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There’s No Place like South Africa

January 17, 2004

Filed under: entertainment,life,travel — Terry Wohlers @ 10:26

I’m currently planning my fifth and sixth trips to South Africa. Except for the travel distance, I’m really looking forward to them. If you’ve been there, you know what I mean. The people are friendly, the food and wine are great, and the scenery and wildlife are spectacular.

When you visit the country, a big game safari is a must. Plan to spend at least three nights in a camp at Kruger National Park. This wildlife refuge is located in the east along the border of Mozambique and is the biggest and best. You will see everything from lions, cape buffalo, and wildebeest to rhinos, elephants, and baboons. The experience is absolutely amazing and unforgettable.

If you are a veg head (i.e., vegetarian), you may not appreciate the fine South African cuisine as much as me. It’s not unusual to have two or three meats, such as pork, lamb, and chicken, at a meal. They serve some wild game, but not as much as you’d expect. The red wines there are among the best anywhere and inexpensive.

On my first visit, I recall a visit to a convenience store and being helped by a clerk. He was a young black gentleman, probably in his mid-20s. He smiled, asked me how I was doing, and genuinely seemed to care. He went on to help me and wished me a good day when I left. You rarely get such good treatment from store clerks in many other parts of the world. This cheerful and helpful nature is typical throughout South Africa.

I was told that $1 was roughly equal to 1 South African rand a few decades ago. Less than two years ago, $1 would buy 10 rand. Today, the exchange rate is about $1 = 7.3 rand, so you can imagine how far the dollar will go. In November 2002, lunch for 10 adults at a very nice restaurant with a beautiful view (soft drinks and beer included) came to $23 total ($2.30 per person), and three people had beef steak.

Beautiful mountains and valleys, rivers and lakes, vineyards, breath-taking coastlines, game reserves, an abundant supply of natural resources, good educational institutions, wonderful and well-educated people (South African inventors are among the top 5% internationally) ….. South Africa has it all. At the same time, the country is not without its challenges, such as unemployment, a staggering number of HIV and AIDS victims, and a lot of crime some areas.

In 2000, a group of South Africans from industry and academia founded the Rapid Product Development Association of South Africa (RAPDASA). It focuses much of its attention on rapid prototyping and tooling. The association is planning its fifth annual conference scheduled for the week of November 2, 2004 in Bloemfontein, located in the central part (the heart) of the country. So, begin making plans now.

For a detailed account of my first trip to South Africa, visit