Watch this space in South Africa
The potential is everywhere in South Africa, surrounded by natural and wild beauty, it just needs a little help to be realised.
I started writing this while sitting at a dining room table looking straight out to the ocean in Port Elizabeth on the southern South African coast. The beach about 100m (300ft) away and looking at the waves I wanted to find a board and jump in… but there was a plane to catch.
Leaving Cape Town behind just over a week ago I took my tinny little hire car into the South African wilderness and sat and watch the day roll by from the comfort of a hammock. Gecko Creek Wilderness Lodge is a few hours north of Cape Town, but it feels a million miles from the hustle of the city.
Not that Cape Town is a particularly hustley-bustley type of city, but the only sounds most of the time were the wind and the birds. Three days to recharge after a couple of months of travelling was good, but then I was itching to get back down to the coast.
Rolling down the highway through the jagged mountains I watched vineyards and wheat fields roll by, birds dart across in front of the car and a pack (? not sure what the collective term is) of baboons eyeing me off probably wondering if they could get into my car and what I had to eat inside.
Eucalyptus trees are everywhere in South Africa making the landscape resemble Australia’s, but their a problem here. Not being an indigenous tree they’re not designed for the eco-system and throw of the nitrogen balance in the soil, that and they are very good at spreading bushfires.
The Cape region is in the midst of a drought at the moment (Cape Town’s dam is sitting at about 35% full, with the last 10% being unusable), so the land is dry and fires spread quickly. Not to mention the water shortage not helping the fire-fighting efforts.
Fire fighters have started using sea water now to put out fires and the government is beginning a desalination program. In some areas they’re also looking at sinking more wells, but only in parts. At the moment millions of litres of water sit under Table Mountain in Cape Town, but drawing that out is an absolute last resort.
Signs everywhere tell people not to waste water, make every drop count, and I have not seen any water wastage, so it seems the message is getting through.
Getting back to the coast though; seeing the long strip of white sand being buffeted by the ocean as I came into L’Agulhas made me smile. The beach is my happy place.
Cape L’Agulhas is the southernmost point of the Africa and where the Indian and Atlantic Oceans meet, well it’s somewhere in the vicinity of that depending on the tides and the time of the year. It’s a sleepy little coastal town where for the first time I saw houses without big concrete walls and electric fences on top.
But it was Jeffreys Bay I was really looking forward to, the even sleepier town further up the coast where in the 1960s a few blokes and their boards discovered how great the surfing was. And yes, where Mick Fanning punched a Great White Shark during a surfing competition.
I was going surfing in J-Bay.
And then I saw the conditions. Walking along the beach I was blasted with sand that felt like needles hitting my face and the waves were messy and choppy, not even the locals were out.
I’m sure the conditions are perfect this week.
There are plenty of problems in South Africa, many of them coming back to the government and the president. There are times I am acutely aware of the colour of my skin, places I’m told not to go, but… South Africa is a place with a lot of potential and is a beautiful place.
That potential is slowly starting to find its feet, and it’s definitely a matter of “watch this space”. Cape Town’s tech ecosystem is ranked number one in Africa and is home to globally focused tech businesses and entrepreneurs. And reading some articles Johannesburg is doing its best to catch up.
President Jacob Zuma is not well liked across the board and is the subject of a couple of books about corrupt behaviour; corrupt behaviour that undermines the country. Most people seem to think he’ll be gone in the 2019 election.
“Watch this space.”