The Vaal & Sun City, South Africa

We stopped at home in The Vaal for a mere evening where we went to a brilliant local Austrian/German restaurant – Dean’s Log Inn. C tucked in to pickled eisbein (pickled pork knuckle), I went for cordon bleu chicken, and the others opted for steak. To say the portions were generous may be an understatement, I could barely finish half of mine but continued to try and persevere with it as it was so damn delicious.
Waddling on back with full bellies, we sat in the garden to watch the sun set and had a few friends over for evening drinks.

The four of us had made our way back to The Vaal to meet up with C’s parents and cousin whom was also visiting from England. The plan was to head up to Sun City for a few days, then on the way back to The Vaal to swing through the cradle of mankind to pick up two more of C’s cousin’s. We would then all head to Durban together.

4am and C’s mother who is a ridiculously chirpy morning person, was banging on the door for us to get up.Still bleary eyed, we gulped down coffee and grabbed a quick slice of toast and scrambled eggs before piling into the cars and heading off to Sun City.

Sun City is an enormous casino/water park complex up in the mountains. It comprises of several hotels as well as the self catering villas where we were staying for a few days. The main hotel, “The Palace” is the most extravagant and expensive, built to look like an African jungle palace. Sun City has casinos, it’s own safari, a water theme park with slides of all descriptions and a man made lagoon with a wave machine. I am such a big kid when it comes to water theme parks, I absolutely love them! Having searched Sun City on google images, I was petty excited!

“The Palace” peaking above the trees.

We got in one car – C, his brother R, myself and R’s girlfriend S. The boys were sitting in the front sharing the driving and we sat in the back, chatting and delighting the boys with our sing alongs.

We arrived at Sun City, unpacked our things, making sure to hide all food items from the view of the baboons. If they see your food through the window, they won’t hesitate to break in and trash the place. In all seriousness, you have to be quite vigilant as they’re pretty vicious. We saw one little girl attacked by a baboon because she was holding and ice cream! Thankfully she was fine but they’re pretty terrifying!

We headed to the complex for cocktails. The first place we stopped had a brilliant view but the most disgusting piΓ±a colada I have ever had the misfortune of drinking. So many questions… Why was it the colour of vomited ribena? Why was it curdled? Why did it taste like cheese? What the hell did they make this monstrosity with?! The staff were seemingly unphased when i told them it was so disgusting I could not drink it.

A bit put out, we headed on and thankfully, had no further bad experiences or rancid cocktails! We went elsewhere for one more round before heading back to the villa for dinner. After dinner, we lounged in the sun for a little. In the evening, we freshened up and changed our clothes, and headed up to the casino. The casino at the hotel was decorated black and gold with giant coloured poker chips from floor to ceiling in various corners of the room.

We ordered drinks and sat at a table. I was hoping on gaining a bit beginners luck but with each bet I made, I lost. So much for that! Within an hour, my casino money was gone and I was not in a rush to lose any more! C on the other hand was having a whale of a time! At one point he was about 3k (ZAR) up! However, having decided not to quit while he was ahead, he eventually left even.

The next morning, bright and early like excited children we packed our swim gear and towels and headed straight for the water park after breakfast. I had come to realise something in the air up in the mountains did not agree with me. I could not stop sneezing, every other minute, all day long! The others found this highly amusing as apparently I have quite a comical squeaky sneeze.

We sunbathed for a little, swam in the lagoon, then headed up the stone steps to the water slides. The stairs seemed endless, and there were a group of giggling children who had already lapped us about 3 times! The slides were great but we had all come to the realisation that we weren’t particularly fit and we were growing less enthusiastic with each slog up the stairway. After a while, we headed down to the lazy river instead where we lay in inflatable rings, pulled gently along by the water and drifting in the sun.

We stopped for a snack, then headed up to one of the much quieter pools in the afternoon where C’s parents had been hiding away. We sun bathed until I felt light headed, then we casually lapped the pool and ordered frozen daiquiris to cool off with.

Late afternoon we all headed back to the villas where we rested up, showered and changed and headed off to a shabine themed bar. A shabine is traditionally an African equivalent of a speakeasy (though a bit less glamorous).A place to get illegally sold liquor after the shops close. We had a drink or two and then C’s mum kindly ordered some food. Here’s a tip for you: If someone in Africa offers you “walkie-talkies” at a restaurant, it’s chicken’s head and feet. The feet by themselves are often referred to as “runners”. C’s mother had ordered runners with an appetizing side dish of mopane worms in tomato sauce.

I had always thought I was the type of person to try anything once until that was put in front of me. C & R on the other hand tucked straight in.

You can see in the background,how impressed I was by the dish that looked like mummified old ladies hands smothered in BBQ sauce…

After all that excitement, we returned to the villa for bed, where I quickly rummaged through the cupboards for a snack that I knew and trusted.

The following day we explored. We walked around the resorts, surrounded by lush jungle like shrubs, streams and mini waterfalls. We stopped here and there for cocktails at different bars and restaurants, chatting and enjoying the sun.

In one of the hotels we spotted a sign for The Lost City Maze. We grinned and decided it would be a laugh. We followed the signs and found our way to a bamboo and rope bridge, the entrance to the maze…

We tentatively walked across the bridge and into the maze, where we split into three groups and decided to have a race. Feeling quite smug I set off at a quick pace, assuming the old “keep your hand to the left and follow that path” would work! Or was it keep your hand to the right? After hitting a dead end I was feeling a bit perplexed, not to mention thirsty. It was pretty hot in that maze. It was out in the open, there was no cover from the glaring midday African sun. Oh God. I actually started to feel a bit panicked and picked up my pace.

I gave up trying to follow this path or that and just frantically rushed around. After out 30 minutes of rising panic and sweltering heat we had found our way to the centre of the maze. There was a window to look through, though too small to climb in, and no door. Inside I saw a bar, with drinks, and the other group were in there having a beer! I was dying of thirst and again I ran around with my hands on the wall praying I would find this bloody door before I died! Eventually we found the door and in we stepped! A bar, toilets, thank god! I will admit, I was little annoyed that my group didn’t win. I am a bit of a sore loser.

C & R ordered craft beer taster boards, served with little baskets of salted popcorn to cleanse the pallet. I ordered a pint of orange juice and drank more than half in one go. After we had cooled down, we relaxed in the shade, laughed at the others who had still not made it in yet, and simply enjoyed the view.

After the others had found their way in, grabbed a drink and cooled off, we headed back to the complex and to the pool. Catching the last few rays before the sun went down.

After freshening up and changing at the villa, we headed back out to dinner. We had a little wander around until we came across a lovely little Greek restaurant. it had a lovely white and pale blue interior with al fresco dining surrounded by cobbled paths and little streams. We ordered some shared appetizers such as bread, olives and dolmas (stuffed vine leaves). We ordered our mains and sat in the pleasant evening, sipping wine and chatting.

Upon the mains arriving we all eagerly tucked in. R suddenly had a look of shock and anguish on his face and grabbed his drink and started taking gulps and gulps of it. He had ordered steak, and they had cut little slits into the meat and stuffed it with chillies! R had been pretty taken aback and caught off guard!We couldn’t help but laugh, as it had stated chilli steak on the menu, but he had assumed it was the marinade or maybe cooked in them. He carefully carved his steak, searching for and picking out the hidden chillies. After that we simply strolled around in the evening…

On our final full day we went to a crocodile sanctuary. Sanctuaries in South Africa seem to have a different philosophy to what us brits might have. They had a lot of big old crocs, and some babies you could hold (even with their mouths taped shut I was not on the volunteer list) but they also had a cafe which sold crocodile meat, and a gift shop with a vast selection of crocodile skin souvenirs. Apparently it is to generate income to save the other crocs. That all seems a bit strange to me!

Unfortunately a lot of my photos from my time in South Africa were deleted and I don’t have any of the enormous crocs. Some of them were terrifying! In particular there was one with half a face lost to a big fight. There were some very old crocs, one of which only had three legs and was around 80 years old, and some were just simply gigantic, around 16 foot long!!

The less terrifying ones!

None of us were too keen on purchasing any crocodile skin souvenirs, and (oh so unfortunately) the cafe was closed that day. The rest of the day we just wandered around, swam, and sunbathed.

Our final morning in Sun City we went to the Cabanas hotel for a buffet breakfast. Full of fresh, sweet fruits apart from the one I happened to choose which was cayenne and pineapple. Nice but with an unexpected punch! There were breads, pastries and a cooked selection of food such as omelettes and some sort of bolognese? I am still confused by this. Breakfast bolognese? The seating was out in the open and it was nice to enjoy the sun and fresh air. After filling ourselves up (gotta get your money’s worth eh?) C and I thought it would be a good idea to walk back to the villa as it was a lovely day and would burn off some of the calories. We set off quite happy, but after 10 – 15 minutes in to the walk we were starting to realise it would be longer than originally thought. It was getting incredibly hot and it was more or less a totally uphill walk, and we hadn’t thought to take any water with us. The walk eventually took us about 30 minutes, up hill, under a glaring sun and when we got back to the villa we near on collapsed. I had ended up with one gigantic blister on the sole of each foot, each taking up the entire circumference of my foot!

After this we packed up our things, and I stretched myself out with S in the back of the car, feet pounding, and slept like a log! Only waking up once we were near the cradle of man kind.

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Freelance writer who loves reading, cooking & travelling. Rarely spotted without red lipstick. Penchant for whiskey on the rocks.

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