Marginal Safari Review by Sasha Wyatt-Minter

In The Marginal Safari: Scouting the edge of South Africa, Getaway editor and travel writer Justin Fox takes to the road to explore the rich and colourful history of the border towns of our country.

The year is 2004 – 10 years into democracy in South Africa.

Hugging the borders of South Africa and his solitude, Justin sets off from Cape Town where he leaves a father fighting a losing battle with cancer and cocoons himself in the cab of his 4X4 for a couple of months to mourn the weakening of the leader and stalwart of his family.

In a delightful, poignant and sometimes funny, off-the-beaten-track account of South African rural and small-town life, Justin paints vivid pictures of life in the bush, the desert and on the coast – and regales the reader with rich tales of early settlers and how they eked out an existence and a living in a new and undeveloped land.

South of Cape Town, fishing villages like Hermanus and Gansbaai are brought to life, as Justin meets the people who have lived through the recent changes in South Africa and in their towns.

Jeffrey’s Bay is surfing paradise to the author and the area along the coast to East London has a rich cutural heritage and a violent and bloody past.

Lighthouses and their keepers supply stories of ships wrecked off the coastlines and a couple of days in Port St. John’s feels like a detour into a foreign country.

A nostalgic visit to the Durban beachfront is too full of bittersweet memories and the big cities are avoided in favour of colourful small towns with museums that tell the stories of European settlers and the local people they encountered when they arrived in this foreign land.

Richard’s Bay to Kosi Bay is the last stretch of coastline for a while as Justin takes the road inland along the South African borders of Mozambique, Zimbabwe, Botswana and Namibia.

Taste the dust of grubby border-post towns and smell the desperation of refugees pouring into the country, some hidden in fuel tanks of trucks – risking their lives in the hope that life on this side will be better.

Meet the locals born and breeding in desolate outposts with names like Dwaalboom, Kaya se put and Oostermoed and eccentric foreigners who have established game reserves – both in the name of conservation and big-game hunting in South Africa.

The Kalahari comes to life in these pages and there are tales of diamond smuggling and illicit buying in the mining towns on the west coast.

Whether you’re descended from the ancient Bushmen tribes or the product of Scandinavian or Portuguese sailors shipwrecked on the coast, or have English, French or Dutch settler blood in your veins, the story of your ancestors is found somewhere in this “sad and exciting clash of histories and stories” that make up the South Africa of today.

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