Ed’s letter: We’re doing okay, South Africa

Posted by A on 17 August 2017

Every country has its assets, say Sonya Schoeman. After a recent trip overseas she decides South Africa has many.

On July 16, my partner and I were speeding down a three-lane highway outside Beirut, Lebanon. Backwards. Our Uber driver had overshot the turn-off to the small coastal town of Batroun. So he pulled over and flipped gears into reverse.

Batroun seashore in Lebanon. Image by Laurent Tironi

Let me explain: in Lebanon ‘three lane’ is actually five. Cars squeeze between the official lanes with a toot of the horn, ‘Hey-hey, listen up, I’m here on your right/left/grinding up against your bumper’, and miraculously, the flow adjusts without the tossing of an expletive or the loss of a side mirror. But this was adding another dimension to an already over-expanded equation. I glared at our driver and let out a mewl to alert him that this foreigner and Uber client was officially terrified and primed to give a poor rating, but he simply hiked his left elbow over his seat, craned his neck, said a few Lebanese-isms and put his foot down. He knew his countrymen would let him through – or at least smart enough to know that they should always look out for the one idiot on the road who’ll be trying something stupid. Back home, this would’ve set off massive road rage.

Lebanon reminded me that every country has its assets. There, the food, the warm people, the astounding history, the incredible buildings, the industrious attitude, the fruit and vegetables that taste so intense, the tolerance on the roads – it’s an exciting place to visit. It also has its difficulties: the ratio of Lebanese nationals to Syrian refugees is equal, I was told repeatedly; the tension of being a country in the Middle East; the traffic and density of Beirut; poor regulation of natural resources. It made me appreciate home.

We have so much here: glorious space, amazing accommodation, beautiful public parks in and around our cities. We have more than 20 national parks and nine national gardens. That’s not bad. Also, the environment is part of robust national discussion, and we have a Constitution that protects our environmental rights. We have a good base to work off and we can use it. So I came back from a great holiday with one overriding impression: in many ways, we’re doing okay, South Africa. And when I look at this edition with so many inspiring destinations, I’m so thankful to live in this amazing country, on this continent.

Enjoy this issue.


5 things to look out for in the September issue

Anyone for beach bats?

It’s time to take our kit off again – on the beach, I mean. So we’ve rooted out some of the best seaside options that are close to our cities so you can keep travel time down to a tick. Turn to page 68.

Exquisitely scary adventure

Turn to page 92 and imagine yourself there, in that magnificent landscape and under that frothy Milky Way in Namibia.

A new way to do Greece

Writer and columnist Helen Walne got a bee in her bathing suit for swimming in the wild. She says the waters around this Greek island are perfect for it (page 98).

Plan your next Karoo trip

Here are two ways you can do it: one budget and independent, the other curated. See page 78.

Look out for the good-value star

Each issue of Getaway has several inexpensive accommodation options, places to stay for under R550 pp (some for less) and that we think offer good value.


This month’s contributors

Don Pinnock – Namibia, page 88

Some time back Don realised he knew nothing about the natural world, so he set out to discover it. This took him to five continents – including Antarctica – and resulted in five books on natural history and hundreds of articles about his travels. His other books include award-winning Gang Town and a biography of anti- apartheid activist Ruth First. He is a former editor of Getaway magazine.


Helen Walne – Greece, page 98

Never the fastest but always in her element, writer and author Helen can be found practising her stroke in the frigid Atlantic Ocean around Cape Town. Having grown up largely terrestrial, with regular family hikes in the Drakensberg, she has swapped solid ground for liquid depths and become an annoyingly enthusiastic open-water swimmer. Her ambition now is to take on an ice swim somewhere where there is a lot of vodka.


Mohale Mashigo – Cape Town, page 123

Mohale is a Soweto-born author (of best-selling novels The Yearning and Beyond the River), comic-book writer, lover of wine and full-time book nerd. When she has free time, she cooks for friends or writes music. Before she started writing novels, she wrote (racy) Sweet Valley High fan fiction. As a speaker at Open Book Cape Town this year, she describes her adopted hometown for us.


 Teagan Cunniffe – Seychelles, page 62

Teagan first visited Seychelles with a good friend, Luc, during their varsity years. They swam, walked, drank mojitos while fishing from the rocks, woke at midnight to watch turtles nesting and built ‘shade fortresses’ out of beach chairs and sheets. Older and far more aware of the importance of sunscreen, she recently returned to the most island- lifestyle destination you can imagine: La Digue.



Read more in the September Getaway issue.

Get this issue →

Our September issue features 11 amazing beach cottages, two ways to see the Klein Karoo, a windswept 4X4 drive in Namibia, our guide to swimming in Greece and much more!


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