Postcard from the Edge of Table

Imagine a great table, a gorgeous, sumptuous dark wooden table. You approach it – only to find it is fashioned from a layer of the thinnest veneer. If you place a glass on the table, you have no idea what will happen – Will the veneer crack? Will it break? Or will the glass fall through? Regardless of its beauty this in a nutshell is my impression of South Africa – gorgeous first world appearance on the outside, but the minute you want anything / need anything / do anything the underlying infrastructure just does not behave the way you want or expect.

The trip went from Johannesburg (don’t go out at night) to Sun City (Vegas of South Africa) to Cape Town and the Cape of Good Hope.


The beauty and plethora of animals and fauna are unrivaled. Driving on a night safari in Sun City, we experienced giraffes, hippos, hyenas, baby rhinoceroses and two fighting elephants (which was bad news for the surrounding trees). Cape Town, and the Capes (Cape of Good hope and Cape Point, the most southerly tip) along with the Table Mountain were absolute highlights. The table mountain itself is breath taking, and your legs ache for days after you have climbed down it.

  • However, this is all God’s work, anything man has touched follows the veneer ruling, which makes life especially interesting. For example,
    Staying in an admittedly very nice 5 star hotel and having all the cash in your wallet stolen by the employees, then being late because you have to file a police report, so your ride to the airport goes off “to fill the tank” (which was already filled), so you miss your plane to Cape Town and have to sit in Johannesburg airport for six hours because the subsequent flights have been cancelled. (Not that I am bitter)
  • Going to have a pee and finding the urinal filled with ice (and a man employed to keep them that way), who cleans the “used” ice out with his bare hands and then rushes to hand you a towel (honest)
  • Watching a superb fire work display and then enjoying the warm glow as tinder dry bush around the display is accidentally set on fire and burns for the next 24 hours (at least)
  • Having to dash off to a gala black-tie ball, needing you shoes cleaned. The house-maid collects the shoes and impress on her you need them back in under an hour. One hour and fifteen minutes later you call to find out they will be ready “now, now”.

This brings us to the interesting concept of time in South Africa. “Now, now” is any time between now and next Tuesday week, if it is a leap year and if the moon is waning, otherwise it will be the first Thursday any week before Easter. You just have to get used to it – travelers beware.

Leaving South Africa (considerably worse off than when I arrived), it was with a pang of regret. It is a country of total contrasts, be it

  • climate (that literally changes in an instant) or
  •  landscape (harsh barren beauty to lush tropical gardens) or the
  • people (from wonderful friendly people – who you meet most to the time – to thieves who would screw you in a heart beat).

The pictures below says a lot, keep scrolling to the end! Take care all,

(c) Ian Kimbell, All rights reserved

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