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Published by tasch, 2020-02-27 06:43:13




And The 21st Cape Town
all International Jazz
that Festival rolls into
jazz town on 27 and
28 March, drawing
ardent aficionados
and globe-trotting
music-makers to rub
shoulders at one of
the year’s grandest
gatherings. Here’s
some of the talent
worth checking out…

LIVING LEGENDS: Aside from over 25 years’ worth MARCH 2020 49
of world-touring gigs as the country’s preeminent jazz
pianist, Abdullah Ibrahim (top right) is also a great
wanderer; read about his love of travel on page 109.
Having carved a name for himself in South Africa,
Nigerian Afrobeat sensation Femi Koya (above) is now
reclaiming a place in the music scene in the country
of his birth. Known to her fans as ‘the Bass Queen’,
Tebogo ‘Aus Tebza’ Sedumedi (right) is among few
female South African artists to have achieved acclaim
for what she does with an instrument.

AWESOME FOURSOME: Seba Kaapstad is
a neo-soul quartet comprising one South African,
one Swazi, and two Germans. The band traces its
roots to 2013, when Sebastian Schuster arrived in
Cape Town and fell in love with its vibrant music
scene. He teamed with musicians Zoë Modiga, Philip
Scheibel and Ndumiso Manana and they’ve been
obliterating genres ever since, mixing soul, jazz,
electronic experimentation and African polyrhythmic
beats to produce a distinctive sound.

50 MARCH 2020 HEAVIES: Soulful UK duo
MF Robots (Music For
Robots) produces classy
music; the outfit combines
the talents of The Brand New
Heavies founder Jan Kincaid,
a notable drummer, songwriter
and producer, with vocalist and
multi-instrumentalist Dawn
Joseph, a fellow ‘Heavy’ who
has sung backing vocals for
the likes of Phil Collins, Rod
Stewart, Michael Bublé and
Craig David.

HOUSE DIVA: Yamikani Janet Banda, aka Lady Zamar,
mixes her career as a singer-songwriter with an academic
background. Her pop-house music is defined by melodious
vocals produced by a voice that’s been honed since she was
six. Her 2019 album, Monarch, features dance music that
conjures up a Saturday night in Mamelodi, where she grew up.


COLLABORATOR: Port Elizabeth-born bassist, composer and producer Shane
Cooper is one-quarter of a South African-Swiss collaborative project performing
at the Festival under the moniker ‘Reisling, Ntuli, Cooper, Baumann’. The foursome
comprises saxophonist Benedikt Reising who hails from the Black Forest and who
played baroque sonatas under a German punk influence before transitioning to jazz;
pianist, singer, composer and producer Thandi Ntuli; and Rico Baumann, who grew up
in a family of musicians. Cooper, who is part of a new wave of South African jazz artists
driving the genre forward, is also known for his work in the electronic dance music
world, as well as for his compositions for film and theatre.

CONNECTED SOUL: He’s been called the busiest
man in R&B (last year’s album, Paul, earned him
the Grammy for Best R&B Song). He’s keyboardist
for Maroon 5 and has collaborated with the likes of
Stevie Wonder, Solange (he’s her music director) and
Erykah Badu. He’s written and produced for artists
across genres – from India.Arie to LL Cool J to gospel
musicians like Fred Hammond and Heather Headley.
But PJ Morton says it was his decision to leave Los
Angeles and return to his hometown of New Orleans
that was pivotal in rebooting his musicality – the move
sparked a reconnection with his roots, and with the
soul music he feels connects all music. His solo career
really took off in 2017 when his album Gumbo garnered
two Grammy nominations and the following year’s
orchestral live album, Gumbo Unplugged, received
three. The son of two pastors, Morton says soul music
is his inspiration and that soul music is ‘100% church
music’. He says that both jazz and soul emanate out
of church music and that soul and jazz are the basis of
hip-hop – in this way, he says ‘they’re all connected’. He
suggests that the missing substance in contemporary
music may be because of the disconnect with the
church, something his return to New Orleans helped
him rediscover. ‘New Orleans is like no other place I’ve
ever been in my life. When I went back home, I kind of
re-fell in love with music and re-fell in love with the
reason I wanted to do music.’ MARCH 2020 51


GLOBAL LOCAL: He’s Samkelo Lelethu Mdolomba Words: Keith Bain, Pictures: Aubrey Jonsson, Supplied
but he goes by Samthing Soweto. Born and bred
in Protea North, Soweto, his teenage years were
stormy; Mandrax and then an armed robbery landed
him juvenile detention. Music literally saved him from
a life of crime and drug addiction. He was a founding
member of a cappella group The Soil, but since splitting
from the group in 2011 has collaborated widely,
including on Sun-El Musician’s 2017 chart-topping
single ‘Akanamali’. Released last September, his debut
album Isphithiphithi achieved a South African first on
Apple Music by holding number one album and singles
positions simultaneously. Having established himself
with jazzy Afropop credentials, the artist’s album
marks his embrace of amapiano, a break-out genre
that he says steers away from ‘a global African sound’
synonymous with Afrobeats to produce music that he
believes is more ‘purely South African’, incorporating
a mix of house and kwaito.

WUNDERKIND: Known for his one-man, audio-visual live performances,
London-based musical genius Jacob Collier is a Grammy Award-winning multi-
instrumentalist who caught the attention of fans through his self-made split-
screen video covers of popular songs, such as Stevie Wonder’s ‘Don’t You Worry
’Bout a Thing’, which went viral on YouTube. The covers were also noticed by Quincy
Jones, who later signed him to his label. In July 2015, Beats by Dr. Dre asked him to
create the England Rugby World Cup ‘The Game Starts Here’ campaign. His debut
2016 album, In My Room, was entirely self-recorded, -arranged, -performed and
-produced. He won Grammys for two tracks off that album, for his arrangements
of the theme to The Flintstones and of Stevie Wonder’s ‘You And I’. In 2018, Collier
began working on Djesse, an ambitious four-volume, 50-song cycle of albums. ‘It’s
50 songs, 30 different musical collaborators from every different genre under the
sun,’ he says. In January, Collier picked up another two Grammys for arrangements
off the first two Djesse albums – he’s definitely one to catch live.

52 MARCH 2020


Sometimes your MARCH 2020 55
elbows stick to the
counter, occasionally
idle banter erupts
into a brawl. They’re
high on atmosphere,
low on pretence.

They’ve got
character in spades
– and characters by

the truckload.
Andrew Thompson

takes a deep dive
into dive bars

O n chaotic Louis Botha Avenue in suburban Loyookus lciekretaaindiivt'es?aBduivt ea?r?e
Orange Grove, The Radium Beerhall has
long attracted rebels and misfits with its cheap The Striped Horse, Muizenberg.
booze, unpretentious decor and liberal politics.
In a gentle arc on the window, almost lost in the maelstrom With its deliberately kitsch decor, craft beer, and chance
of upcoming gig posters, are the words ‘The Radium Beerhall, of rubbing shoulders with surfers and local bohemians,
Est. 1929.’ this place really makes you want to believe it’s a dive.
But, like a horse with stripes, there’s more to it than
meets the eye. Oh, and there’s a branch on Kloof Street
in Cape Town now too.

It’s long been the type of no-frills watering hole into which

you can slink off the street and then slide up to the counter to

become just another bloke at the bar. Some days there’ll be

a grumpy old man recanting nonsensical stories. Other days,

that old grump could be you.

In an era where many bars encourage you to Instagram their

artisanal cocktails composed of foraged herbs and sprinklings

of vegan fairy dust, places like The Radium are brave survivors –

worth cherishing no matter how sticky the floor.

You might even want to call The Radium a ‘dive bar’. Once this

was a dubious moniker describing subterranean places of ill-

repute, but these days authentic dives are few and far between, Surfa Rosa,
swallowed up by the young blood’s craving for clinical glitz and Cape Town.
antiseptic gloss.
This hipster hangout on
But there’s a lot to be said for tangible history. Officially, The Harrington Street breaks the
Radium (below) began life as a tearoom. That’s what it said on first rule of the dive bar, by

self-identifying as ‘an edgy

dive bar’. Still, with its punk-

surfer ambitions, themed

nights and raucous crowds,

it does seem to have its soul

in the right place. thefirmct.

The Good Luck Bar, Joburg.

This large warehouse comes with all of
the rustic charm you could want from a dive bar
– but the abundance of hipster kids ensures that
it never truly escapes its up-to-date leanings.

56 MARCH 2020


Lefty's, the label, but it was always better known for its illegal shebeen.
Cape Town. It can claim to be Joburg’s oldest surviving bar
(it turned legit, getting a malt and wine licence in 1942) – the
The aesthetic is full-on Burmese teak bar counter’s even older, though, salvaged from the
dive bar, but it’s decidedly original Ferreirastown Hotel which was demolished in 1944.
an aesthetic simulation
with more than a hint of Like a layer cake of history, the Edwardian red-bricked façade
spit and polish to ensure has received some unsympathetic additions over the years.
A green iron gate and roller shutter door. Various advertisements
that the dedicated fans painted on the fading yellow pediment. And in the window, waist-
keep returning to high royal green curtains hanging from a wooden curtain rod,
soak up the ribald circa early-1990s.
ambience (and
barbeque ribs). Inside, there’s the scarred bar counter of course, vintage booze
105 Harrington ads and walls covered in memories. Manny Cabeleira, who bought
Street the joint in the late 1980s and still runs it today, has plastered over
most of the interior walls with memorabilia. Newspaper posters
Diesel & Creme, Barrydale. pilfered from lampposts and faded photographs. ‘When I bought the
place, the guys from the Daily Mail would come here often,’ Manny
There’s lots to love about this themed roadside diner on says in his gruff Portuguese-South African lilt. ‘They put the paper
Route 62. The bar action’s great, but it’s more like a film set to bed on a Thursday night, and so on a Friday afternoon, they’d
or an ode-to-an-era museum where brilliant burgers and come down to The Radium to play pool, and basically get pissed.’
shakes prevail – if you want a proper dive, carry on driving
until you hit Ronnie’s Sex Shop. These journalists started to write about The Radium, and the
crazy Portuguese guy who ran it, and, according to Manny, things
snowballed as politicians, captains of industry, judges, journalists,
musicians and ordinary folks streamed in. ‘We’ve always had brain
surgeons and drain surgeons,’ Manny says. The list of famous
patrons makes for good reading, too. Before he returned to politics,
South African president Cyril Ramaphosa popped in ‘for a chow
every now and again’.

Even philanthropist-musician Sir Bob Geldof stopped by once.
‘I was invited to the table,’ Manny says. ‘So I asked him: “Do I call
you Bob, Mr Bob, or Sir Bob?”’

Geldof replied that he couldn’t care less, suggesting that
Manny call him something extremely rude instead. Manny
says he happily obliged all night long.

If the idea of a place this laidback and slightly uncouth fills
you with pangs of nostalgia (or curiosity, for those of you born
post-cellphones), there are others like it, too.

The Winston Pub is one of Durban’s more infamous watering
holes – the city’s longest standing live music venue and a proud
dive bar frequented by locals who’ve helped stomp spilt beer and
hard tack onto the sticky floors.

In Port Elizabeth, around the corner from Africa’s oldest opera
house, is the entrance to the decrepit-looking Stage Door pub at
the Phoenix Hotel. Go upstairs for a drink amidst the Tudor-style
architecture and displays of 1950s’ Americana. MARCH 2020 57


The dive-style restaurant-cum-bar is a motley concoction these are the class acts THE TIKI BAR
packed with paraphernalia and whimsy – one sign screams
‘Beware of attack waitress’ while another diffuses any THE SPEAKEASY Award-winning bartender Travis
expectations of ‘fancy food’ (‘Want peppermints? Next time Kuhn knows how to make people
bring your own,’ cautions the menu). Underfoot, the wood is Inconspicuous, tucked away, very happy – not only have
stained by decades of spilt drinks, and the whole place is out of sight, totally secret. his mixology skills earned
full of stuff – from ancient cameras and personalised The Art of Duplicity is the result him a nod as South Africa’s
number plates, to record players and sewing machines, of a collaboration between David most influential cocktail
it’s like stepping into a wonderfully crazy museum. As it Donde (of Truth Coffee) and personality, but he’s recently
should be, considering it’s been proffering ‘Quality and award-winning bartender Brent opened The Vicious Virgin,
Value’ since 1837. Perremore (who was bartending Cape Town’s first tiki bar,
in underground joints back in the a follow-up to his Polynesian
Having started as a victualling station for passing ships, 1990s). Housed in a renovated Pearl Diver pop-up adventure
Cape Town’s associations with sailors and all their cravings and 1894 Victorian warehouse, their that also focused on rum-centric,
vices means the city was always home to seedy drinking holes. speakeasy-style establishment French Polynesian inspired
Many have disappeared – the capitalist imperative of the pays homage to the Prohibition era cocktails known for their strong
V&A Waterfront long ago drove out the water’s edge places – you enter via a dark alleyway and kick. Vicious Virgin is in fact
that would have qualified as the roughest. Nevertheless, on it’s password-protected. The low- the name of a classic tiki drink,
Buitenkant Street, the 19th-century Perseverance Tavern is lighting interior features a vintage traditionally made with two kinds
the city’s oldest pub and still serving up live music, beers and apothecary style bar and there are of rum, plus Cointreau, a spicy
pizza. The old Crowbar hasn’t changed a jot in decades, and in storage sacks between the comfy sweet syrup called falernum,
De Waterkant, the Vasco da Gama Taverna wears its 47 years seating. On Perremore’s quirky and fresh lime juice. Its flavour
on its sleeve. cocktail menu, you’ll find such sits somewhere between a mai
wonders as a ‘Bear and Rabbit in tai and a daiquiri. 53 Wale Street,
The Kimberly Hotel and The Shack nearby both specialise the Woods’ (4th Rabbit agave spirit,
in unrealistically cheap booze, late nights, loud music, drunken honey liqueur, wooded Chardonnay,
conversations with strangers, and the occasional brawl. Nearby, cacao bitters, pine needle and honey
there’s a much newer spot that’s managed to tap into the soda) and ‘Mae’s Pearl Necklace’
secret dive bar recipe. Dust and Dynamite is a garage that (1800 Reposado tequila, yellow
owner Wayne Keet personally converted into a modern-day Chartreuse, coconut cream, salted
Civil War-themed saloon. It even has swing doors – plus pineapple and bubbly). There’re
fortnightly classic movie nights, live
58 MARCH 2020 jazz on Fridays and Saturdays, and
a dress code (make an effort). It’s
open from 6pm till late, Tuesday–
Saturday. Reservations for a three-

hour time slot can be made online
so you can get your password and
a clue as to the whereabouts…


Additional words: Keith Bain, Pictures: Supplied THE DRINKS LABORATORY wood-panelled walls, revolver display cases, a sideboard of cowboy
hats, flickering candles perched on antique holders, and a playlist of
At Cape Town’s V&A Waterfront, Cause|Effect Cocktail classic rock ‘n’ roll.
Kitchen and Cape Brandy Bar has been causing quite
a stir since opening last August. Folks behind the scenes take ‘This bar took me 11 months to build and it’s no dive,’ Wayne says
their alchemy very seriously and they refuse to do anything proudly. ‘The counter you’re leaning on came out of an old bank.
that isn’t out of the ordinary – they eschew sweet and sugary I spotted it on the back of a garbage truck driving past while I was
cocktails and have zero interest in pre-mixed drinks. The building – I shouted to the driver to stop and slipped him a few
owner is local mixology legend Kurt Schlechter, so you get hundred bucks for it. I locked myself in here during those months
highly specialised concoctions such as the signature Richie the of building and would sometimes work through the night.’
Rainbow Unicorn cocktail, homemade herbaceous vermouths
and bitters, and even a non-alcoholic CBD spritz. Plus, there’s Not all that much has changed, really – Wayne’s still working through
the Schweppes Bartender’s Lab where a dedicated bartender the night, although at least he now has company.
makes bespoke cocktails to pair with a three-course tasting
menu. ‘We’ve never had any issues in this bar,’ he says, ‘except that
once when some okes tried to take my cowboy props off the walls.
In Rosebank, Joburg, behind a little Italian restaurant I personally kicked them onto the street.’
called Coalition, Sin+Tax is the not-so-secret
secret bar that has not only entertained the There’s a certain nostalgic charm to Dust and Dynamite’s
likes of David Beckham, but last year earned gung-ho style and its flaunting of bylaws. Smokers can light up
a place on the extended list of World’s 50 Best inside and Wayne says there’ve been nights when the party’s
Bars (coming in at 88, it’s the only bar on the
continent to make the long list). The real secret, gotten so wild that he didn’t have the heart to end it.
though, appears to be bartender Julian Short’s ‘When that happens, we’ll just roll down the shutters
lovingly experimental approach to cocktails – and keep it going all night,’ he says. ‘Sometimes
there’s a lot of sorcery behind the scenes, coaxing we keep it going until 4am.’ It’s a kind of middle
finger to authority that resonates with the
memorable flavours into the glass. It’s also a small renegade spirit of the kind of people who
space (40 people max), so Julian and his team opened congregate here.
a second venue, Speak No Evil, which was meant to be a kind After all, it’s the patrons, really, who make
of dive bar-cum-waiting room. Of course, it’s turned out to be these places what they are.
just another kind of fabulous. Corner of Bolton Road and Jan ‘We have our regulars who come here most
Smuts Avenue, nights of the week,’ Wayne says. ‘They’d rather
wait out the traffic here with us. They’re the ones
Not only is the bar itself a thing of beauty, but at
Marble, an open-fire restaurant on Rosebank’s who give this place some extra personality.’
Keyes Art Mile in Joburg, the cocktails are Back in Orange Grove, Manny Cabeleira nods in agreement.
dreamed up by one of the country’s best. ‘I can’t take credit for it,’ he says. ‘It’s people who make The Radium,
George Hunter (pictured right) is so devoted not me.’
to creating memorable mixed drinks that
he’s invented one especially for the Bacardi MARCH 2020 61
Legacy cocktail competition, an international
contest to inspire rum-based creativity.
Inspired by elegant, classic cocktails, George’s
invention is ‘The Cazador’ (Hunter in Spanish), which
combines Bacardi Ocho with lime juice, maple syrup,
crème de cassis and absinthe. Definitely worth popping into
Marble or sister restaurant Saint to sample. Corner of Keyes
and Jellicoe avenues,


Here. There. Everywhere.


No fuel, no noise, and heaps of fun. These foot-powered bicycle-like watercraft
have a history going all the way back to the 1870s when the earliest water
bikes were called water velocipedes. Over the last few years, they’ve started
trending – not only are they useful as a zero-impact way of exploring watery
terrain, but in some quarters they’re being touted as the future of waterborne
mobility. Sometimes called hydrobikes and also available in an e-powered
format, they’re certainly a safer alternative to the congestion, robots, potholes,
pollution and dangerous traffic on our streets. Their noiselessness also means
they’re a boon if you want a close-up view of marine creatures. Plus, your legs
get a workout without some of the dangers faced by cyclists competing with
cars – they’re easy to steer and stabilised by the pontoons on either side of the
craft. All you need is to have legs long enough to reach the pedals. Based in
Simon’s Town, Cape Town Water Bikes was the first local outfit to offer tours
with these contraptions, affording a unique perspective – because the bike’s
seat is quite high above the surface, the view’s considerably better than being in
a kayak, for example. Their two-hour tours (at 8am or 11am) from the Simon’s
Town pier offer a choice of routes; they cost R590 and there’s an accompanying
safety boat for peace of mind. You can also rent them and forge your own path.

Words: Keith Bain, Picture: Cape Town Water Bikes 73 81 89The wonderful world of Oz Land Rover’s rebel tour
Next-door Europe
Racing to Rio
101 109 127PLUS The flavour route
Exploring is in their blood MARCH 2020 65




1. Uptown hero

In Cape Town’s historic cobblestone
neighbourhood of Bo-Kaap, Dorp is a new
30-room hotel up on the slopes of Signal
Hill overlooking the city and surrounded by
mountain views. Checking in feels like walking
into a film set – this is somewhere rather
timeless, impervious to the outside world, and
filled with things to read and look at or on which
to get comfortable. The owner, Gail Behr is
a fashion designer who started the bohemian-
inspired Plett hotel, The Grand (now Grand Africa
Rooms & Rendezvous), many years ago. She’s let
her playful eye and great sense of style really go
to town here – knick-knacks and collectibles are
left lying around, intriguing pictures hang here,
eye-catching fabric covers a piece of furniture
there. This really isn’t a hotel in any traditional
sense of the word, and yet it feels like the
embodiment of hospitality – not the corporate
kind, but the type that comes from the heart. MARCH 2020 67


Despite feeling like it’s an historic property given a do-over, it was in fact built Harvest Café and Deli
from scratch, purposefully retrofitted with antique doors and windows to A vast upstairs space serving delicious, wholesome
bestow a sense of history, and in the process turning it into a treasure trove
of clever ideas and beautiful things found in places like Egypt and India. Aside breakfasts and lunches that are grounded in
from the furniture and fireplaces and bathtubs, there are wallpapers, artisanal a consciousness about food – plant-based diets
fabrics and mountains of books. are covered, but they have sweet treats, too, and
What’ll make you smile? Its position up on the slopes of Signal Hill means there’s genuine concern over where produce comes
you can’t help falling for the views that enfold you – mountains if you glance up, from and how meat is reared. The plant-filled
city spread out below. You feel a bit all-powerful up here, and – captivated by interior is bright, prettily decorated and affords
the hotel’s varied spaces – will probably want to stay put. It’s that lovely – and
it doesn’t take itself too seriously at all. A ground-floor café serves unfussy lovely views.
comfort food and, since there’s no liquor licence, you can bring your own and 102 Wale Street,
enjoy your favourite tipples in a variety of pretty spaces, inside and out.
And giggle? The spaces tell stories and there’s plenty of wit. The pink velvet Mami Wata
sofas and dinosaur prints in the salon are a treat, and the mood music in the This designer surf concept store features clothing
Arcadia wing tugs at you as you survey the pictures of vintage Cape Town
drag queens. and surf gear designed and made in Africa, and
Jokes aside, why stay here? Intimate and beautiful, it’s the sort of place you with an aesthetic that’s truly of the Motherland
relax into quickly and don’t quite want to leave. Which might be a problem if – incredible board shorts and swim trunks, and
you’re only staying for a night.
OMG factor? The jungle garden is as pretty as you can hope for beautiful surfboards, too. They support the
– full of birdlife and other little creatures; purest fantasy. charitable Waves for Change organisation that uses
Who to take? Bohemians and misfits will feel at home, as will surfing to help youngsters improve their lot in life.
anyone looking for a break from reality or seeking inspiration. They have coffee and kombucha, too; plus beautiful
Not for you if… you’re the type who watches TV in the room
and needs air-con (there are fans instead). No spa, gym or African surf maps for your wall. 81 Rose Street,
corporate blandness, either, thank heavens. You almost wish
there wasn’t Wi-Fi; there is.
How deep are your pockets? From R3 800 for the cheapest
room; from R5 800 if you have a view.

68 MARCH 2020


Batavia 2. Let there be light
Coffee and Cape Malay dishes inspired by the
neighbourhood you’re in, this blue-hued café In the virtual countryside of Lanseria (just 30 minutes from Sandton but light years
does green shakshouka for breakfast and Malay from its bustle), white light/the rooms is a soothing, intimate 12-room hotel
plum chicken for lunch. Plus, plenty of other that’s been created from a resuscitated, restored and reimagined cottage. Great
for overnight business trips or big family gatherings, it has three categories of
traditional dishes for a variety of moods. suites, all with voluptuous king-size beds, top-grade mattresses and 400 thread-
114 Church Street, count linen. The design takes its cue from the quality of the light on the Highveld
– it’s bright and crisp, which adds to the satisfaction of being here. It’s unstuffy and
Clay Pigeon Trading although it soon feels like home, comes with those extra luxuries as well as its own
An unfettered specialty coffee bar with weekends-only restaurant which opens
a sustainability-inspired ethos. The pretty design for breakfast and lunch. And if you book
is meant to take you back to simpler times, with the entire space, you can enlist the
food created to match that nostalgic twist. services of a private chef.
117 Strand Street,

Moto75 MARCH 2020 69
Brum-brum, rev your engines and get ready to
ride. They rent scooters, run scooter tours, repair
motorbikes and do custom builds. Or just slip in
here for a hot brew and to chat about having the

wind in your hair. 75 Rose Street,

Great quality apparel by a limited selection
of carefully chosen local designers – the likes
of Temple of Reason, Float Apparel, Forecast
Raincoats and Aya Goods. Wonderful ready-to-
wear garments for women, statement-making
shirts and bold shorts for men, plus handcrafted
jewellery, Skinny laMinx accessories, Bamboo
Revolution watches and unique apparel with an
African twist. 102 Wale Street,

Bo-Kaap Kombuis
The space is a bit stark, but the sweeping views
of Table Mountain and the traditional Cape Malay

food never let you down. 7 August Street,



The Ivy places emphasis on personalised service and
there’s a team of butlers (contactable anytime with
WhatsApp) whose job is to make you feel like a VIP –
they’ll even unpack your luggage for you, shop for you,
or arrange a private chef to entertain you in your villa. And
we really love that it’s pet-friendly, so you are welcome to
bring your pooch along, too. Canine guests get a dignified
welcome – dedicated bedding, treats, and a walking map.
Pet-sitters are also available, and you may get to meet
the hotel’s resident Great Danes, Duke and Gigi.

3. Ivy league quarters Words: Keith Bain, Pictures: Supplied

Conceived as a soothing oasis, The Ivy Villa Hotel & Spa might be in the quiet Sandton neighbourhood of Strathavon, but
it’s been made to look and feel like it’s out in the countryside. Deft landscaping and prodigious use of plants and trees have
bestowed this bolthole with the atmosphere of a secluded lodge in the bush. It’s a great place to catch your breath. And
while it’s lovely outside, interiors are sharp and chic, designed to be gracious, comfortable and unfettered – rooms (all either
big suites or villas) are done out in neutral, soothing hues, dark wood and earthy textures. Sleeping quarters aside, the hotel
includes Joburg’s first Reuben’s Restaurant & Bar, and the Poison Ivy (below) is a handsome lounge-cum-bar specialising in
cognac, champagne and cigars. There’s also a Camelot Spa set against the lush gardens with a waterfall soundtrack to help
restore your bliss.

70 MARCH 2020


Kevin Fraser
was born

and raised in
Durban and
now lives in
Australia. We
asked him
to reveal the
details of his
love affair with
the world’s
biggest island MARCH 2020 73

Aussie department turns up. I lean more towards
oddities prawns myself. Australia has some pretty
good seafood.
You know you’re in
Oz when… You see blokes with a rugby ball wearing
extremely short shorts. Aussie rules
Budgie smugglers (aka Speedos) are football is basically like quidditch, but
part of the culture. They’re virtually without the broomsticks. Put another way,
compulsory on Australian beaches. Aussie rules is basically Gaelic football
Admittedly, I’ve been sucked in myself. If played on a cricket field with a rugby ball
you can’t beat ’em, join ’em. wearing a basketball kit. It makes no sense
to me, either. I live in New South Wales
You see those hats with the corks. where we follow rugby.
No, I don’t own one. That would be
social suicide.

Virtually everything is out to eat you or
bite you or sting you or kill you. But, to be
honest, the most dangerous thing in
Australia is probably the Council which will
issue fines for overstaying your parking
time. Other than that, you don’t want to get
involved with saltwater crocs in northern
Queensland or the Northern Territory. You
also don’t want to get involved with box
jellyfish, and specifically not the Irukandji
jellyfish which, although just a cubic
centimetre in size, is extremely lethal.

You hear about throwing some shrimps
on the barbie. Of course, you could, but you
will probably get a fine after the fire

74 MARCH 2020


Wrap your head
around this

Ten things Kevin may never get used to
about Australia

The accent. I must confess that I sound more Australian in
Australia. It’s just easier fitting in rather than being on the receiving
end of stern looks – like the one you get if you order ‘ice’ in your flat
South African accent.

I find it hilarious seeing some Aussies turn up at the
supermarket in their UGG boots and PJs. Too funny.

Aussies are obsessed with reverse parking almost everywhere
they go. It’s very practical, of course, as it speeds up your departure,
but when you watch an ancient lady performing a 95-point alley
dock into her parking bay just to fit in with the rest of the
population, you have to laugh.

The speed limit. The highway is 110km/h and it can be hard to
adapt to when you’re used to reversing out the garage at 160km/h
to get to a meeting in Sandton.

Speaking slowly. We South Africans speak super-fast.
When you tell an Aussie you will do something ‘just now’, they
expect it to happen immediately. In my world, ‘just now’ means
anywhere between now and three months from now.
Not saying ‘Shame!’ just because you can. We say ‘shame’
a lot in SA, often for no reason. In Australia, it can almost be
considered patronising.
You can’t just light a braai. With the Aussie fire crisis, bans have
been imposed and you can’t have open flames in your garden. The
fire brigade will come if they see smoke. Aussies deal with this by
opting for barbecues instead. It’s an emotional thing.
The cultural void. Australia is a lot more culturally savvy than
most South Africans would assume. But when you’ve come from
a country that is fuelled by cultural diversity, it’s hard getting used
to a place that has very little of it.
There isn’t really a tipping culture in Australia. So there’s not
much incentive for people in the service industry to go the extra
mile. Things like getting cutlery, napkins and sauces in restaurants,
or wiping your table down… Nah, these aren’t priorities for Aussie
waitstaff. South Africa is blessed with service. In Joburg, I can get
my windscreen washed and tyres polished on William Nicol while
waiting for the robots to turn green! Now that is service! MARCH 2020 75

Struth! African time
down under
Funny things Australians
say to South Africans I’ve lived in five Aussie cities so far. When I am not
touring, I’m based in Sydney. It’s a thriving, buzzing,
They say, ‘Buy a donkey’ gorgeous city where you can have your head tucked
instead of ‘Baie dankie’. between the walls of the corporate concrete jungle
and five minutes later be on a quiet beach in the
Many ask me if I have heard of the eastern suburbs.
band Die Antwoord. Usually I say no because they
pronounce it ‘Dye Ant Word’. A strange fact about the Sydney Opera House is
that initial estimates put the cost of building it at
When people find out I’m from SA, they say: ‘Ah! $7 million. In actuality, it cost $102 million. It also took
Nelson Mandela!’ I always find it funny the way they 10 years longer to build than the original plan to spend
just blurt that out. When I meet Americans, I don’t four years putting it up. Just in case you thought
spontaneously say, ‘Ah! Donald Trump!’ It’s strange, African time was unique to Africa.
but it does hint at just how respected Madiba is all
around the world.

That we sound just like New Zealanders!
You say you’re from South Africa and they say,
‘Ah, yeah mate, I’ve been to Cape Town…!’ Like it’s
the only place that exists.


ABOVE: Australia’s most iconic building
gets 8 million visitors a year

LEFT: Noosa Heads, Noosa National
Park, on Queensland’s Sunshine Coast

TOP RIGHT: WTF? The Whitsundays
actually look like this!

FAR RIGHT: Diving with crocodiles at
Darwin’s Crocosaurus Cove

Gm’adtaey!TeacEhngyloiushrs-AelufsSttrraalliaiannDwicitthioKneavriyn’s thong stubby tucker shark biscuit

76 MARCH 2020 A pair of slip-slops, and I used to think this was Food. This can either refer to
a term used to describe an amateur or young
not a G-string! your toe when you hit it, but (what we in SA know as
upon further inspection, it’s a ‘lightie’) surfer or

a bottle of 375ml, a little bodyboard.
typically beer.


Pictures: Boyloso/, moisseyev/, PDerrett/, Kevin’s Top 10
NeoPhoto/, yanjf/, sanddebeautheil/ Aussie Destinations


Reached from Cairns, a city on the coast in the northeastern corner of the
country, these islands have the whitest beach sands in the world. It’s no
place to live really, but on holiday, it’s just paradise itself. June and July are
a great time to visit.


It is simply paradise. But you can live there. It’s about an hour and a half
from the city of Brisbane. Think calm, blue beaches, beautiful national parks,
impeccable homes and the best weather year-round. Certainly a great place
to retire!


I love doing an afternoon or morning run in this part of the city because just
being here makes you feel successful. Actually, the same can be said for any
eastern suburb in Sydney.


Nowhere will you experience Australian wildlife like you will in the Northern
Territory’s outback. There are signs up at Darwin’s beaches warning you not
to swim – because of the crocodiles. Come to think of it, the people in Darwin
are a bit wild, too.


If you thought Perth was Benoni by the sea, you’re
wrong. The West Coast is the best coast and – after
the Whistundays – the place you’ll find the best
beaches in Australia.

pictures: xxxxxxx pash hard yakka woop woop nuddy dag

A passionate kiss. Hard work, basically. A term used to describe Naked or nude. Literally another word for

a place far away from me. I’m kidding, but it really

anything. does usually describe an

entertainingly eccentric

person, so… MARCH 2020 77


6 HOBART, TASMANIA. TOP: An accordion player in trad
German get-up outside a shop in
Hobart’s like a smaller version of Cape Town. With Hahndorf, near Adelaide
some of the best wine you’ll ever taste in this cool
climate. Once you’ve explored the town-sized city, LEFT: Mardi Gras participant
venture up the coast – the island is unspoiled and in Nimbin
untouched and pretty breathtaking.
BELOW: Kangaroo mother
7 HAHNDORF, SOUTH AUSTRALIA. and baby in the pouch at Lucky
Bay in the Cape Le Grand
This is a German settlement along the Adelaide National Park near Esperance,
Hills wine route, so there’s plenty to drink. Western Australia
Established by Lutheran migrants in the 19th
century, it’s quaint, gorgeous and has plenty of BOTTOM: One of Aussie’s most
original Germanic architecture and good food. striking lizards, the thorny devil
is found in Uluru-Kata Tjuta

From Alice Springs, go and see Ayers Rock,
preferably in the spring, and see the lights display
or simply gawk at the open night sky as you view
millions of stars in the middle of the desert.


A short drive from the Gold Coast, across the
border into NSW from Queensland. The beaches
are incredible but it’s the cultural buzz of Byron that
you need to experience. It’s another world within
Australia. And for the real earthlings seeking to
open their minds, drive on up into Nimbin for the day.
It’s a kind of hippie refuge where pot smoking seems
to be freely accepted.


It’s all tropical at the top. If waterfalls, humid
weather and hikes are your thing, only a short while
from the beach, then go for it! Cairns is backpacker
central and usually full of Germans, so if your car
breaks down, you’ll probably be fine.

rack off bogan doona ripperMy

Basically the same as term. AustraliaBahsaicsalmly tahneysame
bogans. Basoicragollya,wita’ys.
back off or go away. a person regarded as
bTaI’chlklisoneimsveoernanegseAtduuBbMAussoauvsyesgesiiaftedctarna.avtt.lloeloiyaur,.imhrItti’satesaAmpeuarsnssoyienbtWoererghmgaaenr.rnesd.aesdlolymgeotohdin! g is


being of low social status as being of low social status or

or unsophisticated. unsophisticated.

78 MARCH 2020

an epic overland
adventure O
undertaken in R
some of the D
finest vehicles E
ever made R

MARCH 2020 81

It was roasting hot, the sun glistening, the air slick and wet and thick
with diesel fumes and sweat; flies were circling, people milling,
queues lengthening.
Land borders are seldom pretty, and the human congestion in the
bustling no-man’s land holding area at the Botswana-Zimbabwe Kazungula crossing
was especially stifling. The space was clogged by big trucks and cargo carriers, some
of which looked liked they’d been waiting for days. It’s the paperwork that’ll drive you
bonkers; the pencil pushers are sticklers for precision.

You’d expect the atmosphere to be taut, fractious, impatient. Instead, a calm prevailed.
Drivers familiar with the lunatic levels of bureaucracy stood around patiently, chatting,
laughing, negotiating with prostitutes who were circling, too, doing their bit for the local
economy, keeping the mood light as they serviced truck drivers who sometimes wait
days at a stretch.

Besides, word was that the prolonged wait had nothing to do with slow officials; the
computers were offline. And so we waited. And waited.

Our group, comprising more than 30 lucky souls driving a convoy of 18 all-new Land
Rover Discovery Off-Road SUVs across the Caprivi Strip, had already had nine magic days
to settle into the rhythm. In less than a week, we’d crossed umpteen borders. Sometimes
we’d gone in and out of one country in the same day, and we’d spent time at stuffy little
border outposts where you could smell the rat faeces in the ceiling and others where

there was nothing but a table under a tree and the
armed guards had posed with us for selfies.

We’d been treated like VIPs everywhere we went,
despite forcing officials into tedious form-filling as they concentrated hard on passports from at least
half a dozen countries.

And there was that other Angolan border post in the middle of nowhere. It was lodged in a very
modern-looking brick building painted some impossible shade of green and had a concrete courtyard
lined with 18th-century Parisian street lamps. And at one Namibian border our passports were
stamped under a makeshift gazebo by a charming duo who may as well have been a happily
married couple.

82 MARCH 2020


At one of the busier, more serious-looking posts between
Namibia and Botswana, we watched illegally parked cars being
clamped with some scary, toothed contraption that looked like
a prop from Mad Max. There I witnessed the frustration of long
queues endured by ordinary people who cross boundaries every
week – to do their shopping or visit family.

The queues can break you. Or they can break your heart. When
you’re privileged and being swept through the bureaucratic
process like some VIP while dozens upon dozens of people wait
for hours, it can also make you realise just how lucky you have it.
On the Land Rover Experience Tour, we were very lucky indeed.

CLOCKWISE FROM TOP LEFT: Freedom to explore
The convoy waits at a busy border;
an officer at an unofficial Angolan While border crossings weren’t the whole point of the journey, they certainly gave it
border post; over 30 passports an edge, and they gave a shape to our adventure. Often, apart from the reality – and
from around the world had to be signage – of a boundary between countries, it wasn’t even clear where we were. What
processed at each crossing; in was certain is that we were on the trip of a lifetime, a once-off, never-to-be-repeated
a makeshift gazebo, a Namibian journey that had started in Windhoek and followed an on-the-map and then off-the-map
border official patiently stamps route north and then through the Caprivi Strip, zigzagging this way and that to cross
passports; monkeying around various borders. We veered from Namibia, briefly into Angola and back, and then into
during long waits at the Zambia, and back again before heading into Botswana where we caught our breaths
Botswana-Zimbabwe border. with incredible animal sightings, had hot showers and even cruised on the Chobe River
with sundowners. And, after our long wait at Kazungula, we would cross into Zimbabwe,
where we’d be welcomed in the lap of luxury at the historic Victoria Falls Hotel.

Some days were slower and longer than others. On one day, we drove from sunrise
until shortly before midnight, with barely time to pee when we stopped for fuel. Our
mission was to circuitously see a number of reserves and protected areas that form part
of KAZA, the Kavango-Zambezi Transfrontier Conservation Area, which is a collaborative
undertaking between five southern African countries. At Vic Falls, part one of the tour
would end, journalists would swap with other journalists and then the convoy would
continue into Hwange National Park and then Khwai Conservancy in Botswana.

We mixed it up a lot. Sometimes we camped in places so untethered from the world
that a spade was required to use the loo. But we also spent nights in proper beds, and
even enjoyed periods of straight-up luxury. We learnt to put up tents in the dark and to
strike camp quickly like a regimented team. At times, we felt as far from civilisation as
you could hope to be, and yet we had such expertise along with us – men who could do
a full service on a Land
Rover in the bush –
and there was even
a satellite dish to
hook us up to Wi-Fi
in the wilderness.

We were as motley
a group as you could
hope to meet. Apart MARCH 2020 83

from a few marvellously certifiable Land Rover fanatics, the Ah, but this land is beautiful
team included a wizard-level chef with an industrial oven
installed in the back of his Discovery, a German blogger who There are places in this world that most people will never hear
perpetually wore khaki and styled himself as a modern-day about, let alone see. One of them is Luengue-Luiana, a national
Viking, frazzled photographers, two TV crews, and quite a few park in the seemingly forgotten far-southeastern corner of
hardcore driving experts. Angola. It’s just north of the Caprivi Strip and while there are
border posts linking its sand tracks with Namibia, these are
Alongside novice-level 4x4ers like myself were the likes of unofficial posts accessible only to local people, most of whom
Stefan Auer, an Austrian Land Rover instructor who earned cross on foot. The park is so off-grid that it’s not even linked
his off-road driving stripes in the 1997 Camel Trophy and by road to Luanda. For our mission, Dag and his team had
cut his teeth driving on snow-covered gravel roads in the negotiated hard for well over a year so that our convoy could
Austrian Alps. cross the unofficial border and see what vast and unspoiled
beauty exists on the other side.
And there was the expedition’s organiser, Dag Rogge, a
German 4x4 enthusiast, adventurer and philanthropist who There, we drove on ridiculously difficult sand tracks, through
has been running the Land Rover Experience Tour programme magical tracts of forests where ghostly trees that had shed
since he established it in 2000. He’s led trips all over the world their leaves stood so thick they blocked out the sunlight. While
– the last one, in 2017, was in Peru, where all kinds of logistical it was indescribably magnificent, it was also pretty hard-going,
challenges threatened to derail the journey. But they made it, of driving over soft sand that seemed out to try and sink us.
course. ‘That’s half the thrill,’ Dag told me. ‘Facing challenges
that people face in the real world. We’re not here to just The great thing about people getting stuck in the sand,
experience the pure comfort of the vehicles, but to see what the though, was that it afforded a chance to take a pee in the bush
real world, far from home is really like.’ in a place that was once riddled with landmines. That really
took some effort to wrap my head around, and often
I chickened out even though we’d been repeatedly told that
the area had been completely de-mined. That day I drove with
a very full bladder.

In Luengue-Luiana, we camped in a clearing
close to a water hole, and through the night could
hear hippos guffawing as they trundled between
our tents. We woke up early to witness the most
incredible dawn, spectacular colours stretched
across a vast sky.

It wasn’t only nature that we were there to
discover. Our mission was about meeting local
people, too; and to see how climate change has
impacted life for everyone. We visited a school
where children turned up after walking miles

84 MARCH 2020


Pictures: Craig Pusey, Henning Leuke An audacious journey through wilderness to get to class. And there were communities
where the nearest shop or hospital was a full day’s trek away.
Every year or two, the Land Rover Experience Tour (LET)
channels the spirit of one of the planet’s most iconic off- At our campsite in the middle of Namibia’s little-known
road vehicles into an overland adventure. It’s designed to Khaudum National Park, we were visited by a family from the
town of Tsumkwe, the capital of the former Bushmanland region,
test specific 4x4 capabilities by undertaking a cross- who showed us how they find water in the desert. And then they
country adventure like nothing your wildest dreams entertained us with trance dances around the fire.
could conjure – the sort of adventurous spirit and lust
for challenging terrain once suggested by the Camel We caused a bit of a sensation wherever we went, including
Trophy. It,s a wild ride, mixing it up between tar roads when we stopped in Jambo, an Angolan village that – during the
and unchartered territories, combining the offbeat with Border War – was the thriving headquarters of Jonas Savimbi.
the familiar. It’s intended to rewire circuits and prove that
they’re not messing around at Land Rover – they design There was a night spent at a lodge at Namibia’s Popa Falls,
their vehicles to explore the world’s roughest corners. where we took a languid cruise on the Okavango River, watching
The first one, back in 2000, went to Jordan, and there people bathing and fishing not far from where hippos and
have been journeys following the Silk Road, traversing crocs cavorted.

Iceland, and exploring Australia. In 2017, the tour And there were those thrilling encounters, too. While camping
happened in Peru, a tough trip across the Atacama in Chobe National Park, I was woken in the night by what sounded
Desert and to Machu Picchu that was struck by airplane like a lion roaring in the distance. In the morning, we found its
delays and other logistical spanners in the works that tracks – he’d sauntered right through our campsite, practically
might have shut down similar trips completely. But LET’s brushing up against some of the tents.
team thrives on challenges and the aim is to show how
these vehicles make the seemingly impossible possible. Cruise control
According to LET founder Dag Rogge, who leads each
expedition and is front and centre for everything from Our adventure didn’t quite deposit us in harm’s way, nor were we
tyre changes to sorting out highly technical mechanical too far from civilisation even when the GPS showed us cruising
issues, these adventures aren’t just about travelling through unmapped areas. Still, there’s a tangible freedom that
in style through a quixotic landscape and having comes with knowing your vehicle can stand up to virtually anything
the time of your life. They’re also about exposing the environment can throw at it. Feeling safe and secure in hostile
participants to the realities of the world. ‘It’s not just environs bestows
a thrill ride,’ he says, ‘but facing some of the rigours a certain ease,
and challenges that happen beyond your comfort a great comfort
zone, particularly if your normal life revolves around when you’re not
quite sure where
a comfy office job in Frankfurt.’ you are.
According to Dag’s right-hand man, Marvin Verheyden,
who coordinates these trips down to the finest detail, MARCH 2020 85
planning for each LET takes around three years. And

it’s easy to see why. Starting with picking a suitably
imaginative location, there is unprecedented logistics

planning. Aside from journalists and TV crews and
Land Rover instructors and mechanics, the expedition
sets off with a team of participants – camera-ready
adventure-seekers from German-speaking countries
who compete in a series of rigorous competitive heats

to win one of six places on the tour.


It’s little wonder that Kingsley Holgate – South The experts among us – guys like Dag, Gerard and Stefan
Africa’s preeminent explorer – traverses Africa’s most – ran the mission like clockwork, a small team working
difficult-to-reach places in his trusty Defender. with surgical precision and focus and speed to perform
emergency tyre changes after one or another German
The Discovery I was driving possessed almost journalist drove like they were on the autobahn when what
sentient levels of intuitiveness. There were settings they needed to do was chill out and let the car drive itself.
for just about any eventuality – and the car was jacked
for cruising on difficult sand tracks and great for But really the biggest challenge was the tracks – miles
manoeuvring ridiculous spaces and hard conditions. and miles of deep, soft sand. The trick, Gerard taught me,
I was a bit shocked by what this machine could do. And was to basically do as little as possible. Just lightly touch
it was tough, eager to go, and hard-wearing, too. the steering wheel to make sure you don’t drift off the path,
but otherwise take it slowly and let the vehicle figure it out.
Of course, even an excellent machine needs some
know-how behind the wheel. I obeyed and managed to drive some 2 000km without
a puncture or getting stuck in the sand. My experience was
Fortunately, I had a great teacher: Gerard van incident-free in fact, aside from that one time when I got so
Meygaarden, who heads up Land Rover Experience in lost in the thrill of the drive that I took the wrong track and
Windhoek, was my co-pilot for much of the trip. When headed into the distance. I was set to end up in oblivion until
he first handed me the keys, I was like, ‘Huh?’ but the radio crackled to life and I heard Dag calmly informing
within minutes, I’d settled into a loving relationship me that I’d overtaken everyone and was now missioning
with that car and it was pretty heartbreaking saying in the wrong direction – as one does when the wanderlust
goodbye to it at the end. Gerard taught me the most spirit takes hold and you get lost in the moment.
important lesson about driving that car: to take it
easy and let the Discovery do its thing. After all, it has
some seriously high-tech engineering and a brilliant
computer on board.

Sign up for adventure

While each LET tour is a once-off, there are Land Rover Experience opportunities around the world for which anyone can sign
up. There’s an off-road driving challenge in Maob, Utah, for example, where you get to explore the legendary red rock studded
landscape from behind the wheel of the Discovery, and there’s Land Rover’s Ice Academy in Arjeplog at the edge of the Swedish
Arctic Circle. There are all kinds of real-world adventures to be undertaken in a Land Rover where you get to learn 4x4 driving
skills while seeing a fascinating part of the planet in unexpected ways.

Closer to home, there’s Experience Johannesburg in Lonehill where you can spend the day on the Kingsley Holgate
Expedition Trail, tackling challenging terrain and learning new driving skills under expert supervision. In Windhoek, Land Rover
Experience’s Gerard van Meygaarden puts together tours of Namibia where you self-drive through some of the continent’s most
spectacular landscapes and reserves. You can mix your adventure between camping and nights in upmarket lodges according to
your tastes. These aren’t tours where you get chauffeured around, but where you’re at the wheel, with a back-up vehicle carrying
your crew, and you are treated like a VIP all the way.

86 MARCH 2020


Wee at last Conservation
without borders
Back at Kazungula, the mood was turning fairly festive. Kevin,
a young Swiss guy with a devil-may-care attitude and a big heart, Almost twice as big as the UK and
had succumbed to the heat, stripped off his shirt and cranked the larger than Germany and Austria
volume on his Discovery’s sound system. Spilling out of it was combined, KAZA – the Kavango-Zambezi
some infectious French-Senegalese hip-hop that sparked a pop- Transfrontier Conservation Area –
up disco right there in no-man’s land. The truck drivers in cowboy lies in the Kavango and Zambezi river
hats watched and smiled. Some whipped out their cellphones to basins where several countries
capture the unfolding fun. This, I thought, was how you’re meant converge. It’s established under
to wait it out at border posts – all it takes is the right attitude and, a Memorandum of Understanding
instead of tedium, you experience a thrill. between Angola, Botswana, Namibia,
Zambia and Zimbabwe and incorporates
After all, in a few hours it would all be over. Once the 36 proclaimed protected areas –
computers came back online, we’d be through the gate, heading national parks, game reserves, forests,
east along the straight stretch of Kazungula Road, and end up conservancies and wildlife management
inside the wood-panelled interior of the Victoria Falls Hotel, areas. It includes two World Heritage
sipping G & Ts. Sites, Victoria Falls and the Okavango
Delta. Spanning approximately
But first there was that persistent problem one finds on road 520 000 square kilometres, it’s the
trips: I really needed to pee and if there was a loo at world's largest transfrontier conservation
the border, I couldn’t find it. area with a strong focus on developing
When I couldn’t hold it any longer, innovative ways of securing these areas
I drifted from the milling crowds and against the impact of climate change.
stood between the vehicles in a quiet Often, the water source for one park is
spot against the fence. As I stood there located across the border, so partnerships
weeing through the wire, all I could are vital. Also essential is stimulating
think was, ‘I wonder if I’m weeing into tourism to lesser-known parks, and
Zimbabwe or Botswana?’ Or perhaps there’s a drive to share knowledge
it was Zambia. Maybe even Namibia. It around the value of animal and biosphere
didn’t matter. The point was that I was protection with local communities in
free to wee. And I did. order to stimulate micro-economies and
eliminate poaching.
MARCH 2020 87



Volcanoes and French people, Creole food
on a beach, windy roads and fantasy peaks.

Lovely. There’s a lot more to Réunion
though. Peter Frost follows his wanderlust
beyond the expected and heads off-piste to

discover a few unexpected bonbons MARCH 2020 89

Réunion is merely the You can venture further into
tip of an enormous the caldera on trails that
volcanic mountain rising
from the sea floor, one lead to Mordor-like drop-offs
of the tallest ‘freestanding’ and views out across the
rest of the island
structures in the
world’s oceans.
The Réunion hotspot is
a moving vent that pushes
magma up through the
earth’s crust. It’s currently
under Réunion but will
move on in time, likely
creating new islands in the
Indian Ocean as it pushes
through the crust, finding
new weaknesses. Réunion
will then cease to be
volcanically active.
There are 420 hairpin
bends on the N5, up to the
town of Cilaos in the Cirque
de Cilaos caldera (and one
single-lane tunnel). That’s
840 if you count coming
down – there’s only one
road, tarred, in and out.
Nausea pills recommended
for the weak of stomach.

Roland Garros,
Réunion’s favourite son,
was more fighter pilot than
sportsman; he was shot
down multiple times in the
First World War, escaped

a German prisoner of
war camp and was killed

over France in 1918 by
German fighter pilot ace

Hermann Habich.

90 MARCH 2020


pictures: xxxxxxx The island of Réunion, pimple in the Indian Ocean,
spitting distance from Mauritius and not too far
from Madagascar, is a department of France, not
a dependency, not a forgotten colonial embarrassment, but fully,
totally French. They get new Citroëns before South Africa, sell
Le Monde in corner shops, drive on the right, and there’s virtually
no English signage at all. You’ll find no large international chain
resorts here, no busload of kyk-daars at every view sight, no
mass tourism. There are, however, some inordinately trendy
street cafés, and all the cheese you can stuff in your face. Plus,
lots of fully independent travellers marvelling at the majesty of
it all. And there is plenty of it at which to marvel… MARCH 2020 91

Bubbling under It's not Vesuvius,
but it is worthy of respect
‘So how quickly would you die?’
Not the kind of question you’d expect the total darkness, Jan du Bois is all to worry – these tunnels are obsolete.
business, explaining the process of The new lava coming down the side
from a functioning adult, much less creation, knowing we can only listen. of Fournaise will find other routings.’
a supposedly literate journalist blogger. And then, out of the blackness, comes
But there you go, lava tunnels do funny that question. Well that’s alright then. The last
things to people, apparently. eruption was a while back, October
Silence. 2019. Nothing to worry about.
Hang on, did you say ‘lava tunnels’? ‘Die?’ du Bois says, presumably trying
Yes, they’re a thing and on Réunion, you not to roll his eyes. ‘Very quickly. You Back outside in the blinding tropical
get in them. won’t need to worry about pain though. light, Fournaise looming large is just
Not at 1 200 degrees. And the lava is a mountain, albeit one with mascara
On the island’s east coast, the circular moving fast, maintaining a lot of that rivers running down the slopes, black
road skirts a monster volcano named temperature as it heads for the sea; even tracts detailing a penchant for troubling
Piton de la Fournaise, still bubbling as though it is 100 000 times more viscous vexations. It’s not Vesuvius (that’s
you read this. Stop in a certain spot than water, it takes long to cool and can an explosive volcano, Fournaise is
(your very sorted, über-friendly French do as much damage entering the sea a quieter, bubbling shield volcano),
guide will know where), don a helmet, as it did when it left the vent. But not but worthy of respect nonetheless.
headlight and gloves and voilà, down Bucket list tick. Next…
a tiny hole into the pits of the earth. It’s
black down there, steaming hot from all
the trapped condensation, elemental,
the lava roof baked into a shiny metallic
gloss, the alumin and silica combining to
create a wonderland of reflective light,
a bit like a gigantic graphite pencil. Until
you turn off the head torches.Then it’s
darker than death, utterly, completely
black, just the sound of the water off the
ceiling and your own heart. The tunnels
were formed by lava flows whose
upper crust cooled while the magma
continued to flow. There’s a veritable
warren of them down there and more
are constantly being discovered. In

7 COOL THINGS 1 Walk into a volcano 2 Take a Creole cooking
TO DO class on the beach
ON REUNION Brave the 500-odd steps down into the
Piton de la Fournaise volcano (a World Willem Robert from Amine Pique Nique
Heritage Site. Actually, Fournaise is offers MasterChef experiences under the
a three-hour hike from the car park, so trees on the beach near Saint-Gilles-les-
most visitors simply take the steps down Baines. Actually, not so much MasterChef
to the secondary vent of Le Formica Leo. as most-excellent-time-having-fun-with-
food. He sings too during the picnic, given
the right encouragement – local Zoreille
songs that are as good as his sautéed

92 MARCH 2020


LEFT: Piton de la Fournaise A road like no other Like Nivolet in the southern Alps, Cilaos
erupting in 2003 is a one-way stairway to heaven – there’s no
The world has a handful of epic roads – other way out. They used to carry visitors
ABOVE: Sainte Rose Church the Khyber Pass through the Spin Ghar the 40km up to the town by sedan chair,
Mountains, the Zigzag Road between imagine that. Prospective travellers were
BELOW: Reunion’s twisty, windy N5 Nepal and Bhutan, Tianmen Road in weighed and it was decided how many men
with its 420 switchbacks China, Jacob’s Ladder in Tasmania and it would take to get there. Tough gig. For
closer to home, KZN’s Sani Pass and Serra contemporary Réunion travellers intent on
de Leba in southern Angola. Add then to a bit of groovy tarred-road twist-and-turn
that shortlist this little gem – the N5 from (it’s even better on a bike or motorbike), it’s
Saint-Louis on the southwestern coast to altogether easier now, and there’s no better
the inland village of Cilaos in the heart of party in town. Spare a thought however
the ancient, dormant caldera of Cirque de for the schoolchildren in the villages of the
Cilaos. If Réunion is France with tropical caldera who have to take the bus down to
blomme, Cilaos is the Alpine Nivolet Pass, the coastal belt every day. And back.That’s
but with bells on. 420 switchbacks down and 420 up. And
it’s not like they can read or play games.
More twists than Greater sacrifices have rarely been made for
a bowl of spaghetti a decent education.

The ascent starts easily enough through
the weirdly Swiss-like foothills – green fields
and fat cows just crying out for a yodelling
Heidi to appear, chasing butterflies. But soon
enough, Switzerland morphs into the South
Sea islands, vertical cliffs, impossibly high,
closing in on the Brave Little Road That
Would. Up the side of the caldera, down the
other side, along the floor and… halfway
up the other side again to the remote town
of Cilaos. At one point, the two-lane road
narrows into a single lane and disappears
into the mountain. It emerges the other side
to a sharp right-hander that requires

3 Visit downtown Saint- 4 Visit the (very lucky) 5 Take a helicopter flip
Denis at night Sainte Rose church over the inland
Saint-Denis’ old town might be any pavement Left and right of the Sainte Rose church
culture hotspot anywhere in Europe – Croatia – but not through it – the lava flow of It’s an ideal way for
maybe, the Marais, Alfama, Prague on the April 1977 changed the fortunes of the newbies to orientate
river. The mix, the fashion, the easy wearing little town on the east coast. Today it’s themselves – get into
the miracle village, the church renamed a Corail five-seater
of youth and elegance. That it’s an Notre-Dame-Des-Laves. Funky 1970s helicopter and check
Indian Ocean island capital makes Christ and Mary’s blue umbrella are out the volcanoes,
the whole experience that much waterfalls, coastal
more incredible. Chic like France, meant to protect the nearby vanilla fields lagoons and town
welcoming like Africa, at ease centres from the sky. It’s
like the islands. Try any of the from future eruptions. Google Earth, only live.
restaurants and bars on Ruelle
Edouard, close to the Saint-Denis
Cathedral (pictured left). MARCH 2020 93


LEFT: Cilaos town sits on the edge of
a crater lake

BELOW: Stay on the beach or swim in
the lagoons - unpatrolled waters are
fierce with sharks

(that poor school bus) a three-point streets of Cilaos, it’s easy to believe the Cilaos is
turn to carry on. An hour later, after world doesn’t exist outside the caldera, New York
more twists than a bowl of spaghetti, so cut off is the town. But actually, it’s New compared
you’re wondering how, just how did they York compared to what’s just over to what's
build this road? Slowly is the answer, the mountain. just over the
apparently, in the 1930s. It took mountain
ten years. It was the way he was staring lovingly at
a Brie-and-ham croissant in Chez Lucay’s
The village that window in Cilaos that gave it away. Louis
time forgot Bollée was clearly not from this part of the
island. He had the look of a happy hermit,
The reward for all that switchbacking is a reclusive novelist maybe, not entirely of
a town easily as pretty as the trip there. this world.
Cilaos, gaily painted, full of traditional
double-storey wooden villas and a good ‘I’m having one. Would you join me?’
few half-decent restaurants, is a popular He demurred but introduced himself and
focal point for the trekkers planning on sat with me as I wolfed down the French
venturing further into the caldera on trails equivalent of a toasted sarmie, sipping
that lead to Mordor-like drop-offs and a strong espresso.
views out across the rest of the island.
The ultimate goal is the peak of Piton des ‘French? Dutch? English? South African!
Neiges, one of the highest points in the Mon Dieu, there are not many of you here.
Indian Ocean at 10 000 feet. Walking the But then there are not many of me here
either. I am from La Nouvelle in the Mafate
Cirque. You know this place?’

6 Abseil down a waterfall 7 Swim in a lagoon

Canyoning is huge on Réunion, and the big No matter how awesome the swell (Réunion’s
daddy is Trou de Fer, a 3 000-foot cascade a surfing paradise), stay clear of unpatrolled
in three parts. It’s only for the skilled, brave coastal areas and stick to the many lagoons. For
or totally insane – rather try one of reasons they’re still trying to figure out, Réunion’s
the others, such as Trou Blanc
for starters and come back largely docile shark population has been
for the grand finale. Kit replaced in recent years with much more
and guides are excellent, aggressive shark visitors. No problem in
try Austral Aventure. the protected reef lagoons (there are many, such as the popular Plage de
L’Hermitage beach near Saint-Gilles-
les-Baines on the west coast). MARCH 2020 95


His English is good, better than my – but a nice one, not like the previous Building a legacy Pictures: titine974/, kelifamily/, Tomasz Dutkiewicz/, Thomas CORNUT/, KarlosXII/,
tortuous French. mayor. She is in love with Paul Auster, so aronaze/, Balate Dorin/, RUBEN RAMOS/, LRPhotographies/, Leevke Struck/,
I am reading The New York Trilogy now. I Before 1946, Réunion was just an agricultural Leevke Struck/
I do know this place. If buckets had lists, think Auster is far better in French than outpost, producing vast amounts of sugar
it’d be top of that – Mafate is the caldera in English. La Musique du Hasard sounds cane but not much else. Antananarivo on
in the centre of Réunion, a remote Eden better than The Music of Chance, right?’ Madagascar was the French cultural and
that has managed to escape the 21st (and economic centre. Then Réunion became
20th) century. No roads, no electricity, no I’m thinking never judge a book by its
Wi-Fi… its population is a bunch of earth cover, French, English or otherwise. Louis a department of France – a de facto province
children, more by necessity than design. bids me farewell – ‘au revoir mon chiot!’ – – and everything changed. The ‘metropole’,
Helicopters deliver food, rescue the sick and I watch him head to the backpackers, as locals call France, invested massively and
(and increasingly drop off lazy tourists Auster and a big pile of his contemporaries Réunion boomed. Prior to 1946, the island’s
too fat to walk over the volcano lip). The in his canvas bag. Along with the remains architecture consisted mostly of sugar-cane
caldera was colonised in the 19th century of my sandwich. I’ll be back to taste his owners’ wooden villas, shacks and precious
by escaping slaves from the coast, sure goat stew. little else. One of the first arrivals from France
they wouldn’t be followed. They were was the much-lauded right-hand man of the
right, sort of. Years later, a peloton of poor radical architect Le Corbusier. Jean Bossu
French sailors trekked up to the caldera was tasked with bringing the new modernism
and settled. The mix today is as Creole as (and not a little communist egalitarianism)
can be, suggests Louis, still staring at my
sandwich. He comes down once a month to Réunion. In the space of 30 years, he
to fetch wide-eyed trekkers who have transformed the capital, Saint-Denis, into
heard of the community. He doesn’t buy a contemporary showcase for the modernist
much. ‘We grow what we eat, slaughter movement. Today, more than half of his 300
goats for occasions, live off the land. There projects survive, a timeline of Réunion’s rapid
is solar, some of us have generators but evolution from backwater to destination
the fuel is getting expensive. I get books à la mode. As with most modernism, not
here mostly, from the schoolmistress all of it is pretty, but much of it is intriguing.
around the corner. She is a communist As Bossu realised that climate had to be
accounted for, his buildings evolved and today
TOP: Our Lady of Deliverance in Saint-Denis his double roof is a given across tropical
territories, a genius solution to a hot-weather
LEFT: A typical Creole house (la case Créole) with ventilation problem. Sunshades on windows?
sheet-metal ‘cases’, thick coats of colourful paint, Those were his too. Of all his buildings, the
roof lambrequins and flowerbeds Post Office in downtown Saint-Pierre is
probably his most celebrated. Vast, angular,
BELOW: Cilaos town overshadowed by mountains gorgeous, it has survived cyclones, bad
renovations, French neglect and the night
traders who buzz around its base on market
evenings. Bossu’s dream of creating a local
version of Le Corbusier’s Parisian Plan Voisin
(an entire business district) never came to
fruition, but there’s enough around to thank

the man for his vision and foresight.

96 MARCH 2020




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