So after two weeks of a 'tour'.....I'll offer my observations:
1. While posing as a nation, it's basically twenty-odd groups with various agendas and lacking any real unification. Toss in tribes, political groups, the Dutch, the Brits, the illegals....there's nothing over the past thousand years that has unified the area.
2. The Rand has a value of 15 Rand to the dollar. So, the exchange rate is pretty crazy. You could lay out 15,000 Rand on your tables, and it's a thousand dollars.....which is what you'd basically need for pocket money, beer, food, etc.....for two weeks. Oh, and for tips? best to get 50 and 100 Rand notes in a pocket and be ready at least three times a day to tip someone.
3. Food, beer and drinks. I actually had some mighty fine beer while there, probably consumed forty cocktail drinks over a two week period (mostly because the cost factor was so low....four dollars per drink). On food, I ate ribs at least five times over that period (never more than $12 to $14 a plate) and have to admit that they know how to grill. A guy won't lose weight while there.
4. Safari jeeps. I went on four different trail rides over the period there, and just kept wondering about the safety of the vehicles. Tires? Mostly all bald. At some point, the guides jeep wouldn't start while our open-jeep was sitting in lion-territory. We sat there for ten minutes, kinda looking for lions to approach (no gun in the jeep, I should note).
5. Crime? Just about everywhere you look.....barbed wired fences and high walls. People have electrified fences around their houses, and have posted signs to noted 'armed response'. I asked about the rate of crime and folks in the rural area say it's awful rare. Folks around Cape Town? They suggest a higher rate of crime. People talk about murders but there is no indication that it's any worse than Memphis or Atlanta.
6. Languages. There's a minimum of a dozen languages typically spoken, and people argue over English being the national language. My humble guess is that two-thirds of the population can speak some level of English.....meaning marginal English. But a fair portion of rural folks you bump into....are into tribal dialects.
7. Bathroom outlets.....non-existent. You can go into any hotel bathroom, and find no outlets. I asked about this and the comment is that the national standard outlet plug....is so big and huge, that it attracts moisture in a humid room, and it would b dangerous if you had such a outlet there, so there is a standard among electricians.....no outlets in the bathroom.
8. Whites live in overly protected compound-suburbs......period.
9. Wild dogs are considered a protected breed of 'critter', so you can't go off and shoot them (under any reason). Now, the other side of this story.....they often carry various diseases (like malaria for example)....so you don't want to get friendly with them at all.
10. Landscape. Once you leave urban areas, I would qualify South Africa as one of the most scenic countries in the world. Forty years ago, it would have made sense to fly in....rent a jeep, and just drive cross-country for six weeks. Today? Because of crime and threats, I wouldn't recommend it. Getting out and walking around? Well....there's that snake issue. But I spent two weeks seeing the country, and never saw a single snake.
11. Drugs. In the urban areas, folks are hyped up and frustrated with the amount of drug trafficking going on. Meth, crack, etc.
12. Game preserves. Basically, you have a bunch of western folks (US, Europe) who use charity foundations to support the purchase of protected preserves. Most are in the 25 to 100 square mile size, with a complete security fence keeping the 'critters' inside of the 'park'. They hire up a doze-odd locals to scout out and prevent hunters from harming any of the animals.
13. I ended up on a township-tour (the German wife wanted to see one up close and personal). The guide ended up walking us through the concrete block buildings.....mostly all 'crap'. At some point, we entered and I noted on the wall......heavy amount of black mildew (the kind that you really don't want to inhale or touch). There is marginally support that the black-controlled and dominate political party wants to do in reshaping this whole 'ghetto' landscape.
14. Trust in statistics, data or political positions is virtually a joke. Doesn't matter who you discuss the matter with.....folks don't believe much of anything they are told.....doesn't matter if you are black or white.
15. The drought. On the far west end of South Africa is the drought affected area. Every shower and sink in a hotel-room are fitted with water-flow devices. What you'd typically expect in the US.....is coming out at 30-percent the rate you'd have in Cape Town. A 90-second shower is the norm, and there's a sign in each bathroom to note that suggestion. The hotel pool? Shutdown.
16. South Africans have a population of 55-odd-million.....which most disbelieve. Most will throw another four million illegals in the country. A lot of the criminal element is now thrown on the illegals in the country.....at least people believe that.
17. Friendly nature. After two weeks of driving around and interacting with probably 200-odd folks, I would suggest that most every person I met.....was friendly. The accents of English might have made it a bit difficult, but you just didn't meet anyone of a unfriendly nature.
18. Nightly TV options? Crap. In the rural areas, you are mostly dependent on Netflix, reading, or DVDs.
19. Virtually every town of any size that you drove through....had a Kentucky Fried Chicken.
20. It was awful hot for five of the days there.....94 degrees. But the wind was there virtually every single day....five to ten mph.