Sitting in the Hong Kong airport I’m scrambling to confirm if I will be allowed to board my flight to New Delhi. I was denied entry based on visa issues, admittedly this was completely my fault, and canceled my ticket without much penalty. Even in the age of unlimited connectivity you still have to mail your physical passport all the way to New York and wait five days to get your documentation back. All of my visas up to this point have consisted of a $20 bill and a digital photo. Short of obtaining a personalized excuse note from Obama there is absolutely no way to expedite the visa application for Americans to India – Canadians on the other hand can fly to India without any prior paperwork. Whatever Canada. Have fun in India.
I’m stuck in the Hong Kong airport without any plans or plane tickets.
I pull up Google maps and start taking a pole from my friends via whatsapp on where I should fly next. I took a leap of faith and chose South Africa based on a few positive stories. Turns out it’s very inexpensive to fly from Hong Kong to Johannesburg so I bought the ticket and set off on figuring out what I will do when I land in 48 hours.
I linked up with a friend from Finland who I met in Bangkok, and found two locals who just started a tourism company out of Cape Town called This Is Africa. I found them via Couch Surfers where they had posted an advert for people in town to test their weeklong tour through southern SA. Perfect timing for me and Finland.
48 hours after landing I was out of Johannesburg, aka Jozi, and into Cape Town. Nice places do exist in Johannesburg but more than anything it’s like visiting one giant Harlem. TripAdvisor rates the #2 most popular activity in Jozi as riding the Gautrain, which is the train that connects you to the airport, which means that the 2nd best thing to do in Johannesburg is to head directly out of Johannesburg.
Cape Town is hugely underrated.
South Africa, with its innumerable political and social issues has a long way to go but also has a fantastic opportunity. When the terrible poverty, wealth inequality, and government corruption start to subside, South Africa will boom. They have incredible food here. Braai (aka. BBQ) is not just an event but a lifestyle. The vineyards are everywhere and are the oldest in the world behind Europe. There is no shortage of activity from surfing, long boarding, trail running, hiking, snowboarding on sand dunes, etc etc.
Springbok rugby jersey that Nelson Mandela wore when he publicly congratulated the white captain of the white national team on defeating their New Zealand rivals in a title match. This was the subject of the movie Invictus.