Given that Cinemaholism is primarily a hotbed of film coverage, well, a fledgling one albeit half-assed, logic and proven pattern dictate there are few better ways to usher in change than with some variety. I know it’s been dormant on that front sinc we last spoke, and here we are now. I’ve been to Africa. I’ve done Africa. Not only that. I’m about to show you the T-shirt, too, son. And so it was that the first of many aborted attempts at some diversions, material wise, mainly in the form of podcast and sports coverage, has become… the first travelog entry! Dum, Dum, Dum. But wait, it gets better because there’s more! We also got Dubai in a separate post to decide whether all the hype is real or overblown. But first things first, I’ll get the first leg of my trip out of the way, first.
So, why Africa? For most compatriots, the only Africa they know, or care to know, is African only in tectonics. Morocco can never be considered African except in some technicality like World Cup preliminaries or inside some totalitarian oddity’s mind, like Gaddafi. They go for the whores, who range from average to stunningly beautiful but are all subservient and docile. Not my type of gig today; I took the wife with me, you see. My Africa was different although it also was simple meteorology, son. Straight meteorology. I didn’t realize getting married in the winter was a hassle until I learned there weren’t many reasonable destinations without some jet lag or bank breaking involved. I thought only suckers got married in the summer when the entire Northern Hemisphere is on holiday. Imagine the crowd. Getting your pockets picked as wifey gets a pinch on the ass on the subway will have you wondering for days which was the insult to the injury. But when I dusted off the globe for a couple of spins to poke a random choice on (I didn’t) I noticed South Africa started showing up more and more in niche directories.
I figured, ‘off the beaten path’ for both destination and accommodation isn’t a bad… theme? Wine and game lodges, to name a couple, while not my thing are indicators of core competency if the businesses in question play to their respective strengths. A ski resort in Mexico doesn’t quite work if snow is a rare occurrence even if the slopes naturally exist. So if you’re looking for a semi-authentic Mexican experience I highly recommend a border crossing simulation lodge since it’s more feasible as a business plan for that destination to deliver on. More to the point, and back to the point rather, I don’t remember seeing a hotel chain I recognized while there. It felt like a burgeoning tourism market, friendly to grassroots airbnb, mom-and-pop spots and boutique hotels all the same. As if existing in its own bubble. I’m sure it’s not entirely how I described but if it’s certain to keep my brand-conscious, safe-choice-only compatriots away I’m primed for a return but, shit, let’s talk about the trip I had first before I think about the next one!
South Africa gets a lot of bad rep in collective psyche what with a loaded history and its diamond riches. If countries were people they’d be the Michael Oher among budding athletes on the cusp of a scholarship I suppose. Or the black kid who just got a white step dad and moved up out of the hood. Or worse, the African country that lucked out and sold out. Don’t buy this nonsense. It’s a beautiful country with eleven officially recognized languages. Western diversity doesn’t hold a candle to South Africa’s version because what’s worse than a stranger of a different color or creed is one whose English proficiency isn’t up to par in a fight or flight situation. Like a mugging. It takes a lot to warm up to those you don’t fully understand. That’s more difficult to tolerate I think. But I don’t want to be on some Michael Jackson heal the world sentimental shit. I want to pull a CIA Fact Sheet. The South African version. Of its issues, some are true (HIV, robberies, shanties, shark attacks) and some ain’t (rampant HIV, robberies, shanties and shark attacks). Hell, even their own charm and glam ambassador to the world, Charlize Theron herself, isn’t skeleton-free when you learn her mother went Aileen Wuornos on her father before she was somebody. Facts, kid.
So it’s not perfect. But from what I’ve heard you’d have to be in Johannesburg for muggings to be a daily occurrence. AIDS and shanty towns on the other hand aren’t as localized but to the country’s credit I only saw one HIV awareness flyer during entire trip, and it was hilarious to boot, and the township I saw most had a nice view, District 9 be damned. Sure, I was cooped up with wifey in a secluded resort the whole time but it wasn’t as if there was an AIDS hotline ad every third mile. I admit, none of these stereotypes posed a concern when we picked South Africa as our first destination together because they’re usually played up and exaggerated, but they started to the more I divulged my travel plans to others. Usually it’s dismissive. “What’s in Africa?” is usually the question. Well, South Africa, for one. And you thought Americans were bad at geography? Tell them gringos you have some oil that you ain’t going to sell and they’ll Magellan that ass in a week, act permitting. I mean, what was I supposed to think of, packing a can of Mace and a nail file? No, not knowing the resort layout beforehand I was more scared of a lion making its way on the patio while I’m doing the freaky deaky, giving ME the doggy style safari mauling but it turns out they don’t like humans as preys and forests aren’t their first-choice habitat. Ever seen a postcard of a pride of lions against the crush of waves? Ever heard of a breed known as the coastal lion? Me neither. Oh, and sharks hate cold water and they frequent the Western Cape coastline more, so there’s your National Geographic minute.
My lack of research spilled into more time slots for the other days we had booked. I mean, it was a honeymoon, who goes for a full slate activities on a getaway? Maybe you, you sorry fuck, not me! And even if it weren’t a shack and shag vacation, it’s still more a preference between a rigid and an easygoing schedule than a strict rule to go by. Yeah… So I didn’t have much lined up outside of the spa and a pack of Durexes reserved for ovulation days, and the only touring and sightseeing we did was a spontaneous undertaking. Shout out to the Inkwenkwezi Game Preserve and the Olivewood Golf Course. If you’re holding out for another name drop hoping I’d tell you where I stayed, read on. Not happening! Sorry, that last line was my inner Trump tweet.
At first, I didn’t think it would affect us in any way but with my failure to budget for—and refusal to seriously consider the idea of—renting a car seeped the symptoms of cabin fever, but severe they luckily were not. Yet, haphazardous me, I did leave lunch out of the meal deal just in case we’d get bored and want to venture out, which with transportation and time constraints quickly turned into full board the next morning. And the food was fucking incredible with barely a hiccup along the multiple course meal. At first I’d panicked over the portion sizes from some of the marketing pics they had up on their site but damn was it not as equally appealing to taste buds as the eyes. Its arrangement was simple, whereby the entire menu is already planned leaving you with only two choices of the main dish to consider. The soups, desserts and starters are fixed for every table I’m guessing. Its advantages slowly appeared in it being better than getting crippled with so many options for a change, and it had an edge, especially for some of the longer term guests such as ourselves, in getting to reserve an element of surprise and some anticipation before every meal. Really, the way food should be had. Just like mom used to do while we were too young to discern the nuances of each iteration of chicken, beef and fish dish. Ya bish! Sorry, I’ll snuff the inner tweets out real this time.
East London, which the regional airport we flew in through is named after, turned out to be an industrial borough of the larger Buffalo City. A ghetto storage district holding warehouses with scenic driveways jutting out of the main road to line the coastal cliffs. Just like the shanty I mentioned, you can’t knock a place for long when the surrounding natural beauty is obvious and abundant. Outside of the municipality itself, which resembled San Francisco except not as steeply inclined, the terrain was somewhat rough for an urbanized area, with clusters of neighborhoods nestled in valleys breaking an expanse of forested hills. Is this what they meant by wild? Tamed of its fauna but not its still hostile nature? Speaking of which, the weather though stable throughout our stay, was overcast but for a few days. I’m not sure what wild denotes in a place with generic, seemingly literal naming conventions. I mean if that is what the locals have always called it, why not use the original name and retain the mystique therein? No less, we kept getting motion sick during the drive to and from the city which I have to chalk up to narrow, winding highways. Wild indeed. Infrastructure wise it felt the area was never designed to accommodate much traffic and is content to remain that way. Conversations with locals and residents echoed that sentiment as well. Runaways from some other place hoping to keep a well kept secret guarded as to not exceed its optimal capacity of people. Everywhere we went felt under developed because it was also bite size. Some method to its brand of madness, you could argue. Even the airport area surrounding Johannesburg, where we stayed coming in and out of the country, didn’t have interstate-wide roads. That extends to its cuisine. Except for Nando’s which I’d thought was Portuguese (they never catch a break, the peasant Spaniards?) the only few times we ended up outside our the resort there wasn’t an accessible dining option outside of a few local chains, mostly mall and airport food courts, mostly unrecognizable fare. Again, due to some wacky grasp of English, you end up with names I’ll outline below.
Most speak with an accent unless they’re white English, which is what I thought the friendly passenger next to me on the flight in was. But even then that kind of English is still an accent, and you call it a symptom of hegemony but look elsewhere on this site; I don’t cover much Hollywood. Off the hook on this one! But it was mostly boredom and the live Premier League game on the in-flight entertainment system that broke the ice. Wifey was knocked out from sleeping pills when it should have been me, recovering from some mild flu-like setback, getting the shut eye. Whatever though, real men don’t sleep. They keep an eye out while their rest is asleep. But the entire flight I kept asking where all the black people were so it was nice to see a sea of change once we touched down. It’s unique. The workers are all black but most of the shoppers are white. Even where we stayed, and we stayed the longest, the guests could have been from Europe for all I know. As for those that spoke English better, I’m not an Anglophile, so I can’t differentiate English from Australian from a South African. All’s I know is what I type here and that everyone else’s English is second to the Yankees’ lest bombs fly over my head for saying the wrong thing. Trump’s America, son. Really though, it’s a unique linguistic potpourri where English is a second language to many yet legally on equal pegging with ten other languages, but like in Saudi, knowing it improves your employability.
While I’m at it, here are some handy South African ratings and facts more exciting than Population Size with AIDS or Declared Volume of Diamond Reserves. Number of dynamic minutes (i.e., while in motion, as not including lost time standing in customs lines or baggage claim) before seeing a drop-roll-and-hide-your-hard-on rotund, perfectly contoured ass in a jumpsuit whose owner was graceful enough to walk a few feet ahead? Literally, I kid you not, two minutes, and it was only the time it took to push my cart toward the exits when it magically showed up. Amount of time before learning a cool hand shake? Twelve hours, and unlike some suburban rube feigning an interest in the hood or avoiding repeated silences in the company of joyous blacks, I didn’t have to solicit one. Number of women who “showed” interest maybe due to exuding nonchalance now that I’m hitched or wifey being in close proximity? Two, I believe, but it was more likely than not the safety of relief that this creep is not gonna do something stupid and throw the mack on her in front of his lady.
Sometimes rowdy, sometimes pouty.