Celebrating Tourism Month

Archery in Parys

Trying my hand in Archiery at the Real adventures place in Parys, Free State province. Picture:Paballo Thekiso

My first road trip was with three of myvfriends. We planned the trip from Durban to Cape
Town in three months. We were young and carefree. We divided the trip into two parts with an overnight stay in Knysna.

For dinner we ate sushi for the first time, in a restaurant by the harbour. This was followed by a late night of drinking at the bar at the backpackers’ where we were staying before stumbling to our four-bunk bedroom in the early hours.

The next morning on the road was rough, we were tired, hungover and excited at the same time about reaching Cape Town. We arrived just before sunset at the Green Elephant backpackers in Observatory, our home for four nights.

The staff welcomed us with open arms and we formed friendships that are still alive today. We spent the days sightseeing in the CBD, shopping at the V&A Waterfront, sipping cocktails in Camps Bay and driving up Signal Hill.

2. Quad Biking in ParysPicture:Paballo Thekiso

The nights were spent playing pool in Lower Main Road Observatory and club-hopping in Long Street. Without realising it until the last night, we had spent most of our petrol money. Our parents came to our rescue, but not before scolding us for our irresponsible
behaviour. Memories from that trip remain fresh in my mind.

What made the trip extra special was we managed to save the little money we had at the time for an adventure that would see the four of us bonding… we learnt a lot about each other during the long drive in a small Corsa.

“I would like to think this trip ignited a lust for travel in each of us”

Since then, the four of us have travelled extensively in South Africa, as well as in Europe and the US. Contrary to what some might believe, one does not require a fat bank balanceto be able to travel, be it local or international. However, some saving and smart planning is key.

Common sense goes a long way. For example, buying a plane ticket a few months before you travel will be cheaper than booking the flight the day before you are due to travel.

In the past, I have taken the Greyhound bus to Durban to visit my family and overland trucks to Victoria Falls in Zimbabwe and Namibia for holidays. The experiences are priceless.

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Queening with the BaSotho women dressed in their traditional wear called Thebetha

“Venturing out of your comfort zone and learning about other people and cultures will teach you things about yourself and the world you won’t find in a textbook”

 

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Enjoying a sunset cruise on the Vaal River. Picture by Paballo Thekiso.

One of my favourite Sho’t Left (domestic travels) trip include a visit to Joburg where I caught up with friends and family. On a recent trip there I spent a weekend in Soweto, which is home to some of South Africa’s world famous names, such as Nelson Mandela, and is known for history changing moments such as the 1976 Soweto student uprising.

During my stay there I visited the Mandela house in Vilakazi Street, a buzzing street lined with restaurants and cafés… a not so common sight for a township. There is an electrifying energy that hangs in the air that when I left, I felt empty .

Recently I paid a visit to my home town, but opted to stay at a hotel in the city centre instead of home as they were busy renovating. I saw Durban through the eyes of a tourist for the first time and I became one.

I visited art galleries, museums, took long leisurely walks on the beachfront promenade and discovered cafés where I spent hours watching people. I returned with a new-found appreciation for the city where people have no whims about striking up conversations with strangers. I realised how much I missed this simple act of ubuntu (human kindness) that is still alive there.

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Last week I spent a week in the Free State visiting several towns. It was my first time there and I experienced a number of firsts. I learnt about towns I never knew existed, such as Vredefort near Parys.

I quad biked, I tried my hand at archery and went river rafting on the Vaal River. All these sporting activities were never on my to-do-list of fun things while on a holiday before this trip.

1. L-R Liam Joyce and Nontando Mposo river rafting in the Vaal RiverLiam and I slaying. Picture:Paballo Thekiso

September is tourism month, an annual celebration focusing on the importance of tourism for the economy. The theme for this year is Tourism For All: Promoting Universal Accessibility.

It aims to encourage everyone to explore and rediscover our country. So, round up a group of friends or family for a Sho’t Left somewhere.

Visit:www@shotleft.co.za for more travel inspiration. 

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Connect with me and follow my adventures on Instagram, Twitter and Snapchat @Nontando58. 

This feature was first published in the Cape Argus on September 2016. 

 

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Wide-eyed in New York City, the city that never sleeps

The view of the city from the Brooklyn Bridge

The view of the city from the Brooklyn Bridge

Hunger pangs at 3am in New York City? No problem

IT’S 3AM in New York City and we are on a mission to find a halaal food truck. For some reason, as it is not a dietary requirement, my brother-inlaw is insisting on halaal food. Leaving Webster Hall, one of the city’s biggest nightclubs, in a taxi, we stop at the first food cart we come across on 11th Street. It happens to be halaal. The food truck has a variety of food on offer, from chicken and basmati rice to hot dogs. We settle on lamb biryani and lamb pita. As we make our way to Brooklyn, our home for the duration of our vacation in New York City, our driver, a Jamaican, tells us halaal food trucks that sell cheap and authentic food are a city staple.

During the 15-minute drive, he explains how he and his younger brother came to the Big Apple with dreams of making it big in the city. His job is not the best but it pays the bills and has supported his family back home over the years, he says. During our stay we meet more people like him, who left their home countries in pursuit of the American Dream. Some arrived with just a few dollars in their pockets, others are working more than one job to survive.

View from the Brooklyn Bridge

View from the Brooklyn Bridge

NYC’s diversity is impressive; it’s a melting pot of nationalities from all corners of the globe. During a short subway ride you could hear myriad different languages spoken.

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Everyone walks with a purpose and you can feel the super-charged energy in the air. They walk faster, dashing from one subway to the next. The streets are busy and the subway is packed, day and night. This is why NYC is referred to as “the city that never sleeps”.

$1 pizza at Times Square

$1 pizza at Times Square

When the sun dips low in the sky, the streets get busier. Grocery stores that are open for business 24 hours a day are on every corner and most of the nightclubs are open until sunrise every day of the week. From Harlem to Manhattan, there is always something to do.

We spent three days exploring this beautiful city, navigating our way using
the subway and on foot. Most New Yorkers don’t drive as traffic and parking are a nightmare. The subway is affordable, reliable and runs 24 hours a day.
Our subway rides were made more pleasant by impromptu “subway acrobats” – breakdancers and beatboxers performing daring dance moves by spinning, flipping and pole-dancing among us passengers for a quick buck. Although the police are clamping down on subway acrobats, the culture is still very much alive.

Subway dancer

What to do
1. Sample as much of the street food as you can: the food trucks and carts are dotted all over the pavements. They offer anything from Mexican falafels, pretzel dogs to duck shwarmas and pizza. The portions are big and tasty at a cost of around $5 (R60) per meal, including a soda (cooldrink).

$1 pizza Times Square

2. Visit the breathtaking Brooklyn Bridge: connecting the boroughs of Manhattan and Brooklyn, the 486.3m-long bridge over the East River is an impressive sight. The views of the city from the bridge are amazing too, and the Statue of Liberty can be seen in the distance. It’s also a hot spot for pedestrians and cyclists.1

3. Visit Times Square: this is the busiest square in NYC, known for its flashing electronic billboards, Broadway theatres and cinemas. The square is a one-stop hub for shopping, dining and entertainment, and you will be able to grab a bite to eat at the $1 pizza slice place or at one of the world’s biggest McDonald’s, three-storeys high.

Times Square

Times Square

Times Square

4. Escape the city noise by visiting Central Park in the middle of Manhattan. Spend a peaceful day roaming the Towers. Spend time in Manhattan; there are impressive skyscrapers and architecture to admire in the area.

skyscrapers borough of Manhattan

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6. Head to Chinatown, Manhattan, for some bargain shopping and good eateries. Located next to Little Italy, here you will find restaurants representing the provinces of mainland Hong Kong and China. Be prepared to bargain for everything, from designer bags to watches – which can be knock-offs.

Little Italy

Little Italy

*Visit Central park and spend the day grounds, gazing at the fountains and
admiring the flowers.

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5. Visit the 9/11 memorial and museum located at the site of the former Twin Towers.

9 11 memorial

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This feature was first published in the Cape Argus on May 26 2015

About the Jameson Victoria Falls Carnival 2014 #JVFC2014

picture by Cindy Waxa

picture by Cindy Waxa

IT IS the last morning of 2014 and we are standing in front of the largest curtain of water in the\ world, the spectacular Victoria Falls. The 1 708m-wide sheet of falling water is an awe-inspiring sight and is deserving of its place as one of the year’s New7Wonders of Nature.

The “Mosi-oa-Tunya” (Smoke that Thunders), as the local call it, hisses and rumbles as it drops into the Zambezi Gorge. We are viewing the mighty falls from the Zimbabwean side. Just across, on the Zambian side, is Devil’s Pool – possibly the most dangerous naturallyformed pool in the world. The rock pool on Livingstone Island is on the edge of
the falls and we watch as a small group of people, led by a guide, join hands and one by one drop into the pool. From our vantage point it looks like they’re flirting with death, as only a rock barrier separates the swimmers and the cascading water.

picture by Cindy Waxa

picture by Cindy Waxa

“It’s the most exhilarating thing I have ever done in my life,” says Heinrich Husselmann, 33, of Parklands, of the experience. He had to swim across the Zambezi to get to the pool. “Once you get into the water, there is no turning back. We spent about five minutes in the pool, just enough to take pictures… it was definitely worth it.”

Cape Argus photographer Cindy Waxa and I are in Victoria Falls for the annual Jameson Victoria Falls Carnival, a trip sponsored by Seed Experiences.
We drove 2 920km over three nights to get there. Our adventure started at Ashanti Backpackers in Gardens on a gloomy Boxing Day morning. Our group of six included ourselves, the Africa Travel Co crew, our driver Emias Dendere, tour guide Onery Chimunda and Husselmann.

We loaded our bags into a Overland Truck, a road beast, just before 7am. The truck already contained a tent – our accommodation as we travelled – and other necessities. The long drive was broken into three overnight stays. We spent our first night at Bloemfontein’s Reyneke Park. This is where we had our first lesson in putting up a two-man tent.We were to become professional campers over the next 10 days. Our tour guide, Chimunda, a colourful personality, immediately took us under his wing. A former chef, his cooking skills became a trip highlight. He whipped up restaurant-worthy food, including breakfasts of flapjacks and French toast and dinners of pasta chicken with delicious creamy white sauce. His braaing skills were also impressive and he soon had a few pap
(maize meal) virgins sold on the thick porridge.

picture by Cindy Waxa

picture by Cindy Waxa

Next was a very welcomed overnight stop at the Mufasa Backpackers in Joburg, where we ditched our tents for a comfy bed. In the morning we were joined by the rest of the overlanding party, from the city and beyond. We left in a convoy of about six trucks for Camp Itumela in Palapye, Botswana, between Francistown and Gaborone.

Located near the Morupule Colliery coal mine which supplies Morupule Power Station, Botswana’s principal domestic source of electricity, the campsite is as rough as they get. The water ran out on both occasions that we were there, an unpleasant experience when there are so many people around.

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The 850km trek to Victoria Falls the next day was an epic journey, filled with breathtaking sights. We took selfies with elephants in the Pandamatenga Game Reserve and Chimunda was on hand to give us history lessons on Botswana and its wildlife.

We arrived at Victoria Falls on December 29, minutes before departing on a steam train to the secret Steam Train Party in the bush. This is where the carnival officially commenced.

picture by Cindy Waxa

picture by Cindy Waxa

Tickets to the train party sold out fast, so if you are planning to attend, make sure you buy your ticket early. The vintage steam train with its turquoise and camel-colonial decor is rusty, but there was something about jamming to hot tunes on a moving train as we rushed through the Victoria Falls National Park to a location deep in the bush. On disembarking, we jumped straight on to the dance floor, where we stayed for the next five hours, dancing to the musical arrangements of talented mixers from Zimbabwe and South Africa. Local acts included DJ Acedabass and one of the carnival founders, DJ Francis.

Francis explained that the carnival started slowly as a Forest Fest in 2009. It then officially turned into a three-day carnival in 2012. “I love that there is a fusion of local and South African artists. It brings people from around the world together. People get to experience my country by blending in with the locals – who we are and how we live – as well as to enjoy the beautiful sights we have to offer,” he says.

Cape Town-based DJ Toby 2 Shoes was my favourite of the night, unleashing a mixture of “home-grown” sounds and electro beats. The Vic Falls Rest Camp, a mixture of campsites and chalets, was our home for the next four nights. Days here were filled with lounging by the pool sipping Zimbabwe’s own lager, “Zambezi” beer. At (US) $1.50 (R16.50), it was the cheapest in town since the use of the Zimbabwean dollar as an official currency was abandoned in 2009 due to skyrocketing inflation. Instead, the country uses the South African rand, the Botswana pula and the American dollar as its official currencies.

The campsite is situated along the small town’s main road that is lined with fast food outlets and tourist offices offering adventure activities.

picture by Cindy Waxa

picture by Cindy Waxa

The Victoria Falls are about 5km from the town centre. The next three days included the carnival’s Colour Party at the Vic Falls Farm Schools and – unlike most music festivals where there is a constant lineup of music throughout the day – we were left to our own devices to take part in the many activities Vic Falls has to offer. Husselmann describes the experience as a holiday that ended up being an adventure. Besides a dip in the Devil’s Pool, he also canoed on the Zambezi and went on a sunset cruise, which turned into a booze cruise as there was no sunset in sight. Throughout our stay the weather was humid with intermittent rain.

“I am definitely blown away by Vic Falls,” says Husselman. “The people are welcoming and friendly, I definitely want to see more of Zimbabwe such as Harare and Bulawayo. Since the Vic Falls town is a tourist destination, it is a bit expensive, but if you do what the
locals do, it’s doable.” We spent our days doing just that. We shopped at the Elephant Walk shopping village, where you can get anything from beadwork to wooden ornaments, but be prepared to do some serious negotiating. Our nights were spent at a popular local hang-out called Club Imvuvu.

picture by Cindy Waxa

picture by Cindy Waxa

We met locals who asked us about living in “violent” South Africa. “We hear people kill each other for nothing there,” one man said. We danced to local music and ate pap and warthog (wild pig) meat into the wee hours of the morning. We counted down to the new year listening to the soothing sounds of Zimbabwe’s Oliver “Tuku” Mtukuzi and Cape Town group Beatenberg. The rain that pelted us did not dampen our spirits. As the clock struck midnight, we screamed our lungs out to South Africa’s favourite electronic
dance act, Goldfish.

picture by Cindy Waxa

picture by Cindy Waxa

” We met locals who asked us about living in ‘violent’ SA. ‘We hear people kill each other for nothing there,’ one man said”

We were exhausted when we started the journey back home on January 2. After days of being on the road and living out of a small suitcase, I missed my comfortable bed and a proper hot shower. But I will definitely do it again, as the awesome people I met made the trip memorable. Charlotte Kanter, marketing manager for Seed Experiences, says about 5 000 festivalgoers attended the 2014 carnival.

“We were so happy with the global audience that descended on Vic Falls, and we hope it keeps on growing year on year. #JVFC2015 planning starts now,” says Kanter.

Photographer Cindy says… IF I WERE asked which country I would like to travel to in Africa, Zimbabwe would not have been my first choice. But when I heard about the road trip to Victoria Falls, I was keen to go as I had never slept in a tent or at a
backpackers. Driving to Zimbabwe was tiring at times but I enjoyed the scenery. I saw places that I would not have seen if I had been in a plane, and by the time we set up camp at Vic Falls I had already made a few friends. I expected empty shelves with no food, and unhappy people, but instead I was greeted by friendly, warm-hearted people who are just
trying to live a better life despite the difficulties.

 “Warm-hearted people are just trying to live a better life despite the difficulties”

Most people spoke isiNdebele, which is similar to IsiZulu, and it made me feel right at home. The music they played was mostly South African and the food, pap and meat, was familiar too. I also learnt some Zimbabwean dance and a little Shona. This trip was an eye opener to me, and as the locals would say, “Ndinorumbidza Zimbabweans” (I respect Zimbabwe).

picture by Cindy Waxa

picture by Cindy Waxa

This feature was first published in the Cape Argus on January 22 2015

Berlin, Barcelona top graffiti picks

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They say Berlin is one of the top “bombed” city in Europe so I was quite excited about my first visit to the city. It is indeed colourfull and graffiti of all sorts, ranging from stenciling to tagging is everywhere you look.  After four days in Berlin, taking in the rich history, doing touristy stuff and snapping up some graffiti and street art, I travelled to Barcelona. For me, Barcelona seemed to be more deserving of the  “graffiti Mecca” title. I saw some really cool works in Barcelona. You get to see more of the street art at night when the shops are closed and the doors are pulled down, most of the doors are painted with interesting art works. The pics include both cities, if you want to know which graffiti is from where please visit my IG feed ‘nontando58’  I have too many pics and not enough time to identify which is what;-)

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Oooooh! Cape Town you are beautiful

Cape Town,beautiful city I live in. Summer is in the air and I can’t wait to explore and play. From Whale watching to simply sipping cocktails while taking in the gorgeous blue sea, I love this city and here is why…

Whale watching in Hermanus

This Summer and determined to learn how to surf in these shark infested waters;-D

view from Lions Head

Boulders Beach

marching on

enjoying the view, Cape Point

he likes the view too

hiking in Betty’s Bay

overlooking Camps Bay

and good food as well

Mzoli’s for the meat