Ed’s letter: ‘Be sure to wear some vygies in your hair’

Posted by Justin Fox on 18 June 2018

This month, it’s Independence Day in the USA (4 July), a time of fireworks, parades, barbecues and baseball games. Despite the reactionary domestic politics and wayward foreign policy of the sentient tangerine in the White House, there is much to celebrate about this great land. Especially its national parks, cultured cities and ‘can do’ attitudes.

In addition, we’ve recently seen happy images beamed from Windsor of a Hollywood princess becoming a real princess. Whatever one’s feelings about royalty, it’s great for PR, great for tourism and for mending rifts between nations. And the transatlantic ‘special relationship’ needs all the help it can get, given Trump’s two left feet.

America is a wonderful place to travel. For South Africans, it feels comfortable and familiar being in an English-speaking country with wide-open spaces, sublime national parks and a great highway system (see the famed Monument Valley route on page 14). Given the hegemony of their entertainment industry, we’re also familiar with those landscapes and cityscapes from countless movies and television series.

I’ve had some of my most memorable travels in the States. As a student, I backpacked around the country, starting on the east coast and ending in the west. For a few years thereafter, I returned every summer to California and drove Route 1 from Mexico to Canada along those fine coastal highways, surfing epic point breaks, then trailing back through Idaho, Nevada and spectacular parks such as Yosemite and Sequoia. Like Mzansi and Australia, America does the ‘great open road’ very well.

In recent years, I’ve spent periods in San Francisco, my favourite American city. I stay on Russian Hill and explore North Beach, Fisherman’s Wharf and a Chinatown that looks as though it’s been plucked straight from the pages of Tintin’s The Blue Lotus. Day trips take me across Golden Gate Bridge into Marin County to dramatic Point Reyes and the redwood forests beyond.

The coastline looks, feels and even smells like the Cape. Mountains tip into the ocean, waves detonate on black rocks and the Californian veld is loud with bees and bugs. Some days are dedicated to spotting buildings. From an architectural perspective, this must be the most beautiful North American city. There are row upon row of Victorian houses, faithfully restored and painted in glorious colours, hence their name ‘the painted ladies’.

When in San Fran, I listen to 1960s Californian folk and rock, and read works by the Beat poets to get me ‘in the mood’. Predecessors of the hippies, the Beats’ writing has fascinated me since university days. The group was based in San Francisco and its poetry is open, loose and unconstrained, and takes you on a rollercoaster ride (marijuana certainly helped their creative process). San Francisco’s weather is temperate, its natives friendly. For the most part, they care about nature and the environment, hate conservatism and fight bigotry tooth and nail. Trump finds few supporters here.

It was thus with no small degree of green-tinged envy that I watched Getaway’s managing editor, Michelle Hardie, winging her way to San Fran humming the Scott McKenzie classic about wearing flowers in her hair (doubtless to rile me).

If you’re going to San Francisco…be prepared to shake up your world view, writes Michelle Hardie.

Michelle’s impression of that seductive city matched mine. Read about her journey on page 96. Speaking of flowers, the first buds of spring make their presence felt in parts of the Cape this month, and Marion Whitehead tells us exactly where to ‘get in early’ with our bloom spotting (page 80). On a final floral note, let’s not forget Meghan Markle’s wedding-dress veil, which featured an embroidered protea representing South Africa’s place in the Commonwealth.

As a celebration of distinctive national floras, a nod to eco-mindfulness and to make us folks in the outer galaxies of world consciousness feel included, it was a lovely gesture. Ngiyabonga, Meg of Sussex (and California). I hope you enjoy our July issue.

This month’s contributors

Marion Whitehead – Spring flowers, page 80

If you see someone in baggy hiking trousers on their hands and knees, at the side of a back road in Namaqualand in spring, it’s probably travel-guide author and photojournalist Marion, intoxicated yet again by the beauty of the greatest wildflower show on Earth. When taking pictures, she likes to get a pollinator’s-eye-view of the pretty petals. In this issue, she shares some tips on where and when to see the best blooms – provided, of course, those rains do come.

Pippa de Bruyn – Madagascar, page 88

When she was invited to hop aboard a catamaran and spend a week exploring the northwestern coast of Madagascar, Pippa thought about it for exactly one second. Growing up in the 70s and 80s on a diet of old Mainstay adverts, the allure of island- hopping by yacht was virtually in her DNA. The author of numerous guide books and the UK Telegraph’s designated South Africa destination expert, award-winning journalist Pippa also writes Getaway’s monthly Final Cut reviews (page 38).

Obie Oberholzer – Cambodia, page 62

Renowned photographer Obie Oberholzer lives by this mantra: ‘If you go, you get.’ So he went to Cambodia to replace the horrific images branded in his mind by the 1984 film The Killing Fields, about the Khmer Rouge regime. At Angkor Wat, the largest religious complex on Earth, he had to go deeper into the jungle temples to escape the tourist hordes. In Cambodia, he says, he found a compassionate and industrious nation, and friendly people who had suffered much in the past.

Michelle Hardie – San Francisco, page 96

Our managing editor had to drag herself off the plane at San Francisco airport. She’d been upgraded to First Class on her Emirates flight from Cape Town, and 25 hours in the air just wasn’t enough time to sample the vast menu, taste all the cocktails and eat all the treats in her cabin – but she did get to have a shower at 35000 feet. San Francisco, with its history of resilience and activism, and its warm and inclusive atmosphere, was also ‘first class’ for her.


This story appears in the July 2018 issue of Getaway magazine.

Get this issue →

The July issue is out & features a route that combines bush and beach, a how-to guide for the flower season, discovering the vibrant San Francisco and an exploration of Nosy Be and much more.


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