It’s tourist season, and LIN SAMPSON has some tips on giving your guests a true African experience…
Allegra is wearing her Kaminski hat, R10 000. It is a vital part of her African trip. She looks around my bijou bungalow in Tamboerskloof and says, ‘Is this really Africa?’
That was two years ago. Since then I have Africanised my surroundings. I meet my new visitors, Caroline and Rupe, at the airport in my friend’s old rattle-down 1947 Land Rover. They have seen The Sheltering Sky and know that the Land Rover is more than a car; it is a culture. We have talked on the phone. ‘Just as well,’ I say, ‘to take malaria pills. You never know.’ When they arrive they are completely terrified and loco on pills.
Here are some quick tips to help you put a bit of the Africa into your suburban surroundings:
• Put mosquito nets above all beds. Cicadas are de rigueur. The Wellness Centre sells tapes of various African sounds thunderstorms, wild animals, etc. A motivated cicada in a guest room can shorten stays dramatically.
• Tents are always a good idea. Try to dig up something khaki and make guests sleep on camp beds, possibly the worst-designed artifact in the Western world. As soon as you lie on them they fold around you like a beast of prey.
• Tie those canvas water bottles on to your car plus a couple of ladders on the roof, ‘in case we get stuck in sand’.
• Always have paraffin lamps (available in supermarkets, cheap and divine) on hand.
• Cook as much game as you can – warthog and kudu is now easily available. Try Gogo’s in Newlands. Samp is a good filler because nobody really likes it and Caroline will already be familiar with it at smart London restaurants, where it is called ‘wild polenta’.
• Fires are vital, even in the heat. Make a great thing about lighting them, fanning the flames vigorously. Cook everything outside on a braai.
• Markets are key – get a curio seller to come to the house with all those ingenious wire objects wrapped in exotic cloth. Encourage bargaining and arrange for Rupe to buy an ‘old’ African mask.
• Use the words khaya, boma and lapa. Never go on an outing, always a recce. Never just meet, orienteer. Never go to the country, always the bush.
• Use the word mother often. Mother Earth, Africa is the Mother Continent, Cape Town is the Mother City.
• Instead of going to gym, enroll guests in gumboot-dancing classes.
• Wild animals are always popular. Luckily from afar and looking through binoculars they all look like bushes. Park on the side of a bit of wasteland and keep your binoculars trained on a bush. Shout out ‘lion’. Nobody can see anything through binoculars anyway.
• Insist that Rupe wears a sarong instead of his Marks & Spencer’s blue striped pajamas.
• Wear a panama hat at all times.
• Go barefoot and say, ‘I must have my feet in contact with Mother Earth.’
Finally, remember that there is no such place as Africa.
It is the invention of a cranky old Dane called Karen Blixen who wrote Out of Africa. It resounds to the wheeze of romanticism, Camel men forging rivers, game rangers unbuttoning khaki shirts and a lot of free-spirited, oversexed tourists in kikois who travel the globe with an ice crusher and a kelim.