Monday, June 19, 2006

Preparing to Go Home

The front page story on the paper yesterday was an attempted hijacking of a SAA flight from Cape Town to Jo'burg. We had the morning at leisure. Most were heading out to Green Market Square (where you are always the first customer...). I ventured back to the waterfront. First thing I saw was a whale in the harbor and followed its progress in the fog out to the ocean. I went to the craft market and bought my beaded flowers and some jewelry.

It never fails that the airport delays are at the end of the trip when you're prepared to go. We got our VAT taken care of in Cape Town as advised...all check in was moving at a snails pace and then once through security there were so many delayed flights that you could barely find a place to sit or stand. Once we finally got on the plane, there were 2 people who had checked in who were not there, so they had to delay again as they either found the people or removed their luggage. We had quick turnaround time in Jo'burg, where Mom ran to the duty free with our VAT money as they were boarding the plane.

We left only 5 minutes late for Atlanta. Another long eventful flight where you can't get off at the Isle of Sal and various parts of the plane were sauna like (about 4 rows behind me).
I guess it's time to start working on the next adventure.....I leave for Mexico in less than a month.

Sunday, June 18, 2006

Cape Peninsula

We started driving down the coast through a very exclusive area called Clifton, where there is no commercial business. All beaches are public. We took a short boat cruise out to Seal Island from Hout Bay, a very scenic area. South Africa's goal is to provide a house and a small piece of land for adults, but with all the migration from the rural areas, this is very challenging.

We went to the Cape of Good Hope and hiked along to Cape Point. We were warned of purse stealing baboons, but didn't see any. At Cape Point you are 2500 miles from Antarctica and 4000 miles to the South Pole.

We had lunch in Simon's Town at the Sea Forth restaurant. As it was Father's Day, we celebrated the fathers in our group as well. We then went to Boulder's Beach to see the famous penguins (formerly considered "African penguins"). Tonight we went to Marco's African Place for live music and dinner. We ordered a variety of game dishes including crocodile, warthog, springbok and more. Mom has been dying to dance to African music all vacation and now she has her chance....

Saturday, June 17, 2006

Wine Country

We started today at the District 6 Museum, this was a neighborhood that was demolished during the apartheid era.

Trivia: There is a north/south rivalry. People in Jo'burg say that it rains every day in Cape Town (which is funny because our guide from J0'burg did say that it would rain while we were here, which it hasn't)

We went to Stellenbosch which is one of the main university towns and the central city in the wine country. It is very dutch looking. We took a winery tour then went to La Petite Ferme for lunch at a beautiful restaurant overlooking the wine country.
We shopped this evening along the waterfront, and still full from lunch and ice cream for dinner (you can never go wrong with ice cream).

Friday, June 16, 2006

Cape Town

Today is National Youth Day, which is the anniversary of the Soweto Uprising in Jo'burg where the students protested being taught in Afrikaans. We started the day walking through the Company Garden, a beautiful area from the British area. South Africa was a British was thrown out of the B.C. during apartheid. South Africa is one of the only places in Africa that imported slaves (from Asia) but did not send any out.

We drove by the One Love project, where Heather worked last summer. South Africa has 43 million people, 34 million black, 3 million colored and 6 million white. The weather was clear and beautiful and we went up to the top of Table Mountain via cable car. Then we went to the Victoria and Albert Waterfront for lunch prior to taking the boat out to Robben Island.

Former prisoners are the tour guides on Robben Island, and many live in houses on the island. We saw some wildlife prior to our prison tour including English Fallow Deer, Jackass Penguins, Ostrich and Bonte Boks (antelope). Our guide was Phineas Poho who was sentenced for 15 years in 1985 for high treason, subversion, sedition and being a member of the ANC. Different groups of prisoners received different food and treatment (to encourage fighting amongst the prisoners).

Robben Island Prison Trivia Facts: The doctor came every Monday but only spent 2 hours with the prisoners. Visitors were allowed once every 6 months and conversations were recorded and could be played back to the prison at large, 1 letter every 6 months 120 words or less in English or Afrikaans only. The worked in the lime quarries. There were hunger strikes in the 1970s which improved conditions.

Dinner tonight was at the Africa Cafe. Each room is decorated differently for parts of Africa / Tribes such as Morocco, Egypt, N'gebede, Xhosa, Zulu and the Boma.

Thursday, June 15, 2006

Pilgrim's Rest to Cape Town

Again we are up at the crack of dawn to have breakfast.
Did you know? Masks and drums are not native to southern Africa, they came from the north.
In the Graskop area they were having controlled burns and firefighters were hanging out everywhere. We went to God's Window (having been to Blyde River Canyon yesterday), but it was foggy, so not much of a view. This was another day with much time in the bus. We did pass a huge Buddhist temple and monastery.

The Zulu History in a Nutshell (Jenni's version): Zulus migrated 800 years ago. Starts with Sensanga Bulla and Nandi. Nandi got pregnant and then they were outcasts. Her son, Shaka, swore vengeance on anyone who didn't accept him and his mother. He started by defeating people in hand to hand combat and eventually took over his father's tribe. He was a very strong warrior with very strict and cruel methods.

Jo-burg: Everything in the cities seems to be fenced and gated. In reading the gossip magazine "YOU", many people have razor wire fences, armed response, and security systems.
I'm glad the flight from Joburg to Cape Town wasn't any longer, I was in the smallest middle seat ever.
Advertisement of the day: _o' _urg (it's not the same without the J&B)

Our excitement this evening was just after leaving the airport and driving in a township area when something was thrown at the bus, cracking the front windshield and busting the window next to Leonard, across from me. It was a little scary.

Wednesday, June 14, 2006

Pafuri to Pilgrim's Rest

There was an ungodly noise early this morning that everyone heard. It is possible that some animal met its demise. Simon, Godfrey and Johnson play the game, "why don't you tell us what it sounded like....." We went to see the sunrise and Crooks Corner where S.A. Mozambique and Zimbabwe meet. It was wonderful. We saw a pod of hippos and giant elephant tracks. We now play the baobob tree game where (after stopping to see every tree for 2 days) the tree has a title such as "two baobobs at sunrise" or "baobob and elephant track at dawn".... we also saw mud catfish and zebra this morning. Sadly now it is time to leave Pafuri Camp.

Word of the day is Labola which is "bride price"
Billboard of the day: Prevent HIV: Be Faithful or Condomize
Rondavels-round houses with thatched roof
We are driving through a very agricultural area on our way to Pilgrim's rest. Lots of orange trees and many people living in rondavels. The land to build a house in this area is free, the government provides a community water tap and an outhouse building, you are responsible for building your house. In fact we passed a hillside full of outhouses.
We had a late lunch at Graskop Pancakes...both entree style and dessert. We are spending the night at the Pilgrim's Rest Hotel, from the gold rush in the 1800s...very old west style.

Tuesday, June 13, 2006

Pafuri Camp

Pafuri Game Drive #1: Troop of baboons, tawny eagle, crested franklin, ground hornbil, long tailed starling, nyala, yellow bellied bulbul, black fly catcher, emerald spotted dove, steenbok (antelope), warthog, tree squirrel, brown headed parrots, slender mongoose, black breasted snake eagle, giant land snail shell (snail long gone), yellowbill hornbill (zazu from Lion King), spider hunting wasp.

What is a fever tree? It's a green tree and they were thought to be the cause of malaria...they grow in the same conditions as mosquitoes.
Our guide was Simon. Here's a random Simon joke: "Do you know why that's called a dead dog tree? It has no bark!" (ha ha ha)

The luvuvhu river goes right through the camp. After brunch we strolled on the boardwalks to see what we could see. There is a buffalo lying in the shallows taking a nap, as well as a crocodile. I saw a brief glimpse of a snake while on the walkway.

We had a guest speaker from the Makeluke Village. They were forced from their land in the 50s and the area went into Kruger Park. They had to resettle (mostly women and children) and restart their lives and communities. In 1994 they could reclaim their land through the legal process, but there was no longer any infrastructure in the area. So how do they make money? They have leased their land to the Pafuri Camp and members of their community helped to build the hotel and are employed.

Pafuri Game Drive #2: bushbuck, nyala, kudu, baboon, vervet moneky, bull elephants, wooly necked stork, baboons, puff adder tracks (no snake), yellow spotted black hyrax, jennet, lesser bush baby. The stars were very bright and we can see the Southern Cross and Scorpio, no big cat sightings.

Kruger, especially the Pafuri area, used to be heavily poached, so the animals are skittish around vehicles. Simon today slayed a tree on our travels.
The rule is you can no longer call out to stop when you see impala. Impala are everywhere!

Monday, June 12, 2006

Jo'Burg to Pafuri

We now have a giant motor coach for our long journey from Jo-burg to Pafuri. Hopefully we'll see a lot. David said (and I quote), "Don't buy wooden bowls...Zimbabwe killed 1.5 million trees last year to make giraffes for the Germans..." There is lots of immigration into the cities "roads paved with gold, diamonds, money grows on trees..."

The Big 5 are on the paper notes for South Africa. South Africa has one of the best road systems in Africa. All cars are made here, under contract with manufacturers. South Africa feeds most of Africa and is considered the only "first world" country in Africa. Currently S.A. is in the process of renaming many of their cities with African names.
Quote of the day: "He who fights with 1 woman is a fool, he who fights with 5 women is a corpse."
Krankskop - early travelers from Capetown saw it after 8 months on the road by oxcart and thought is was an Egyptian pyramid. The river near by was named the Nyl.
This is the beginning of the Baobob tree obsession on our journey. Apparently God asked the hyena to plant some trees and the hyena planted them upside down. Thus the baobob tree.
We passed a village outside of Pafuri where people's yards are only dirt because they are afraid of snakes and don't want them to be able to sneak up on the house.

On the drive into Kruger National Park we saw: Wildebeest/Gnu, Zebra, Impala, tree squirrels, cape buffalo, njala, baboons and yellow billed hornbills.

The only thing I can say about the Pafuri Camp is that you must see it to believe it! The whole camp is up on stilts/walkways so the wildlife can move beneath it. Our "tent" has 2 bedrooms, an indoor and outdoor shower, giant mosquito nets, and more. We went on a short evening game drive and saw the moon rise...not something that could be captured in a picture, simply remembered. More impala and birds. Our new wildlife was a jannett, a member of the mongoose family. We also hear bush babies crying in the trees. The lodge deck has lanterns and fires lit and night. We had waiter service dinner on the the deck. Outstanding!

Sunday, June 11, 2006

Chobe to Jo'Burg

Game Drive 3: lions first thing this morning, the ever present guinea fowl (better than chicken according to Lesh), egyptian geese, more franklins, ground hornbill, giraffes, glassy starling, white backed vulture, warthogs. The lions were near the road, close to our "jeepie", as well as the normal wildlife there were a lot of birds. If someone said, "Jenni, lets travel the world and look at birds" I would say "Can't we just travel the world?"

Random Fact: only giraffes and elephants can eat the fresh green leaves at the top of trees.
Random Fact #2: Game wardens burned the carcass of an elephant that died of anthrax so other animals won't eat it and get sick.

Already we are back in the exciting Livingstone airport. Kelvin met us on the Botswana side and we took our private "yacht" over to the Zambia side where a bazillion trucks are still waiting for the ferry. We took our group photo at the airport. Kelvin told us about the church services. He is Catholic and said they have one English mass with piano and guitar and a traditional mass with drums and marimba.

Security was not particularly tight at the Livingstone airport, and once we were on the other side is was time for some more Mosi and Castle beer.
Almost as much fun as wiping our feet was the fumigation of our plane prior to departing for South Africa. I don't know what it killed but it smells like a bathroom air freshener. The flight attendant said it will kill bugs.

Our hotel in Jo-burg is the Garden Court Hotel. For the first time this trip I turned on the TV and found a show like MTV's road rules, called "Couch Trip: Northern Cape". We ate dinner at the Spur "South Africa's Family Restaurant." It has an Americana western/Indian feel and specializes in chicken and ribs. Our guest speakers were from "Children in the Wilderness" which helps rural children understand the importance of the environment and helps them see other possibilities for their future.

Saturday, June 10, 2006

Chobe National Park

Game Drive #2 6:00AM: giraffe, acacia tree, impala, more franklins, hippos, we saw Namibia across the river, fish eagle, sausage tree, black smith plover, comb duck, crowned plover, black shouldered kite, cape buffalo, cattle egrets, ox pecker, gray heron, sable antelope .What do you do if you are charged by a Cape buffalo? Lie on the ground, the horns are curved'd have a hard time getting gored, although you might get trampled.
We ventured into Kasane town during the day. Lots of flowering trees, including plumeria and bougainvillea. We went into the grocery store, very few refrigerated / frozen items. Like at Costco, they check your receipt when you leave.
In Botswana school is free and mandatory, in Kasane town things look pretty good.
In the afternoon we took a water safari, which was outstanding! There is so much wildlife along the shore and in the water. We saw: water monitor lizard, baboons, impala, kudus, mongoose, crocodiles, hippos, elephants, the jacara (Jesus bird), yellow "squako" heron, African skimmer. We finished with an amazing sunset, picure perfect over the water with an elephant in the forefront. The head guide was O.B. His real name is hard to say, but translated it means "to bring back." His older brother died before he was born so his mother named him because he was the son who was "brought back." Dinner included carved impala with cranberry sauce. Tomorrow we have another O dark 30 game drive before we leave to cross the river back to Zambia and fly to Johannesburg

Friday, June 9, 2006

Onward to Botswana

Before 8m we had seen 2 zebras and a bunch of monkeys. Joyce and I walked over to the Royal Livingstone hoping to see luck for us, but Tami saw them on her walk.
Our first adventure today was to visit the Zambian side of the falls (no poncho needed).
Billboard du jour: "Do things the right way, not the corrupt way!"

We stopped for brief moment for Kelvin to get some more minutes for his cell and in that time we were offered copper bracelets, walking sticks, and could we donate to help the deaf/blind.
We had to cross the river to get from Zambia to Botswana. There is no bridge. There are 2 ferries (but one is broken), that carry all cars and semis across. The trucks queue up on both sides of the road and may wait up to a week to cross the river.
We are on the border of 4 countries: Zambia, Zimbabwe, Namibia, and Botswana. After crossing the river in a small fishing boat, we had to go through customs and wipe our feet on a special mat, to prevent foot and mouth disease from getting into Botswana. The sign in the customs office: The Lord is my shepherd, Trust by force. Do you know the identity of Jesus?
Botswana already seems to be better off than Zambia, much better infrastructure. We are staying at the Chobe Safari Lodge. The hotel also has a "beware of crocodiles" sign and "public" monkeys. We've been told we'll here the "Sounds of Africa" at night, but not to open our doors.
Game Drive #1 3-6pm with Lesh, our guide in Chobe National Park: Red billed hornbill, spotted hyena, warthog, red billed franklin, giraffe, elephant, impala, squirrel, kudu, banded mongoose, guinea fowl, wattled plover, puku, crocodile, hippos, gray lorry, Egyptian geese, black wing stilt, egret, baboon, lical breasted roller, lions
It was a successful first game drive. Our jeep included me, mom, Tami, Loren, Pat, Joyce, Linda and Sheri. Chobe is known for their elephant herd, approx 50,000. We saw them all playing in the water. Female elephants have tusks, and they mother the herd. Most males live alone or in a bachelor herd. We stayed in the park to see the sunset and on the way back, we saw our lions.
Just for the record, tonight I had 2 African specialties. The Klingfish and the Maphone Worm. I asked Joseph the cook how to eat it and he took the one off my plate and showed me. How could I miss out on this cultural experience?

Thursday, June 8, 2006

Victoria Falls ~ Zambia / Zimbabwe

I went crocodile hunting before breakfast, but did not see them. At breakfast a monkey did come in and steal off the table across from us.
We took our tour of Victoria falls (on the Zimbabwe side) this morning. Our wildlife included a bush buck, and hornbills (not exactly like Zazu). Our guide is Ntando and he is from Zimbabwe and speaks a tribal language that only 10% of the people speak, he said that he and Kelvin can't always communicate (other than in English), because Kelvin speaks an Zambian tribal language.
Why all the copper bracelets? Zambia is one of the leading producers of copper. It is a sign that you have been in southern Africa if you are wearing one. Mosi-the local beer "truly Zambian" is brewed in the capital of Lusaka. We visited an open market in Zimbabwe...every is like "please come into my shop, I'm in the corner and no one sees me...." Successful shopping all around.

Zimbabwe is politically unstable right now, the government was taken over and farms were given to new owners, livestock killed, fields burned, etc.
We had lunch at a restaurant called the Ocean Basket where I learned a trivia fact about mom...she doesn't usually eat calamari.
In the afternoon we visited 2 Zambian schools. The first was a community school, not sponsored by the government or an corporations. the Milaka School was outside of Livingstone. They charge roughly $3/month for school They have a building, but only pieces of chalkboards, no paper/pens, and only a few desks.
The second school was the Simonga village school. On the way we got stuck in the sand and had some locals help push us out, and we visited with kids and a family living near the side of the road. The kids were eating Chinga Chinga berries. Simonga is a supported school, with a few buildings and a school library. They speak Chimonga(?) and learn English in 2nd grade. We learned that poverty is a huge problem for 60%+ of the people. Many cattle have died from hoof and mouth and other diseases. This area has benefited from the World Food program.
What are tribal cousins? It's your relationship to the other tribe...provides family support and you can insult them too!

Jeremiah told about the Losi and Tonga tribes. If you are the chief of the tribe, you can only leave the chiefdom if you die (such as knowing poison is in your food).
Note: Houses/huts are only for sleeping...everything else happens outside
We went to the Royal Livingstone in the evening. It is a very fancy, 5 star, British-style property, right on the river. We stayed for dinner on the outdoor terrace.
Simon was our hotel shuttle driver this evening. He let us know the status of the 6 elusive Zebras on property who we haven't seen yet.
Cultural Note: In driving through rural areas, the men seem to be sitting on the side of the road or in cafes, but the women are always working.

Wednesday, June 7, 2006

Day 1 in Southern Africa

It is insane inside the Atlanta airport. South African Airways checks in at the Delta counter and I'm behind some people who must be going on a different kind of safari...perhaps one involving guns. I have a boarding pass from Atlanta to the Isle of Sal, I'm not who "owns" Sal or if it is an independent country specializing in filling up airplanes, but maybe we can get off the plane and stretch our legs. I have my stylish green airplane socks, blanket, pillow, and a menu that looks to be for our flight home. (time passes)

We are still en route to the Isle of Sal. It is 9:30 South African time, and we are getting closer to Sal. The seats have movies and video games. My movie of choice is Firewall. The view out the window is sunny and I can see the Rolls Royce jet engine. Alas, we do not get to get off the plane at Sal.

Almost 9:30am S.A. time now, we'll be landing in an hour. Officially it is June 7 (Happy Birthday Heather). At present we are filling out the customs forms, but do we really need them since we not leaving the airport, just going straight to Livingstone. (time passes)

We are in the plane preparing to go to Zambia. David, from Wilderness Safaris, met us at the arrivals and expedited the process of us getting on our Nationwide flight. He's already made fun of how fast I talk and once he knew I was Mom's daughter he said he would facilitate selling me to a tribal chief in return for cattle and a TV. I've noticed that in his conversation he refers to "white Africans" and "black Africans"'ve got generations of both in South Africa.

Kelvin, our guide for Zambia, and Jeremiah, the driver, meet us at the small and intimate "Livingstone International Airport" and whisk us away through Livingstone (one of the only cities that kept its British name after independence). En route to the hotel we went through Mosi-ou-Tunya (the smoke that thunders) National Park and saw a baboon and 2 common (with square markings) giraffes. At the hotel we saw a vervet monkey and sighs that indicated "beware of crocodiles". The hotel, the Zambezi Sun, is awesome. The buildings have a slight adobe look to them, the lobby is open air with colorful African art and bead work. We were greeted with guava juice.

We went on a sunset boat cruise on the Zambezi River, the 4th largest in Africa (the Nile and Congo are two of the others...the 3rd is escaping me). We drank sundowners and saw lots of birds, impalas and finally (after much searching) a few hippos. The sun set right at 5:45 (which seems early, but it is winter). Our boat was the African Queen. We returned to the hotel and had dinner at Squires. The Zambian currency is the "kucha?", which I am not changing my money into. There was a band playing by the pool, but sleep sucked me in.

Tuesday, June 6, 2006

June 6: Preparing to Leave

The news commentator mentioned that the date was 6/6/06 today...does that bode well for my flight to Atlanta? The good news is, only a half day of work, then off to the airport. Sadly, there are none of my hotels near the Atlanta airport, so I am staying at....I can't even say it, the M hotel. Tami and Leonard are also arriving today so that we can be at the airport bright eyed and bushy tailed in the morning.


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