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Posted by Jessica on Oct 20, 2010
Upcoming Travels to South Africa

It was only a few months ago when Tim and I realized where we wanted to spend our three week holiday this fall. The lure of South Africa had become too difficult for us to resist, and we knew it would be our next destination. It was only a few weeks ago when we purchased our round-trip tickets to Johannesburg, conveniently with two long layovers in Germany both there and back. And now it will be but a few days before we step on a plane to explore two new lands. (After a small bit of packing and then handing over our key to our house/cat sitter who's staying at our place while we're away, of course.)

Going where the road takes us

'Our cat China, helping Jessica do a bit of research on South AfricaWe've spent the past few months busily reading about our upcoming destinations (and reassuring the cat that we won't be gone for too long). But even while we do our research, we always remember that we're very go-with-the-flow sort of travelers. We rarely, if ever, decide ahead of time where we'll go within a specific country. Instead we prefer to just see where the road takes us depending on local recommendations, whether or not public transport is available somewhere, and simply how we're feeling any particular day. Generally the only places we know ahead of time that we'll visit is the city we're flying into and, perhaps, one "anchor" for the trip (our hopefully "must see" for that particular trip, if you will). Other than that, our plans always come about as we travel.

Many of you may remember we traveled like that during our 18 month round-the-world trip too. Aside from our four anchors (exploring the ancient city of Machu Picchu in Peru, sailing off the coast of Ecuador to the Galapagos Islands, taking a balloon ride over Cappadocia in central Turkey, and taking in the temples of Angkor in Cambodia), the route of our RTW wasn't pre-determined. Instead we just let the winds blow us where they would (...sometimes assisted by bus strikes in Peru or attempted coups in Bolivia).

So we've continued with great success our "let's just see what happens" sort of traveling even on our shorter trips, sometimes with anchors and sometimes not. For our second trip to Mexico City, we wanted to check out the temples at Teotihuacan. But for our long weekend in Bogota, Colombia we were only eager to sample as much local food as possible. For our honeymoon in India, we couldn't wait to walk among the temples at the Ellora Caves. But for our week-long trip to Nicaragua, our main focus was only to soak in as much of the history and gorgeous scenery.

As for our three-week long trip to South Africa? It's shaking out to be an interesting mix. We have a few anchors that we'll try to see during our first week. And then we'll have two weeks of "let's just see where the road takes us" type of travel.

And we can't wait.

Something a bit different

Our trip to South Africa is a bit different than most places we've ever been (with the exception of England, thus far) in that we have family who live there and quite a bit of family history we want to explore too. And because of that – believe it or not – your two traveling hedgehogs already know where they'll be staying for their first week traveling.

(I'll admit, this has made both of us feel a little odd at times. With the exception of a few plane tickets, our balloon flight over Cappadocia, our stay at the Yachana Lodge in the Amazon, and our trip to the Galapagos Islands, we have never booked anything ahead of time when we travel. And we've never even come close to making actual lodging reservations anywhere.)

When we arrive in Johannesburg, we'll be staying for several nights with Tim's great aunt and great uncle who have so graciously offered to put us up. (Coincidentally, the day we arrive is also our first wedding anniversary!) We're very much looking forward to spending time with them and a handful of other lovely family members too. We always adore visiting family, but this visit will prove to be extra special as Tim hasn't visited with this part of his family for several decades and it'll be my first time meeting everyone. And so we are, of course, incredibly excited.

But, as you probably guessed, Tim's aunt's house isn't the place where we needed reservations. (Though we did have to plan ahead of time...which is a bit strange for us!) So what, you might be thinking, is so special in South Africa that we found ourselves making a reservation to stay there? Well, pull up a chair and I'll tell you.

After we leave Johannesburg, we'll be making our way northwest to the little city of Rustenburg. (Which, we have on good authority, used to be in no way a little city at all.) And just outside of Rustenburg, there's a little farm. And that little farm (which, we have on good authority, used to not be quite as little) is now a bed and breakfast called Rainhill Farm. And if you read a bit of the history of the farm, you'll soon realize why it was so important we made a reservation to stay at that lovely place.

'A view of Rainhill Farm and the nearby Magaliesburg mountains, as taken by Tim's father, Alastair McGregorThe farm, you see, is where Tim's father, and uncle and aunt, and grandfather and great uncle grew up. It's where his great-grandparents lived and, on a nearby mountaintop, where a memorial to the family was erected. And it's where so many of the childhood stories Tim heard when he was younger took place.

And so that is the place, a very special place indeed, where it was so important for us to finally – for the first time ever in all our travels – make a reservation ahead of time. It is there that we'll be able to walk the trails Tim's father explored, see the views that his parents used to take in from the top of the Magaliesburg mountain range, and hear the wonderful quiet in the evening that only comes from being in the wonderful middle of nowhere.

And we can't wait.

And then...

Confession time: Even aside from our family connection to South Africa, our trip might look a bit different than some other trips to South Africa. (Though long-time readers of HWB probably won't be surprised by that!) At this point, we probably won't be going on a safari of any sort. (We're preferring to save that for another time.) We most likely won't be headed to Cape Town or even the popular Garden Route. (We travel slowly, and given our trip begins and ends in Jo'burg – and that we'll be in that area for about a week – we don't think we'll have an adequate amount of time in the remaining two weeks to make it there at our leisurely hedgehog pace.) And we won't be renting our own car. (We prefer public transport for a whole slew of reasons. Yes, even when it means we might not get to see everything...because, hey, there's never enough time to see everything anyway.)

As to what we will be doing for the rest of our time in South Africa? We have several ideas, places that have piqued our interest that we could be keen on visiting this time around. Maybe. But, depending on bus routes or weather or just a feeling we might get, some of them might fly out the window once we hit the ground.

And who knows? We may end up traveling faster (or even slower, if that's possible) than we normally do. We may pick one place and spend two weeks there. Or we may decide to visit a neighboring country instead. The wonderful thing – for us – about our style of traveling is that we don't know ahead of time all the wonder that we'll experience or the sights that we'll see. And we are incredibly excited about those unknown moments of random happiness we'll most certainly come across along the way.

So for now, as we always do, we'll just have to see where the road will take us. After our first week in South Africa, where we'll spend time with family in Johannesburg and time exploring family history at Rainhill, the road is wide open. We'll have two weeks to explore the countryside and go on long hikes, two weeks to eat local food and people watch, two weeks to see gorgeous vistas and walk around vibrant cities, two weeks to discover our own South Africa.

And we can't wait.

October 20, 2010 at 2:35pm
It sounds as though it will be another amazing trip. I do hope you plan another trip back to visit Cape Town, truly one of the most beautiful places on earth, as well as take that Safari and follow the wine route. But, in you are continuing in true Hedgehog style and I'm sure you'll have a fantastic time.
October 20, 2010 at 4:04pm
We're really looking forward to it! And no worries: we're seeing this trip as the first of many to South Africa. We also have family in the Cape Town area (and, I believe, along the Garden Route as well)…so these are definitely places we won't miss! And then there's a whole other trip we're planning just for safaris…ahhh, so many places, so little time! :)
October 20, 2010 at 6:25pm
Have a wonderful journey! It sounds magical! and Happy Anniversary! Hard to believe a year has passed already. We will soon be celebrating too, a little bit early, on our upcoming trip to a different 'SA' :)
October 21, 2010 at 10:39am

We will soon be celebrating too, a little bit early, on our upcoming trip to a different 'SA'

That's right! It's been nearly a year for you guys too. Happy Early Anniversary! The time has just flown by, hasn't it?

We hope you have a wonderful time in the other SA! We can't wait to see your photos. And we'll have to wave to one another from the different continents! ;)

October 21, 2010 at 2:59pm
You'll be fine in South Africa with public transportation. Actually when I was a Peace Corps in Namibia, I hitchhiked into South Africa no problem. I understand your tendency not to do a safari, and let me assure you, there are so many amazing things to do there!

I do recommend Cape of Good Hope though!

btw, I have a lovely black kitty who looks just like yours! I miss him so much!

October 22, 2010 at 12:29pm
Hey, Mary! Thanks so much for the encouragement. That's great to hear! And I'd love to hear more about your time in the Peace Corps. Have you written about it on your blog before? I'll have to go hunting for Namibia stories!

btw, I have a lovely black kitty who looks just like yours! I miss him so much!

Awwww! I know exactly what you mean – it was so hard leaving China when we went on our RTW. (Though she was spoiled rotten by her grandparents!) Now that we've been home for a few years again, even the shorter trips have gotten hard being away from her. :)

October 24, 2010 at 4:03am
Sounds like you will likely explore parts of South Africa that we didn't get to see. It is a huge country. We underestimated how big it was and even with our own rental car, we were on the move a lot during our month there. Staying at the B&B with family connections sounds awesome!

Can't wait to read about your travels…

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