. Open about its wealth. Open about its leaders. Open about its diversity. Open about its religions. Supplemented by wide open vistas.
We first visited Johannesburg, which is not a tourist’s dream. We took a hop-on hop-off bus ride which gave a nice introduction to the city, and how it became a gold mining town. We visited the local brewery for some sorghum beer, and a tour, and then headed back to the hotel to work on our jet lag. We then left South Africa and headed to Victoria Falls to continue our adventure.
Our tour ended, however, in Cape Town (really the jewel of South Africa). Surrounded by mountain peaks and stunning coast, this is a truly beautiful city. Combine that with a wine region which is only 20 minutes away, great food, nice people, and you get a very pleasant place to visit.
One of the first places on our tour was the Bo-Kaap neighborhood, South Africa’s take on #neighborlylife. This tight knit community, mostly muslim, is recognizable by its quaint colorful and unique homes. While the muslim faith has a strong foothold here, there is a diversity of religions practiced in Bo-Kaap and beyond. In our visit to Bo-Kaap, we learned how the many religions of South Africa coexist with one another and a key to that is learning about their similarities and differences in school. We visited the local spice market and were taught how the spices cure certain ailments. One neighbor, Shamila, opened her home to us, made us lunch and taught us how to make samosa’s. Yummy!
Next was our journey to the Cape Winelands. Wide open fields of grapes, with quaint little villages in “Cape Dutch” architecture. My experience with South African wines was quite limited, and focused exclusively on Sauvignon Blanc. The diverse wine, however, was on par with the finest we’ve had in the US, France or Italy. Why is it such a secret to the rest of the world? Well, the sanctions during the apartheid years did little to help the marketing of this national treasure. But the good news is the sanctions are gone, and the bottles are now open, so drink up! Lunch that day was at Richard Branson’s estate, Mont Rochelle, highlighted by a rainbow over the valley. Just spectacular (food and view).
Our final day on the official tour took us to the Cape peninsula to see the southern most point, penguins frolicking on the beach, and ostriches roaming free on the hillsides. This would be our final interaction with nature, and she didn’t disappoint. The diversity of life in Africa is awe inspiring.
The last day in Cape Town, our flight left at 11pm, so we spent the day on another hop-on hop-off bus which took us to the botanical gardens and back to the wine land’s oldest estate. We had dinner that night at a trendy open food market, right next to miniature statues of 4 of South Africa’s Nobel Peace Prize winners (Albert Luthuli, Desmond Tutu, FW de Kerk, and Nelson Mandela). Their height is that of a child’s. Why so small? Maybe this is to remind us of the impact that one small person can have on the world.
Thank you South Africa for opening your doors to us. You’ve opened my eyes, and I’ll be back someday to learn from you again.
Bo-Kaap Chicken Curry
This is my attempt to recreate the curry that Shamila served us.
- 2 Tbsp canola oil
- 1/2 onion, chopped
- 2 lbs chicken, chopped into bite sized pieces
- 1 Tbsp garlic, minced
- 1 Tbsp ginger, grated
- 2 Tbsp tomato paste
- 1 Tbsp hot curry powder
- 1 Tbsp tumeric
- 1 1/2 tsp salt
- 1 tsp pepper
- 1 tsp garam masala
- 4 small potatoes, diced into 1 inch pieces
- 2 carrots, diced into 1 inch pieces
- 1 1/2 c green beans, cut into 1 inch pieces
- 2 c water
- 2 Tbsp corn starch
- Juice of 1 lime
- Cilantro for garnish
- Jasmine/Basmati Rice for serving
In a large pot, add the oil and bring to high heat. Add the onions, and cook until the onions are very brown. Then add the chicken, garlic, ginger, tomato paste, curry powder, turmeric, salt, pepper and garam masala and stir to combine. Allow the chicken to brown and cook for about 3-4 minutes. Add the potatoes, carrots, green beans, and water, bring to a boil, then lower to a simmer and cover for 15-20 minutes. Remove 4 Tbsp of the hot liquid from the pot and mix in the corn starch in a small bowl. To finish the sauce, add the corn starch mixture back to the pot with the lime juice and bring the sauce back to a boil to thicken (2 minutes). Remove from the heat and serve with rice, and garnish with cilantro.