We often get the question if it is worth visiting South Africa, while we are experiencing an electricity crisis. We received this honest response from a guest contributor about why you should not hesitate to visit this incredible country.
WHAT IS LOAD SHEDDING?
Load shedding, crime, failing infrastructure…sure, there was a time when some things were better in South Africa, but then other people had it worse. (How is that for an opening sentence on a travelling blog!)
Some people may be unsure or hesitant to visit South Africa because what exactly is this load shedding, and how will it affect my trip? In simple terms, load shedding is a rotational system Eskom (South Africa’s monopolistic power supplier) implements to supply electricity.
In Afrikaans, it is called “beurtkrag”, which directly translates into “[your] turn power”. So, basically, you will get electricity when it is your turn because right now, Eskom is unable to generate enough electricity for the needs and wants of the country.
WILL LOAD SHEDDING AFFECT YOUR VISIT TO SOUTH AFRICA?
Well, yes. It will. If you are used to electricity and suddenly don’t have access to it, then yes, it will. It affects every part of our economy, our social lives, and our traffic; when you make food, when you get up when you plan to study, rush to get home, get up earlier to get to work, remember to charge your phone, charge the lights. It affects us, and we are miserable, and we are not. We still have our braais; we still make our trips; we still make our jokes. Because, well, we have to live with it.
Think of load shedding as part of the trip, or don’t think about it all. It is an inconvenience, yes. But at least you are aware that sporadically you will not have electricity. Depending on where you want to stay, most decent places already have backup power generation in place. And if they don’t, meh.
When you get here, download the app “EskomsePush”, which will help you plan your days around load shedding. The free version works just as well as the ad-free version, but if the ads really irk you, you can pay for a month of no ads (R29.99 or €1.49) or a year of no ads (R299.99 or €14.90). Even though the blackouts have become more erratic, the app keeps updated with changing schedules.
SHOULD YOU WAIT FOR LOAD SHEDDING TO END BEFORE VISITING SOUTH AFRICA?
Load shedding is probably not going away soon. Politicians have been telling us for over ten years that it will be solved in “eighteen months”. So if you are going to wait for it to be over, then you will wait a long, long time. And with the past couple of years, and everything we have been through globally, the best time to do something is now!
Most of South Africa is about the experience, and you don’t need electricity for that. With restaurants, you may need to check the schedules. Unfortunately, that industry is suffering immense losses, and mostly the smaller niche places can’t afford to run generators. So, even if you need to shuffle things around, please try to visit these guys. Some of the small eateries make the most fantastic food that will tantalize your tastebuds and fuel your culinary dreams for many years.
Our country is usually a reasonably friendly place, and most people are decent. However, people are tired, getting fed up and being stretched thin. I have been experiencing more impatience and rudeness and just general discontent. Please understand that this is not us. People are tired of trying for dear life to hold onto a job in a crumbling economy, sitting in traffic for endless hours just to get home and not even being able to make a meal. All while it appears as if every politician is caught up in their little power struggles while giving us the middle finger…or just being completely oblivious to our plight.
We have a violent criminal element, but most folks will be able to tell which areas and which roads to avoid. Listen to them.
EXPERIENCE SOUTH AFRICA, LOAD SHEDDING BE DAMNED!
However, with all of that said, we have had it worse (and we have had it better).
South Africa is a fantastic destination, with some of the most breathtaking scenes and the most excellent people. You can experience the driest of deserts, contrasted by the most beautiful landscapes in the Karoo (Pro tip: read some of the prose and poetry by the locals while you are here).
South Africa must be experienced, not just seen. We have mountain ranges that will sweep you up, take away your breath and overwhelm every part of your being. We have savannas teeming with raw life, from ants and dung beetles to majestic lions and bolstering elephants.
Our oceans are beautiful, from the icy waters in the Western Cape to the warm currents and white beaches on the East Coast. The smell of the veld, after, during and before the rain. The deafening silence of the Blyde Canyon mountains, except for the cicadas retuning every fibre of your being.
The blistering beautiful days and freezing silent nights of the Kalahari will make you forget, remember and believe in the possibility of a vibrant future. Our food is glorious, from a proper bobotie to a more intricate potjie or a simple braai. From melktert to koeksisters to runaways and pap. A bonfire in the bushveld with the sounds of the night, hyena crescendos and jackal choruses (and a cup or two of Amarula) will caress your soul and fill your spirit.
Come with an open mind, prep a bit for the times you won’t have electricity, don’t be like our politicians, and experience every part of our beautiful country!