- Sunday, October 10, 2010
- Monday, October 11, 2010
We arrived in Johannesburg after a five and a half hour flight from Los Angeles to JFK, and a 15 hour flight from New York, JFK. The flight was uneventful. We picked up our rental car at the airport and made our way to the hotel in Randburg. We quickly found out that the language barrier would be a problem. Although most Africans speak English, they use different words to describe similar things. For example, we were asking for directions to get to the hotel. Several people told us to go past 3 roberts. We were looking for a street by the name of Robert's street. We later found out that they were saying robots, which is the same as a traffic signal. I also found out that what they call filtered coffee, is the same as fresh brewed coffee.
Although we were warned that Johannesburg is an unsafe place and not go out at night, we found the African people not to be threatening at all. We asked for directions many times, and they always responded in kind. We are kindred spirits. They are easy-going, warm and friendly. We feel right at home.
Today is my birthday. We decide to venture out and see more of Johannesburg. The plan is to visit Soweto and the Apartheid Museum. We got lost (again), and was only able to see Nelson Mandela's home in Soweto. We also saw Bishop Desmond Tutu's home on the same street.
Soweto looks nothing like the shanty town often portraited in movies and on TV. There are many small, modest homes as well as some multi-million dollar mansions in Soweto. I took a picture of one that is located across the street from former President Madela's home.
We also had a traditional African meal/dinner at an African restaurant on the same street. The buffet consisted of green salad, beets, potato and pasta salad, steamed bread, stewed chicken and lamb, tripe, porridge, which resembles stiff potatoes, rice served with tomato gravy, braised cabbage, mixed steamed vegetables, and mixed beans. Desert consisted of fresh fruit compote, custard pudding, jello and jello pudding cake. We has a choice of vanilla or apple crunch ice cream. It was very good.
I had my first taste of sweet potato. It is unlike the yams or sweet potatoes we have in the states. It is white in color and tastes like a sweet white potato.
Tomorrow we are off to Kruger National Park where we will spend 3 days on self-drive safari.
- Thursday, October 14, 2010
We arrived at Kruger National Park at 6:00 PM after a 7 hour drive from Johannesburg. At first, we got lost and went the wrong direction. This is a result of getting accustomed to South African freeway system and it's directions. We are spoiled in the US with detail markings and directions on our freeways and roads. We missed an important turn-off that took us miles in the wrong direction.
Upon arrival at Kruger, we had to have a ranger escort us to our camp. They close the gates at 6:00 PM, and do not let visitors enter the safari areas at night. We were not alone. There were 3 cars of late arrivals. We drove half-way through the park before the ranger arrived. Within minutes of entering the park, we saw a giraffe grazing along the side of the road. A few meters down, we ran into 2 rhinos crossing the road. Needless to say, we were thrilled, and could not believe our good fortune.
We checked in with the front desk, and paid the extra R500 ($71 USD) for the escort service. We tried to negotiate a deal since there were 3 cars of people, but they would not have it. We were grateful to be allowed in the park. Otherwise, we would have lost our pre-paid first night's stay, and had to get other accomadations. It was well worth it, and we did not give it another thought.
We checked into our bungalow with a double bed, bathroom, and refrigerator. A storm came in later that night producing thunder, lightning, and heavy rain. It was a refreshing experience.
The next morning, we got up bright and early to begin our self-drive safari. The storm had brought about very cool weather. It was cold enough for a light-weight jacket, which was needed throughout the day and evening.
We were amazed at the amount of game we saw within a few feet of our camp.
On our first day of safari, we saw: Elephants, giraffes, zebras, antelope, hippos, a cheetah, wart hogs, and various other animals. There was also a sighting of a leopard, but we missed it. We spent the entire day, from 6:30 AM to around 5:30 PM going from camp to camp and viewing game.
The only way that I can describe this experience is AMAZING.
10/16/10 - We got up early again this morning for an early morning drive. Within a few meters of our camp we saw several giraffes' grazing with a pack of antelope. We were also fortunate enough to see a lion hidden in the brush. This time out, we also saw wildebeest and more wart hogs.
10/17/10 - Today is our last day at Kruger National Park. We booked a perimeter view room which is on the river where many animals come to graze. This morning we see many people walking along the front fence. We see herds of elephants with their babies walking right in front of our bungalow, grazing. We also see impalas and springbok in the distance. This is an experience that I will ALWAYS treasure.
- Sunday, October 17, 2010
We made our way to Swailand from Kruger. We stopped at a store in Malelane to get food and provisions for our stay at a self-catering cottage in Mlilwane Wildlife Sanctuary. However, our shopping trip was marred by an unfortunate incident. Robert was the victim of an ATM scam. He was trying to get money out of the ATM when he was approached my a man trying to help him. He rebuked his attempts, but there were 3 of them working the scam in an attempt to distract him and take his ATM card and get his PIN. They left when I stepped in after seeing all of the chaos. The store manager then came out and said that we had been targets of an ATM scam. I could not believe my ears and asked the manager to see if the card was still in the machine. He opened it up and found no card. He then told us to go after the guys. Well, we may be from the states, but we know that is NOT the thing to do. After collecting our composure, we went straight to the car and used my cellphone to cancel the card. Quick thinking and fast action resulted in no losses. Robert's last purchase was verified, and the card cancelled immediately.
After that unfortunate mishap, we arrived at Miliwane Wildlife Sanctuary around 4:00 PM. There is only one word to describe Swaziland - Beautiful! It is a gorgeous country juxtaposed against immense poverty. Nonetheless, a very interersting country and more interesting people and culture. The landscape consists of acres of forest trees, fields of banana trees and acres of orange groves. Dotted along the landscape are small houses in rural settings. It is clear that the people of Swaziland maintain a lifestyle through subsistence farming and raising cattle.
So far, Swaziland is my favorite country. It is Africa as I imagined it.
10/18/10 - It was a full day at Miliwane. We started the day with a 2 hour mountain bike ride on a self-guided safari. Miliwane does not have many animals, and none of the likes of Kruger, but it is just nice to bike along the countryside withing the reserve.
Next we visited a Swazi homestead and learned about the culture and people of this country. It was a day in life of a Swasi. We danced, sang and participated in day-to-day activities with the village chief and her daughter, as well as the many orphaned children they care. Later that night we gathered around to see a traditional Sibha Dance being performed by Swasi dancers.
Swaziland was one of the highlights of my trip. I would definitely return to Swaziland on a return visit to Africa.
- Tuesday, October 19, 2010
Shewula Nature Reserve is fully-owned and operated by the community. Several members of the nearby community participate in it's endeavor to bring awareness to those interested about Swazi culture and people.
We arrived at the Shewula Camp after a 4 hour drive from the Mlwane Wildlife Santuary, and a visit to Swazi Candles, a shop where parrafin candles as hand made by the local. We witnessed one of the locals forming candles from parafin, a craft that is only done in this region of Swaziland. We also stopped at the Manzini Market where we purchased crafts and other items.
After navigating a 16 km dirt road, we arrived at Shewula camp in time for a torrential down pour, the likes of which I have not experienced in many years. It rained steadily for at least a half hour. We could not reach the reception area to check in because of the rain, and the fact that it was located about 200 feet down a dirt-filled path. Once the rain stopped briefly, Robert went down the road and contacted Nomsa, our host for the night. She led us to our room. It was a traditional Swazi rondavel with concrete floors, no electricity and an outdoor shower with sink and toilet facilities. She also invited us to partake in a traditional Swazi meal, which consisted of chicken with peanut sauce, spinach, rice and beans, and pumpkin. Beer, wine and sodas were extra. There was also a group from Europe and two other couples besides Robert and I. The food was good and plentiful.
After dinner, we retreated to our room with a parafin lamp and went to bed for the night. By this time, it had been at least 1 week without TV. Most of the traditional rondavels in Swaziland do not have TV's. This provides lots of opportunity to rest and get in touch with your thoughts and cleanse the spirit.
- Wednesday, October 20, 2010
We stopped in Druban primarily to visit the family and friends of our friends in Los Angeles, Anthony and Kubeshini Penman. We spent 3 days touring the town and visiting with Kay and Ruppert, Kubeshini's parents. We also saw Aunt Vasie, who I give credit to for suggesting that I visit South Africa two years ago when she was here in LA caring for the Penman's baby daughter.
Kay and Ruppert were gracious hosts who took us around and showed us a good time. Vasie and her husband took us to breakfast as well.
- Saturday, October 23, 2010
Lusikisiki was a stop aon our drive through the Wild Coast on the Eastern Cape. The reason for this stop was to have a place to stay in between Durban and on he was to Umtata to see another of Nelson Mandela's homes. It was a Sunday when we left Lusikisiki and arrived in Umtata, so we did not get a chance to see the museum in Umtata. However, we were treated to some beautiful scenery during our drive along highway 62. Many of the indigenous people from the Xhosa (pronouned khosa) tribe live in this region. They live in traditional thatched-roof huts and are farmers and cattle and goat and sheep herders. They live a very traditional African lifestyle.
- Sunday, October 24, 2010
Dockside Guest House - A stop along the Wild Coast
We stopped in Port Alfred for one night on our way to Storms River Mouth in Tsitsikamma National Park. We tried to limit driving to no more than 5 hours between towns.
It was raining when we arrived at our guesthouse in Port Alfred. It is a beachside community located along the Indian Ocean in the Wild Coast. I booked only a room for the night, but the owner pretty much gave us the run of the house since we were the only ones staying there for the evening. I wished we had more time to spend there, as Port Alfred is a really nice town.
We had time to have dinner in town, and relax before hitting the road the next morning for our journey to Sstorms River Mouth.
- Monday, October 25, 2010
Storms River Mouth Rest CampP/Bag x1, Tsitsikamma National Park, Storm's River 6308, South Africa | 012 426 5111Storms River Mouth rest camp is located in Tsitsikamma National Park along the Garden Route in the Western Cape. We stayed here for 3 days in a chalet right on the ocean. The weather was a little unsettled ,and you could hear the roar of the surf all through the night. We did get one day of sunshine following the day we arrived. It was enough for us to hike to the suspension bridge and a few other trails.
We over did our hiking the first day. By the end of the third and most challenging trail, I could hardly walk. Robert was no better. We hobbled to our chalet and rested for the remainder of the evening after having leftover chicken curry that Kay had so graciously prepared and sent with us from the dinner she prepared the day before. We also had no other choice since the TV did not work in the unit. They were in the process of changing to satelite TV and it was not installed.
It was my first time being so close to the ocean. The roar of the surf can be unsettling at times. My thoughts drifted to a possible tsunami and what I would do. However, those thoughts were short-lived as I let the sound lull me to sleep.
Storms River Mouth is in a beautiful setting. We were told by one of the employees that Tsitsikamma means land with many rivers. There are also several nice hiking trails. You have to climb high above sea level at the beginning and end, as they are mountainous trails with beautiful scenery and waterfalls.
- Thursday, October 28, 2010
We arrive at Wilderness BushCamp early afternoon on Thursday, Oct. 28, 2010. The lodging sits high atop a hill overlooking the Indian Ocean. We have views of the ocean from every room. This is out stopping place to visit Outdshoorn and the ostrich camps and Swartsberg Pass as well as the town of Prince Albert.
I quickly realize there is a distinct difference in the peopel and language of the Western Cape compared to the Eastern Cape. The latter consist of indigenuous tribes and people that subsist on farming, and other tasks. The Western Cape is much more modern.
- Sunday, October 31, 2010
- Thursday, November 4, 2010
- Saturday, November 6, 2010
These pictures were taken during our last 3 days in Johannesburg. We stopped at the Sunday African Craft Market held on the roof of the Rosebank Mall. There were all kinds of African and non-African items for sale at good prices. We did some shopping and watched the African steel drummers perform. They must have performed for hours. They were very good.
We got in touch with Vasie and she and her daughter came to meet us. We followed Vasie back to her daughter's house where she graciously served us food. We had samosas, and scones as well as some herbal tea. It was delicious.
Our next stop was another of Vasie's children. We met Vivien, Dhevan and their two sons. We had desert.
We also met Vasie's other son and his family. They invited us to eat dinner that same night. We shared our story of our adventure to Africa, and they also learned about Belize. They suggested that we visit the Lion Park. The pictures were taken there.
Vivien would then ask us to dinner the following night. The pictures were taken at their house the night before we left. We had good food prepared by Vasie and good conversation. We talked about both African and Indian culture and tradition. We also had a stimulation conversation about race relations in both countries. It was through this conversation that I found out that many of the same traditions and foods that are common in the African culture is the same in the African-American culture and community. I guess you can say that I got in touch with my "roots."
We also talked about Belize and the similarites of both the African and Belizan cultures.
We are glad the have shared this time with Vasie and her family who so graciously opened their homes us.
- Tuesday, November 9, 2010
- Wednesday, November 10, 2010
- total distance: 24,221 miles (38.980 km)