We hope you made it safe and sound to the great 2014 and took it with full swing. For those of you following us on Facebook or Instagram (maybe twitter) have seen that we left for South Africa the end of November to enjoy a little rest and relaxing after our most intense year ever. 2013 has been incredible and we would like to thank all of you for being with us and supporting our work. Family, friends and clients: THANK YOU!!
Sorry but this is going to be a long post. Feel free to skip it if you don’t want to know our thoughts about South Africa and our experiences.
We have heard much about South Africa and gained quite a lot of friends down there over the last years. A lot has to do with our friendship to the top South African photographer Christine Meintjes and her hubby Iaan v. Niekerk but until now, we have never had the chance to visit the country and paint our own picture about it.
Together with great friends Yvonne and Ilja as well as our most favorite wedding planer and amazing friend Doreen Winking, we started in Cape Town (Green Point, later Camps Bay) to really do not much but hanging out at the beach, taking photos and enjoying the mostly warm, but very windy weather and the incredible food.
It was also a great chance to meet a lot of people from the social media streams for the very first time. Thanks to Nastassja and Tim, Antonia and Desmond, Lara and Claire, Ian, the pretty blog girls, Dehan and Sergio, and many more. (also Julia Winkler, who happend to be there at the moment ;-)
At the moment, the ZAR (South African Rand) has an incredible ratio to the Euro. Amazing for us, very poor for the traveling South Africans. However, with less money we really stayed at beautiful places and had unbelievable tasty food, everywhere!
So that sounds like heaven on earth right? Warm weather, amazing nature, incredible food and all for cheap! Well, quite a bit but there were two rather big drawbacks to all these which concerned us a lot and made us enjoy less than we wanted to.
From friends, who have visited the country, the media and from local people, we heard a lot about how dangerous South Africa is (maybe not CT but in general) and we got quite a lot of rules and restrictions up front. What to do and what not. To anticipate here: we always where safe and never had any feeling of fear or danger.
Well, but it made us be concerned. What ever we did, wherever we went, we always had in mind that something could happen. Just during the day, anywhere.
Normally, when we travel we of course stick to rules, which apply to every country of course, but we never had to deal with safety issues or restrictions due to unsafe conditions anywhere else. So that was totally new for us and to be honest, it kinda stressed us out.
The other thing was the countries history and todays status. Lets face it: There is still a big gap between white, black and the colored community. You see it, you feel it and if you listen to people you can even hear it!
And even though we never felt any racism against us, being white people made us feel somehow “guilty” with respect to the locals. If you aren’t familiar with the South African history, just go and google a bit how the white people ruled in the last centuries. Neither great nor fair, to sum it up.
Needless to say, that we personally have nothing to do with the past and it was difficult for us to understand why we felt that way.
The feeling had it’s peak during a 6 course dinner near the Addo Elephant National Park where we, for the first time, spoke some personal words with a local black African guy.
There was one waiter, a very smart boy in his early twenties. We talked a bit about our drive to the resort where Google maps sent us straight into a township saying the resort is at the main road.
Obviously that was wrong but all of a sudden we found ourselves on a very poor road, lots of eyes staring at us and of course knowing that this was the wrong way.
With all these stories in our mind we had no idea in what we brought ourselves into here. The people did look very friendly actually. Some ignored us, some waved and smiled. So, aren’t these people just like we experienced it in other countries. Welcoming everyone with open arms? We did not know, and we also didn’t had the guts to get out of the car and ask :-)
However, Bongani, that was his name, said. “Well you are pretty lucky google maps lead you into a nice town ship”. Thanks to google at this point and he went on, that the people living here totally know that the tourists coming to this area are responsible and indirectly providing jobs to at least one member of their families. And thus, there should not be any danger to anyone. That’s great to hear!
We continued chatting and he told us about his life, family, work and his dreams. That he had to quit university in Port Elizabeth since he could not afford it anymore. About 12000 Rand per year, which at the moment equals to 850,- Euros (but was 1200,- not too long ago) for University only.
Do the math yourself and find out how young, talented and inquisitive people should manage this on their own by earning about 40 to 80 Euro per regular workweek. Subtract, travel expense from work to university, support of the family and daily life. Well and studying takes time too, so you probably cannot work full time.
This is just one example of a young man, who is intelligent and eager of knowledge but he probably will have a hard time to break out of this circle. There are thousands probably millions of this stories.
All this happened while we sat over the first course of our 6 course dinner priced at 20,- Euro per person. Carmen was in tears and we have not even tasted the soup yet. How can we just sit here and enjoy this delicious food knowing that the waiter(s) are struggling in life and more over, white people from the recent history have caused this situation.
The next day, Nelson Mandela aka Madiba aka Tata passed away. We could see it in all the staffs’ sad faces. Their president and anti-apartheid revolutionary left this world but will stay in every mind forever. On the one hand people were sad but on the other hand they celebrated his life and are extremely thankful for what he did. We might not have 100% noticed it but this was a very historical moment for the entire world!
There wasn’t a single conversation going on with anyone not mentioning the vision and legacy of this person. We will of course follow the election this year very carefully and we can only hope that the current situation for this country is going to change again.
So our way from Capetown to Addo and back went via Hermanus (home of the wales, which left three days be fore we got there ;-( ), Knysna, Jeffreys Bay (Paradise Beach, which really was a paradise,) back we stopped in Plettenberg Bay and Swellendam before we reached Somerset west at our friends place.
The time in Addo was very special. Not only because of the people we met, but also because of the nature and wild life we got to experience first hand. A Safari in the private game resort called Scotia brought us very close to the king of all animals. Enjoying the Elephants in the wild was possible in Addo Elephant National Park and a real once in a lifetime experience.
We also took the chance on our way back in Plettenberg Bay to meet orphan elephants and have a little walk (see video here) with them in a sanctuary while learning so much about these amazing creatures.
Somerset west was our last stop in SA at our friends place. Here is to thank Christine and Iaan for the great hospitality and amazing time we had with you guys.
On our very last day we also had the great chance to stop in Kayamandi, a township in Stellenbosch. Two lovely friends of Christine and Iaan guided us there to see first hand how life is in a township. It was wonderful to see the kids having fun and enjoying themselves even though, from our point of view, the circumstances would rather cause the opposite! And again, it is breaking our hearts if we imagine how hard it is for all these kids to get out and experience a “normal” life.
Thanks to you guys for taking the time to hang out with us and showing us around in beautiful Stellenbosch and surrounding. We really appreciated and enjoy it!
Last but not least we had to catch up with some touristy stuff in CT (table mountain) and had to check out the Penguins at Boulders Beach. We also had the honor to do a shoot with these two lovebirds at the beach as well as a model shoot, which is still due to blog here.
All and all we had a wonderful time in this beautiful country and we would love to see how the hope of all the people transforms into a better life for many soon.
Here is to wish you all a very good start into your weekend and enjoy a little bit of our South African adventure below.
Love and hope!
Carmen and Ingo
PS: UPDATE! Please understand that our blog is no political plattform and in no way we wanted to offend or hurt anyone anytime. If you feel that way, we are sorry! We were telling the story about our trip and how it made us feel. It is not a political statement at all. We totally understand that the current goverment is not good for this country even it’s the party of the former president Mandela. But this being said, we did not want to get too deep into a political situation as this is more complex than a couple of nice photos and a three week holiday. It’s just how we feel! Very simple. Thank you!