Our readers share tales of their rambles around the world.
Who: Paula (the author) and Mick Matuskey of Ellicott City, Md.
Where, when, why: South Africa (and Zimbabwe), Feb. 11 to March 6. We have wanted to visit South Africa for many years.
Highlights and high points: Table Mountain and the view over Cape Town was fantastic. The cable car holds 60 people at once and has a revolving floor so that you can get a 360-degree view.
The garden route from Port Elizabeth to Cape Town and the absolutely gorgeous ocean views.
Robben Island, where Nelson Mandela was imprisoned, and the attendant history, especially the pile of stones there that he began when revisiting the island after he became president of South Africa.
The Motor Museum in Franschhoek, in the wine region, and the beautifully done exhibits of classic vehicles, arranged in four large barnlike facilities.
Victoria Falls. We took the Rovos Rail train excursion from Pretoria to the falls. We had a magnificent train ride in first class, with exceptional food and service and stunning views. Then the falls. What can I say? Breathtaking.
The Cape Peninsula and Cape of Good Hope.
Sunsets over the ocean in Camps Bay, near Cape Town.
Cultural connection or disconnect: We met amazing, extremely friendly travelers, most of whom were from the United Kingdom or Scandinavia. We were overwhelmed by the friendly service we found in the hotels and restaurants, and the tour guides (for day tours and safari, etc.) were informative and helpful.
Biggest laugh or cry: When we arrived in Victoria Falls, a driver took us to our hotel, called Elephant Hills. We ate dinner that evening in the hotel restaurant. As my husband was getting his meal from the buffet line, an African singing and drumming group came in and began to perform. When they started singing “The Lion Sleeps Tonight,” I guess I started mouthing the words. Next thing I knew, someone came up to me and told me the group wanted me to sing with them. So I proceeded to sing and dance to the tune. Meanwhile, my husband had no idea that this was happening, so the look on his face when he glanced over to the group and saw me with them was absolutely priceless. I think he wanted to deny that he knew me!
How unexpected: There was more modernity than I expected, such as extremely modern infrastructure (roads, etc.) in many places, although there is still poverty there. Also, the rate of exchange, coupled with the reasonable prices, meant that meals (and wine) were a fraction of what they are here in the United States. The quality of the beef was outstanding — and we’ve tasted beef from Argentina, Brazil, Chicago, etc. This was the best! We met only a small handful of American tourists, probably because the flight over is so long.
Fondest memento or memory: This country is a gem that Americans are really missing out on. It’s amazing to us how it was transformed by Mandela’s leadership. We felt welcome and found the people to be willing to go out of their way to help us. It was an unforgettable experience.
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