Off the Beaten Track
Howzaat South Africa?
The ICC Cricket World Cup begins this month in South Africa. So what better time to take a sporting vacation to the land of surfin' safaris. Are you ready to hunt the biggest game of the year?
BLOEMFONTEINBloemfontein is the capital of the Free State. A pretty, medium-sized city, it lives up to its name, which means 'spring of flowers'. In the middle of the city is a small nature reserve called Naval Hill, where you can go for walks and see small game. Bloemfontein is the site of the Supreme Court of Appeal. There are a number of museums dedicated to subjects ranging from natural history to warfare. The most poignant memorial is the Women's Monument, erected to commemorate the thousands of women and children who died in British concentration camps during the South African war (Anglo-Boer War). Bloemfontein is very conveniently situated as a stopover point if you're driving between Cape Town and Johannesburg, and it is the closest city to the Kingdom of Lesotho. MATCHES: Feb 10: Sri Lanka v/s New Zealand Feb 22: South Africa v/s Bangladesh March 3: Namibia v/s Holland March 8: Super Six match March 12: Super Six match Cape Town Cape Town is in Africa, and of Africa, but yet different. Perched between the ocean and the mountain, and with a National Park as its heart, it's wild and wonderful. But it's also the oldest city in the country, and it has a cultural heritage spanning more than 300 years. Table Mountain offers some of the best climbing in the world, and it's right in the city. The surfing is fantastic; the diving is cold but good. You could go mountain biking, or try sandboarding. A great thing to do on a full moon summer's night is to walk up Lion's Head before dark, watch the sun set on one hand and the full moon rise on the other and then walk down in the silvery light. Don't miss Robben Island. MATCHES: Feb 9: South Africa v/s West Indies Feb 15: Kenya v/s Canada Feb 22: England v/s Pakistan Feb 28: Sri Lanka v/s West Indies March 7: Super Six match Durban If Johannesburg has a business culture and Cape Town has a culture culture, Durban has a beach culture. Even the high-rise offices look out over the Indian Ocean, and busy executives hang up their suits and ties, slip into shorts, and jog along the beachfront at lunchtime. There are two yacht clubs and one very big commercial harbour. You can explore the Indian Market or just wander down Grey Street, where you'll find all kinds of interesting little shops. For something upmarket, and very interesting, visit the Gateway Shopping Centre. It has a climbing wall and an enormous artificial standing wave - the first artificial double-point break in the world. The diving just south of the city is great. For the hardcore diver, Protea Banks is a must. MATCHES: Feb 11: Bangladesh v/s Canada Feb 26: England v/s India March 3: South Africa v/s Sri Lanka March 15: Super Six match March 20: World Cup semi-finals East London East London is a quiet little city slumbering on the edge of the Indian Ocean, occasionally looking up to see if the surf's good. Nothing happens very fast here. The surf is pretty legendary, and the city is well placed as a springboard for trips to and along the Wild Coast. Either do a four-wheel drive trip or choose to walk from hotel to hotel along the Wild Coast Meander hike. Not too far off is the montane forest region of Hogsback. Legend has it that it is in these tangled forests that JRR Tolkien (who was born in Bloemfontein) got his inspiration for Middle Earth. MATCHES: Feb 16: England v/s Holland Feb 27: South Africa v/s Canada March 15: Super Six match Johannesburg Johannesburg is the major international gateway into South Africa so you are quite likely to spend, at the very least, a few hours here. It's a vibrant and dynamic place with a throbbing pulse and an awesome sense of rhythm. Everyone is on the move - doing business, making money, jogging, going to gym, cycling, partying till late, eating out, and attending shows, movies and exhibitions. There is a lot to do in Johannesburg. You could go on an escorted tour of Soweto. A visit to Gold Reef City is a fun day out with amusement rides and a reconstructed mining village. A trip to the Apartheid Museum is an experience. Or watch a performance by the Lipizzaner horses on a Sunday morning, at their premises in Kyalami. MATCHES: Feb 11: Australia v/s Pakistan Feb 13: South Africa v/s New Zealand March 1: Kenya v/s Bangladesh March 10: Super Six match March 23: World Cup finals Kimberley It is almost certainly only because of the existence of an enormous diamond pipe that the town of Kimberley ever developed. The Kimberley Mine Museum is a reconstructed mining town built around the Big Hole - a monument to the lengths humans will go in search of these glittering gems. Another interesting museum is the McGregor Museum, which was at different times a sanatorium and hotel. The two rooms where Cecil John Rhodes sat out the siege of Kimberley have been preserved. MATCHES: Feb 16: Pakistan v/s Namibia Feb 26: New Zealand v/s Bangladesh Pietermaritzburg This little city is often called "the last outpost of the British Empire" by residents and detractors alike. Odd, really, as it was never a British colonial town. It was founded by Boers. Situated in a hollow surrounded by hills, Pietermaritzburg is just short of 100km from Durban, with which it has very intimate ties. These are most notable in two very tough races, which are run between the cities. The Comrades Marathon is 98km long and follows the old national road. The other race is the Dusi Canoe Marathon, which is run on the Umsinduzi River. With long portages of up to 10km, this is more a biathlon than a canoe race, but it draws great fields and lots of appreciative spectators. The town is quiet and pretty, characterised by redbrick, Victorian era buildings, of which the City Hall is a notable example. MATCHES Feb 14: Sri Lanka v/s Bangladesh Feb 23: India v/s Namibia March 23: World Cup finals Port Elizabeth Often overlooked by travellers in search of glitz and glamour, Port Elizabeth is probably South Africa's best-kept secret. Fantastic weather and an enormous range of attractions make it a great place for a totally relaxing stay. Port Elizabeth is a significant industrial centre, with much emphasis on the motor manufacturing industry, so it's quite appropriate that it has the country's most impressive motor museum. For an innovative shopping experience close to the beach, the Boardwalk has a whole host of fashionable shops and some wonderful coffee shops and restaurants, as well as a casino. MATCHES: Feb 13: West Indies v/s New Zealand Feb 19: England v/s Namibia March 2: Australia v/s England March 11: Super Six match March 18: World Cup semi-final