Where were you when India bowled out the West Indies to bring home the first Twenty20 World Championship Cup?” your grandchildren may well ask one day. Beating your steering wheel, stuck in a traffic jam in Mumbai? Biting your nails in front of the telly in New Delhi? Or leaping to your feet as India takes the final innings at Wanderers in front of your very eyes?
This month, the Twenty20 squad wings its way to South Africa; if you can, follow suit. And not just for the cricket—with Twenty20 innings lasting around 75 minutes, you’re looking at three hours per game, leaving plenty of time to get to know South Africa’s three most vibrant cities. Here’s your itinerary:
Touch down in Johannesburg, economic heart of Africa. Jozi, as it is affectionately known, is not really a tourist destination, but a throbbing metropolis.
Traditionally a migrant city, Jozi was literally built on gold—Gauteng, of which it is capital, means “place of gold” in Sotho—and it remains a heavily industrialized region. Tourist attractions include descending a working mine shaft to tour the richest bowels of the earth, or visiting the nearby Cradle of Humankind, a World Heritage Site where palaeoanthropologists unearthed a 4.17 million-year-old hominid skeleton in 1997, and continue to discover other clues to humankind’s origins.
Or cut to the chase and visit the Origins Centre, Jozi’s latest attraction, where you can track your personal bloodline with a DNA test that will prove that your ancestors originated in…you guessed it, Africa.
But a sojourn in Jozi is not about ticking off a to-do list, but more about getting down with the “black diamonds”—as the new black aristocracy creating its own cultural stew in the clubs, bars and restaurants across the city is called. Take a tour of Soweto, then head to Melrose Arch for drinks.
Or, once you’ve caught the inaugural game, get out of Jozi and head up to Sun City (a 90-minute drive by car or coach) to play in the glitzy Palace of the Lost City, one of the most over-the-top theme parks. Sun City offers plenty of choices including two excellent golf courses, or you can opt to get close to an entirely different type of game by taking a safari to neighbouring Pilanesberg National Park, a Big-Five reserve with regular sightings of elephant and lion.
From Jozi, you decamp to Durban, the busiest port in Africa, with a golden coastline that attracts the lion’s share of South Africa’s domestic tourists in search of affordable beach-based holidays. Like most port cities, it has a distinctly seedy side, but also spawns some of South Africa’s creative trendsetters, particularly in fashion and interior design.
Sugar was this region’s “white gold”. The world’s voracious appetite for sugar was also responsible for the strong Indian influence on Durban’s architecture and cuisine—during the 19th century, thousands of indentured labourers were shipped in from India to work in the sugar plantations. This is, incidentally, also where the young lawyer Mohandas Gandhi found himself ejected from a whites-only first-class carriage in nearby Pietermaritzburg; according to the man himself, “My active non-violence started from that day.”
Kingsmead, Durban’s semi-final venue, is very central, so you can take in a game, then sign up for a guided walking tour of the Indian “District”, where dealers trading in spices and saris contrast with Zulu street hawkers plying anything from baboon skulls to bits of bark—muti, used to heal wounds, improve spirits, and ward off evil. It’s a slightly depressing area though (watch your bag), so unless you’re interested in transplanted culture, stroll along Florida Road, where some of the city’s best restaurants and bars are located (don’t miss Bean Bag Bohemia), as well as the African Art Centre, one of the best places to shop for locally produced crafts.
But, perhaps, the best place to soak in this multicultural city is to take a dawn or sunset stroll along Battery Beach, where the Shembe—a local Christian sect—may be conducting a baptism, while surfers look for the perfect wave, or a Zulu sangoma (traditional healer) tosses in an offering to the ancestors.
Nothing will quite prepare you for Cape Town, regularly heralded as one of the most beautiful cities on earth. The massive sandstone bulk of Table Mountain, often draped in a flowing “tablecloth” of clouds, forms an imposing backdrop to the dwarfed city while, minutes away, pristine sandy beaches line the cliff-hugging coast. Mountainous slopes sustain the world’s most varied botanic kingdom (some 9,000 species strong) and, driving from the highway, you can spot zebra and wildebeest grazing unperturbed by the hubbub below.
Once you’ve got your bearings (the Newlands Stadium is about a 15-minute drive from the city centre), get yourself to the top of the mountain by catching the cable car. Or wander around the V&A Waterfront, very much a working harbour, but with parts of it jam-packed with restaurants, shops and bars, and stunning views of the Table Mountain. To mingle with Capetonians in more salubrious surrounds, head for the nearby De Waterkant or, more specifically, Cape Quarter, a chichi collection of bars and restaurants around a cobbled courtyard, or Camps Bay beach, where the back of the Table Mountain looms over a perfect palm-lined crescent of sand.
Then, come nightfall, head over to Long Street, the most bohemian and vibrant nightlife strip, or back to the more glamorous options in De Waterkant—all of these are a mere 10-minute drive from one another.
Whatever you do, don’t leave without circumventing the Peninsula, heading south to Cape Point to watch the seagulls hover at eye-height, the waves crashing on the cliffs below, and savour the sweet fresh air at this, the most southwestern tip of Africa. This is best done as a day trip on your own steam, with a stop at Kirstenbosch, the stunning botanical gardens, and luncheon in Constantia, the oldest wine-growing region.
I can’t guarantee who’ll play the final, but I’d put plenty of money on betting you’ll be sad to leave Cape Town. But leave you must. On 24 September, the final is being played back at Wanderers. It’s also Heritage Day, a public holiday, and you may want to honour this by squeezing in a visit to the Apartheid Museum, which provides a poignant insight into one of the world’s most iniquitous systems of discrimination.
Or leave it for the last minute, and spend a slow afternoon sprawled on a sofa at Moyo Zoo Lake, then plunder the on-flight bar with equal equanimity. For, regardless of whether the Cup wings its way back along the same route, you have had a holiday worth celebrating.
Pippa de Bruyn is the author of Frommer’s South Africa, a guide book. Write to email@example.com
How to go
SAA (www.flysaa.com) flies direct from Mumbai to Johannesburg for Rs33,000 (return economy fare). Others fly via other African cities or West Asia.
Taxis are the only way to go around in aggro Jozi. Or hire a car. Taxis don’t cruise the streets; expect to pay round R8-9/km (around Rs45-50). In Jozi, call +27 11 403-9625; in Durban, call +27 31 337-8333; in Cape Town, call +27 21 434-4444
Where to stay
In Jozi: At the Westcliff insist on a room with a view (www.westcliff.co.za, Tel: +27 11 011 681-6000, from R3,500 for a double room). Good boutique-style guest houses are The Parkwood (www.theparkwood.com, Tel: +27 11 880-1748, from R1,200 for a double); and The Peech (www.thepeech.co.za; Tel: +27 11 537-9797; from R1,550 for a double room). A great budget option is Guesthouse 61 On 5th (www.portfoliocollection.com/go/Guesthouse61On5th, Tel: +27 11 482-8278, from R800 for a double room). Tour operators offer day trips to Sun City, but if you want to stay overnight, a double room at Palace of the Lost City (www.suninternational.com) in September will cost you R4,350.
In Durban: The Hilton is a stone’s throw from Kingsmead but you’ll find far more character and charm at Quarters (www.quarters.co.za, Tel: +27 31 303-5246, from R1,260). Good guest houses on ‘The Ridge’ are Essenwood (www.essenwoodhouse.co.za, Tel: +27 31 207-4547, from R795); and D’Urban Elephant Guest House (www.durbanelephant.co.za; R550 for a double room).
In Cape Town: I love the colonial-era Mount Nelson (www.mountnelson.co.za, Tel: +27 21 483-1000, from R3,900). If you want sunset views, Atlantic House is the top Camps Bay option (www.atlantichouse.co.za, Tel: +27 21 437-8120, R1,300–R2,800). Overlooking the city and harbour, it’s Kensington Place (Tel: +27 21 424-4744; www.kensingtonplace.co.za; from R2,000); or Four Rosmead (www.fourrosmead.com, Tel: +27 21 480 3810, R1,800). To be in the centre of De Waterkant’s great shopping, restaurant and nightlife options, book at The Village Lodge (www.thevillagelodge.com, Tel: +27 21 421-1106, from R750).
Where to dine
In Jozi: Lunch should be at a restaurant along 4th Avenue in Parktown North; celebratory drinks from the huge selection of bars and casual eateries ranged along 7th Street in Melville. Make a date with Moyo Zoo Lake (www.moyo.co.za, Tel: +27 11 646-0058), a good place to sample “African cuisine”.
In Durban: Take your pick from the restaurants lining Florida Road and Davenport Road. If you feel like Indian, Vintage (Tel: +27 31 309-1328), and Indian Connection (Tel: +27 31 312-1440), both on Windermere Road (near Florida Road), are good, but Gateway to India (Tel: +27 31 566-5711) in Umhlanga is the best.
In Cape Town: Kloof Street is the “dining mile” here, with great options such as Manna, but if what you really want is lunch with a view, my top choice is Constantia Uitsig with vineyard-carpeted mountains to toast to (www.uitsig.co.za, Tel: +27 21 794-4480). For sunset drinks, I like Sandbar.