If you approach each thing with wonder and amazement, each thing will be wonderful and amazing. ~ Wen
I’m playing catch up due to poor cell service. Let me introduce you to our crew:
*Richard, our leader, from S. Africa, is Zulu, a history buff, and speaks 3 South African languages + English;
*Ricardo, our chef, from Cape Town, speaks Afrikaans and English, has 4 kids who live with his mom in Cape Town because he works these tours and is gone most of the time
*Shadrack, our humble driver who looks like a bouncer, speaks all 11 South African languages and is Shengan from S Africa near Kruger. His dad had 8 wives and 35 kids and all lived in the same house. 😳
I’ve always loved accents by admittedly I am struggling to become familiar with the British-Zulu African accent of our staff, which is exquisitely beautiful but still a mind-bender at times. Add in a mild hearing deficit and I’m expending a lot of energy to understand. It’s getting easier each day.
We left Joburg and headed seven hours northeast toward Kruger National Park. There is so much to share about what we saw and learned that I could write a small book. Realizing that it’s likely none of my posts will be terribly short from now on, each edition becomes an exercise in triaging the information that has come to me. I’d love your feedback on how the level of detail sits with you.
On to the storytelling…
Driving on left side of the road is a mind-bender, by the way!
On the drive out of town, I learned that South Africa (SA) favors nuclear power (why not solar has to be a political strategy), that people in control of government do what they call “State capture” (which is manipulating failure of a system to profit by it later), there are mines everywhere and huge hills of toxic tailings, cattle farms, miles of corn crops, and massive graineries.
We made a pit stop at a gas station/tourist attraction called Wonderfontein which had a waterhole and I got my first glimpse of rhino, ostrich, zebras, tsessebe, and wildebeest! (guessing it’s probably a rescue effort?) The primal response had me in tears.
Eventually we stopped for lunch but have only 30 minutes because we are on a time schedule. I did not envision our days to be so regimented but I quickly set out for the ATM to get more Rand (SA $$), find a restroom, and lunch.
Understand that banks and ATMs in SA are no casual matter. There are lines at the outdoor ATMs, everyone brings a friend (aka buddy system for protection), and there is a security guard standing by carefully watching the proceedings. Finally it’s my turn at the machine and IT TAKES MY DEBIT CARD. MY. DEBIT. CARD. As in… the screen tells me the machine has confiscated my card and to go to the nearest bank with questions. Are you kidding me?
I call to the guard, explain the situation. He was annoyed. An hour later the bank woman with the only key to access the ATM returned and retrieved my card. “Africa time” you’re great except in a crisis. No harm done except we got a late start. I might have been less stressed with a lion’s paws on my window.
Speaking of wildlife…
Driving across the African countryside, the landscape was decorated with cypress, citrus groves, wild olives, cacti, thorny acacias, tall cedars, among much more while the air was thick with aromas of pines, eucalyptus, angel trumpets, and some type of golden thorny bush. Smells..tropical. Smells like life. A living, throbbing ecosystem.
Africa is not flat. I’m amazed at the changes in elevation and the gorgeous mountains and hils, their defined red rock cliffs dotted with greenery as spring moves to summer here and vegetation is popping.
Along the way the roadsides occasionally feature sun-baked, barely-there tin shacks with locals selling onions, watermelon, avocados, and assorted tropical fruits.
We passed MILES of shaded citrus groves and fields of cabbages, corn, and something like moringa. The blue gum tree is used for trusses, and leftovers for paper.
We camped at a lodge several miles from Kruger and went on an evening game drive in an open air vehicle (no windows!) Oh my goddess, it was the best part to now! Nearly right away we saw a small herd of elephants come to a watering hole, at times within 40 meters of our jeep. 😁
The rest of the drive through this private reserve offered a tsazu (??) bird, impalas, a giraffe, baboons, rare wild dogs, water buffalo, and warthog some(have you seen the Lion King? Warthogs really do bounce like that when they trot! Pumba wasn’t kidding).
Did you know,
-Poachers kill 3-5 rhinos a day?
-In 5-7 years only privately owned reserves will have rhinos left?
-An elephant trunk holds 7-20L, their diet is 80% grass, average lifespan is 65, and females only have babies once every 5-6 years?
The preserve smells like an old wood house or camp, reminiscent of cedar wood.
The sky threatened to unleash itself but kindly waited until we found the endangered/rate wild dogs (where we stopped for a snack and drinks at dusk and where a cranky male elephant was chasing them). By the time we were headed home, Mother Nature gave us a non-stop show of lightning in all corners of the sky, illuminating the heavens in red, blues, and purples.
The wildness of my heart felt at peace and one with the wildness around me.
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