​​​​​It seems when most people think of going to Africa, they envision a journey similar to Conrad’s Heart of Darkness cutting a fresh path into the center of uncharted countries. Places that don’t even have names and if they do, the names change every twenty minutes. Foreign places that are incompatible with existence. Dark places that move in the shadows of unacceptable nightmares.

But, a few locales on the continent still may be worth visiting, at least with a bodyguard. What fun would it be traveling by camel in search of the pyramids or wandering the streets of Casablanca looking for Rick’s Café without a Navy SEAL at your side? I’m just kidding; don’t burn your passport yet.

Let me tell you a bit about a slightly safer country; south of North Africa, south of that cluster of uncharted countries, way down south where ostriches run wild on the beach and monkeys steal hubcaps off your rental car for fun. Yes, South Africa, provided you can endure the lengthy flight. Okay, Johannesburg is not much safer than 1970s Times Square after midnight. If you are driving any sort of vehicle there, never stop until you get to where you’re going. Not for a traffic signal, not for a stop sign, not for a pedestrian on the street. An armed thief will, without a doubt, rob the occupants at gunpoint if you think about letting off on the gas pedal even a little.

In fact, keep driving all the way to Cape Town. Don’t pass GO and there’s no need to collect 200 ZAR. It’s only worth about $11 USD, anyway. But, see the sites before you take a wine country tour. There are game preserves and pretend safaris, island tours, and more than you ever wanted to see of a tourist town.  

Just east of Cape Town, past Cape Point, is Cape Agulhas where the Atlantic and Indian oceans come together. On this farthest southern tip of Africa, one can actually see the seam where the two water masses meet. The zipper binding them can be traced all the way to the horizon. Yeah, watch for those mischievous monkeys behind you. There are several now.

The highlight of my trip, of course, was the wine country tour. Not being much of a wine connoisseur, I opted for the schnapps tour instead. They told me we would visit five to seven vineyards. If I’m being totally honest, I don’t remember anything past the first stop. The hosts had spread an entire buffet of filled shot glasses across four da Vinci-sized last-supper tables. None of the glasses had identifying information, so I figured the evening was “Guess what flavor you just drank” or it might have been just a plain old potluck night.

“Oh, that was pineapple. I need a bottle of this.”

“Wait, hold the pineapple. This one is peach.”

 “Okay, I’m getting the hang of this.”

“Cherry. I like this one, too."

“Hmm, that one was hard to tell. Maybe lemon?” 

“Cinnamon. That tasted like a fireball.”

“Pepperm…I'm on fire! That seared all the way down!”

“My nose is starting to burn now, too. I have no idea what that one was.”

I couldn’t taste anything after that. No one told me to try sampling only a few varieties at each winery, so I rode out the tour, laying in a back row of the bus looking up into a dark sky at the Southern Cross. It reminded me of my mortality, and that could not be a good sign. 

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South Africa

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