Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Overland Across Africa -South Africa and Lesotho

So lately I've been fielding a lot of questions about my Africa trip. After finishing Peace Corps Madagascar I flew into Johannesburg, South Africa and ended up flying out of Entebbe, Uganda. In the next couple of posts I'll update you guys on exactly how I did that and what I'd recommend for those of you who want to do the same sort of trip.

South Africa

For Joburg-I completely avoided Joburg and got on the Gautrain (pronounced how-train) to Hatfield which is an area in Pretoria that is safer than most. I stayed at the Khayalethu Guest House (0824404325) which is a couple easy blocks from the Gautrain stop. Its sort of a Peace Corps haven, if you mention that you are a PCV its 100ZAR/night instead of 300-400. It also comes with this AMAZING breakfast with bacon and everything.

Depending on where you are going, I may be able to give you contacts along the way but I'm not going to post them on here. If you go to Cape Town, there are many hostel options (known there as "backpackers"). Cape Town Backpackers (+27-214260200) is just off the main road and quieter but still bustling and has a great staff. If you want it to be right on the main drag, Long Street Backpackers is another decent place to stay. All of Cape Town is in the shadow of Table Mountain and Lion's Head. They are both decent hikes and for those who don't like hiking, Table Mountain has a cable way up to the top. If you are going to hike, I highly recommend going up Lion's Head on a full moon and taking up a 6-pack of beers. It does get cold though so dress appropriately. South Africa in general is chilly compared to Madagascar and I was wearing layers a lot of the time, even though it was December. If you have a few days in Cape Town, I also suggest walking down to the waterfront as they have a little microbrewery on the water and some gorgeous boats. On the way to the waterfront there is a neighborhood known as Bo-Kaap which has very brightly painted houses. Its beautiful and should be seen, but don't take valuables when you go to these neighborhoods, go during the day, and don't go alone.

Also around Cape Town is the Cape (duh) and there are lots of tours that will take you there. Renting a car is easy and cheap so if you want to make a day of it with your friends it is probably worth getting a car for a couple days of it. I would do a wine tour out in Stellenbosch or Franchoek, maybe head across to where you can ride an ostrich in a race, go down to the cape, see the penguins in Simon's Town, and park at the base of the mountains for one of the hikes. Its as cheap as like $20/day for a small car and through companies such as Budget or Avis.


From there I went to Lesotho. It is a lovely mountainous terrain and if you are a hiker then you might want to go to the Drakensburg. I wasn't equipped for that kind of hiking, nor was I very motivated. Lesotho is famous for its hiking and pony treks. I went through Maseru and stayed at a hostel that I wouldn't recommend. I then went with a few friends to Malealea for the pony trekking. The van taxi system was pretty simple and we arrived in Malealea in the morning. Ponies in Lesotho are depressing and severely underfed so they won't let very heavy people ride them. However, they are one of the few ways to access certain parts of the countryside and commonly used by wealthier Basotho (people who identify as being from Lesotho and its descendants).

There are a couple of bus lines that will take you from major city to major city across Southern Africa. In South Africa I went on Translux which was one of the cheaper ones. It was decent. Intercape has much nicer buses but they force religious materials down your throat until you can barely breathe. They prayed before we left and then turned on one Christian movie that they then repeated for the next 10 hours. Fair warning: if you travel with them, you need to bring headphones. Intercape will actually go the right direction if you are heading into Lesotho. For any of the buses, go to the station or book online a few days in advance. The day before you will be lucky to get a seat, especially if you are traveling with friends. Hopper flights from Joburg to other areas are cheap (maybe about double the cost of a bus but can save you a day or more in travel) and a decent option for most places so I would look into them. Otherwise I usually went in coach buses, if you really want to be American you can go by Greyhound (they have everything in South Africa!!).

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