Monday, November 30, 2015

South Africa in 2 Weeks week 1 part 1

(Capetown waterfront art store display)
The old gang of six, my sister Marjo, my brother-in-law Herman, and our friends from Sandee's real estate working life, Gary and Linda, who all did the Kenya Safari in 2012 met in Schiphol airport at the Citizen M hotel the night before check-in to Capetown in early November. Gary needed to have his Loetje's beefsteak (you will simply have to believe that this are the best steaks ever), so a side trip to Amsterdam Centraal satisfied his cravings.
(Table Mountain Funicular)
Lions Head, neighbor of Table Mountain)

I will not bore you with the hop-on hop-off bus story the first day in Capetown as we will extensively write about the mother city in the week 2 edition of this palaver.

(Scenes of Mzansi Restaurant, noisy students and loud African drums)

However our first night dinner event in town is worth a mention. In the oldest black neighborhood in town called Langa, I found on Tripadvisor months before a highly favored restaurant by the name of Mzansi run by Nomonde and her husband in their home. I made a reservation and asked if we could have a conversation about her take on Apartheid after dinner. It was a lively evening with a group of foreign exchange students who also partook in the buffet dinner.

(Nomonde posing with us after dinner)

As the story on Apartheid follows in more detail next week, I leave it to one remark Nomonde made: "despite the bad system, there was one good thing about Apartheid, namely, people in those days could not migrate into our area without travel permits. Nowadays everybody from the east coast comes here and hold out their hands for food and housing, overcrowding our neighborhoods, bringing unemployment and crime to our town."

We rented a 10 person van to assure plenty of room for our creature comforts and returned it to Hertz 2 weeks later with two missing hubcaps. This will allow me to test the AMEX primary insurance pay-out experience, as my card automatically triggers an insurance premium every time I rent a vehicle somewhere outside the US of A. I am very intrigued how all this will play out.

(The beautiful Jacarandas are not indigenous and planted at strategic locations, flowering a few weeks a year)

Whereas this mishap illustrates the desire by a certain economic layer of society to make a living in stealing hubcaps, the mere fact that another group in the same economic category is making a living in guarding your vehicles anywhere you park makes the theft actually hilarious. Must one assume that someone was sleeping at the job or is there a notion of being in cahoots with each other?

(Sanbona's parking lot from where we are ferried to a lodge, our first encounter with the desolate Karoo of olden days)

We drove after two nights in Capetown into the Kleine Karoo, which means in the language of the Khoi - the original tribes living here before the white man arrived - land of thirst.

(This scenery surrounds us for the next two days)

The Kleine Karoo was for the longest time the land, where the Boer Republics existed and the language here is foremost Afrikaans, or as the locals explain it: 16th century Dutch. We traveled through well tended farmland with gabled farms, that even today still show a predominant Afrikaans controlled part of South Africa.

(Luxury tents with real beds and in-tent toilet facility)
(Below tent living around the campfire)
Our first big experience was a walking Safari in Sanbona Wildlife Reserve, where we had booked an "explorer camp experience", which works as follows: you arrive at a nearby lodge and meet your ranger, in our case Gerhard.

After lunch at the lodge you are ferried in an open 4 wheeler to a deserted area, where we find 3 tents, an open air toilet and an open air hot water shower, two meeting tents around a campfire area, where our cook and "Room" service man "Calvin" or "Kevin" (I never heard the difference) reigns.

(Kevin or Calvin without whom we would starve)
(Pictures of our shower)
(Followed by pictures of our toilet facilities)
(Our walks, with Gary who will have a knee replacement, when coming home hobbling behind)
(Below animals we saw)

(Lucky for us, Rhinos have bad eyesight although they smelled us, but we did not smell herbal enough)
(The four footed non carnivore animals kept their wary distance although zebras studiously ignored us)

Gerhard the man with the rifle who led us during the two day experience through the fields in search of wild life was assisted by Nico, who is an understudy to become a "Gerhard" one day.

(Aren't these beautiful cheetahs amazing when you are walking up to them this close)
(This white male lion had a full stomach and ignored us, an earlier possible encounter with the white lioness and cubs, was avoided as a ranger in a Land Rover caught up with us telling us to get in and away from the area she was found in. We could have gotten ourselves in danger getting too close to mother and children)

The pictures will show the story of our successful trip in which we encountered cheetahs, white lions, white rhinos, zebras, deer of every variety and a very deadly (average lifespan after the bite is 2 to 3 hours) venomous golden cobra, expertly caught by Gerhard and brought to us to touch.

(Below in silence what we witnessed as Gerhard caught the cobra, who was hissing angrily and attacked after his eventual release by his captors)

It is a pity that pictures do not adequately show how close we came to all the above animals. The Rhinos and Cheetahs were less than 50 meters or 150 feet. The lions we kept at a football field and a half distance. The cheetahs had gotten so used to walking visitors that they studiously ignored us. But for us it was a thrilling event.

(The elephants were visited in a vehicle, but they came munching as close as 1 meter/3 feet)
(2 males sparring in the high grass, they kept it up for quite a while)
Up to part 2