South Africa: Between Cape and Kingdom

Text: Ramona Eichhorn • Photography: Ramona Eichhorn, Uwe Krauss

Braai (equivalent to an American barbecue) is the first word in Afrikaans that many travelers learn simply because they're invited to them so often. Having a braai involves grilling something over a fire, from huge succulent steaks to whole fresh fish. And it always tastes very lekker. In South Africa there is an abundance of lekker beaches, lekker mountains, and lekker girls. All beautiful things are lekker here.

Our crossing of the Orange River, the natural boundary between South Africa and Namibia, marks the beginning of the last leg of our journey across Africa. It will take us through South Africa, a country in stark contrast to the rest of the continent. As in Europe, there is an excellent road network - BMWs and Mercedes are produced here - and sometimes there is even real traffic in the cities.

Just when the ribbon of tar toward Cape Town (almost soothing our sore bums after all the corrugated tracks in Namibia) starts to become tiresome to the eye, the craggy Cedar Mountains rise majestically in the east. The sight of the peaks, over 2,000 meters high, and the bizarre sandstone formations quickly persuades us to make a little detour. A gravel road sneaks up a narrow valley watered by a crystal clear river. The colored rock plateau and its greenery reminds us of Scotland and, when sitting around a campfire at dusk, we're only missing the smoky dram or two of single-malt Scotch that would have made this highland ambience perfect.

We pass euphonious places like Wuppertal, a former mission, and Citrusdal, known for its excellent oranges. Coming upon the town of Prinz Alfred Hamlet, we dive into "civilization" again, with a full day of off-road rollercoaster behind us.

Paarl is the gate to the fruit and wine-growing paradise of the Western Cape province. Green mountains chains tower above the apple, peach, and apricot orchards. Table Mountain, the principal landmark of Cape Town, greets us from far away. The clouds that usually congregate above it are called "the tablecloth" by Capetonians.

The grand views from its flat top literally take our breath away. To the north, there is the city center framed by Lion's Head, Table Mountain, Devil's Peak and a dark blue bay. The Atlantic Ocean and Robben Island, where former President Nelson Mandela eked out a prisoner's existence for 27 years, open to the west. The mountains of the Cape Peninsula stretch south to the Cape of Good Hope.

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