Monday, October 31

Big Game Safari

While it was nice to be in a city (Jo’burg) again, everyone was pretty tired. Looking at city sights, even though it included interesting Soweto, couldn’t roust us from our torpor because we were exhausted. Every one of us fell asleep after lunch.

After going on a couple game drives in Zimbabwe and Botswana, I was questioning the sanity of staying on an extra two days to fly out (and back) to another game preserve. We had seen so much already, and this trip had been arduous. It’s definitely not for sissies. Twelve of our group, plus our guide Tony, went home and ten of us flew even further out to nowhere, feeling adrift without Tony.

We stayed in thatch-roofed huts—it was very nice. There were windows all around, each hut facing out to a wild area where elephants munched lazily nearby and warthogs walked on the deck.

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Monkeys made themselves at home in the open-air restaurant.

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Lordy it was hot there. I am guessing 105 degrees F, but it was dry. No humidity at all. We went on an evening game drive and saw this guy, a rare white rhino. Safaris go out at dawn and dusk, because that’s when the animals are the most active. One must wear DEET and take malaria meds out here. Can you imagine what the early settlers thought when they first laid eyes on these huge and strange-looking animals?

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We were very pleasantly surprised when our driver stopped at dusk and set up a bar (and snacks) on the hood of his Range Rover. Of course they have cold bottled water for you, but vodka and tonic with lots of ice? Oh Baby, this is living!

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We went on several more drives, but I’ll synopsize and just show you some of the animals I saw:

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Finally, a last sunset (with cocktails in the bush) before the impossibly long trip home tomorrow. We were all glad we stayed on the extra two days and agreed it was very much worthwhile.

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I’ve enjoyed making this travelogue to share with you, it has given me something to keep me occupied while I can’t sleep at night.  The end.

Sunday, October 30

Botswana

We crossed into Botswana for a game drive in the Chobe Game Reserve. We had to walk across the border. Did you ever read any of the Ladies’ No 1 Detective Agency books? This is the place.

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Once we crossed into Botswana, we boarded these ten-passenger land rovers. Climbing in and out of them is a trick. Someone is using my camera to take my picture. I have the big zoom lens on today, so you can’t see the vehicle.

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We saw a lot of animals today and I took hundreds of photos. Here are just a few. “Hey, Mr. Warthog!”

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Kudu. It was hard to resist singing that song, “You do what you do…”  whatever.

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I just love the giraffes. So majestic. It is incredible to be so close to these animals. There are no fences here, they come because there is water. (The Chobe River.)

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The baboons are very cool.

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Did you know it takes two years to incubate an elephant? They’re so big, you might wonder how they could possibly “do it.” I know the secret: They do it in water. Elephants are very prolific, by the way. Their numbers are increasing. It’s actually becoming a bit of a problem. They eat a lot and can denude a forest in no time.

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After a long day on safari, we crossed back into Zimbabwe and returned to the Stanley & Livingstone for one last night before flying to Johannesburg for the final adventure.

Saturday, October 29

Zimbabwe

Zimbabwe used to be called Rhodesia, named for Cecil Rhodes. This is where Rhodesian Ridgeback dogs, bred to hunt lions, are from. They must have all been out chasing lions because we didn’t see any.

We stayed four nights at the lovely and veddy British Stanley and Livingstone (“Dr. Livingstone, I presume?”) Lodge. Our group is having breakfast on the patio. I am photographing some of the animals that continually parade by. It is adjacent to a game preserve and has a watering hole.

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This morning we have a kudu, an impala, and some baboons. I sampled kudu at Sossusvlei. It tasted a lot like like caribou. We have had the opportunity to taste a lot of game, like wildebeest and zebra for example. Some was surprisingly good, some pretty awful.

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There is something about seeing animals roaming in their natural habitat that is wonderful and amazing. Here come some cape buffalo for a drink at the watering hole. We’ll see a lot more animals later on.

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We are here to see Victoria “Vic” Falls, the largest waterfall in the world. But it is hard to see because it falls down into a deep chasm. You can’t look up at it like Niagara, the third largest (Iguacu in Brazil is second). And the mist obscures the view. But it is incredible. This is the Zambezi River, by the way.

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We went on a river cruse and saw some hippos. They checked us out, too.

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It was a beautiful sunset on the Zambezi River.

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The next day we rode an elephant. These are really big animals! It was kinda scary.

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We went on our first game drive. In a violent thunderstorm, I might add. But it was pretty cool, after all. We got very close and a little too personal with this elephant. He turned and looked like he was going to charge us for a frightening moment. Jim was yelling to the driver to get the hell out of here. He is coming our way.

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Some zebra at a salt lick. They pronounce Zebra like Debra over here.

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This is a cape buffalo. The rain has intensified the animals’ color. The buffaloes always stare at you. They are very curious. And handsome, in their own way.

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Namibia

Namibia is hauntingly beautiful. It has wide open savannahs and sand dunes, and unusual rock formations. It’s vast. Massive. There is nothing out here. Nothing on two legs, that is.

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Namibia was settled by the Germans. One might ask why in the world would they want it. The answer would be that it has a deep water seaport, but there was nothing of interest (to me) there. We saw flamingoes and salt mines. Namibia has gems and uranium, and access to fresh water. That would explain the fine homes on the coast.

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But out here it is very dry, and very hot. It gets roughly one inch of rain a year. We are very much out in the middle of nowhere.

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A welcome pit stop. We were 17 females and 5 males so there was always a long queue for the loo.

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There are no restaurants out here. While we were climbing rocks and examining cave paintings, they set up this canopy for us and we had a delicious picnic lunch with ice-cold beer. Everyone said it was the best potato salad they had ever eaten. Happy, happy.

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We (finally) reach our destination in Sossusvlei. It has been a long, hot, dusty day. This is our tent. It’s half tent, half structure. I liked this place a lot. You could hear animals outside at night, and the Milky Way lit up the night sky.

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We were awakened at 4:30 AM so we could see the dunes at sunrise. The dunes are amazing. But what captivated me most was the color of the grasses against the rust color of the sand. It is striking. I was sure I had never seen that color of green before. 

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We boarded 4x4 vehicles and rode (very bumpily) through the soft sand to a place where we could walk up the crest of a dune.

A family of ostriches crossed the road in front of us.

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I think Namibia was my favorite.

Friday, October 28

Apartheid

This is a complex subject, and I changed my mind—I won’t belabor it here. One has only to Google it—the whole story is there, and it is very interesting. But I will say this: Apartheid may be over, but racism is still alive in South Africa. But, one needs to remember that apartheid was only abolished as recently as 1994. That’s not a very long time.

No visit to Cape Town would be complete without a trip to the prison on Robben Island.

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This is the cell where Nelson Mandela spent 18 of his 27 years of imprisonment. He was convicted of sabotage in 1962. His cause was anti-apartheid.

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On a lighter note, this is a real lion. He seemed to like having his hiney scratched. You’re supposed to walk alongside them, but they walk very fast (and go where they want to go) and I was having a hard time keeping up with him.

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Guinea fowl. Aren’t they cute!

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The long (and unpaved) road to Namibia.

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A herd of mountain zebras gallops in front of the coach.

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Cape Town and the Cape of Good Hope

Cape Town is dominated by Table Mountain, which sailors could see for miles when rounding the southwestern tip of Africa.

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It was started in the 1600s by the Dutch as a way-station for the Dutch East India Company. You can see the Dutch influence in some of the architecture, as well as the language, Afrikaans, although English is the official language today.

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Around the time England was colonizing the world, diamonds were discovered in South Africa, and the British decided they wanted it. They invaded, and the Boer War ensued. There were not only the Dutch to contend with, but the black natives, the Zulu. That’s enough about history, but what grabbed me was that the Dutch, driven out by the British and in search of farmland, used covered wagons. Here is one panel of a massive room-size cross stitch, depicting their trek. Looks a lot like our pioneers, doesn’t it.

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Here is the Cape of Good Hope, a windswept, mountainous promontory and the most southwest tip of Africa. It was initially thought that the Atlantic and Indian Oceans met here, but they don’t.

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This is wild and rugged Cape Point, one of the highest coastal cliffs in the world.

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And, guess what, because it’s the southern hemisphere, they have penguins.

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Here is a Protea, which was discovered in South Africa. It grows wild everywhere.

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Next, a little about apartheid and Nelson Mandela.

Wednesday, October 26

Hi, I’m Back!

Africa was fantastic! Way more than I expected. Jeezo peezo, it’s really far away. I think it took 36 hours to get home. Which means, I need to get over jet lag and unpack…stuff like that—then I’ll be back with some pictures. But we had a terrific holiday and we made it there and back with no mishaps. I missed ya!

Yers truly at the Cape of Good Hope, on the southern tip of Africa.

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